Wrapper: Hybrid Connecticut Arapiraca Maduro
Binder: Dominican HVA 20/20, Dominican Carbonell
Filler: Dominican Corojo & Negrito
Size: 5.5 x 52 Belicoso
Today we take a look at the Caldwell The Last Tsar.
Thanks to a good friend for the sticks…not a sample from Caldwell Cigars.
I do believe I am the last reviewer on the planet to review this cigar so just skim if you find that necessary and go straight to the after story.
While only 500 boxes of 10 were produced for each size, this stick was released nearly 2 years ago and there are plenty still to be had online and B & M’s. You just gotta look. Don’t expect any discounts.
I promise to be polite and not be so predictable about ranting and raving how spending $18+ is a waste of money; no matter how good the cigar is.
The average reviewer rated this blend from 81-90. For $18, I’d expect better scores. Not exactly a stocking stuffer for Caldwell’s coffers.
Factory: Tabacalera William Ventura
Cigars Released: July, 2015
SIZES AND PRICES (By the single. $2 less by box of 10):
Belicoso 5.5 x 52 $18.00
Churchill 7 x 47 $20.00
Toro 6 x 50 $18.00
Corona Gorda 5.7 x 46 $17.00
A well-built cigar with a wrapper that has an oily hickory/gingerbread colored skin. Seams are tight but there is this one vein/ridge that runs from the cap all the way down to the foot.
The belicoso cap is an impressive, and flawless, multi numbered cap.
AROMAS AND COLD DRAW POINTS:
From the shaft, I can smell caramel, red pepper, dark cocoa, café latte, dark dried fruit, cream, cedar, malt, and slight touches of floral.
From the clipped cap and the foot, I can smell a whopping dose of both black and red pepper, semi-sweet dark chocolate, dried raisins and dried cranberries, espresso, cedar, malt, and black licorice.
The cold draw presents flavors of red pepper, salted caramel, chocolate, coffee, cream, cedar, pretzel, dried fruit, malt, and lemon zest.
The draw is wide open. Considering how packed this cigar is, I expected I would need my PerfecDraw cigar poker to clear the path. Clearly, the nice construction goes beyond just the exterior appearance and digs deep.
This is one of those cigars that just spews smoke into the air causing an EPA official to alert me to smog regulations. So I put a catalytic converter on the end of the stick and am good to go.
The red pepper kicks in like getting the hooves of a mule shoved up your sinuses.
Concurrently, a pleasant dose of creaminess complements the spice; somewhat taming the effect of my nose hairs beginning to glow prior to spontaneous combustion.
A bevy of malt elements shows up early. I need more cigar time to disseminate their categories.
Strength is an immediate medium/full. I guess we’re not fooling around here so I grab my crash helmet for later when the nicotine drops me like a sack of potatoes from my chair while typing.
One thing for sure, this is exactly how I expect a ridiculously priced $18 cigar to start its journey. Lots of promise and potential. And then a blow job.
More flavors begin to swirl in a parabolic curve with a quadratic relationship. Sorry. As an engineer, I’ve always loved math. (Did I just hear about half a million of you just shutter uncontrollably?)
The red pepper decides to lay back and the cigar now smooths out like unraveling a bolt of fine silk.
I’ve had this cigar several months and I expect full bore, large caliber, crème de la crème experience from this blend.
As I approach the second third, the flavors hit the mute button. They aren’t gone; just not as splendiferous.
At this point, my head shakes like a bobble doll in confusion. A brilliant start only to fall victim to the “….it’s OK. A good $7 catalog cigar.”
The flavor profile becomes very subtle. This is not necessarily bad as the various parts make up a fine whole. (That definitely sounded dirty).
The only consistently great cigars in the same price range as the The Last Tsar is the Bespoke Cigars line. And sir, you are no Jack Kennedy. (Damn acid flashbacks show up totally unexpectedly).
The ash is on the flaky side. (No comment please). It is growing in size like a 13 year old boy’s first look at Playboy. In 1963, I would pay a classmate to steal Playboys for me and I’d pay him 75 cents. Then I’d go home and lock myself in the bathroom for days.
“Are you OK in there, honey?”
“I’m fine Ma…leave me alone.”
Smoke time is 25 minutes.
The Last Tsar begins to open its petals. A strong lemon citrus gets a death grip on the lead flavor in a list of creaminess, spiciness, black licorice, chocolate, coffee, caramel, malt, vanilla bean, cedar, dried fig, sweetness akin to sweet tea, and vanilla.
