Sindicato Corona Gorda

Sindicato

Sindicato is a clever name for a cigar — it has that underworld overtone,  that slightly sinister suggestion of menace that is so common in cigar marketing these days. But the name is a classic red herring. Sindicato has nothing to do with the mob — it’s the Spanish term for a labor union. Leave the gun. Take the chaveta.

Sindicato Cigars are made by a union of cigar industry veterans: retailers, manufacturers, lobbyists, the whole kit. Their motto is “Join the Union.” After smoking a couple of their flagship brand cigars, I believe I will.

Sindicato is a Nicaraguan puro blended by Arsenio Ramos. The cigar is made in the Casa Fernandez factory, so it should be no surprise that the wrapper is a shade-grown Corojo leaf grown on the Fernandez farms in Jalapa. Under the hood is a double binder from Esteli and a filler blend of leaves from Jalapa and Esteli. I will openly confess my weakness for Jalapa tobacco, and I’ve been a fan of Aganorsa leaf from the early days of Tabacalera Tropical, so I was stoked to fire this one up.

Sindicato was released on March 1, 2014, in six sizes:

  • Corona Gorda – 5 1/2 x 48
  • Robusto – 5 x 54
  • Toro – 6 x 54
  • Belicoso – 6 1/8 x 54
  • Churchill – 7 x 52
  • Magnum – 6 x 60

Sindicato 2

Construction Notes

The Corona Gorda is a square pressed cigar with a soft and supple milk-chocolate brown wrapper. The cigar feels light in the hand, but it’s packed well and burns slowly. The foot is unfinished (flagged) and the head sports a tight pigtail cap. The draw is excellent, producing a consistent volume of medium-bodied smoke, and the cigar burns evenly.

This is a handsome cigar, obviously rolled by experts.

Overall construction: Excellent.

Tasting Notes

The Sindicato Corona Gorda is a medium strength cigar with notably aromatic complexity. The cigar starts out as smooth as its silky wrapper leaf and never gets harsh. Initial flavors are of roasted nuts with a dash of black pepper, but the aroma steals the show. It’s too complex to call it cedar –it smells to me like sandalwood. There is a sweetness to the scent that complements the flavors on the palate, a nutty brown sugar sweetness that grows earthier and more peppery as the cigar burns.

The finish is lengthy, and though it becomes fairly spicy in second half it stays smooth to the end.

Sindicato 3

Conclusion

Sindicato is an elegant and extraordinary smoke. I haven’t seen anyone do a flavor map for this cigar yet, but if I made one it would cover the whole spectrum. Everything from wood to pepper to floral scents — it pretty much made my palate light up like a Christmas tree. It’s smooth and sweet, very easy to smoke, and never boring. It’s one of the best new cigars I’ve tried in a long time.

Just one catch though, and you knew this was coming. You don’t get to join the Union without paying your dues. While the price is not exactly prohibitive, it is still considerable. The Corona Gorda runs around $10 USD, with larger sizes commanding commensurately larger fees. And you won’t find these in the discount aisle anytime soon, or ever, so save up your shekels. It’s a worthy investment.

Final Score: 94

 

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Epicurean Gonzo Santeria

Epicurean Santeria

Most of what I know about Santeria I learned from the movies, which I admit is not the most accurate source of cultural information. Or any information, for that matter. Santeria is in fact a religion that combines elements of several faiths — Yoruba from Western Africa, Roman Catholicism, and Native Caribbean rituals and beliefs. The geographic center of the religion is acknowledged to be in Cuba, so it’s natural that a cigar take its name from this esoteric cult faith. Well, maybe not natural. Supernatural?

Santeria is also the second blend in the Gonzo line from Epicurean Cigars. (A Gonzo line is sort of like a Conga line, but crazier.)  This blend features a double shot of Mexican San Andres — an almost flawless maduro wrapper over another San Andres leaf serving as binder — which is then paired with another binder from Jalapa, and these hold in place a blend of 2009 Jalapa and Condega leaves. It’s a bewitching brew, and I wasn’t surprised to find that it smokes like one too.

