Shawn’s 2015 Cigars of Year

2015 was one of the most “interesting” years for me in all of my 35 years. It started out fine and dandy, a few months in my family was basically forced to find another home. That nightmare turned into a Godsend as we found a larger house in a better neighborhood at a deal (way better than what we were paying). Other issues arose whether it was work, family or health it all started pilling up on me to edge of a mental breakdown. Once things started settling down, with help of family and friends, I started many improvements to the new home and my mental stability improved over time. With all that being said, NTA (and cigars in general) took a spot on the backburner as I was getting my life back in order.

I didn’t get to smoke as many cigars in 2015 as I did in 2014. There are many many cigars I wish I could have enjoyed, but 2016 is a new year and I hope to broaden my cigar experiences. I have many reviews I have to get done and I apologize to anyone who sent me cigars for review who are awaiting the review; they are on their way!

Over the last few years, the making of my Cigars Of The Year list was quite a task and usually took a few weeks or so of thinking and trying to remember the cigars that stood out that year. My camera on my phone and instagram were handy tools for the list. This year I used the same spreadsheet format from last year with the names of the cigars I smoked with a 0-5 rating in .25 increments. I don’t use ratings in my reviews as I just describe the flavors, experiences of the cigar and whether I like it or not. Remember, taste is very subjective and what I like, you or another cigar reviewer may totally hate. That’s one of the beauties of cigars, variety.

I wish I could do a list composed with all 2015 new releases, but my list is composed from all the cigars I smoked in 2015. There are quite a few new releases that I couldn’t or didn’t get ahold of that I wanted to. Many were not sold locally, sold only online or money was tight at the time of release. I like to support the local shops, but in 2016 I will have to venture more into online ordering to be able to try more new cigars. I made a plan to try to smoke as many new cigars or cigars that I would normally pass up this year. I was fairly successful at the plan in 2015, but there are still quite a few I wished I would have tried. My “variety plan” worked out so-so. There were a few cigars that I usually pass up that I tried that were fairly tasty and a few I know why I passed them up in the past.

Enough of all the chit-chat, this is my list of my favorite cigars smoked in 2015. They are in no particular order, except my Cigar of the Year.

Runner Ups
AVO Synchro Avo Synchro Nicaraguan - This cigar was one I strayed away from as I don’t care too much for many AVO’s regular line of cigars. Their LE lines have been more of a hit for me as the LE10 is one of my favorite all time cigars. I compared this to the Davidoff Nicaraguan as it was a cigar that was made out of the box in the company’s typical line of cigars. In fact, I like it more than the Davidoff Nicaraguan as it was a bit more smoother and a little better price.   
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“Smoked Up” No.99

Getting back into the rhythm of things here at the new house. There are still things that need to be done here, but time, money and patience is one of the barriers of my projects. None the less, I have been smoking more due to the weather has been pretty “decent” at night with temps from 70s-80s instead of mid 90s. Got to try a few new (to me) cigars recently (that didn’t make this issue) that I really enjoyed that may or may not make an appearance on this year’s cigars of the year list.


Cigar Views

Don Benigno

Don Benigno: Costa Rica is not a country you usually associate with cigars, but that is where the Don Benigno comes from. I tried this cigar a few weeks ago and thought it would go great with a cup of chicory coffee. This time, I did try it with said coffee and it paired quite nicely. The oak, roasted nuts and a slight black peppery spice all paired nicely with the chicory coffee. There was no flashing lights with this cigar, but it was a good smoke with a subtle complexidity that kept me interested in it. For the $7 its a pretty good upper medium bodied smoke with a matching body strength and very good construction.  
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Ezra Zion Releases “Blending Sessions”

From Ezra Zion:

If you’ve ever wanted to know what we smoke in our off time, now you know. We smoke samples from the hundreds of blends we’ve created over the years. In fact, if you came over for a BBQ, these are what we’d smoke all day!


We thought it would be the coolest thing ever to pull back the curtain–or in this case open the door to the Ezra Zion Humidor Vault–and share these cigars with you.