The blend is beginning to earn its stripes for such an expensive price point. But in all honesty, at this point, I’ve smoked cigars just as good for half the price. Either the second half blows me out of my shoes or it becomes old bowling rental shoes.
Transitions finally kick in. As well as some serious complexity. The finish makes an impression with its long expected length.
The Last Tsar is a bit of a sociopath. Starting out great; exhibiting strong possibilities only to find a sink hole in the last of the first third. Yet, is resurrected in this new part of the stick.
Inconsistency is the bane of all expensive cigars. One expects a massive outpouring of uniformity that builds to a crescendo by the last third.
Houston, we have touchdown. Now it’s an $18 cigar.
The complexity ruminates between my palate and puny brain causing a serious outpouring of elation and delight.
I would be happier if this special event occurred at the beginning but apparently this is a slow roll of a blend. Building exponentially as it hurdles towards the wither and die exit point.
The halfway point makes quite the statement. Smoke time is 40 minutes.
I can’t get the damn secondary cigar band off. I must use a fingernail to pry it loose. Naturally, I cause a slight tear. The whole point to leaving cigar bands on the cigar while you smoke is so the heat loosens up the glue making it easy to remove stubborn bands. In this case, I believe the roller used Krazy Glue.
The Last Tsar is pretty good. But I just can’t get past what I expect from an $18 cigar blend. It colors my expectations greatly.
Flavors intensify. A beautiful amalgam of interesting transitions shows up like a thief in the night. I’ve hit the blender’s intent.
The salty caramel is potent. There have been no additions to the prior list of flavors but now they shine a little brighter.
It is at this point, that I am duly impressed. But lawdy, that consistency issue casts a shadow on its final score.
Strength is full body now. Nicotine kicks in. I grab the cat’s crash helmet by mistake but make it fit on my pin head.
The Last Tsar hits the “It” factor now. Perfect. It has morphed from an excellent everyday cigar to something special. $18 special? Don’t think so.
The main cigar band withstands my tries at removal. This may be the death knell of this stick if I need a backhoe to remove it.
Smoke time is one hour 5 minutes.
Full strength. Gangbusters of nicotine. My body is now on the ceiling looking down at myself.
I’ve got cracks up and down the last third from using a pry bar to remove the cigar bands.
Normally, I would grab my PerfecRepair cigar glue but the stick is covered in spider vein cracks. I would need to paint the entire stick until it looked like a tampon from the dried residue of the glue. But the hell with it. I want to finish it and if I need to glue it back together, so be it.
The nice thing about PerfecRepair glue is that it not only reattaches the errant wrapper from making a run for it, it is also a crack sealant not requiring lifting of loose wrapper.
The Last Tsar now looks like it’s been in a fatal traffic accident.
And the cigar goes out.
The glue does its job and, fingers crossed, its smooth sailing from here on.
The “It” factor has lessened. This up and down pogo stick of a flavor profile is perplexing. It is a very good cigar at times. But then it falls into the next door neighbor’s hyacinth flower bed.
Then, a surge of red pepper. My sinuses open like the Holland Tunnel.
The nicotine is affecting my spelli..9d9nuno9wa;os.
One thing that most rating systems don’t take into account is the price factor v. flavor profile. This cannot be avoided. Not when the stick is the same as your mortgage payment.
Then miracle of Joey Ramone blasts away as if to notify me I’m full of shit and that this is a great blend.
It is a bona fide flavor extravaganza now.
This is the part of the review where I’m so relishing the cigar that I sit back in my big overstuffed chair and stop typing and just enjoy.
No longer a sociopath, I believe it is on the schizophrenic side of failing mental health.
If only The Last Tsar was perfectly consistent, I’d be raving and ranting about the wonderfulness of the blend.
Instead, I only rave about portions of the cigar.
The last third is now the sweet spot. Something that should have appeared in the first half inch.
I’m guessing other reviewers loved this blend. I need to check to see what they said.
Yikes. Halfwheel only gave it an 81. I hear ya’ buddy.
Other reviewers don’t break the 90 mark. Uh-oh. It ain’t just me babe. Caldwell fucked up with this blend which explains why a limited production cigar is still on the market.
Of course, you smart guys read all the reviews first before plunking down your cash saved for that liposuction you were going to surprise your wife with.
I smoked one a month ago and thought it had great potential but was not ready yet. Now, I’m thinking it was a sign. Beetlejuice. Beetlejuice. Beetlejuice.
The last inch discovers some harshness that influences the impact of the spiciness which is now overruling the other flavors.
