Brand evangelist, digital marketer, cigar and spirits expert specializing in consumer tasting and educational events. Matthias made the long trek from his hometown of Portland, Oregon to New York City in 2007, and in nine years has hosted more than 120 events and helped promote and launch dozens of cigar and whiskey brands in the U.S. In 2016, he joined the Cigar Journal Tasting Panel, blind-reviewing pre and new release cigars.
Up for review today is the God of Fire Aniversario 2016 from Prometheus Cigars. After four years of aging in the box, this cigar is vintage and I’m curious to see how it performs.
Cigar Reviewed: God of Fire Aniversario 2016
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sun Grown
Binder: Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Republic
Size: 5 1/2 x 60
Appearance & Construction
The God of Fire Aniversario 2016 is a stout and strong looking cigar. The gold, black and white bands put a strong foot forward and frame the artistic depiction of Promethius (being attacked by an Eagle in retribution for him stealing fire from the gods) at the center.
After clipping with a straight cut, the draw shows itself to be fairly restrictive, probably an 8.5/10 in terms of amount of restrictiveness. Hopefully that opens up a bit as the tapered end of the cigar burns. The outer wrapper leaf has a strong aroma of leather, black pepper, and dried meats.
Flavor & Smoke Characteristics
Given the name of this cigar, I was expecting a lot more strength out of the gate. Instead, the God of Fire Aniversario 2016 opens with full bodied but mild strength smoke. It’s maybe the first time I’ve ever encountered that combo. Another way to put it would be that the God of Fire opens like a cigar that’s been aging a long time–it’s got a strong character but it’s been mellowed way out. The smoke doesn’t make a huge impression on the palate, with some faint wood and leather notes that sit on top of a subtler dark chocolate note. The retrohale is almost non-existent. It’s the aroma of the smoke that makes a bigger statement, with hints of baking spices, caramel, mushrooms, and something akin to dusty attic (that’s the age coming in to play).
Construction wise, the cigar opens well. Within the first half an inch the tapered end of the cigar has burned and the draw definitely opens up to a more comfortable level. Overall in the first third, there’s definitely a lot of finesse and elegance to the smoke, as well as some enjoyable flavor. But it is possible for tobacco to mellow out too much which is what I’m afraid could be happening here.
As the God of Fire burns into the second third, the strength does increase a bit, bringing it up about a third of the way between mild and medium. The flavor the smoke is divided almost evenly between bitter notes of raw cocoa and earth, and sweeter notes of cream and floral. There’s also some spice that hits the tip of the tongue and lingers, and it seems to come on stronger the more quickly I puff so I do my best to minimize that. Overall though, not much to speak of in terms of flavor, which is a shame to say.
At halfway, the burn strays a bit, requiring a significant touch up to correct. And worse, the smoke production which was excellent at first begins to dwindle, forcing me to choose between puffing faster to generate smoke or puff slower to keep the smoke cool.
Just when I’m about to give up on the God of Fire Aniversario 2016 at about halfway through, the strength of flavor finally ramps up enough to start to get a sense of what the cigar is about. Except, it isn’t good. Though the smoke is mostly characterized by gentle and sweet notes of bread, cream, and baking spices, there’s also an aggressively bitter and sometimes downright sour fermented note that throws the experience off. Thankfully, the spice finally begins to hit the retrohale, adding some additional dimension to the experience.
Unfortunately, that’s about where the good news ends. Poor smoke production issues continue to dog the cigar in the final third, and the flavors become overly bitter and unenjoyable. I’m not a glutton for punishment so I toss the cigar well before finishing it.
The Promethius God of Fire Aniversario 2016 is a great cigar that somehow found a way to be terrible. Yes, it had smoothness in spades and some enjoyable moments at the beginning, but it never delivered any of the strength that would make its better moments stand out.
But what really killed the experience was the combo of the large ring gauge and poor smoke production. Having to puff repeatedly on a 48 corona size to get smoke is one thing. Puffing on a large ring gauge cigar over and over to produce smoke takes all of the relaxation out of the experience, overheats the smoke and warps otherwise pleasant flavors into monsters.
Ultimately the only thought I have finishing this review is “I want the hour and a half I invested in this cigar back.”
