Hot Chocolate by Cigar Federation | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Undisclosed
Binder: Undisclosed
Filler: Undisclosed
Size: 5 x 50 Robusto
Strength: Medium
Price: $6.00

Today we take a look at Hot Cocoa by Cigar Federation.
Normally, I do not review limited production cigars. Frustrates the shit out of readers if they can’t get their hands on them. Currently, the cigars are still available on Cigar Federation. But I get the same emails you get, and this blend pops up in redux version often throughout the year; so, if you can’t get some now, wait…
I’ve had the cigars resting naked in my humidor for nearly 2 months.

From Cigar Federation:
“I won’t tell you all the mountains we had to climb, and the oceans we had to cross to get this tobacco. BUT…no matter the cost…it was worth it to get these chocolatey bombs!
“Hot Cocoa is the first maduro we’ve ever had as a Factory Direct Boutique!
“…And it is chocolatey as a MUTHA!

“We were originally given this cigar by the owner of one of the best boutique factories in the biz. (Award-winning in fact!)
He asked us to smoke one with him so we could give him our expert opinion. As we clipped the cap and lit it up, he told us that this was his “Hot Cocoa” blend.

“Right outta the gate, the chocolate flavors knocked our socks off! We had to get some of these pronto!

“Hot Cocoa is a medium strength 5×50 flavor bomb! Flavors are (of course) chocolate, cedar, cream, coffee, and nuts. Some leather in there’s too.
“We are doing our darndest to get some more of these but for now…we only have less than 300 of these chocolate bombs! Gobble these up and hoard them!”

An oily, mottled mix of cocoa brown and espresso black, the stick is toothy with a nicely applied triple cap. The cigar has no soft or hard spots. Seams are visible but tight. The absence of a cigar band does not hurt the look of the cigar

Yes, we have the namesake of the cigar present and accounted for…dark chocolate. Followed by black pepper, café au lait, cedar, barnyard, malt, and a bit nutty.
The cold draw presents flavors of dark cocoa, espresso, malt, creaminess, nutty, cedar, black pepper, and cumin.

The construction seems to be spot on. The draw is clear, so I won’t need my PerfecDraw draw adjustment tool.

Black pepper gives me a jolt on the first puffs. Creamy chocolate follows suit. A nice maltiness is present. And the cigar shows promise with a touch of complexity diving in headfirst.
The chocolate flavor escalates with each stab.
Strength is medium.
No transitions yet but the finish is all candy bar.
The burn behaves.

Now, at $6, I’m not expecting a flavor bomb nor a masterpiece. But I do expect the cigar blend to live up to its moniker smacking my palate with loads of cocoa.

The bottom half of the cigar becomes spongy, accelerating the burn. I dry boxed the cigar for 2 days. Fortunately, the humidity has been low in Milwaukee so it should have done the cigar some real good. Spongy means either over humidification or poor rolling.

I’m not sure the reason for this cigar other than to give budget minded smokers a chance to taste a faux chocolate infused cigar that is cheaper than $10. I’ve not tried their Mexican Hot Chocolate. But then those are $1 cheaper per stick than this Hot Chocolate…so, no idea if it is an improvement or not.

The blend is pleasant…but that’s about it. The start of the cigar hinted it might be something special for the price. I need to get to the second half before I can make that determination.

This is one of those cigars whose production is so small, that they generally sell out in hours. This one has been available for a bit. But as Ezra Zion owns Cigar Federation now, they are using the same tactic of releasing tiny amounts of found cigars that hardly anyone gets to try…and usually around the $12 price tag.

The first third ends without any ‘wows’ or ‘whoopees.’

It took only 15 minutes to smoke the first third. Sponginess is the culprit.

The spiciness ratchets up. A tad bit overwhelming as the other flavor elements are not willful or strong.

You can tell a lot about a relationship when a wife comes into the cigar lounge asking for help to get her husband some cigars. Yesterday had an influx of this due to Father’s Day. Some women were generous snagging $100 of good sticks. Others ignored me completely and perused the walk-in humidor until they found the cheapest cigars they found, grabbed a couple, paid, and got the hell out. Yesterday made me very grateful to have a woman like Charlotte.

The cigar ain’t going to dislodge your tastes for your usual go to sticks. But at $6, it isn’t bad. A lot better than a $6 Gran Habano. But it is a simple cigar.
Maybe the chocolate will improve over months of humi time, but after 2 months, it isn’t as prevalent as the PR would suggest.

