Size: 5 x 52 (Maybe 54)
Humidor time: 2 weeks
Number of cigars smoked prior to review: This is it, baby.
Today we take a look at the POTUS Ezra Zion.
Thanks to Miguel Castro for the stick.
From the Ezra Zion web site:
“It’s time to VOTE!
“The POTUS (President of the United States) Project has been in the works since March. We wanted to create a blend to smoke on Election Night whether your candidate wins or loses.
“We decided to have a little fun with it though…here’s how it works:
“Each cigar is a vote! Pick either Trump, Hillary, or vote 3rd Party by choosing Ezra Zion. Yes, we’re throwing our hat in the ring! So a 5 Pack for Trump is 5 votes for Trump. A 10 Pack for Hillary is 10 votes for Hillary. etc. etc.
“Your POTUS cigars will be banded with the candidate of your choice, and will be shipped in time for you to smoke on election night!
“The winner will be announced later in the week!
“Now on to the good stuff…POTUS is a full bodied, full strength masterpiece!
“POTUS starts with a blast of dark chocolate on the light and a rush or black pepper through the nose. The medio tiempo ligero in this cigar will bring a tear to the eye.
“Beautiful earthy and floral notes wash over the palate with a strong note of cedar balanced with a licorice sweetness.
“As it progresses, POTUS rounds out with an aged leather overtone complimented perfectly by flavors of full-bodied Merlot wine.
“At the finish, the flavors heighten but the cigar remains cool. Densely packed with a perfect draw, the construction is impeccable!
“POTUS was meticulously blended to be the ultimate celebration cigar! Some of our finest full-bodied tobacco work!
“God Bless America!
Total Production: 350”
I guess they did the review for me.
The billboard cigar band nearly hides the entire surface of the wrapper.
So off with its head.
Underneath, is a gorgeous…oily, super dark, coffee bean colored wrapper.
There is a shit load of tooth. Seams are totally invisible. As is the invisible triple cap.
Seams are at a bare minimum. Honestly, this is one of the most handsome cigars I’ve seen in quite a while.
The stick appears to be perfectly packed. No hard spots or plugs. And the right amount of give when I squeeze it.
AROMAS AND COLD DRAW NOTES:
From the shaft, I smell chocolate, spice, cedar, and that’s about it. Odd.
From the clipped cap and foot, I smell floral notes, chocolate, red pepper, strong cedar notes, mocha java, (Wait for it…here comes the 3 sneezes from the red pepper), green bell pepper, earthwoodleather, and gingerbread.
The cold draw presents flavors of black pepper, chocolate, coffee, cedar, shortbread cookies, ginger, cardamom, black licorice, and heavy cream.
First puffs are redolent with red pepper, heavy malts, chocolate, licorice, molasses, nicely aged tobacco flavor, black cherries, vanilla, cedar, and butter cookies.
The draw is spot on. A freight train’s worth of smoke emits from the foot.
Strength is medium body.
The char line is kept in check by the impeccable construction. (I hope I don’t have to eat those words later).
Half an inch in, flavors burst out of the birthday cake. Complexity makes its first attack with extreme prejudice. Transitions begin to line up. The finish is already very long.
Could this be another great cigar from EZ? The next couple of hours will tell the story.
Black licorice gets a kick in the arse and bellows like a donkey. Here I am! (Actually, I’ve never heard a donkey speak and I worked part time at Knott’s Berry Farm all through high school.)
Playing my favorite taped concert while I type: Joe Bonamassa: Live at the Greek.” The walls are shaking. Going down, down, down, down, down.
The flavor profile makes an exponential leap into the adjacent plane of existence. That’s 3 planetary systems over for those not acquainted with quantum physics.
I don’t know how these dudes do it but they must have the highest batting average of cigars in the super bitch’n surfer moon doggie quality scale than anyone else. Of course, they aren’t releasing millions of cigars but they seem to be able to make excellent choices on their tiny releases.
A giant dollop of creaminess swaths the whole concoction…processing the flavors from nice to terrific.