Davidoff of Geneva announced today that NYC stores are back open after months of closure due to COVID 19. In an email, a representative from Davidoff outlined some of the health and safety measures being implemented to keep customers and staff safe, including:
Customers are recommended to wear face coverings upon entry. Staff are required to.
Sales professionals will guide the shoppers experience. Customers will not be allowed to enter the humidor. Floor markers will provide a space to wait for staff to make selection and present to the customer.
Similar floor markers are provided by point of sale area for customers to maintain 6ft distancing.
Additional signage will be applied in multiple areas throughout the store to ensure current operation measures are understood and followed.
No outside food or beverage will be allowed.
Lounges will remain closed until further notice.
Store hour vary from store to store, see below.
Madison: Mon-Saturday: 10AM-5PM / Sunday closed.
6th Avenue: Mon-Fri: 11AM-5PM / Weekends closed
Downtown: Mon – Fri: 11AM-7PM / Sat and Sun: 12PM-6PM
If you’re a cigar smoker on Instagram, you’ve probably seen some of Billy Rothwell’s (@bk23xxiii) photos on your feed. He’s grown a large Instagram following by capturing an essence of luxury that is hard to find elsewhere.
I had the pleasure of meeting Billy at Davidoff Brookfield Place at an event put together by Eric of @scotchandtime. We didn’t get to chat much, but Billy struck me as a down to earth guy and someone most anyone would enjoy smoking a cigar with. At the event, he also showed off a prototype of his new ultra-luxury cigar ash tray, the W.R. Roth Avant-Garde II. Just holding it my hands was quite the experience–it felt solid and had a great look to it.
In the months since, the world has obviously turned upside down. So I’ve reached out to friends in the cigar world like Billy to chat so that our readers can discover interesting new personalities to follow online.
So without further ado, let’s get to know Billy and take a look behind-the-scenes at W.R. Roth.
Matthias: Let’s start with the obvious. Where is your head at right as far as Corona Virus goes? I know you’re safe and given your posts you are continuing to enjoy life, but what are you feeling when it comes to the pandemic, the economy, social distancing, etc?
Billy: Perspective. Life is truly all about the way a person sees things. Me, I try to look for the silver lining in every situation. Many of us are so blessed to be at home with a pantry full of food, internet, tv, cell phones and video games. This is a unique environment that most people reading this have never seen before unless you were around in 1918 for the last major global pandemic (Virus related… I think hunger, homelessness, mental health and more qualify as global pandemics as well) All that said, its also an eye opening experience to human behavior, trust in our government, emergency preparedness and so much more. I could go on for hours about change and the future but I will just say we are resilient, we have been through wars, famine, plague and more…yet here we are. This too shall pass…
Matthias: I hear you – this topic could certainly span an entire interview. But let’s get to know you a bit more, and not in the typical “what do you do for work” kind of way. What were some of the formative experiences you had when you were younger that shaped the kind of person you are today?
Billy: I grew up in an environment much different than most assume. My father was in prison for 23 years and my Mom wasn’t around at all until my adult years. My Moms parents raised me and my sisters until my Grandfather passed away when I was in 4th grade. My Grandmother then took on the burden of raising us alone. So when you ask what shaped me, the answer is multifaceted. I was smart enough to learn from other peoples mistakes so I avoided making too many of my own. I was also lucky to have a woman in my life like my Grandmother (Nonnie) who showed me what a true work ethic was.
I started working in Banking with the company she worked for almost full time in 10th grade to help her pay the rent and I always dreamed of being successful to put myself in a position to provide for her the way she provided for us. Christmas and birthdays were limited to a single gift and at the time I was a HUGE Michael Jordan fan (still am) so that was almost always a pair of the newest Jordan sneakers. Between the work ethic she instilled and the competitive nature and desire to win Jordan embodied, I had 2 people I really looked up to that helped shape the person I became.
Matthias: That’s pretty inspiring. I’m also a huge fan of Jordan and 23 was my favorite number growing up. Outside of an interest in quality and craftsmanship, what do you care about in life? What do you value—personally—and why?
Billy: I value my family, my friendships (I keep a very small circle) and my memories and experiences, new and old. Money is cool. Having “stuff” is fun, but I would give all that up if it gave me unlimited access to creating incredible experiences and memories with the people I love. I came from nothing, so I remember what having nothing felt like…and it was fine… as long as I had the people around me that I loved.