The complex nature of the cigar hit a ceiling in the first third. It isn’t seeing any great improvement in the second. Transitions aren’t in play. The finish is chocolate and strong black pepper. The creaminess, that truly helped flesh out the balance of the cigar, seems missing in action now.

Know what makes me feel bad when I work at the lounge? There are lots of guys that come in who are somewhat isolated in life and find the cigar store a good place to connect. After being married to a psychologist for 35 years, some has rubbed off on me. Loneliness reeks from their pores. So, I engage them, and they are all truly nice guys just needing the tribal connection to participate in the ancient ritual of burning leaves together around a campfire…or as in this case, the bar.

And then there are the guys whose shit don’t stink. The first thing they do is make an effort to impress. Yawn. Half the time, I have no idea if they are even telling the truth. But overall, Prime Cigar garners a great bunch of smokers who are fun to be with and seem to be mensches.

The Hot Chocolate is a nice morning cigar. Or a nice yard ‘gar. The strength doesn’t go for the testicles with the evil intent of strangling them with over the top strength and nicotine.

I’ve reviewed 8 Cigar Federation house blends over the last 4 years. Some were very good and others not so good. It is always a crap shoot with their house blends. I have no idea that once the EZ boys took over the site, how much of these house blends came from them…even before they took possession. But the PR is certainly all Ezra Zion. Every description makes the newest blend sound like the second coming. I’ve heard from a lot of readers about this. It has caused many of them to be highly skeptical because the bullshit is laid on so thickly.

The Hot Chocolate, while being a pleasant blend, is strictly linear. Transitions never appear. The complexity is in stasis. And the finish remains cocoa and pepper.

But we must remember that this is a very inexpensive stick. I applaud CF and EZ for not making all their blends $60-$70 for a fiver. At roughly $5-$6 per stick, at least you can try them and if you like them…great. If not, you haven’t had to break the piggy bank.

The construction of the second half is much better. The fast burn of the first half has slowed down noticeably.

“Rocky Mountain Way” by Joe Walsh is playing. One of my all time faves. It was seeing them on Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert in 1972 that had a big impact on me as a bassist. Walsh used a bassist that was uber cool looking, swaying appropriately to the swing of the song and playing a fretless bass. I was mesmerized. I had never seen a bassist play one. I had to get one. It took til 1980 before I bought my Schecter fretless Jazz bass with the serial number ‘9.’ Beautifully assembled of 100% Brazilian Rosewood. Never looked back after that. The bass cost me $1000 in 1980. Ouch.

The blend hitches a ride on the medium/full train now. I get a hint of nicotine.

Time for a sip of water. Nada. I’m not sure but it seems like the vacillating chocolate element is diminishing…still, a simple but tasty budget cigar.

Should you try a fiver of the Hot Chocolate, do not…I repeat…do not smoke one ROTT. Or even a week later. It took two months to get to this point where the chocolate and other ancillary flavors come to fruition. Smoke it early…might as well flush it.

Creaminess returns after a long absence. Other components are minor: malt, espresso, and a slight hint of nuttiness.

The cigar does not possess the qualities of a real premium blend. But for $6, it is an affordable yard ‘gar. I am going to snag the Mexican Hot Chocolate blend so I can compare.

The last inch and a half improves the character of the blend. It is fuller in body with a subtle balance. Don’t expect a panoply of flavors. The tobacco is just good enough to make it smokable.

The black pepper raises its head and slams the other flavors to the ground.

I’ve been working a lot of first shifts at Prime. So, I haven’t been able to review as much as I’d hoped. This coming mid-week, I will have time to review some cigars I’ve been dying to get at.

The stick flails as it finishes. I’m not disappointed in the Hot Chocolate as my expectations were low as I rarely believe over the top PR from the manufacturer. If this was a $10+ cigar, I would have been ranting like a madman.

Happy Father’s Day.


And now for something completely different:

Normally, Curved Air headlined in all the arenas in England and Europe. But occasionally, we got to be the support act of 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 designed 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 wanted to vomit on his piano.

To my horror, the only way you hang on was with your feet locked underneath a special bar on the bench. Nothing to hold 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 that 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 great 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 1986 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.

I can’t remember names. I am slipping into darkness. Give me an amen. The owner was one of those entrepreneurial guys that not only owned this company, but another dozen possessions that included a strip club.
He was movie star Errol Flynn dashing.