Just once, I’d like to really trash an EZ blend. This is getting ridiculous. I do believe they met on the same crossroads as Robert Johnson and made the deal.
The char line continues in its successful march to perfection.
Smoke time is 35 minutes.
That went by very quickly. It’s what happens when a blend captivates. Time and space no longer have any meaning E = mc 2.
Extremely complex…cutting down the rain forest in its wake…moving volcanoes to safe places…and saving the whales.
I forgot to recharge the huge battery on my camera. I’m now trying to juice it up so I can take a couple more photos. Damn rotten luck, lads.
I get my first burn issue. Not a terribly big deal but it must be corrected.
Strength is trying to adjust to medium/full now.
Smooth as my own tush. The POTUS Ezra Zion just rambles along with deep seated complexity and flavors I wish every cigar possessed.
I once again must thank buddy Miguel Castro for giving up his last POTUS Ezra Zion to me for review. What a pal!
Here they are in their new lineup: Creaminess, chocolate, red pepper, licorice, cedar, malts, chocolate chip cookies, coffee, and sautéed plantains.
While not a kitchen sink list, each flavor is distinct despite the amount of complexity and fully circling transitions. The finish continues on its path to stretch a mile.
Halfway point is here. Smoke time is 45 minutes.
A touch of bitterness enters from stage right. Not a lot but unexpected.
The whole character of the blend seems to be evening out now. Flavors aren’t quite as exciting as earlier. It seems to be taking a break from working so hard. I am making a decent prediction that the flavor profile will break free from its restraints in the next couple of minutes and climb the peak in its own time.
A few minutes pass and the flavors are gearing up for a big return. A wonderful combo of malt, chocolate, cream, licorice, coffee, and a nice floral touch.
Strength is a solid medium/full body…moving on up towards full body.
My lips begin to tingle and burn from the ligero. Nice. Like kissing a bumble bee. I’ve done this before. Once, a bee tried to slip me the tongue but I resisted. I hardly knew the babe.
Some bitterness returns. How odd. Yet, not really. I only allowed the stick to sleep for a couple weeks. Hardly enough time for the blend to blossom. This is where the bitterness comes from.
Still, this blend has enormous potential with a couple months of humidor time. I thought the stick had more time on it but then while writing this review, I got an email from Miguel telling me it didn’t have much time on it. Too late. I’m invested now and it’s the only stick I have. Side bar: The cigars come to you without a cello. So this must be taken into account as far as aging goes.
One can always tell when a cigar is perfectly constructed. During my interruptive photo shoots while I write, I can come back to the cigar and it never goes out. No re-lights have been needed. One expects this from a huge stick, but rarely, from a smaller stick.
Smoke time is a little over an hour.
I’m afraid that the current affairs of the cigar’s PR won’t allow us to see this cigar back in rotation on the EZ store web site. Too bad.
I am waiting for the big push that normally happens in the last third delighting with an explosive flavor profile.
$12.00 per stick seems to be the new norm for EZ blends. A lot of dough. Yeah, I realize that this is a limited production and costs are much higher than a 50,000 stick release.
It is hard for me to discern whether the blend is worth $12 as I have reviewed it too soon. Regardless, it oozes impressive.
I eat a few raisins. The cigar’s bitterness has taken a hike. Refreshing one’s palate is such a mysterious thing. Experimentation is the key.
As predicted, the flavor profile erupts.
Strength hits full body. No nicotine yet.
This giant sweet spot is what the cigar will taste like from the start and just elevate throughout the cigar experience. Sort of a window in time.
As usual, the EZ boys have come up with another great blend.
It fits nicely into their body of work.
The long finish is indefatigable.
I’d say go and buy some but, alas, they are in the backordered category.
But then the boys keep swinging away so there is always something out there waiting…
Still, if you know a friend snagged some, slip him a mickey and steal them.
Final smoke time is one hour 25 minutes. And not a lick of nicotine.
And now for something completely different:
A musical history lesson…
You all know the band Jefferson Airplane and their many hits still played today like “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love.”