My fondest memories in life to this day aren’t about the things I have now, they are of the experiences I went through and things I learned from the people that meant the most to me. Those are the things that allowed me the opportunity, skills and drive to work so hard for the things I am grateful to possess today.
Matthias: I hear you on that. That is what seems to separate the annoying luxury personalities from the genuinely interesting ones: values that transcend owning expensive things or having status.
This all begs the question, outside of luxury products like cigars, drinks, accessories, and fashion, what are your hobbies?
Billy: Those are certainly the majority of my passions but in regards to hobbies otherwise, I love to be outdoors and in the woods. Hiking, camping, motorcycles… anything in nature or outside. I also love to travel. Creating memories and experiences that last a lifetime. I am blessed to have done some pretty cool things in my life and each of them are far more valuable to me than anything I own physically.
Matthias: Speaking of experiences, tell us about the best cigar experience you’ve ever had. Where were you, who were you with, what were you smoking/drinking?
Billy: Picking one is impossible as I have so many amazing experiences involving cigars. One that stands out was 3 years ago in Georgia at the Masters. I was staying at a gorgeous resort in Lake Okonee, had a great friend come visit that night after the first round of the tournament and we sat by the lake in a private area next to a firepit drinking great wine and smoking some aged regional Cubans talking about everything and nothing. Between the INCREDIBLE scenery, the conversation, the beautiful wine and cigars, it was truly the perfect end to a wonderful day. Almost something out of a movie honestly…
Matthias: Yeah that sounds pretty incredible. So stepping back from favorite memories for a second, what would you consider your favorite cigar?
Billy: Such a hard question to answer because I smoke cigars based on my mood, what I am pairing them with, where I am, what the weather is like… And that changes daily. If I had to pick a cigar that I could possibly smoke regardless of those factors, or that could compliment an aspect of each of them, I would probably say the Partagas Lusitania Gran Reserva. It may be the perfect cigar.
Matthias: So let’s switch gears a bit and talk about W.R. Roth. First of all, tell us a bit about the name. (For readers, you can browse W.R. Roth products here)
Billy: W.R. Roth is actually an abbreviated version of my name, William Rothwell. I wanted to create a classic brand. Something that stood the test of time, like Chanel. I wanted it to “be the new black” lol. I wanted an incredible logo that could look great anywhere, from a tee shirt to cufflinks to a forged carbon ashtray or humidor. But most important, I wanted it to be an homage to a time of true craftsmanship and pride in what was being created… The only way I could think to fully commit and give my personal quality guarantee was to put my name on it…Literally…Nobody would ever want to put out a product that isn’t the best quality it could be if it had their name on it.
Matthias: That’s a great point. Naming a brand after yourself is certainly one way to motivate yourself to put your best products forward.
What makes your ash trays special, and what is your favorite part of your ash trays?
Billy: I think the quality and craftsmanship make it special. The limited production makes it something that only 50 people in the world can say they own (python was limited to 50 pieces and 100 forged carbon pieces) and as someone who enjoys exclusivity, I thought that was appealing. My favorite part though was seeing an idea in my head translate so well to paper via my original drawing and then finally come to fruition as a production-ready product…and sell out in a few weeks. That helped solidify the concept of building a luxury brand as being worthwhile in a market full of inexpensive, low quality pieces. A $400 ashtray isn’t for everyone, but 150 of them, between the forged carbon and python pieces were a must have for somebody…and that’s what mattered to me.
Matthias: Why did you name the ash tray the “Avante-Gard”?
Billy: The definition of “Avante-Gard” is new and innovative in style or method, which I truly felt these pieces were. The II (2) symbolized the number of cigars it accommodated with the intention of doing a single and possibly 4 cigar version in the future in new materials.
Matthias: Love it. I remember holding the prototype and being so impressed with the weight in my hand and how solid the whole product felt. It’s a tremendously striking and original ash tray so hats off to you for putting it together. Why did you go in the direction of producing an ash tray for your first product?
