Gran Habano 3 SLS Cigar Review

3 SLS Cigar

Looking for a nice medium bodied smoke for a relaxing evening? Try the George Rico 3 Sieglos cigar. Lights easily, burns evenly and is packed with nutty, earthy notes with a bit of pepper. This smoke is very creamy and is packed loose enough that you get the full variety of flavor with every smooth and easy draw. I think I paid around $6.50 for this stick and will definitely pick up a couple more for the humidor.

Havana Sensation: A Cigar Lover’s Paradise in Metrowest

Havana Sensation logo

Here it is, another weekend and I can’t think of a better place to spend it than Havana Sensation in Metrowest Orlando.  A friendly, well stocked and inviting smoke shop/lounge, Havana Sensation has brought to Metrowest a flavor of Cuban food, music and passion for cigars that has livened up the area.

Owner Edson Santoro, opened the cigar shop just over a year ago and has been welcoming all who enter his establishment with a smile and an uncanny knowledge of cigars ever since.

Shelves stocked with Gurkha, Hupmann, LFD, Oliva, Rocky Patel, Padron, Ashton, La Aurora, Don Pepin, La Gloria Cubana  and many more popular and boutique cigars, line the mustard colored walls while traditional cigar art is peppered throughout.  The seating is plenty and comfortable with leather couches and chairs and wooden tables and chairs arranged throughout to easily accamodate the single smoker looking to read in a corner or groups of people engaged in a tense game of dominos.

Havana Sensation Back bar  In the back is an area with a bar and coolers stocked with an incredible selection of beer including, Bud Lime, Corona, Cigar City Maduro, Sam Adams IPA, Orlando Brewing Brown Ale, Blonde Ale, Shipyard, Shipyard Blue Fin Stout, Presidente, and Red Stripe Lager.

The shop offers excellent customer service with people like Richard on hand to answer questions about cigar flavors, what is new or to make recommendations.  On a personal level, Richard has never steered me wrong and has turned me onto the likes of La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor, Rocky Patel, the Decade, Oliva O and G, Gurkha and countless other cigars with deep dark espresso and nutty flavors.

There are three flat screen televisions to watch sports or movies on and at one point they were offering a movie of the week night.  Music is piped throughout the shop, more as background so as not to deter from conversation and depending upon who is working can range from Cuban salsa to classical to jazz.  Music is also piped out to the patio area in front of the shop where several tables are available for seating.

Though not a restaurant, I have been pleasantly surprised by the frequency and caliber of the food Havana Sensation serves during special events.  I just missed an impromptu barbecue to welcome spring which featured barbecue and jerk style chicken, vegetable medley, pork and chicken sausage, steak kabobs and vine ripened tomatoes that I heard were sweet and delicious.  Anthony “Street” was the chef on hand who created the wonderful guava barbecue sauce and I hope not to miss the next one!  I did make it for a Saturday celebration back in November and stuffed myself with roast pork, rice and plantains.  Ed and his family were  there to prepare and serve the authentic Cuban cuisine and from the smiles on everyone’s faces, it was a hit!

Havana Sensation has recently begun doing Havana Sensation Wooden Indian beer and cigar pairings on select Thursday evenings and has already featured Presidente beer with La Aurora cigars and Sam Adams paired with Montecristo Platinum. Check out their website at:   join them on Facebook or follow their blog at for the latest information.

Whether an aficionado or a beginner, Havana Sensation is a great place to stop in and enjoy a smoke in a very casual and friendly atmosphere!

Shipyard Emporium A Taste of Maine in Winter Park


Winter Park has a history steeped in New England traditions, given that, where else in the Orlando area would you expect to see a live Maine lobster dinner for $18.95?

Welcome to Shipyard Emporium, Winter Park’s newest hot spot!

DSCN2110  Shipyard Emporium, the brain child of Shipyard Brewing Company headquartered in Portland Maine, is the first of the company’s brew pubs to open in Florida and if the crowds are any indication of it’s success, then it looks like they are off to a great start.

Situated in a prime location on Fairbanks between New York Avenue and Park Avenue, they are sure to benefit not only from commuters and locals driving by, but also from the abundance of foot traffic that Park Ave and Rollins College are famous for.

I first heard about the place from a friend checking in on Foursquare.  Being from New England and familiar with the Shipyard brand I was thrilled with the prospect of a little piece of Maine in the Orlando area and knew that I had to venture there for dinner.

DSCN2113 Expecting a restaurant, I was amazed to find inside the airy two story, open concept facility, a store with freshly made Maine dips, salsas and sauces, Moxie, a variety of smaller breweries bottled craft beer (Shipyard also acts as a distributor), Shipyard brand merchandise, tees, towels, magnets and bags and their very own Capt’n Eli’s line of soda pop which comes in a variety of flavors and is made with real cane sugar.  Looking beyond the racks of goods, was the deli area with a line of deli cases packed with a variety of salami, cheeses, marinated artichokes, hummus and a goodies case featuring miniature cupcakes baked by The Bees Knees Sweet Treats, a local company.