This is from Rolling Stone. Take the time to read this and either learn about the 60’s scene or let it take you on a magic carpet ride back to your youth. The first time I get stoned on weed was in 1967 while lying on my bed upstairs and listening to the album “Great Society” You will see more about that in the article. My father built this 2nd floor room to our house. It was monstrous. I got to live there above the den where mom and dad watched TV.
Every musician reader; regardless of choice of genre or age should read this.
Once I began smoking on a regular basis, I’d march downstairs because of the munchies. My mom would ask what that strange smell was? I replied it was incense and she just nodded her head in understanding.
“Best known as the hippie revolutionaries who produced Sixties pop nuggets like “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love,” Jefferson Airplane survived myriad personnel shifts, including the 1984 departure of founder/guiding light Paul Kantner, several name changes. Over its subsequent years, the band morphed from psychedelic rockers to an MOR pop powerhouse and back again.
“At the start, the Jefferson Airplane epitomized the burgeoning Haight-Ashbury culture and provided its soundtrack. The band began in 1965 when singer Marty Balin (b. Martyn Jerel Buchwald, Jan. 30, 1942, Cincinnati, OH), formerly with the acoustic group the Town Criers, met guitarist Paul Kantner (b. Mar. 17, 1941, San Francisco, CA) at the Drinking Gourd, a San Francisco club. They were first a folk-rock group, rounded out by lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, drummer Skip Spence, singer Signe Anderson, and bassist Bob Harvey, who was soon replaced by Jack Casady. Their first major show was on August 13, christening the Matrix Club, which later became a major outlet for new Bay Area bands. RCA signed the group and Jefferson Airplane Takes Off (Number 128, 1966) went gold.
“Anderson left to have a baby and was replaced by Grace Slick (b. Grace Barnett Wing, Oct. 30, 1939, Chicago, IL), a former model and member of the Great Society, a group formed in 1965. The Great Society, which included her husband at the time, Jerry Slick, and brother-in-law Darby, had completed two albums for Columbia that weren’t released until after Slick became a star with the Airplane. Spence left the Airplane to form Moby Grape and was replaced by a former jazz drummer, Spencer Dryden (b. Apr. 7, 1944, New York, NY), completing the Airplane’s most inventive lineup.
“Slick’s vocals were stronger and more expressive than Anderson’s; she later claimed that she tried to imitate the yowl of the lead guitar. She brought two Great Society songs to the Airplane’s second album, Surrealistic Pillow — “Somebody to Love” (Number Five, 1967), co-written by Darby Slick, and her own “White Rabbit” (Number Eight, 1967), which was banned in some areas as a pro-drug song. The album (Number Three, 1967), sold half a million copies. After Bathing at Baxter’s (Number 17, 1967) included a nine-minute psychedelic jam-collage, “Spayre Change,” and occasioned the group’s first battle with RCA over obscene language: The word “shit” was deleted from the lyric sheet. Baxter’s had no hit singles and didn’t sell well, but the Airplane recouped with the gold Crown of Creation (Number Six, 1968), which included Slick’s “Lather” and David Crosby’s “Triad,” a song about a ménage à trois that had been rejected by Crosby’s current group, the Byrds.
“The band’s ego conflicts already were beginning, however, as Slick stole media attention from Balin (the band’s founder), and the songwriting became increasingly divergent. Live, Slick and Balin traded vocals in battles that became increasingly feverish, and the volatile sound of the band in concert was captured on Bless Its Pointed Little Head (Number 17, 1969). By the time the sextet recorded 1969’s Volunteers, the Airplane’s contract allowed it total “artistic control,” which meant that the “Up against the wall, motherfuckers” chorus of “We Can Be Together” appeared intact. The Airplane performed at the Woodstock and Altamont festivals but then had its second major shakeup. Dryden left in 1970 to join the New Riders of the Purple Sage (he was replaced by Joey Covington), and the band stopped touring when Slick became pregnant by Kantner. Anxious to perform, Kaukonen and Casady formed Hot Tuna [see entry] (originally Hot Shit), which later seceded from the Airplane, although, like most band members, they would return.