Few things to note before you order:

1. These are blending session cigars not regular production cigars. They haven’t been in a cigar press as long. They are done on the fly to taste the tobacco combinations and flavors. A few may have a wavy burn or an open draw. Some might even have a rough cap or foot. It happens when you’re down and dirty in the throws of blending. Just smoke it. You’ll like it. It’s not about ascetics; it’s about the tobacco!

2. No two orders will ever be the same. We have Corojo, San Andres Maduro, Habano, Connecticut wrappers, and a lot more. Cigars of all shapes and sizes. These are the ultimate mystery sampler–much like blending is. That’s the fun of it to us. You get to smoke something that will never be available again!

3. You may get something you recognize. Before they were Ezra Zion cigar releases, they were blends! Mixed in here are samples from just about every cigar we’ve ever put out to the public.

MBombay Offers A Chance to Attend one of Cigar Aficionado’s Big Smoke

Palm Desert, CA: In an effort to provide Aficionados & Aficonadas a cigar Experience to
remember, Bombay Tobak is offering a Drawing for 5 Tickets each to either Big Smoke Las
Vegas or Big Smoke New York! The Deal…. BUY ANY 3 Mbombay cigars at any MBombay
Retailer, receive a Raffle Ticket to enter the Drawing… SIMPLE! Seek an MBombay Retailer near you by visiting


MBombay is a Nationally Distributed Brand of Boutique cigars that incorporates Sophistication,  Complexity, & Harmony of Flavors in their tobacco blends. Offering 5 different lines, their vitolas are truly unique in their smoking Experience… a definite must try for all cigar lovers!

This “Big Smoke Promotion” will start on September 1, 2015 and run through October 23, 2015 for the Las Vegas, NV Venue, and through November 12, 2015 for the New York Venue. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to attend one of the Cigar Industry’s most sought after events!

“Smoked Up” No.98

It has been a few months since my last “Smoked Up” and a lot has been going on since then. Through a chain of good and not so good events, I am now an official homeowner! I closed on the house a month and a half late, so that itself was a headache and involved a few sleepless nights. Got the house and was planning on remodeling it while living in the current house. That plan went to hell in a hand basket in no time and had to move into the new house “under construction”. Things have finally started settling down at the new house, but there are many things I want to still do to it. I just have to prioritize projects versus finances.

I had planned on going to the 2015 IPCPR trade show in New Orleans a few weeks ago seeing it was really close to home. But with me pouring money hand over fist into a new home, it wasn’t financially possible for me. A few manufacturers reached out to me and sent me some samples of their new cigars and now that things have settled down, I will be trying to get out a review or if possible two a week.

This issue of “Smoked Up” will be more of a “quick hit” of a portion of the cigars I had in my absence on here, with a few thoughts of them. Sorry for the lack of posts over the last few months and thanks for sticking around with NTA.


Island Jim No.2
Island Jim No.2: Got this cigar a Tinderbox that moved out of a mall and into their own location with a cigar lounge and actual bar. That’s a great thing to see in these days of indoor smoking bans and other legalities. If you are ever in Mobile, AL stop by the Tinder Box. The cigar was pretty good, had nice medium to full flavors of a white pepper, charred wood and cocoa among others. A good smoke, but a bit overpriced at $11+ for me.


Leaf by Oscar Sumara
Leaf by Oscar Sumatra: I have head lots of good things of this cigar and finally got my hands on one at the previously mentioned Tinder Box. I got to sit down and enjoy this cigar, just wished the bar was open or had a cup of coffee to enjoy with the smoke. The whole protective leaf idea threw me off and didn’t realize till a bit into it, I wasn’t supposed to smoke it! Once I removed it, the cigar got a lot better and more manageable as the protective leaf kept ashing on me! Great smoke, just waiting for the maduros to come back in stock as I heard they are even better.