Such a dichotomy of events in this journey. It’s great. Then not so great. Rinse. Repeat.
I will be kind in rating this cigar for no other reason that I’m in a generous mood. Normally, I’d be a smart ass and rate it a 16.75. And that’s mostly due to the flavor v. price equation.
So here I am…the last guy to review this cigar. I’m sure you’ve already tried one if you’ve inherited your father’s fortune. If you haven’t because you were frightened off by the price tag, don’t bother. Save your money for a few better sticks at a more reasonable price point.
After publishing this review, I expect comments or emails telling me they’d never buy an $18 cigar unless it came with an Asian masseuse.
I shall relish the good parts. And blot from my mind the truth that this is not a special cigar as advertised.
Final smoke time is one hour 25 minutes.
And now for something completely different:
Normally, Curved Air headlined in all the arenas in England and Europe. But once in a while, we got to be the support act for a giant band of that era…the 1960’s-1970’s.
For one of those tours, we supported Emerson, Lake and Palmer for 4 gigs.
The first time we did sound check on that bill, I got a wild hair. Keith Emerson had a full sized grand piano that was mechanically fixed so it would do 360 ° roll….with Keith on it. Head over heels.
I asked Keith if I could ride the piano. He laughed and said no one had ever asked to do that in any of the support groups they played with, so I felt honored as I climbed aboard. I guess no one asked because they didn’t want to vomit on his piano.
To my horror, the only way you hang on is with your feet locked underneath a special bar on the bench. No seat belt holds you in place.
The piano began to roll. Slowly at first, and then faster and faster. I grabbed the keyboard like a cat. I was completely disoriented.
Now I’m spinning like crazy and scared for my life and assumed I would be jettisoned like a rocket…meanwhile, Keith would play while doing it. ????
After a few minutes, the piano slowed its roll and I was able to get off and then fell flat on my face on the stage from being dizzy.
I asked Keith how in the hell he did that while playing. He laughed. He saw that my face must have been green and took me to the bathroom in the arena, where he helped me to a stall where I threw up.
Each day we played with them, Keith asked me, like clockwork, if I wanted to ride the piano again? All the while laughing while asking. I politely declined.
I had some Cubans that Larry Coryell, the incredible father of jazz fusion guitar, had given me. And on the last night of playing with them, I asked Keith if he would like to join me for a smoke? His eyes lit up and we retired to his posh hotel room where he allowed no one else in, but me. He ordered some lavish room service and we spent the night eating, drinking and smoking cigars. It doesn’t get much better than that.
And now for something completely different PART 2:
I think it was around the mid-80’s and I was working for a small construction company (Bartec) of maybe 20 people in the office and another 80 in the field. We fabricated and installed structural steel. I was senior project manager. And I had another PM working for me.
The owner was one of those entrepreneurial guys that not only owned this company, but another dozen possessions included a strip club and some very fancy restaurants.
He was Errol Flynn dashing. I wanted to have sex with him…and I’m straight.
He was married to Tippi Hedren (“The Birds”) who considered hubby an ATM machine. She had an animal preserve somewhere in Orange County whose main mission was to save lions. Tippi’s license plate said, “ROAR.”
Now of course you know that Melanie Griffith is her daughter. And back in ’86, Melanie was a real looker. She hadn’t married Don Johnson yet, but was married to the actor Steven Bauer…of Al Pacino “Scarface” fame.
I remember them visiting the shop many times so they could pick up step dad and go to the “Club” for lunch.
I was one of two project managers and we were upstairs by ourselves next to the company kitchen…
I remember his name: Luis Barrenechea. We called him Lou.
Anyway, Lou would come upstairs around 2 PM after his lunch with the Tippi, Melanie, and Steven. And he would sit there with a bottle of vodka he kept in the kitchen freezer and get shit faced all afternoon bemoaning his status in life and all the ways that Tippi was draining him of dough. Since there were only two of us up there, he vented like a mother futter. And we couldn’t concentrate for shit. Once, the other PM couldn’t take it any longer. Lou would get so animated that the more he drank the more difficult it became having a phone conversation.
So the PM asked Lou to keep it down so we could do our jobs. Well, that was the wrong thing to do. Lou exploded. He fired the guy on the spot.
The PM went downstairs and told the GM what happened. The GM told him to go home for the day and come back tomorrow. And not to worry. He still had his job.