“In the meantime, Kantner and the housebound Slick recorded Blows Against the Empire (Number 20, 1970). Billed as Paul Kantner and Jefferson Starship (the debut of the name), the album featured Jerry Garcia, David Crosby, Graham Nash, and other friends. It became the first musical work nominated for the science-fiction writers’ Hugo Award. At the same time, a greatest-hits package entitled The Worst of the Jefferson Airplane (Number 12, 1970) was released. On January 25, 1971, Slick and Kantner’s daughter, China, was born; that spring, Balin, who had nothing to do with Blows and contributed only one co-written composition to Volunteers, left. He formed a short-lived band, Bodacious D.F.
“In August the Airplane formed its own label, Grunt, distributed by RCA. The band’s reunited effort, Bark (Number 11, 1971), saw them with Covington and all of Hot Tuna, including violinist Papa John Creach, who had first performed with Hot Tuna at a Winterland show in 1970. The band had grown apart, though, and Hot Tuna and Kantner-Slick were each writing for their own offshoot projects. In December 1971 Slick and Kantner released Sunfighter (Number 89, 1971) under both their names, with baby China as cover girl. (China grew up to become an MTV VJ and an actor.)
“In July 1972 this version of the Airplane recorded its last studio album, Long John Silver (Number 20), with some drumming from ex-Turtle John Barbata. In August 1972 at a free concert in New York’s Central Park, the band introduced ex–Quicksilver Messenger Service bassist, keyboardist, and vocalist David Freiberg to the ranks. The Airplane unofficially retired at that point. By that September, Casady and Kaukonen had decided to go full-time with Hot Tuna, though they appeared on the live album Thirty Seconds Over Winterland (Number 52, 1973), which came out in April 1973. Slick, Kantner, and Freiberg recorded Baron Von Tollbooth and the Chrome Nun (Number 120, 1973), one of the band’s least popular efforts. Slick’s equally disappointing solo debut, Manhole (Number 127), appeared in January 1974. By then, she had developed a serious drinking problem, and the band was hoping that the Tuna players would return. They did not.
“Finally, in February 1974 Slick and Kantner officially formed the Jefferson Starship (no strict relation to the group on Blows), with Freiberg, Creach, Barbata, and 19-year-old lead guitarist Craig Chaquico. Chaquico had played with the Grunt band Steelwind with his high school English teacher Jack Traylor, and on Slick and Kantner’s collaborative albums beginning with Sunfighter. The new group also included Peter Kangaroo (Jorma’s brother), though in June he was replaced by Pete Sears, a British session man who had played on Rod Stewart’s records and had been a member of Copperhead. On Dragon Fly (Number 11, 1974), Balin made a guest appearance on his and Kantner’s song “Caroline.” The album went gold.
“Balin tentatively rejoined the band in January 1975, and the group’s next big breakthrough came with Red Octopus, its first Number One album, hitting that position several times during the year and selling 4 million copies. Balin’s ballad “Miracles” was a Number Three single. The band was more popular than ever, but in Slick’s opinion the music had become bland and corporate, and her rivalry with Balin had not diminished. The group’s follow-up album, 1976’s Spitfire, went Number Three and platinum, its first album to do so. But after the successful Earth (Number Five, 1978; also platinum), both Slick and Balin left.
“By then, Slick and Kantner’s romance had ended; in November 1976, she married the band’s 24-year-old lighting director, Skip Johnson. Her alcoholism forced her to quit the band in the middle of a European tour, leading to a crowd riot in Germany when she did not appear. Her solo albums were neither great critical nor great commercial successes, although throughout the years, her distinctive singing style never changed. In 1980 Balin produced a rock opera entitled Rock Justice in San Francisco. He did a solo album of MOR love songs and in 1981 had a hit single with “Hearts.”
“With its two lead singers gone, the group’s future again seemed in question, but in 1979 Mickey Thomas, best known as lead vocalist on the Elvin Bishop hit “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” joined, and Barbata was replaced by Aynsley Dunbar, a former Frank Zappa and David Bowie sideman who had just left Journey. The new lineup’s Freedom at Point Zero (Number Ten, 1979) went gold on the strength of its Number 14 hit, “Jane.”
