Filler: Nicaraguan, Indonesian, Peruvian
Size: 7.5 x 42 Lancero
Today we take a look at the The Raven: Nevermore by Ezra Zion Cigars.
The cigars were sent to me by Ezra Zion. I’ve had them resting for around 6 weeks.
Addendum 7-31-2017: At the time of this review I was unaware of Ezra Zion’s takeover of Cigar Federation and its cigar outlet. I bitch in this review about the ever constant price of $12 a stick on the Ezra Zion store site. With the new acquisition, new blends are being made available at more palatable prices in the $9 range. I wish them the best of luck in their new venture.
This is my 25th review of an EZ cigar blend since 2014. No one has come close. And only one review was not a rave: All My Exe’s Maduro. For some reason, I didn’t get that one. But still, 24 out of 25 highly rated cigars ain’t bad.
And by the time I get to review a limited release of the EZ cigars, they have long sold out. On average, once a new blend is released the entire production disappears in an hour. Frustrates the shit out of a lot of smokers who adore EZ blends.
So I’m going to do my part in causing more frustration by reviewing a cigar you will never get to purchase but may be of some help to those who bought The Raven in their quest for Yoda-like wisdom and guidance about the journey; and to see if EZ’s vivid description of their blend matches mine. These boys have excellent palates; much better than mine. This should be fun.
From the Ezra Zion Cigars web site:
“The Raven: Nevermore is the second installment in The Raven series. If you liked the first Raven cigar, this just became the day you’ve been praying for.
“The Raven: Nevermore is a gorgeous lancero boasting a cuban-esque stinger cap. Wrapped in a 10-year -old milk chocolate broadleaf, it’s laid expertly over an exotic blend of Nicaraguan, Indonesian, and Peruvian fillers.
“Full bodied and full strength, The Raven: Nevermore is a brooding and complex smoking experience. Both the balance and construction are impeccable.
“First light rushes across the palate with bold flavors of sweet cinnamon bark, Cuban coffee, vanilla bean and beer hops. Blasts of chicory and tanned leather emerge on the finish. The retrohale is strong bringing the warm burn of chipotle peppers to the blend.
“As it progresses. dry champangne (sic), sage, and hazelnuts are added. White oak gains steam on the finish. The blend may remind the smoker of dark ale.
“The exotic tobaccos cause the finish to linger long on the palate. Creamy flavors settle nicely onto the tongue between puffs.
“This all ends with a crescendo during the last third. Subtle cocoa powder and licorice notes arrive just in time to add even more complexity the The Raven: Nevermore. The magnitude of all the flavors is overwhelming!
“The Raven: Nevermore is a cigar for the sophisticated cigar connoisseur. Easily a $25 cigar experience. Arguably the best cigar we’ve ever done!
“Get these while you can! They will be Sold Out very quickly. And I can tell you, because the tobaccos used in the blend are all gone…The Raven: Nevermore will never be made again!
“Total Production: 685”
Best cigar they ever made? Wow. We shall see my lovelies…
It’s long like a chop stick. I could have them coated in Lucite and use them that way for posterity as I have two sticks left.
It’s a beautiful coffee colored stick. Smooth and appealing in appearance with invisible seams but with veins in abundance. The triple cap is very nicely applied with a fan tail atop the cap.
AROMAS AND COLD DRAW POINTS:
From the shaft, I can smell deep, dark chocolate, red pepper, malt, caramel or general sweetness, espresso, vanilla, floral notes, cedar, heavy cream and dark raisins.
From the clipped cap and the foot, I can smell all of the above with the exception that the chocolate is stronger and the red pepper nearly sets my nose afire.
The cold draw presents flavors of creaminess, chocolate malt, coffee, cedar, red pepper, cloves, cedar, and floral notes.
The samples I got all showed the same issue: Tough draw so I was lucky enough to have my PerfecDraw cigar poker (Use promo code Katman to receive 15% off) to open this Slim Jim. I’m always nervous when I am forced to use the cigar poker on a small ring gauge like a lancero. It takes just a momentary lack of focus to penetrate the wrapper. It’s happened a couple times. Luckily, I have the PerfecDraw Cigar Glue and all one has to do is spread some of it on the pierced wrapper and it’s good to go a minute later.
The lancero is still packed pretty tightly making the draw a bit tighter than I like but it’ll work.