Gonzo Santeria is a very limited production with only 150 50-count boxes made per size. And those sizes are:

  • Ruca – 5 x 42
  • Heina – 6 x 52
  • Padrino – 6 x 60

Epicurean Santeria 2

Construction Notes

Like the AG Azul, the Gonzo Santeria is remarkably well made. (The one I smoked for the review was the toro-sized Heina.) The head and shoulders of the cigar are about as clean and perfect as I’ve seen. The cap is tightly wound and finished with a pigtail that sits like a beanie on the top of the stick. The wrapper is a dark colorado maduro, a little bit drier than the Habano wrapper on the AG, but still quite attractive. The cigar has a slight box press. It burns slowly and evenly.

Overall construction: Outstanding.

Tasting Notes

Based on the appellation of the cigar I was expecting a feistier smoke. I figured if the Gonzo didn’t get me then the Santeria would, so I was a little surprised by the smooth medium-bodied opening. The flavor is is earthy to start — minerals and black powder — so there seems to be a family resemblance to the AG Azul. There are a few muted spicy notes, but it’s not at all what I was expecting. There is no harshness and no bite.

But as the old Monty Python sketch advises: wait for it.  A third to half-way into the cigar the pepper kicks in, and so does the Vitamin N. The aroma turns from earth to leather. The cigar gathers strength and the fiesta begins. Hope you remembered the hooch.

Finally there is the cocoa or chocolate, or whatever it is, that I was expecting from the San Andres wrapper and binder combo. At this point it hardly matters because I’m thoroughly satisfied anyway.

Epicurean Santeria 3

Conclusion

Another excellent cigar from Epicurean. As with the AG Azul, I can’t give this cigar a rating because I only smoked a single representative of the blend, but based on the outstanding construction quality I would be shocked if the cigar isn’t consistent across the board. Looks like there’s another one I’ll be going out of my way to find.

 

 

Epicurean AG Azul

Epicurean Azul

Epicurean Cigars are small batch boutique cigars blended by Steven Ysidron, a veteran with Cuban roots who began his career with the Fuente family and Savinelli pipes and cigars in Italy and the Dominican Republic. In the late 1990’s Ysidron lit out on his own and began producing cigars in Nicaragua. All Epicurean cigars are aged for four years after rolling — this is pretty remarkable, given the way that most manufacturers observe the shortest rest time necessary in order to maximize profits. It’s always admirable when a cigar company, especially a small company, refuses to sacrifice quality for sales volume.

The initials in “AG Azul” are those of Ysidron’s grandfather, Armando Gutierrez. Since it is the time of year to honor fathers with neckties and fine cigars, I’ll start with this one. (Stay tuned for a review of Epicurean’s Gonzo Santeria.)  These are small batch cigars, so the composition of the blend can be expected to change. This blend is the 2008 version (rather than the 2007), which utilizes a sun grown Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, a Honduran binder, and filler leaf from Jalapa and Esteli. Five sizes are in production:

  • Trabajador – 5 x 54
  • Toro – 6 x 50
  • Petite Corona – 5.5 x 48
  • Justus – 6 x 60

Epicurean Azul 2

Construction Notes

This is a beauty of a cigar before it’s even out of the cellophane. The black and silver band is tasteful, and I always approve of a cedar sleeve. The wrapper is a slightly oily colorado maduro, and the cigar terminates in a nicely rounded head with a carefully crafted cap. The roll is solid, the draw is excellent, and it burns evenly. From outward appearances alone, this cigar is obviously the product of an experienced torcedor.

Overall construction: Outstanding

Tasting Notes

The AG Azul 2008 Toro starts up a bit tannic on the tip of the tongue. Soon the aromas of leather and wood dominate. As the smoke progresses, the aroma takes on more cedar punctuated periodically by an earthy sulfuric note, like black powder. The flavor is Cubanesque, but with a Nicaraguan accent. Both the body and the strength of the cigar are around medium, though the last stage of the smoke is stronger. It finishes up with black pepper and a pleasantly earthy aftertaste.

