The Collective by Ezra Zion | Cigar Review

Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés Café Claro
Binder: Nicaraguan Corojo, Nicaraguan Criollo
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: 6.25 x 52
Body: Medium
Price: $10.00
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I’ve given this cigar a full month of humidor time. The first one I tried after a week or so was way too early. It gave me the hippy hippy shakes. This is supposed to be a brilliant cigar. Yet, I’ve read reviews saying just the opposite. This ain’t no cheap cigar and I expect my socks to be blown off.

But there is a catch to all of this. Only Cigar Federation sells this cigar I just joined the group a couple months ago. If I write a negative review, I might as well say bye bye now to the group as they will kick me out on my arse. So I am truly hoping the cigar bowls me over.

Now it’s time for truth or die.

The cigar was released in February of this year. It came from the good folks at Ezra Zion.

From Cigar Federation:
“Blended by Ezra Zion Cigars exclusively for Cigar Federation, The Collective pays homage to New Media and the online cigar community.
“The Collective is a medium strength cigar with insane amounts of flavor. It features a San Andrés Café Claro wrapper (never been used before!) and tons of Medio Tiempo filler. The profile explodes with creamy notes of custard, Chai tea, leather, rich woodsy notes and honey.”

Chai tea? Are you kidding me? Who out there can tell the difference between Chai tea and herbal tea…raise your nicotine soaked hands.

The cigar is extremely rustic. Lots of wrinkled wrapper, lots of veins big and small, lumpy and bumpy (Like me), and sort of a dull matte finish without any oiliness showing. It is very toothy. The triple cap is impeccable. And the double cigar bands are simple and make their point. The cigar is nicely packed with tobacco with the perfect amount of give. It is a soft box press on one stick and a semi-crisp box press on another.
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I clip the cap and find aromas of wood, sweetness, fruit, spice, and coffee.
Time to light up.

The draw is plentiful and smoke surrounds my pin head. Black pepper starts us off with an escalating profile that begins to sear my eye sockets. There is a lovely mocha latte flavor that hits my palate right away. The sweetness jumps in we are off to a good start.
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I’m totally good with having to wait a month for a cigar. It is those other big brands that make you wait month after month that distress me and my cigar budget.

The profile turns very earthy. I taste cinnamon and nutmeg. With a dash of clove. The black pepper is now so strong that it is making my eyes water. But it is a nice change from the red pepper profile that is so overrun in Nicaraguan blends.

The char line is behaving like a champ. That’s great after the bad situations I had with the Sam Leccia Black Special Box Pressed Torpedo and the Arturo Fuente Chateau Fuente King T Natural. I was at one point questioning my manhood with two cigars and two reviews in a row with serious burn issues.

The char line on The Collective is dead nuts.

Creaminess enters. Methinks we are heading for an early flavor bomb. I gotta make a stink on this issue…I read a review from one of the A List reviewers who gave this cigar a barely passing rating. Ptooey on him.
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He clearly smoked the cigar way too early. Or maybe was pissed off because he had to buy them instead of them being sent on angel’s wings with a gold encrusted bow.

He couldn’t be more wrong about this cigar. I’ve smoked an inch and I love it.

CF has sales every month. I got my 5 pack when they were 20% off bringing them down to $8 a stick which is where I think they should be anyway. The Ezra Zion brand is pricey with the cheapest stick around $9. I haven’t tried the rest so I should reserve my criticism for after I try them.

The Collective only comes in one size. I should have mentioned this earlier.

Here are the flavors, in order: Spice, sweetness, creaminess, wood, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, fruit, and a touch of mocha latte.

The cigar is so packed that it is a very slow smoke. In this size, it fits my mouth like a glove. (?) Or as Spinal Tap’s album said, “Smell the Glove.”

The cigar, at the 1-3/4” burned point, is about to become a flavor bomb. There is a bit of waviness at the burn line but totally acceptable.

If you join Cigar Federation (Membership is free), you are privy to their store discounts. They change from month to month. May had the 20% off The Collective plus a free mystery cigar for a purchase over $50. June is upon us and I wonder what the blokes at CF have in store? So to speak.

(My wife just left for work so now I can turn the music and crank it.)

Just before the start of the second third, the cigar becomes a bona fide flavor bomb. That A List reviewer doesn’t know what the fuck he is talking about. This is a great cigar so far.