That did not work out well for me. I got dragged into the kitchen and Lou poured me a drinking glass full of vodka. It was mid-afternoon. And I don’t drink. He went on spewing dirt on Tippi to the point I became very uncomfortable. He even told me she wasn’t that good of a lay. And that’s why he had a couple cupcakes on the side. Oh lord.
One day, we engineers got an assignment. Alfred Hitchcock had made sexual moves on Tippi often, but without success, or so we heard from Tippi.
At the end of the movie, Hitch gave Tippi one of the first portable radios. It was the size of a car battery. This was due to the 10lb battery running the show. And it had long ago stopped working. We had never seen a battery that looked like this one.
So, the other PM, the purchasing agent, and I were given the task of figuring out how to replace the long dead battery and make this piece of junk work. We were told it was our number one priority while our projects went to shit.
We spent two solid days on the phone, all 3 of us; and we got nowhere. When we saw Tippi in Lou’s office at the end of those 2 days, we talked to her about our fruitless efforts and all we got was a perfunctory, “Boys. You can do better than that. I am counting on you. This was a gift from my dear friend Alfred Hitchcock and I want the GODDAMM radio to work. You got me, boys?”
Now we knew why Lou drank himself stupid in the afternoons. What a bitch on wheels.
I remember when Melanie visited. She and Steven would be hanging waiting for mom and step-pop to get going so they could get the hell outta’ there.
I got the balls one day and introduced myself. Both were very gracious, unlike their mom.
I, of course, bragged about my Curved Air days to them…and they were impressed. The Police was still together and I told my tales of hanging with them at gigs. Which was true.
After that, Steven would come up to engineering and talk to me about rock n roll. This guy really knew his stuff; a true musicologist and we had a great time. Work stopped and the other PM was thrilled to be a part of it. Melanie would always come upstairs and drag him out of engineering but then she got caught up in the stories too. We did a lot of laughing that disturbed the worker bees downstairs.
We would hear Tippi clunking her way upstairs to see what the holdup was. She had no interest in rock n roll and since engineering let her down over that stupid radio, she wanted no part of us.
I only worked there for about a year and then moved on to work for my father’s newly opened construction company.
I fondly remember the times when Melanie Griffith would always give me a kiss and a hug when she left….and a time when Bauer thought I was cool too.
Now, I’m just plain washed up and not very cool. Time marches on.
One last anecdote just popped into my head…
About 6 months after I left Bartec, I was driving down Harbor Blvd. in Fullerton. I stop at a red light and the big Mercedes in front of me had a personalized license plate that said “ROAR.”
Oh shit! It’s Tippi!
I jumped out of my car and ran up to Tippi’s window. The look of horror in her eyes was way worse than it ever was in “The Birds.”
I asked her to roll down the window but she wouldn’t and she also didn’t want to run the light.
I tell her I’m Phil Kohn and worked at Bartec. “Don’t you remember me? I tried to fix Hitchcock’s radio for you.”
She looked really scared and I realized she felt threatened so I ran back to my car.
She took off like Mario Andretti.
Speaking of which…when I was 16 and had only been driving for a couple months when I hit a 2 year old girl.
I had just left the house of a friend and was still in his neighborhood. The little girl ran out between two cars and BANG!
I could feel her body hit the front of my 1960 Pontiac Bonneville. For a few seconds, I couldn’t move. Then I jumped out of the car.
I screamed for help and people showed up in droves. The mother grabbed her child and lifted her and placed her on the lawn of their house. The kid was unconscious and I was screaming at her not to move her.
The ambulance shows up. The cops show up. A massive crowd showed up. I was 16 and had my first panic attack.
The cops made me sit there for an hour, on the curb, while they did their forensics and determined that I was only going 20mph.
They let me go without a ticket and I drove straight home.
My dad was out front doing his gardening. As I passed him on the way to the front door, I said, “I just ran over a little girl.”
Nothing. My dad didn’t even look up.
I spent the next two hours lying on my bed staring at the ceiling.
The next day, I went to the hospital with my best friend. The little girl was in traction and bandaged like the Mummy. I had bought her a teddy bear. No one from the family was there so the nurse asked if I’d like to let them know who brought the gift?
Before I could answer, my buddy said, “Tell them Mario Andretti was here.”
I almost shit myself.
The little girl recovered. This was over 50 years ago and I can still replay those moments a nano second at a time in my head.
A year later, I left that same friend’s house and saw that girl; now 3 a year old playing in the middle of the street by herself.
I shook my head and thought this girl doesn’t stand a chance with parents like hers.
Mario Andretti…fuck me.
Categories: CIGAR REVIEWS