5 Vegas December 20th, 2004 Gonz Share: Yup, it's been a full month since my last pick and I can't possibly describe the details of the past 30 days. Here's the short of it: on Nov. 25 I became a Dad for the first time and on Nov. 25 my amount of sleep went from little to none. I have more respect than ever for the other Dads out there. I've heard you guys complaining for years now and I just figured you guys were soft, but now I know. I'm not sure why, but it causes me to reminisce a bit more about times of old - the good times, the memories. And those memories always seem to take me back to my favorite brand of all time - 5 Vegas. Yup, you read that right, my favorite brand! 5 Vegas, or "cinco vegas" as you spanish-speaking folks will quickly correct me, has been around for what seems like a cigar lifetime. Yup, circa 1992. That's about when my cigar life began, so it seems like forever to me. I ponied up 8 bucks at my little corner cigar shop in Summit, New Jersey in 1996 for my first. I had been smoking for about 2 years, and it was about this time that I began moving from mellower Dominicans to venture into the vast wide world of Nicaraguans. Oooh! We all heard about those scary Nicaraguans that knocked the laces out of your shoes, and I just started scratching the surface. Rolled in Nicaragua, I soon learned that 5 Vegas was different. But, it was one of those brands that was hyped so much that you had to try it. There were advertisements, bulletin boards, writeups in Cigar Aficionado and a 90 rating for the Torpedo, banners and reviews on every internet bulletin board, and even cigar dinners featuring this cigar. Unfortunately, those 8 bucks were the best spent 8 bucks I ever spent on cigars. I say "unfortunately" b/c my wallet emptied every time I had an opportunity to buy a few. It was the best friggin' cigar I'd ever smoked. Since I didn't know a whole helluva lot about cigars, I really didn't know what just happened. In hindsight, I now know - this was the epiphany that happens to the best of us in our elite little group. I found my favorite, my go-to cigar, that one cigar that I can turn to time and time again and get that "oh, it's good to be home" feeling. Like riding that banana-seat Schwinn with your friends, or driving Mom's paneled Buick station wagon by yourself for the first time after passing your driver's test, or cozying up in that recliner with a cold brew and your crusty toes twinkling happily in the air while watching the Dallas Cowboys rout the Pittsburgh Steelers. It's a great feeling and many of you have had it. I found mine on that memorable day in 1996. And to this day, every major event I've ever had is not complete until I smoke that 5 Vegas. My wedding, landing this job, the birth of my child - man, I'm getting a little teary now, what is wrong with me? Just the other day, our inventory manager Carmen came by my office with some Costa Rican unbanded samples to try. I politely declined as I held up the 5 Vegas I reserved for my ride home that night. Why is it so special? Well, let's talk about that. My favorite size is the Torpedo, it seems a little more robust and complex, but that's me and I'm pretty intimate with my 5 Vegas. It's fairly simple looking, but the blend is nothing short of genius. Tobaccos from 5 different plantations (or vegas, get it?) are used for the blend. It's a mix of Nicaraguan and Dominican long leaves with a Sumatra wrapper. This cigar is blended one at a time with incredible precision and care that you'll find very little variation from cigar to cigar, even with the complexity of the blend. Light one up and you'll immediately recognize an easy but firm draw. The wrapper is slightly veiny, but the cigar is stiff and evenly filled with no loose spots anywhere. It will light up with ease and you'll quickly be encassed with a volumous smoke that has an outdoorsy smell of cedar. The flavor is medium-bodied, smooth, and non-intrusive with a soft hint of peanuts. Yet, there is a nice bold body that holds your attention and seems to rattle my middle tongue just enough. It's not an overly complex flavor, but always seems to hit my sweet spot. It relaxes me much like I imagine a tree-hugger meditating in an empty room with nothing but 15 vanilla-flavored candles burning around the room. This cigar is constructed so solidly that you'll get 2 inches and longer before the chalky white ash falls off. And please don't knock it off prematurely, at least not when you're around me. Start to finish, the flavor holds solid and barely changes, right down to the last inch. Pound for pound, in my opinion, this is the best cigar out there right now! At just under $3 per stick, it's a far cry from the $8 I paid years ago. And, if anything, the quality has improved. Go get one, and let me know if it becomes your day-in day-out favorite.