Batter up: Chocolate, creaminess, red pepper, vanilla, malts, coffee, and cedar. The nice sweetness apparent in my sniffing is absent from the flavor profile. Still early…
I expected, after the boast of that this is probably the best blend EZ has produced, more of a smack in the puss from the start. Not so. It starts off slowly in the flavor department.
The “Wow” factor is missing.
I’m reacting, primarily, to its spiciness and chocolate/coffee flavors.
EZ mentions a white oak element. I have to be honest. I don’t know what that is. I have trouble identifying wood flavors, except for cedar, so as my tree bark licking techniques are lacking, my palate cannot identify “white oak.”
Strength is medium.
The best cigars I’ve smoked, which include many, many EZ blends, always start off with a big bang. The Raven: Nevermore is on a slow roll. I didn’t expect this. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice blend but far from killer at this early stage. Still have 6” to go.
The malts are heavy as EZ describes but I have no sense of champagne or sage or nuts or white oak. Hopefully, it will show up later.
The balance is on point. Transitions begin. No complexity yet. But it does possess a nice long finish.
Creaminess, malts, and chocolate are a fine team.
Smoke time is 25 minutes.
I’m disappointed. What am I missing? Their best blend yet? The EZ boys are masters at pumping out great blends and I love them all. Even the Blending Sessions. But I had high expectations from this blend and I feel I’ve been let down. The first third should have had me jumping for joy. Of course, at my age it is more like limping for joy. That works.
Every EZ blend I’ve smoked or reviewed was rip roarin’ ready to go in a month. Maybe the 6 weeks I’ve had the stick in my humidor is insufficient. Although, I’ve found lanceros to be quick studies in the marinating process.
Bitterness shows up out of nowhere. I did smoke a couple sticks prior to this review and all were basically the same as today’s review stick. Nothing special but still a good cigar. A $12 cigar.
Flavors are lazy. Maybe it needs another month of two of humidor time. Just a guess because I’ve basically had a very joyous time with every EZ blend.
It reminds me of the All My Exe’s Maduro which didn’t excite my palate. A list of non-descript flavors that underwhelm my palate.
I’m sure we all do it. Read a review(s) of a cigar we want to purchase before pulling the trigger. But the EZ blends are so limited that no one bothers to review them; not to mention that a release of 500-1000 cigars disappear before you can blink. So one has to trust EZ implicitly to spend $60 on a 5 pack. Fortunately, we’ve been rewarded with great cigars as a result of that implicit trust.
Strength remains at medium.
Transitions just ain’t happening any longer. No complexity. The finish is comprised primarily of black pepper with malt and cream.
You ever get the sense that the cigar you are smoking is dying to transcend its plane of existence and bolt into the stratosphere any moment? I’m waiting.
At this point in time, the The Raven: Nevermore is nothing special. I don’t get it.
The halfway point arrives at 45 minutes.
Something is stirring. The bitterness is gone. Transitions return. Some complexity raises its head. The finish is outstanding.
At the halfway mark, the cigar is behaving how I expected it would from the very start.
Creaminess, malts, coffee, black pepper, cocoa, vanilla, cedar, raisins, and red hot cinnamon.
Zero construction issues. A near perfect char line.
The Raven: Nevermore is now making significant changes every couple minutes. Climbing the ladder of excellence.
I reviewed several cigars in the recent past in the $7-$8 range that were incredible…like the La Galera Habano and the A.J. Fernandez Atlantic Cigar 20th Aniversario. Both cigars kicked off like gangbusters and only got better with each puff.
The Raven is now an official entrant in the realm of what one expects from an EZ blend.
There is a white grape sweetness now. It’s probably as close as I will get to taste the EZ described champagne element.
There is some woodiness but in no way could I describe the tree of whence it came.
Strength hits a welcome medium/full.
The first half was like waiting for a pot of water to boil. The second half is the boiling point.
The Raven: Nevermore is now a superb blend. Complexity is in full swing.
I cannot explain the delayed response by this blend coming to fruition about half a cigar late.
Smoke time is one hour 15 minutes.
Every cigar by EZ got a rating from me in the 90’s. The Raven: Nevermore won’t.
The last third continues on its journey struggling to be exceptional. I’m sorry Kyle and Chris. You did a nice thing by sending me these cigars but it is what it is.
The long list of flavors I listed earlier are all accounted for. Nice complexity. Good transition mode with a long finish.