Epicurean Azul 3

Conclusion

A really excellent cigar. I’m unable to rate the AG Azul 2008 because I only smoked a single sample, but if the cigar is consistent from stick to stick this is going to be in the 90+ category  easily. At around $9 USD it’s a special occasion smoke for me, but very few cigars are made this well and smoke so smoothly. If you’re looking for a medium-bodied cigar with an earthy Cubanesque flavor profile, you can’t go wrong here. If you can’t find them at your B&M (an unlikely proposition for most) try the Cigar Federation Store.

Note: A review of Epicurean’s Gonzo Santeria is up next. I had intended to review both the AG Azul and Santeria in one post, but I can only cram so much gushing into a given space.

 

 

 

Rogue by East India Trading Co./Gurkha

Rogue

It is becoming de rigeur for cigar companies to have at least one ligero-heavy shillelagh in their portfolio. It should be big, heavy, and the packaging imagery should look like something out of Game of Thrones: some medieval-looking daggers, Renaissance Faire heraldry, gothic lettering, and a band emblazoned with a cranium of one sort or another. It should also have a name like Ogre or Sarcophagus.

Released under the East India Trading Company, Rogue is one of Gurkha’s more potent blends. And wouldn’t you know, on the band there’s a gleaming skull. How about that?

The wrapper is a dark Ecuadorian Habano leaf, the binder is from Ecuador as well (which is sort of unusual), but the core of the cigar is where the beast lurks — a blend of ligero from Nicaragua, Honduras, and the DR. Let’s get ready to rrrrrrrrrumble!

Five sizes are in production:

  • 5.5 x 46 – Rascal
  • 5 x 52 – Tyrant
  • 6 x 54 – Ruthless
  • 6 x 60 – Bamboozle
  • 6 x 66 – Armageddon

Construction Notes

The folks at Gurkha must have a good sense of humor because they sent me a sample of the Rogue in the Armageddon size — 6 x 66. Rogue footTo make matters even more extreme, the cigar is square pressed. This is a gobstobber of a smoke, and a good one to punch, because a standard sized cigar cutter is just barely up to the task. The cap is a little questionable anyway.

The wrapper is dark maduro in color — habano oscuro seems to be very popular these days — and is fairly thin. The cigar cuts well, and takes a punch even better, but the draw is extremely airy. This may be by design, due to the high ligero content. The foot of the cigar is unfinished, which might be why it takes a light so easily.  It burns well and produces an adequate volume of smoke, but the loose draw is a little off-putting. Perhaps it takes some getting used to.

Overall construction: Good.

Rogue 2

Tasting Notes

The Armageddon does not begin with the pealing of trumpets or the cataclysm of brimstone and black pepper that I was expecting. It’s much smoother than the end of the world,  so perhaps T.S. Eliot was right when he said the world ends “not with a bang, but a whimper.” Maybe it ends with a pleasant aroma of coffee and roasted nuts.

The body of this Rogue is also surprisingly light. As with the Cain Daytona, the high ligero content of the cigar lends it a wispy feel on the palate without sacrificing any power. Despite its lack of “mouth feel” the cigar is still quite strong. It’s also pretty tasty. There is enough pepper in the first inch to keep the ligero-heads happy, but it’s not out of balance. At the mid-point earth and minerals form the base flavor of the cigar.

The cigar grows in strength and the aftertaste becomes overwhelmingly earthy by the time the ash meets the first band. By this time I’ve had enough, to be honest, but those with a higher nicotine tolerance and a penchant for char might continue on.

Conclusion

The Rogue Armageddon is a monster smoke, but it is not as evil as it appears. It’s smoother and more complex than I expected; on the other hand, the loose draw was an issue. At around $10 USD per stick, it’s not an economy cigar, but I might test drive one of the smaller sizes at a proportionally lower price point. If the Rascal has the same flavor as the Armageddon in a smaller package, it could be a killer corona.