Behind the counter were several shelves stocked with freshly baked loaves of bread for sale to the general public, and just when I thought I had seen it all, the test kitchen unfolded in front of me.  An open area with cabinets, wine racks an oven and a stove top built into a beautiful slab of blue/grey granite countertop complete with seating. This area is for special events such as the upcoming Beer vs. Wine Dinner and is also available for booking.

I was on my way to the brew pub area when I met the General Manager, Allison Stevens.  She took a few minutes to introduce herself and explain a little bit about the Shipyard Emporium and it’s many facets. She took me on a brief tour and talked enthusiastically about a few of the events they would be scheduling from Bicycle Tours to Wine and Food pairings, Live Maine Mondays and The Mug Club.


DSCN2131 I hadn’t eaten a thing and already I loved this place!  I left Allison to peruse the menu in the brew pub and order a flight of beer.  The four beers I chose were Shipyard Fuggles IPA, Pugsley’s Imperial Porter, Menage a Palm and Shipyard Light.  The Fuggles IPA was well hopped and crisp. The Imperial Porter was swirling with flavor; hints of chocolate, caramel, vanilla and perhaps bourbon.  The Menage a Palm 3 oat stout was very smooth, lightly hopped and had a clean finish with a hint of chocolate. The Shipyard Light was slightly effervescent and refreshing with pretty full body for a light ale.  To pair with the flight I ordered the Dips and Sauces Try All Three which included White Bean Hummus, Tzatziki and Buffalo Chicken Dip served with croustades. Everything was delicious, but the Buffalo Chicken Dip was outstanding.  The service was very good with our server gladly making recommendations and helping with beer selection.

All in all, I had a wonderful first experience at Shipyard Emporium and have returned at least 7 times with friends. Though the parking is limited, they do have free valet service in the evenings which helps tremendously.

If you are looking for a piece of Maine in Winter Park, a bakery, a deli or a clean brew pub that is always serving up something new, I would give Shipyard Emporium a try.

Click here for a listing of Shipyard Emporium Events.  Click here to follow Shipyard Emporium on Twitter.  Click here to follow Shipyard Emporium on Facebook.  Click to follow Shipyard Brewing Blog.

Carlos Torano Exodus 1959 50 Years – Cigar Review

Torano pic one

I sat down recently in downtown Orlando with a few of the Cigar Aficionados of Central Florida. The occasion was to visit with friends and enjoy a nice smoke and a beverage outside.  One of the members, Hoss was kind enough to also bring along several of the Carlos Torano Exodus 1959 Torpedo’s  for us to sample.

This particular cigar, the 1959 50 Years is the third in the Exodus series produced by Carlos Torano and is listed as the most full bodied of the three.

The Exodus series  was carefully handcrafted to mark and remember the turmoil of the mass exodus from Cuba of the tobacco families, after Fidel Castro and his guerillas seized power in 1959.  It was that year that Castro’s militia swept through the countryside and claimed at gunpoint all tobacco farms as government property, leaving the Torano and all other tobacco families without the land and livelihood they had spent years cultivating into a prosperous cigar making business.  The Torano family was left penniless and forced into exile but brought with them the seed and knowledge of how to grow, age and roll tobacco.  It is with this Cuban seed and knowledge that Carlos Torano and other Cuban tobacco families can celebrate the past 50 years as a victory in working together to cultivate, harvest and age top notch tobacco’s throughout Central and South America.

Today Carlos Torano has a thriving tobacco business with a factory in Nicaragua and another in Honduras producing 12 different cigar brands, including the Exodus 1959 50 Years.

Torano pic two

About the cigar:

  • Wrapper: Brazillian Arapiraca Sun Grown
  • Binder: Honduran
  • Filler: Nicaraguan
  • Origin: Nicaragua
  • Size: 5 1/2 X 52
  • Shape: Torpedo

Construction and Appearance: Wrapper was very smooth with minimal veins and slightly oily.  The cigar was tightly rolled and firm with no soft spots. Due to how tightly packed it was, I opted for a straight cut and removed just over 1/4 inch from the cap to smoke.

Smoking Characteristics: Nice even burn throughout, no relighting necessary. Ash flowered in the first third but didn’t flake off or drop.  Cigar did not have a lot of creamy smoke to it but pulled air easily through on the draw.

Taste: There were a variety of flavors in the cigar.  At first light there was a hint of pepper which mellowed out to a smooth dark chocolate and caramel flavor mixed with nutmeg and cinnamon.  The cigar finished with a nutty flavor, never becoming bitter.

Conclusion: I enjoyed this cigar tremendously both in the ease of smoking and in the smooth chocolate, caramel, cinnamon flavors.  I would rate this more of a medium bodied cigar and would highly recommend it.

Price Point: $5-$7 a stick

Gran Habano’s World’s Largest Cigar at Corona Cigar Company

A few weeks ago I took a drive to Corona Cigar Company on W. Sand Lake Road in Orlando.  There I met up with a few people from the Cigar Aficionados of Central Florida to see the spectre of the World’s Largest Cigar!  The 18.9 foot monster labeled “Gran Habano Corojo #5 El Gigante,” is the masterpiece of Gran Habano Cigars which was founded and run by the Rico family.