Strength hits full.
I don’t think that 6 weeks was sufficient humidor time. This surprises me as most EZ blends are ripping their clothes off at only a month or less.
It could be nothing more than my palate not appreciating the care and passion that went into designing this blend.
Strong bitterness returns. Yuck.
This has never happened. EZ claims it’s their best blend ever. Maybe I’m currently brain dead.
I allow The Raven: Nevermore to rest a bit before taking any more puffs hoping the bitterness will subside.
I’ve always made it clear that I detest reporting on a subpar blend. It is devastating that I find this blend in that category.
The bitterness is gone now.
Man, my Jewish guilt is raging.
If you were able to buy The Raven: Nevermore, my advice is to give them plenty of humidor time. More so than other EZ blends. I think 3 months is in order. I’m spit balling here but there has to be an explanation for my disappointment.
This is the type of review that keeps big manufacturers from sending me cigars. My honesty becomes an issue.
There were moments of brilliance in this experience but not a consistent smoke.
Final smoke time is one hour 30 minutes.
Revised 7-28-2017: I gave my last stick its chance as the first cigar of my day. I was inundated by huge amounts of black pepper. I like my spice but this pepper was so potent that no other flavors could overcome the onslaught. The cigar remains inconsistent but all in all is a slightly better cigar than this particular reviewed cigar. The black pepper disappears suddenly and the cigar goes blah on me in a “clap on, clap off” syndrome for the rest of the smoke. I don’t feel the pompatus of love from this blend. I’m sure it’s a fine cigar blend but my palate just doesn’t recognize the EZ description of this blend. The palate is a mysterious thing. Still, I’m one of the few reviewers that saw the brilliance of the EZ team early on going back to over 3 years ago when I reviewed my first EZ blend called The Collective sold by Cigar Federation. Don’t let my so so reaction to this blend dissuade you from purchasing EZ blends. I’m still a big fan.
And now for something completely different:
Ivana Trump. Late 90’s.
This is an odd rock story. No sex…although I did get screwed at the end.
I was in the Todd Hart Band. A power blues trio. Todd once sang lead in the legendary English blues band, Savoy Brown. Todd was a good guitarist but his forte was that he had an incredible voice.
We had the same michegas (alternate spelling: michegoss) as endured by Spinal Tap…holding on to drummers. In the 3 years I was in the band, we must have seen 7-8 drummers go through the band.
All were fired…except for two that disappeared during spontaneous combustion and one choked on vomit.
Todd was a full time player and depended on gig money to survive. For that time, we made excellent dough…especially as a three piece.
I was a senior project manager for a structural steel fabricator in Mesa, AZ. So working all the time put money in my wallet that always fell into the hands of my wife and teen daughter.
Todd was able to book us 3-4 nights per week. This was tough on me. Construction hours are grueling. Unfortunately, at the company I worked for, starting time was 6am. Most places I worked, 5am-6am was starting time. As a PM, it was my responsibility that the field crews had all the drawings for the work that day, that any issues would be discussed, they had all the steel required on site, and make sure all the big equipment (cranes, lifts, etc.) was rented and ready to use.
Never in my career did the iron workers ever count the bolts and other crucial small bits before they left for the job. I always got a call from the field mid-day begging for more bolts or a piece of steel they left at the shop. Pissed me off. I didn’t have time to be an errand boy nor did I feel it was my responsibility to count bolts and nuts. It was their job to make sure they had what they needed.
Due to the states I worked in, the iron workers were all union guys. Trying to get them to do something not under their purview was impossible. So crews of 5-20 guys would sit idle, as did the rented cranes and other equipment, while someone was sent to the job with the shit they forgot.
Back to the subject at hand…I loved our Sunday afternoon gigs. They paid the best and I got to have a normal evening. When you’re young, you like to hang out at the club after you finished playing; but as an old man, all I wanted to do was: Tear the guitar chord from my bass while the last note was still ringing, put my bass in its case, start tearing down equipment…and get paid for the night.
And Go Home.
Work nights were tough. Back then, you could smoke in clubs. So I came home reeking of cigarette smoke and had to take a shower. It was 3am before I could calm myself to sleep only to be up 2 or 3 hours later to get ready for work. Strong coffee was my friend.