Rogue 3

 Final Score: 88

Diamond Crown Julius Caeser Pyramid

Julius Caeser

Julius Caesar may have crossed the Rubicon, but Julius Caeser crossed the Atlantic Ocean. That’s Julius Caeser Newman, better known as J.C. Newman, the founder of the oldest family-owned cigar company in America. After emigrating from Austria-Hungary in the late nineteenth century, he began his illustrious career in that most prestigious of cities: Cleveland, Ohio, and in the most auspicious of locations — his barn. From those humble circumstances one of the world’s best known cigar brands would emerge: Dr. Nickols 5 Cent cigar. Not to mention Student Prince.

The cigar business is a transitory one. Perhaps this is due to the nature of the product, which when properly used is set alight and reduced to ashes. Looking at my “Cigar Diary” from a decade ago it is hard to find any brand still in existence, and most of the companies who made those cigars are history as well. But the Newman family has persevered in the business for over a hundred years, and that is no mean feat.

So it seems perfectly reasonable that one of the Newman family’s most luxurious cigars should honor their patriarch, Julius Caeser. (The spelling of “Caeser” is the work of Ellis Island officials, if I understand correctly.) The blend information is somewhat veiled — the wrapper is an Ecuadorian Havana-seed leaf (from the Oliva Tobacco Co, perhaps?) The binder is Dominican, and the filler is “Central American.” I’m guessing it’s probably not Belizean, but your guess is as good as mine. (Better, probably.)

The Diamond Crown Julius Caeser is made in four sizes, all of which have a 52 ring gauge:

  • 4 3/4 x 52 – Robusto
  • 6 x 52 – Toro
  • 7 1/4 x 52 – Churchill
  • 6 1/2 x 52 – Pyramid

Julius Caeser 2

Construction Notes

As a super premium cigar from the Tabacalera  A. Fuente factory, the Julius Caeser can be expected to both look and perform in an exemplary manner, and the cigar does not fail on either front. The Ecuadorian Habano wrapper isn’t as creamy or seamless as Ecuadorian Connecticut, but with its perfectly rolled head and slight box press it is certainly presentable.  The only minor flaw is some stray mucilage on the wrapper. At around $18 a cigar, this should not be there.

The pyramid arrives with a slight box press. The roll has some give to it, but it takes a light quite readily and burns evenly. The draw is just right, and if you’re after long ashes, you’ll find this one hard to beat.

Overall excellent construction.

Tasting Notes

The Julius Caeser is a medium-bodied cigar that forgoes strength for complexity.  The aroma is complex from the start — it’s woody with a touch of mint, almost approximating Cameroon, but softer. The flavor on the palate is earthy with an aftertaste of roasted nuts, and just a tingle of spice on the tongue. 

As the ash grows the cigar adds a dose of coffee bean, and at the mid-point gets almost musky. The aroma gradually gets sweeter, losing the minty note and replacing it with maple syrup and a mildly floral scent. The cigar loses some of its nuance in the final stage, but it stays cool to the end and never gets harsh or ashy. With its gentle demeanor and sophisticated aroma, this pyramid is extremely easy to smoke.

Julius Caeser 3

Conclusion 

The Julius Caeser pyramid is similar in many ways to the Diamond Crown Maximus pyramid. It shares its fine construction qualities, its sophistication and, unfortunately, its price tag.  The robusto can be picked up for the bargain basement price of $11 USD, and you can add a couple bucks for each larger size. I almost put this one back when I found out it would set me back 18 bucks, but I’m glad I didn’t. It’s a luxury to enjoy on special occasions… like breakfast. If you’re Carlos Slim. 