He was married to Tippi Hedren (“The Birds”) who considered hubby as an ATM machine. She had an animal preserve somewhere in Orange County that’s 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 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 wife and kids. And he would sit there with a bottle of vodka 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.

One day, we engineers got an assignment. Alfred Hitchcock had made moves on Tippi often, and 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 camping flashlight with a huge battery in it. And it had long ago stopped working.

I and the other PM, and the purchasing agent, 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.

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 and we had a great time. Work stopped and my boss was thrilled to be a part of it. Melanie would always have to come up and drag him out of engineering but then got caught up in the stories too. We did a lot of laughing that disturbed the worker bee’s downstairs.

Tippi would then come up and 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.
But there was a time when Melanie Griffith thought I was cute and 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 washed up cool. Time marches on.


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13 replies

  1. Your Schecter bass guitar – a classic beauty! I can see no “noise jamming” with this baby.
    Passing the time with an Alec Brady Magic toast while reading your review.

    Happy Father’s day – I hope you get that cigar your dreaming’ of!

  2. Another good one Katman, spot on. The Mexican hot Chocolate Version is a few points higher imo.

    CI has Cornelius & Anthony on closeout, get a bix of Daddy Macs for $69! Free shipping;)

  3. “Every description makes the newest blend sound like the second coming. I’ve heard from a lot of readers about this. It has caused many of them to be highly skeptical because the bullshit is laid on so thickly.”

    Spot-on, Katman.

  4. Wow, an Emerson drop! Thank you for that. One of the greats, glad he was a good guy. Sad end, though.

    Peace and happy father’s day.


  5. Happy Father’s Day, Katman! I hope Melanie called you daddy at least once.

  6. Absolutely…in fact she called me Big Daddy.

  7. Nice to know all cigar lounges are pretty much the same. Your comments are spot on.

  8. Hi Brad,
    Thanks. I’ve tried cigar lounges all over Milwaukee. I’ve gone to lounges wherever we’ve lived across the country. And I always give up.
    Unless you have a charismatic bartender that likes people; instead of tolerating them…and if you go in alone, the vibe is you are an outsider. I’ve tried in the past to meet new people; only to be given the stink eye that told me to go away as I would have nothing to add to their conversation.
    I do think that Prime Cigar is a good place as far as inclusion. But we aren’t perfect. You have countless numbers of cigar smokers coming in that are all different. Some know how to blend in and others are lost.
    For me, this is the perfect retirement part time job. I enjoy engaging customers. I try to make their time in the shop fun and a distraction from their worries for an hour or two. And since I have a big mouth, I’m relatively successful.

    I’ve also seen in so many cigar lounges that not all employees are versed very well in Cigars 101. They push what the lounge wants to sell. Ask them a question about blends and brands and they go catatonic. The fact that I have some background in the knowledge of cigars, I love helping people make their choices. Not every employee is interested in this approach.
    Despite the criticisms, I’m having the time of my life.
    Be well, Brad…

  9. Phil,
    I just fired up one of these and came to see if you’d reviewed them. Pleasant coincidence this is your most recent review. I’ve only been smoking cigars for about 27 years, so my palate isn’t nearly as refined as yours, but I found the review spot on. The cigar is pretty much what I was expecting under all the hype and is just what I was in the mood for.

    In the late 90’s I had the good fortune to work in a couple of great shops, including a coffee/cigar shop that was tied in to the local music scene. These were probably the most enjoyable jobs I’ve ever had.

    There’s something really satisfying in learning about a product and connecting people with just the right blend to make them happy, all the while having great conversations and telling tall tales.

  10. Hi Matt,
    We must be star crossed.

  11. Two households, both alike in dignity
    In fair Tobacciana, where we lay our scene
    From ancient humidor break out new smokes
    Where too much ash makes shirts unclean

  12. I get the monthly Ezra subscription of 5 different and they nearly tend to be be on the good side of the bell curve and have a signature desert quality. They almost never include the Tantrum which is their champ. I was stoked to see your review since I smoked it last week. Your review is spot on. It’s the kind of cigar I like when I’m reading next to a fire or catching up with a friend so the hot chocolate moniker is apt.

  13. Hi Ryan,
    The Tantrum and The Collective were the first two EZ blends I reviewed back in 2014.
    And I believe I’ve reviewed over 25 of their blends. Many still available today.
    Thanks for commenting…

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