Regius Red Label
Regius Red Label: I don’t buy too many boxes of cigars. But this cigar will most likely make my top cigar list of 2015; so I got a box. The 10ct boxes make them easier on the wallet, seeing they are about $12.50/each. The Red Label is an “ok” smoke if you ask me, I think their core line is better though. I had a get together with a handful of my local BOTLs one evening and passed a few of these out. Every one agreed it was a pretty good smoke. The price is about right I believe, but its not a cigar I could afford to smoke on a regular basis.   
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2015 IPCPR Announced New Releases

I have been extremely busy over the last two or so months. I have not been able to sit down and have much quality time with many cigars to be able to review any. Truth be told, I have purchased a bigger house and I wanted to give it a number of “upgrades” before we moved in. It went from remodeling, then moving; to remodeling while moving; then to just move. There were many 14+hour work days between my job and the house remodel. We finally got moved, but not fully moved in. There are boxes everywhere and its a task in itself to figure out how we want everything to be.

I gathered up a bit of down time the last few days and thought I would produce a list of the cigars that are currently scheduled to be released (plus a some already released) at this year’s IPCPR Convention in New Orleans, LA. I was hoping to make it to the show to do some reporting, interviews etc… But with the purchase of the house and its numerous upgrades/remodel, it will not be financially possible for me to go. Although I will be there Friday afternoon and maybe Saturday to hang out with a few friends amongst some other activities scheduled around the convention (I live close by). 
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Ezra Zion Releases New Cigar “All My EX’s”

Ezra Zion Cigar Company announces the release of it’s newest cigar All My EX’s!

All My EX's

“We are constantly trying to challenge ourselves in our blending. The next cigar has to be better than the last.” said co-owner Kyle Hoover. “All My EX’s is a blend that we’ve been working on for over a year to perfect.”


All My EX’s is produced in Tabacalera Aromas de Jalapa factory, owned by close friend Noel Rojas. 
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Roberto Duran Premium Cigars, doing business as Duran Cigars, one of the fastest growing boutique cigar companies, will unveil a line extension for the Neya F-8 Ligero Typhoon during this year’s IPCPR in July.  The new size will be 7 x 70 and aptly named ”Big Jack” after Jack Torano, the company’s representative.


Robert Pelayo Duran, owner of Duran Cigars, said this of the decision, “As we all know, Jack Torano has a larger than life personality, so I figured that it was a natural fit to name the Neya F8 7 x 70 after him.  He (Jack) had been pushing for the bigger size because there is a growing segment of cigar consumers that enjoy not only a full-flavored cigar, but a larger sized cigar as well. We look forward to presenting the “Big Jack” and feel that this new vitola will really impress those looking for the ultimate in size and strength.”


“Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would have a cigar name inspired by me, but what better cigar than the Neya F8 7 x 70.  The Neya F8 has been a smash hit for us.
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Hialeah Gardens, Florida (May 28, 2015) – Pure Aroma Cigars Inc. proudly introduces its new line Flor de D’Crossier Selection No. 512. The No. 512 designation commemorates the location in Costa Rica where D’Crossier Cigars were first crafted in 2008. The No. 512 consists of Dominican and Costa Rican filler with an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. The No. 512 is available in six vitolas, in pre-punched cellophane, packaged in a specially designed cedar-lined tin.


Package Count: Box of 20 and 15 Cigars

Flavor: Medium Bodied

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano

Binder:  Costa Rica / Sumatra

Filler: Costa Rica, Dominican Republic



Hialeah Gardens, Florida (May 28, 2015) – Isaias Santana Diaz of Pure Aromas Cigars Inc. has partnered with Erik Espinosa of Espinosa Cigars to distribute his lines of D’Crossier Premium Cigars. “Santana is a very driven man; a true craftsman, with a real commitment to keeping cigar traditionalism alive with his blends and packaging.  We have a bond of friendship and mutual respect that transcends the cigar trade having spent countless hours together, working trade shows, events and on each other’s blends” says Espinosa.


“Erik has been in the cigar business for 20 years and has been successful at every level.  I believe that this relationship will make my lines available where they have yet to be seen or experienced.  I believe this partnership will be reciprocal, with Erik opening some doors for me at Pure Aromas and I opening a few for him” says Santana.

Established in 2006, Pure Aromas Cigars Inc., are made in Costa Rica and currently has four core lines (Golden Blend, L’Forte, Imperium Class Vintage and Presidential Collection) with several new products in store for the 2015 IPCPR in New Orleans.