 

Ezra Zion FHK & Rodrigo Fortaleza

Ezra Zion FHK

Well, if it isn’t another San Andres Maduro cigar! Lucky for me, I can’t get enough of them. This entry is a recent blend from Ezra Zion, introduced last year at the annual IPCPR show. The initials stand for “Fathers of Hoover and Kelly,”  owners of the company. The FHK is in the company’s “Honor Series,” so naturally this cigar is made in tribute to those gentlemen.

Beneath the FHK’s alluring maduro capa lies an Indonesian binder and filler leaves from Brazil and Nicaragua. The cigar is rolled at the Plasencia factory in Nicaragua in four sizes:

  • 5.5 x 50 – “Inspired”
  • 7 x 44 – “Truth”
  • 7 x 54 – “Stature”
  • 6 x 52 – “Character” (Belicoso)

The lancero-sized “Truth” is a well-made and attractive cigar. The bands are appropriately elaborate for a tribute cigar, and they set off the rusticity of the maduro wrapper. The foot band peels off easily. The roll is firm, as is the draw, but this does not inhibit smoke production in the least. The head is nicely triple-wound and the cigar burns evenly for the most part.

The “Truth” opens smoothly with coffee flavors and a slightly sweet chocolate on the nose. (In this case, the Truth does not hurt.) The smoke texture is dense and chewy, a perfect accompaniment for the richness of the flavor. The centerpiece of this cigar is its wrapper, but the fillers provide an earthy and at times herbal foundation which blends well with the aroma. In the last third a moderate spiciness enters to keep things interesting.

Ezra Zion’s FHK lancero is smooth without being simplistic — it reminds me a little of the Emilio AF-1, perhaps with a little more complexity. A delicious smoke for lovers of San Andres Maduro, and for maduro smokers generally.

Rodrigo

Rodrigo Cigars began as a burning curiosity about the cigar-making process when George Rodriguez boarded a plane bound for the Dominican Republic in 2010. Soon that curiosity would blossom into a passion, a mission, and three cigar blends. (Rodriguez’s story is both funny and touching — check it out here.)

Based on the name of the blend I anticipated that the Rodrigo Fortaleza blend would be a powerful smoke, but I was surprised by its complexity.  Most cigars in this class lean heavily on the pepper and char and not much else can break through. Not so with the Fortaleza.

The Fortaleza features a dark Ecuadorian Habano wrapper over a Dominican binder and filler blend. Four sizes are in production:

  • 5 1/8 x 43 – “Absoluto”
  • 5 1/2 x 50 – “Forte”
  • 6 3/4 x 48 – “Elegante”
  • 6 x 50 – “Cinco”

The Ecuadorian wrapper is dark, darker than some maduros, and thick, with some prominent veins. It’s slightly weathered in appearance and the seams are boldly apparent. Between the name of the cigar (meaning fortress, or strength, or resolution) and its rough-hewn appearance, the “Forte” strikes a formidable pose. The pig-tail cap is a mark of careful execution and the cigar is otherwise firm, though a tad bumpy. The draw is excellent. The only flaw might be an uneven burn, but I would almost expect that from a tough guy like this one.

The initial burst of black pepper is nearly a foregone conclusion. “What did you expect?” it seems to ask. “Gardenias?” The pepper is accompanied by sweet charcoal on the nose and a long finish with an earthy aftertaste. But as the cigar burns the pepper dissipates and some surprises are unveiled. Cedar and coffee are unexpected guests. They’re like your favorite aunt showing up on poker night with a case of your favorite microbrew. Unexpected, but welcome.

The Forteleza’s strength (if I can put it that way) is still power, but it’s not a monotonous power. I’m not sure I could handle this in a churchill or toro size, but the robusto was a nice little punch in the gut, and it is surprisingly sophisticated.

Rodrigo 2

Ezra Zion’s FHK is a step up in strength from the Emilio AF-1, and Rodrigo’s Fortaleza gives the crank another turn. They’re all great cigars, but if I keep going in this direction I’m going to get myself in trouble. Next up will be something a little milder.