Don Guillermo Rico, a third generation tobacco maker grew up in Columbia, watching his grandfather and father grow and harvest tobacco and roll cigars in their homes. But it wasn’t until 1995 when he came to the United States, that he saw the potential for his own brand of cigars in the cigar boom of the 1990’s.  In 1998, he started his own company, purchasing a factory in Honduras and eventually four farms scattered across Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua and Columbia. In 2003 he introduced the Gran Habano line of cigars which has grown to include 5 types of cigars, the Connecticut #1,  Habano #3,  Corojo #5, 3 Siglos and Cabinet Selection.  Recently Don Guillermo with his son, George have worked together in the creation of the Azteca line of cigars, a complex, rich smoke that comes in a variety of sizes.  George also has developed his own line of cigars, the G.A.R. which I would characterize as a medium to full bodied smoke, not for the beginner.


It was at this event at Corona Cigar that I had the pleasure of meeting George Rico.  Having only started smoking cigars four months previously, I had picked up a copy of the cigar magazine, Cigar Press to learn more about the different brands available and their characteristics and as it turned out, that particular issue had featured an in depth article on George Rico. George talked about his philosophy of cigars and the different tobacco flavors, his line of cigars the G.A.R and also about Gran Habano. I had been fascinated and knew I wanted to try this guy’s smokes.  So here I was, meeting George Rico and listening as he explained the various tastes in the different cigars to a couple of other people.  They made their selection and disappeared, leaving me with a very polite George Rico. I told him the types of cigars I had tried thus far and liked and he directed me immediately to the 3 Siglos. Afterward he also recommended the Azteca.  At this point I confided in him that I had read the story in Cigar Press and particularly enjoyed his sentiments that the strength of a cigar doesn’t determine the quality. I told him that I felt cigars were very much like wine and he agreed saying that if he started his morning with a cabernet sauvignon his palate would be overwhelmed and would not be able to appreciate something lighter like a pinot noir with lunch.  We talked for a bit longer and I thanked him for his help.  He then told me that he only had a few, but he pulled from his shirt pocket a lancero which is his personal blend, one they do not sell. He offered it to me and I thanked him for his generosity and shook his hand.  I then went to the cafe area, ordered an iced tea and re-joined the group of Aficionados, lighting up the 3 Siglos.  It was a great smoke in the company of some nice people and I couldn’t help but think that this experience would have a lasting impact.  Thank you to Corona Cigar Company and to George Rico and Gran Habano for a great day and some terrific cigars!

For more cigar events  

For a complete list of Gran Habano cigars and their history, contact:

Bananas: A Modern American Diner


I recently stopped in to Bananas diner in the Mills 50 (East Colonial) area of Orlando and was thrilled with the place!

They are billed as, Bananas: A Modern American Diner, a name which most definitely fits given the traditional diner feel of red and black decor on everything from the ceiling tiles to the  booths and tables,  mixed with the modern element of red vinyl quilted kitchen doors and a curtain lined stage complete with a live dj mixing techno tunes.

Kitchen doors

When I walked in, the feel was very warm and inviting and my eye immediately caught a large dessert case on my right, bursting with a selection of cheesecakes, moist red velvet cake, gooey german chocolate cake and a variety of other mouth watering delights!


My friend and I were greeted cheerily and seated immediately at an end booth.  All of the other booths were filled, but the restaurant still had plenty of table seating  and hightop bar seating available.

We were given menus and had a hard time choosing a beverage, given the variety of choices.  Handspun Milkshakes with names like Death by Chocolate, Peanut Butter Jelly Time and Strawberry Fields Forever were hard to stay away from as we also considered their selection of Naked Juices,  Coke products, Red Bull and finally settled on a mango iced tea.

The food items were even more eclectic and included Funky Monkey Fried Goat Cheese, rolled in crusted almonds and served with sun dried tomato jam and french bread, Country Fried Steak, the Inside Out Burger which  on this day was called the Pizza Inside Out Burger and included mozzarella and pepperoni stuffed inside of the burger instead of on top.  With 16 other burgers to choose from as well a full breakfast menu,  that is available at all hours, we again found ourselves gawking.

I ordered the Funky Monkey Burger with a side of onion rings and could only finish half of the burger as the portions were huge. The burger was outstanding and the beer batter on the onion rings was so thick and full of flavor they were almost like eating hush puppies.

As a final surprise, along with our check our server brought us the complementary banana flavored cotton candy which was delicious!

I’m not sure what I liked the most, the food, the entertaining atmosphere or the prospect that after a night out, there is somewhere other than a Denny’s to go to.

Bananas is open from 9 am until midnight Mon-Thurs and 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays so if you happen to be craving onion rings or a breakfast pizza at 2 am stop by for some good eats, music and fun!

For more information go to

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