This week’s journey into the humidor is a tale of two maduros, cigars that have different compositions but share a common name: Saint Luis Rey. They are both products of the mammoth Altadis USA, the largest producer of cigars in the US. When they aren’t suing smaller companies for trademark infringement they have been known, on occasion, to roll out a decent stick.
Saint Luis Rey is an old Cuban brand name, and in accordance with the rule that all cigars with traditional Cuban cigar names must have an American counterpart, the non-Cuban SLR emerged from the Big Bang of the Cigar Boom in the mid 1990′s. This “original” SLR has done well, having spawned eight vitolas — some in tubes, cabs of 50, and even pequenos. It is available in both natural and maduro wrappers, but the maduro employed here is Mexican San Andres, which is complemented by a Nicaraguan binder and fillers from Honduras, Nicaragua, and Peru.
The “new” SLR is the Serie G. It was first introduced in 2006, when various cigar blenders engaged the novel concept of the double maduro blend — in this case both binder and wrapper are Connecticut Broadleaf. The filler is Nicaraguan. A year later the Serie G Natural, with a Nicaraguan Habano wrapper, was added to the menu.
Bearing the same name might be the cause of some confusion between these two cigars, and whether this is deliberate or not (I have my theories) I hope to clarify the matter by obscuring the air with smoke.
St. Luis Rey Reserva Especial Maduro
The standard Saint Luis Rey — the “Reserva Especial” — is quite distinguishable from the Serie G. Aside from a slightly smaller ring gauge, the wrapper on the Reserva is a flat, almost matte black color. I was a little worried that it might be dyed, but aside from color there was no evidence of that. The roll is solid, and the cap is ugly, but serviceable. Most of it came off when I clipped the head, leaving a clean cut anyway.
The burn is mostly even (no mean feat for any maduro cigar) but the ash is weak and flaky. (This was the first ash I’ve had fall in my lap in quite a while.) The draw, on the other hand, is perfect, producing billowing clouds of smooth smoke.
After a pleasantly peppery introduction, the core flavors are sweet wood and dark chocolate. It isn’t remarkably complex, but the blend is smooth as it gradually transitions in the last section to a sweet char. Aromatic isn’t exactly the word for this cigar — it’s pungent and quite powerful, more of a bonfire kind of cigar with it’s rich smell of tar and pine resin. A good room-clearing stogie if ever the need should arise.
St. Luis Rey Serie G Maduro
There are far fewer sizes to choose from in the Serie G formulation, but the rotund rothchilde has been a favorite of mine for years. All of the vitolas in this line have over-sized waistlines; at a 54 ring gauge the rothchilde and the belicoso are the thinnest ones.
The Serie G is a little bit richer, a little bit smoother, and not quite as sweet as the regular SLR Maduro. This cigar is lighter in appearance (though still dark) and more natural looking, with its mottled and leathery wrapper. The roll is solid — sometimes a little too solid — and very well packed. From time to time I’ve had a tight draw with the rothchilde, but it burns well. The ash is a little stronger than the standard line SLR, but it still flakes a bit.
The core flavors are a piney wood with sweet char. There isn’t any pepper here until the last third of the cigar, and even then it stays pretty smooth. In the mid-section there are notes of leather and earth, but what I mostly find are the straightforward classic maduro flavors — wood, sweet char, and a touch of chocolate. It’s not heavy on the sweetness or the coffee/cocoa flavors, but it’s quite smooth. Like the regular SLR Maduro, the Serie G creates a pungent resting smoke.
Both of these cigars are fine everyday smokes, especially the Serie G, which is a bit more complex than the standard line. What sets them both apart is the price — the Serie G is just over 3 bucks a stick, and the regular line is well under that. One online retailer is selling the regular SLR for 55 USD per box of 25, and that officially makes this a bargain cigar. Keep an eye out for these if your financial advisor (or your spouse, who are often one and the same) is getting cranky about your discretionary spending.
Saint Luis Rey Reserva Especial Maduro: 86
Saint Luis Rey Serie G Maduro: 88