This story revolves around a particular gig that was downtown at the Phoenix Convention Center. It was Woman’s Festival. And Ivana Trump was scheduled to speak. She had been divorced from Mr. Trump since 1992. And no new husbands 5-6 years later. I guess her settlement set her up for life.
We were in a giant room with hundreds of women. Only a small handful of men. Pure manna. The ladies loved our music. We were a great band. Just like when I was young, a bevy of women surrounded the band stand. Of course, back then I was thin and had a full head of luxurious hair. I used conditioner.
Between our first and second sets, Ivana was set to speak on the band stand. It was a long break.
My stage clothes were black slacks, bluesman-type white shirt, and a black Blues Brother’s type jacket. The coat was superfluous because Phoenix is HOT!!
Despite the heat, I wore the jacket because I used it to hide my Glock 30. A .45 caliber sub-compact pistol that held 13 rounds. I had a custom made Milt Sparks in the waistband holster. Back then, it cost $150. That’s a lot for a holster 20 years ago. But I still have it today and it gets better with age.
I started carrying a gun because at the time, Arizona was still the wild west. It was perfectly legal to carry openly.
Sometime in 1998, we became the Arizona Hell’s Angels official band. Almost every week, we played at some club they took over for the night. These were scoundrels of the highest order. Trafficking in drugs and guns. They all carried guns openly. And to be perfectly honest, these were not the smartest group of people. They were true outlaws. They scared the shit out of me especially by the end of the evening when they were extremely drunk while being ripped on meth.
So it made sense to me to carry protection. You just never know.
The 90’s was a different time. No metal detectors. And I trusted no one in the clubs. We had a lot of valuable equipment and there were always a lot of drunks.
The three of us were standing near the rear of the band stand when Ivana entered through the back entrance and walked up to us. She had a chauffeur that she made carry her purse for her. This was an older guy dying the death of a thousand razor blades. So embarrassing…so humiliating.
And no body guard. I was surprised by this. A woman of her wealth and exposure would surely pop for someone to keep an eye on things. But not this day.
Ivana was worth a gazillion dollars. She made out like a bandit in the divorce. And here she was standing 3 feet away waiting to go on. And here I was, packing heat.
In 1997, my family was a victim of a terrible violent crime. I can’t go into it for security reasons. My family’s security. We were offered relocation but we decided to just get out of Dodge and move on with our lives.
Ivana was getting impatient with being made to wait. The women must have been terribly intimidated by her so no one approached her. She was dressed like a million bucks. You should have seen the jewelry.
I approached her and began to chat. I was shocked that I could barely understand her. Her Slavic accent was impossible. I did a lot of nodding and smiling while the other two guys laughed in the background. I had no idea how to gracefully get the fuck out of there or shut her up.
She went on stage, finally. And she jabberwocked for a good hour. The P.A. speakers were faced outwards and we could not hear her as we stood behind the speaker cabs. But we could see lots of women yawning.
And then it happened. Some guy dressed as maintenance started giving her a hard time on stage. We couldn’t hear a thing but it sure as hell startled Ivana. She finally screamed and Todd and I ran to her aid.
This guy looked menacing and rambled like a crazy man. He kept asking for her purse but the chauffeur still had it. Not a single person in that room did a goddam thing to help. They just stared.
Todd did a round house to the guy’s face with his fist. He fell into a heap but was still lucid. I pulled my Glock, racked the slide, and put my knee on his chest with the barrel of the gun on his forehead. Todd and I screamed for someone to call the cops. It took a full 15 minutes before security or the cops showed up. And I was scared to death I might have to shoot this asshole. Thankfully, a few men in attendance pitched in to hold this guy to the ground so I could put my gun back in its holster.
The cops came. Women rushed to the cops to tell them that Todd and I saved the day.
I showed the cops my concealed carry license. And everything was cool.
As we said good bye to Ivana, she shook our hands. In her hand was a crisp $20 bill. A thank you.
Whenever I think about people with money, I think of that day. And how that cheap broad thanked us with a $20 bill. I guess she thought her life was worth $40.
Afterwards, we joked that we should have let the wacko guy do his thing with her. We risked our lives. Now we didn’t come to her aid thinking we would get money for this. We reacted instantly to someone in trouble…like anyone would.
I would have rather she didn’t give us a dime. $20.00
I thanked her and told her I could now make a down payment on that new Porsche I wanted, laughed…and walked away.
Fucking rich people.
Categories: CIGAR REVIEWS