 

Emilio AF 1 and AF 2

Emilio AF

Established in 2010, the House of Emilio is now home to nine different brands, and that number seems to be growing by the month. These are all boutique blends, made and distributed by cigar enthusiasts with the passion and resources to blaze new trails through a field dominated by industry heavyweights. 

What is unique about this consortium is that it doesn’t operate like a business conglomerate. The brands are all made independently and retain their individual identities. As the creator of the house, I would expect the Emilio brand to reside in the Master Suite, but the other brands have their own rooms, and it looks like the additions and improvements are still coming.

The House of Emilio was kind enough to offer me the grand tour, or at least a glance through the porch window, so over the next few weeks I plan to offer a few unvarnished thoughts on what I’ve seen and smoked.

Emilio AF 1

Emilio AF-1 Robusto

Probably the best known of the 8 or 9 different blends that fall under the Emilio brand umbrella, the AF-1 is a delicious cigar reminiscent of A.J. Fernandez’s San Lotano Maduro. Strangely enough, I had just smoked one of these the night before I lit up the AF-1 and remarked on its similarity. It would have been no surprise, had I done my homework, because the AF in the name of the cigar stands for Abdel Fernandez.

Like the San Lotano, the star of the AF-1 is its San Andres maduro wrapper. The bones of the blend are Nicaraguan, naturally, but that is as far as mere mortals are allowed to see into its musculoskeletal structure.

What I noticed most about the AF-1 was that the flavors were similar to the San Lotano, but the overall demeanor of the cigar was much smoother, creamier, and on the whole more enjoyable. This particular specimen had about a year to meditate and become one with my humidor, so maybe that was a contributing factor. But it’s easy to see why the AF-1 is one of Emilio’s best selling smokes.

Chocolate and cedar are the highlights of the AF-1. There is a touch of astringency  and a little roughness on the tongue which quickly dissipates, and from there it’s smooth sailing. The richness of the chocolate balances wonderfully with the cedary spiciness — a touch of pepper is a nice flourish. It’s similar to the San Lotano Maduro and also the Montecristo Reserva Negra – but in my opinion, better than either of those. A fantastic smoke.

Emilio AF 2

Emilio AF-2 BMF Gran Toro

While I am not a BMF aficionado, I was still excited to set this log alight. The wrapper on the AF-2 is an Ecuadoran Oscuro, which sounds like a mythical creation but isn’t. Remembering that maduro and oscuro are fermentation and maturation processes as well as color designations, it is indeed possible for a leaf to be lighter in color than “oscuro” represents. In this case the leaf is a dark golden brown, not quite maduro in color. What’s the Spanish word for the color of  an over baked peanut butter cookie? That would be close.

The AF-2 is a solid stick, but the draw is very loose. It didn’t seem to affect the burn though, so perhaps the loose draw is by design. This cigar is fairly peppery with some cocoa on the nose and later on some nice caramel sweetness. It’s also quite potent — just the sort of thing that followers of AJ Fernandez will appreciate.

Conclusion

Both the Emilio AF-1 and AF-2 are upper echelon boutique cigars worth seeking out. The AF-1 is a tasty and well-balanced cigar that should appeal to all but the most jaded ligero junkies. For a smoker of medium-bodied maduros, it really doesn’t get any better than this.

The AF-2 is a more potent, more complex cigar, at least in the BMF size that I smoked. I would like to try this one in a smaller size next time and see if it still knocks me overboard. Experienced cigar smokers and lovers of Fernandez blends will not be disappointed.

Both cigars are competitively priced in the $6-7 USD range.

Emilio AF 3

Cain Daytona 654T Torpedo

Cain Daytona

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Well, Mr. Shakespeare, that may be true. But there’s a reason you’ve never heard The Yellow Rhododendron of Texas. And there’s nothing in Holinshed about the War of the Daffodils, is there?