The strength is at classic medium body.

The second third begins and I’m happy as a clam…and we all know how happy clams can be.
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“Smoke on the Water” is playing behind me. Curved Air spent a week on the road with Deep Purple (I have some great stories for another time about that.) and we had a lot of fun with these great down to earth guys.
One night, instead of our usual start of the set, we broke into “Smoke..” The crowd went nuts and we had them in the palms of our hands. Deep Purple all ran onstage to sing with us.

Back to the cigar…
The creaminess is usurping the front runner of black pepper as the strongest flavor. With sweetness and fruit on their coat tails.

I’m having trouble discerning what the fruitiness is. It is pear-like and black cherry.

Now the radio is playing “Rock and Roll” by Zep. I saw them a lot when I was young. Probably 5 times before they broke up due to John Bonham’s death. They always opened with this song and the first time my girlfriend saw them, she jumped out of her seat and boogied like a wild woman when that drum solo started the song. I got the biggest kick watching her.
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The cigar is an absolute delight.

I’m filling in with rock stories because this is a big cigar and a slow smoker as well. I’m very partial to the 52 ring gauge. Don’t know why exactly. Just a good size. Anything bigger causes problems with my chomping.

I can’t push this enough…if you choose to buy a 5 pack of these cigars; you MUST let them rest at least a month. I threw away two perfectly good cigars at the 2 week point and the 3 week point. $10 a stick and that hurts. Even though I only paid $8 a stick on sale. It is still a lot of dough.

I love this cigar. Clearly, Ezra Zion knows what they are doing and I shall try the other blends.

You can taste where the money went. That’s very important when you get into double digit priced sticks.

I am at the halfway point and the cigar is singing a Pavarotti aria to me.
Splendid cigar.
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The flavor profile keeps moving on an upward trajectory with each puff.

The flavors don’t vary from the last list other than they become so much more potent.
Nicotine creeps in as my typing skills plummet. Yet, the strength remains at medium.

I’ve got a great story for the end of the review. Stay tuned.

Construction is perfect. I’m glad I have a couple left to smoke.
Cocoa finally appears. It is milk chocolate and very subtle. It enhances the coffee flavor along with the creaminess.

The peppery element is moving down the line and not as strong as the first third.

I really hope The Collective is part of June’s sale. I want another 5 pack but I also want to try the other Ezra Zion blends: Jamais Vu ($12), Honor Series ($12), Tantrum ($9.50), Eminence ($12), and FHK ($9).
Another nice thing is that CF allows you to build your own cigar sampler of EZ sticks at $9 a stick.

The nicotine is kicking my ass. Wow. I didn’t expect this from a medium bodied cigar.
My head wants to fall forward with my chin resting on my chest.

Oh lord…I’ve still got over 2” to go. Will the Katman survive? Only the Cosmic Muffin knows.

The last third begins. Here are the flavors: Creaminess, sweetness, coffee, cocoa, fruit, wood, and baking spices.

Should have eaten something. So I grab a banana.

I’m very impressed with this blend. I don’t mind spending $10 on a cigar if it really delivers. And this cigar does it in spades.
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I know for sure that the A List reviewer jerked off and smoked the cigar way too soon. Or was just being mean. Either way, he is way off base on this cigar. It is marvelous.

This is essentially, a house brand for Cigar Federation. House brands are usually very iffy. Not here. Kudos to CF.

Hmmm…the cigar tastes like banana now. How did that happen?
But seriously, it brings out the cinnamon element nicely.
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This stick is going to ruin me for the rest of the day’s cigar choices.

It is during the last third that the cigar becomes incredibly complex. Perfect balance.

I am still struggling with the nicotine. Should have eaten 3 or 4 bananas.

The last part of the cigar is a masterpiece. I wish I had Taste-O-Vision so you could taste what I taste.

The strength inches up to medium/full bodied. There is no heat or harshness at the end. Very cool. The construction of this cigar is immaculate. Nothing worse than being distracted by lousy construction. This cigar is an absolute joy to smoke.

So I wait in anticipation to see what June’s discounts apply to at the Cigar Federation Store.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I was right. I’ve smoked 3 good cigars since this review this morning and they all taste like crap. Sonuvabitch! The goddam cigar ruined my day. So here is the deal. This cigar is best done first cigar of the day. And just be ready for a miserable cigar day afterwards. Sonuvabitch!
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And now for something completely different:

This is a story I’ve written before but not for a very long time so as I have new readers, it seems OK to repeat it.