Billy: I wanted to create something that would appeal to my followers who enjoy the pictures I post. I needed to create something unique, but also a necessity item so people saw value. There are hundreds of lighters and cutters available, tons of cases, etc. The Avant-Garde II ashtray was the perfect expression of what I wanted to portray to my clientele. A new twist on something they used out of necessity that reflected my style and eye for design but in a way that they had never seen before. The sleek lines, but no hard edges, each micro beveled to precision. The cigar posts instead of the traditional finger grooves. The solid, symmetrical aluminum base with the contrast of the warm, textured, soft feel of the Indonesian python (a material that has always screamed luxury to me) and then the ultra limited production of only 50 individually numbered pieces. Then, to touch each piece for final inspection before they were mailed out and ensure it met my quality standards before hand laying the wax seal on the packaging as my final assurance that the piece they were getting was perfectly crafted… That meant a lot to me.
Matthias: That’s awesome. Thanks for sharing in such depth on your life and brand philosophy. I’m always excited when new cigar accessory products come on to the market, and doubly so when they are quality products vs. the garbage that so many bigger brands produce. Thanks for doing this interview with me.
Billy: My pleasure Matthias, it’s been great talking.
Given the global pandemic, it goes without saying that Fine Tobacco NYC events are indefinitely on hold. While we’re disappointed, it does provide an opportunity to focus more on telling the stories of our members, those cigar and spirits aficionados who have attended our events over the years.
After all, events aren’t abstract–it takes people to have an event. And Dave, Kelvin and I have been blessed over these last ten years to have regulars like Hazel Alvarado attend our events. As you’ll read below, Hazel is a cigar and spirits event enthusiast who brings a unique perspective and personality to every event she attends.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be publishing more of these member-focused Q&As. We hope you enjoy them, and that you’ll meet these friends of ours at our events once they start up again.
Matthias: Thanks for taking the time to let us know more about yourself Hazel. So let’s start simple: where are you from, what do you do for work, and what are some of your interests and passions?
Hazel: I’m a native New Yorker with a Financial Technology background that is passionate about sharing my geeky love of whisky, books, food, and baseball with the world. I also love to travel and meet people from different backgrounds.
Matthias: And how were you first introduced to cigars?
Hazel: I worked for a financial firm and a favorite team outing was golf, cigars, and Scotch.
Matthias: Interesting. So what is it about smoking cigars that you enjoy so much?
Hazel: Initially I wasn’t a fan of cigar smoking because it was introduced to me at events that involved an early tee time followed by heading right to the office. But once I was able to enjoy it leisurely with good friends and paired with whiskies, my appreciation grew as well as my thirst for knowledge. In addition to taste and texture, I love hearing the story behind a cigar as well and continue to seek out other female cigar enthusiasts.
Matthias: Take a second and remember your most memorable smoke. Where were you/who was with you/why was it special?
Hazel: On a crisp Autumn Day, I enjoyed a Rock-A-Feller Gold with the Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban. My boyfriend and I had just started dating and although he wasn’t a cigar smoker himself, he set me up with a special spot out on the deck of his house in the Berkshires (Massachusetts) with a great view of the trees and the sky. Since I live in Manhattan, I enjoy this time away from the city with him and the pup and I was touched that he went out of his way to make me happy.
Matthias: That sounds beautiful and definitely like a singular moment. Speaking of special moments, do you remember your first Fine Tobacco NYC event? What was it like?
Hazel: June 3, 2015, Carnegie Club. It was a girls’ night out with my friends Stephanie and Julie. We enjoyed the Eiora Natural paired with the Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or along with live jazz performed by the Pete Maness Quartet. It was a beautiful venue with a great mix of both men and women. It was easy to check-in, get my cigars and tastings and everyone was welcoming and engaging.
Matthias: I admire your memory! So what has made you keep coming back to Fine Tobacco NYC events over the years?
Hazel: The cigars and spirit pairings are well matched and the venues are great. But what draws me back are the people: you, Dave, and Kelvin know how to run events and the Ambassadors for the cigars and spirits are top notch. I’ve made friends with other FTNYC members over the years. I’ve learned a great deal about cigars and enjoyed spending time with the other guests.
Matthias: I’m glad to hear it. Let’s talk specific products. If you could only smoke one brand of cigar for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Hazel: This is a tough question for me as I’m still learning about different brands. But for now I’ll say Plasencia.
Matthias: Alright, respectable choice. What’s the best cigar / drink pairing you’ve ever experienced?
Hazel: The Tabernacle Robusto and the Glenmorangie Signet
Matthias: I hear you there. Signet is up there for me as one of my all-time favorite scotches. So if you could imagine the perfect cigar event, what would it be like?