“The group’s momentum ground to a halt in 1980 after Kantner suffered a brain hemorrhage that, despite its severity, left no permanent damage. The next year came Modern Times (Number 26, 1981), which featured Slick on one track; she rejoined the band in February 1981, and the Jefferson Starship again ascended with a string of Top 40 hits: “Be My Lady” (Number 28, 1982), “Winds of Change” (Number 38, 1983), and “No Way Out” (Number 23, 1984).”
“Professing his disdain for the group’s more commercial direction, Kantner left in 1984, taking with him the “Jefferson” part of its name. Then known simply as Starship, the group enjoyed even greater commercial success. From the platinum Number Seven Knee Deep in the Hoopla came “We Built This City” (Number One, 1985), “Sara” (Number One, 1986), and “Tomorrow Doesn’t Matter Tonight” (Number 26, 1986).
No Protection (Number 12, 1987) included the group’s third Number One hit, 1987’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” and “It’s Not Over (‘Til It’s Over)” (Number Nine, 1987), which was later adopted as the theme song of Major League Baseball. The group’s last Top 40 single, “It’s Not Enough,” appeared in 1989. The core trio of Thomas, Chaquico, and Baldwin, abetted by Brett Bloomfield and Mark Morgan, attempted to keep the ship aloft, but in 1990 the group called it quits. Thomas formed yet another band, Starship With Mickey Thomas, whose only links to the original dynasty were himself and latecomer Bloomfield.
“In the meantime, in 1989, Kantner, Slick, Balin, Casady, and Kaukonen revived the early Jefferson Airplane lineup and released Jefferson Airplane (Number 85, 1989). Before that, Kantner, Balin, and Casady had formed the KBC Band; its self-titled LP went to Number 75 in 1986.
“With Starship now disbanded, Kantner reclaimed the Jefferson Starship moniker and put together a new lineup in 1991, which included Airplane/Starship stalwarts Casady and Creach as well as Tim Gorman (who had worked with the Who and the Jefferson Airplane), ex-Tube Prairie Prince, former KBC member Slick Aguilar, and lead singer Darby Gould, whom Kantner discovered fronting her band World Entertainment War. Gould was joined by vocalist Diana Mangano. The next year, Balin joined. This group, dubbed by Kantner Jefferson Starship – The Next Generation, toured in the early Nineties to positive reviews. With Slick (who had by then retired from performing) guesting on several songs, the band recorded the live Deep Space/Virgin Sky, which consisted of new material as well as “covers” of classic Airplane and Starship tracks. The album Windows of Heaven first came out in Germany in 1998 but was remixed for its American release in 1999.
“In 2000 Balin, Kantner, and Casady started touring as Jefferson Airplane’s Volunteers and were promptly sued by Jefferson Airplane manager and shareholder of Jefferson Airplane Inc., Bill Thompson, for using the name without permission. Adding to the confusion, Mickey Thomas has been touring as Starship Featuring Mickey Thomas since 1992. The Kantner/Freiberg/Aguilar version of Jefferson Starship continued touring in the 2000s, with yet another female vocalist, Cathy Richardson, and other revolving-door members and famous guests including early Grateful Dead keyboardist Tom Constanten. In 2008 the group released Jefferson’s Tree of Liberty, an album of mostly protest folk cover songs including Woody Guthrie’s “Pastures of Plenty,” Phil Ochs’ “I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore” and Bob Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom.”
“Slick has remained true to her vow not to perform anymore and now dedicates herself to painting. Invoking health reasons, she declined to appear with Jefferson Airplane when it performed at its induction into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in January 1996 (though she guested on ex–4 Non Blondes singer Linda Perry’s album In Flight later that same year). In 1998 she published her autobiography, Somebody to Love?
“Skip Spence, Jefferson Airplane’s original drummer died of lung cancer on April 16, 1999. Six years later, his successor and former Slick boyfriend Spencer Dryden succumbed to colon cancer on January 10, 2005.
“Portions of this biography appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001). Mark Kemp contributed to this article.
Categories: CIGAR REVIEWS