Hall of Fame drummer, Hal Blaine, was not only my mentor during my recording studio ownership days, but like one’s favorite uncle. He was going through his third divorce and forced to live on his yacht docked in Marina Del Rey, Ca.
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He liked to throw lunches and brunches for a few folks. They were always catered. I met some real giants of the music industry this way. Everyone knew Hal and everyone used him for their albums. This man has a list of gold records a mile high.

On this day, he planned the soirée around me. He invited my heroes from the days of the L.A. Wrecking Crew’s most prolific era. Bassist, Carol Kaye. Keyboard player, Larry Knechtel (who went on to be a permanent player in the group “Bread.” But I never held that against him). And bassist, Joe Osborn.
carole

larry

joe

I would sit for hours, as a teen, listening to my records and reading the album covers. I would be mesmerized by Simon and Garfunkel, Beach Boys, Mamas & Papas, and dozens more that this group of fine musicians played on. It was a known fact that Hal played on a few Beatles songs but I could never pry which ones out of him.

If you look at Ringo’s early set of drums and it is an exact copy of Hal’s early drums. Ringo wasn’t so dumb.
As the 5 of us sat on the deck of Hals’ yacht, munching away and drinking Bloody Marys, more people came to join the small party.
Ringo’s drum kit:
ringo
Hal Blaine’s drum kit:

Hal-Blaine-cover-Have-Fun-Play-Drums

It turned out that Neil Diamond was a very good friend of Hal’s. And there he was, towering above me. Hal introduced me as, “This is Phil Kohn. One of the best bassists I’ve ever played with.” I must have turned three shades of red.

I was stunned. Yeah, I was a good player but the accolade seemed undeserved; yet very kind. Diamond’s eyes widened and shook my hand vigorously. And then Hal told him he should consider me for his next album. I was shitting my pants. Diamond, who took Hal seriously, nodded.

Hal got me all kinds of session gigs in Hollywood. I knew how to read music back then. I’ve since forgotten how since playing in blues bands doesn’t require it.
Hal and me at my recording studio:

halandme
All the sessions Hal got me were big corporate TV commercial sound tracks. It was very simple and of course, the tune was never long than a couple minutes. It allowed the film editors to use any part of it for a 10, 30, or 60 second commercial. It paid well. Although, I got scale. Hal made a fortune as he was always the first drummer requested. Hal insisted that I played bass.

I was beginning to make a name for myself in that world when the Eddie Munster project collapsed under my feet and the next thing I knew, I was homeless.

We didn’t have cell phones back in 1983, just pagers and an answering service. I continued to get some calls but I was broke and driving from my home in Long Beach to Hollywood sometimes was a problem because of gas.

Your pay check for playing a session didn’t come right away. On average it took 1-3 months. It had to go through the Musician’s Union first where they took their blood money; and then cut you a check. And sent it to you when they felt like it; or so it seemed.

Hal’s circle of friends was mostly Jewish musicians. But on this day, of the 6 of us, there was only Hal, me and Diamond who were members of the Tribe.

Hal is old school Jewish. Not orthodox, but liked to go to temple and always celebrated the holidays. This particular lunch took place around Purim. So he had the famous Jewish deli in West L.A., Canter’s, cater it with a potpourri of Jewish delicacies. Including the Purim cookie called a Hamantashen. I was in hog heaven (Pardon the non-kosher pun).
hamantashen

We sat in the sunny, and warm, California sun with a nice breeze coming off the bay. I was having the time of my life. Everyone told stories about their musical careers. I always loved to listen to other musician’s stories. Especially, the ones that could drop names like it was nothing. So I heard stories about Brian Wilson, Sinatra, Elvis, etc.

As the sun set, everyone said they had to be going. It was a delightful 4-5 hours. I was on Cloud 9. Diamond never called me for a gig even though I gave him my card. He was just being polite. But a recommendation from the most famous session drummer in the business had to give him pause.

I would have loved to make music my career but the ups and downs and rejections came so often it was impossible to stay financially afloat. So, at the age of 34, I went straight. But you can never take away my wonderful memories.

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