Hazel: Since I love ocean fishing, it would be on a boat out on the ocean with whisky while fishing followed by dinner at the dock or on the boat itself. (After dinner cigar!)
Matthias: That sounds great. We’ll get to work on it! Taking a philosophical turn, what in your opinion is a life well lived?
Hazel: Henry David Thoreau stated “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”. Years ago, I heard the sarcastic response to this was “..and what do most women lead? Lives of ‘noisy fulfillment’?”
I like the sound and idea of that, “noisy fulfillment”. I thank God every morning I wake up and do my best to always leave people better than I found them. And sometimes I’m so busy “being productive”, I don’t enjoy the moment, but this pandemic has forced me to appreciate small moments more. If I can exit this world being good to other people and appreciating moments spent with them, I’ll be humble and happy.
Matthias: If you could pick any historical figure to have a cigar with, who would it be and why?
Hazel: Romantic 19th century French novelist, George Sand; she was born Aurore Dupin in 1804 and “George Sand” was her nom de plume. In addition to “writing in secret”, she was forced to dress as a man in order to smoke cigars. I bet she’d be delighted to know that women today can write and smoke cigars in public and that female cigar smoker groups have been created in her honor.
Matthias: That’s a great answer. Thanks again for sharing with us and see you at an upcoming event!
After a six week break from reviewing and blogging, we are finally back!
Why the break? The usual sort of excuse: a new job, new responsibilities, and a ton of new things to learn edged blogging out (but only by a little).
So we open our 2020 reviews with a review of the Padron Family Reserve 46 Years Maduro. If you’ve been to any high-end cigar retailers, chances are you’ve seen at least a few editions of the Family Reserve line. In this case, the 46 year celebrates 46 years of Padron in business. The cigar features tobaccos aged from 8-10 years. If that doesn’t sound like a long time, you’re probably a scotch drinker. In the cigar world, even two years is a long time to age tobacco, so 8-10 is remarkable.
All that said, let’s get to the review.
Cigar Reviewed: Padron Family Reserve 46 Years Maduro
Size: 5 1/2 x 56
Appearance & Construction
Just a marvelous sight. The gold and maroon band complements the rustic dark brown maduro wrapper that’s got a oily sheen and some minor veins. When squeezed, the cigar is very firm, with just one slight soft spot near the foot of the cigar.
Off of the foot there are strong barnyard notes and far less sweetness than I’m used to sensing on most Padron maduro cigars. After clipping with a straight cut, the draw reveals itself to be fairly restrictive, about an 8/10 in terms of amount of restrictiveness. The cold draw is understated, with some oats and barnyard. I’m now curious to hear what this cigar has to say given how different it is from some of the other family reserve lines I’ve smoked.
Flavor & Smoke Characteristics
The Padron Family Reserve 46 Years Maduro kicks off unlike most Padron’s I’ve smoked. Instead of a blast of spice and dry wood, I’m greeted by lush, creamy smoke that has just a minor edge of spiciness to it. Flavor-wise, it leans more toward sweet, with notes of cappuccino, deep dark chocolate, light pepper and some baking spices. The texture is something like chocolate cake (it’s good). The cigar has no problem producing ample smoke, and it has one of the most comfortable draws I’ve encountered, with even a gentle pull producing lots of smooth, cool smoke. A great medium-bodied start.
After about an inch and a half in, the flavor profile shifts to a balance between sweet and bitter flavors, with bitter espresso, wood and smooth black pepper layering on top of the sweeter notes from the first third. Strangely, the smoke production starts to wane a bit, though that corrects itself after about 10 minutes. The ash up to this point has dropped in inch and a half increments, with a razor sharp burn.
The Family Reserve 46 Years doesn’t change much throughout the second third, providing more of the great experience evidence in the first. The final third is different though. Strength and body both start inching up past medium, with a bit more of that classic Padron spiciness building on the palate. The flavors aren’t as nuanced as earlier in the smoke, but it’s not a bad way to end.
The Padron Family Reserve 46 Years Maduro is–perhaps unsurprisingly–a great cigar. Definitely complex, though it struggled at times to retain the flavors that made the first half of the smoke so great. Still, absolutely a cigar I recommend picking up, even at the higher price point.