And yet I admit that half the reason I’ve never smoked a Cain cigar is because of the name. The story of Cain in Genesis is not one that I would expect to inspire greatness, unless the mark of Cain can somehow be construed to be a good thing. (Though Herman Hesse does this very thing in his novel Demian, so it’s not an impossibility.)

The other half of the reason is that Cain cigars are composed entirely of ligero tobacco leaf, the strongest and oiliest part of the stalk. Raw power is not really my thing. Ligero is an essential element in many fine blends, but I’ve always thought that smoking a ligero puro would be like sitting down to a tumbler of Bacardi 151. Drinkin’ TNT and smokin’ dynamite. (Yeah,I know — Muddy was smoking something a little different.)

But I love Jalapa tobacco, so when a reader last year mentioned that Cain’s Daytona blend is a Jalapa puro, I had to try it. The Jalapa Valley is the northernmost tobacco growing region of Nicaragua, and the shade afforded by the valley allows the tobacco to be a little more restrained than does the full sun of Esteli. The result is a complex tobacco with a soft and lush flavor.

Cain is made by Studio Tobac, the edgier wing of the Oliva Cigar Company. The cigar is made by Tabacalera Oliva in five sizes, from which the frontmarks take their names:

  • 660
  • 654T (torpedo)
  • 646
  • 550
  • 543

Cain Daytona 2

Construction Notes

The Cain Daytona torpedo arrives with only a foot band, and when this is removed it must stand naked before the world. But like a body builder on the beach, it has the physique to withstand close scrutiny, and seems to invite it. The wrapper is a smooth and attractive colorado maduro, with a touch of oil to highlight some fine veins in the leaf. The roll is even and solid. The cap is not Pepin-perfect, but the head clips easily and the wrapper doesn’t unfurl, which is always my primary concern.

It draws well, burns evenly, and builds a long, strong, dirty gray ash.

Overall construction: Excellent

Tasting Notes

What is immediately apparent about the Cain Daytona is its pungency. The resting smoke is powerful. The wrapper leaf is usually the most aromatic part of a cigar, so catching a whiff from the smoldering foot is one way I try to gauge its aroma. That is not easy to do with this cigar — and an accidental inhalation or even a retrohale might be a deal-breaker.

But the flavors on the palate are quite nice — lots of cocoa over an earthy and mineral-laced foundation. The smoke is not spicy on the tongue, but it leaves a peppery aftertaste. The smoke is not as astringent as a lot of Nicaraguan puros, but the cocoa screams Jalapa.

An odd thing about the Daytona is that the smoke is surprisingly thin. At first I thought the cigar might not be burning properly, but it turns out that the smoke texture is just very light. It isn’t often that a cigar’s body is outmatched by its strength, but here is a great example.

Conclusion

The Cain Daytona torpedo is a fascinating cigar, but as much as I love the tobaccos of Jalapa, I find this one to be unbalanced and thin. The lure of ligero is what the Cain line is founded on, so perhaps the blenders are simply sticking to their guns here — but I think a softer and more sophisticated wrapper leaf would go a long way toward smoothing out the pungency of the ligero and give the smoke a little more weight on the tongue.

On the other hand, if ligero is your thing, the Daytona might make a nice breakfast smoke for you. But not for me.  For now I believe I will stick with Torano’s Single Region to satisfy my craving for Jalapa.

Cain Daytona 3

Legado de Pepin Belicoso

Legado de PepinJose “Don Pepin” Garcia will certainly leave a legacy when he departs the cigar business, but is it time already to celebrate the achievements of a lifetime? Have we seen the best of Don Pepin? I hope not. I’m waiting for the day when he can legally and in good conscience finish a blend with a Cuban wrapper. Now that will be be a legacy cigar. A smoke for the ages.

For now, however, we have Legado de Pepin, a My Father blend that appears to be a creature of Cigars International. It is appropriately a Nicaraguan puro with a Corojo wrapper and a Criollo binder — a fairly typical pairing for Pepin, and one that never seems to fail. The cigar is made in Nicaragua by My Father Cigars, naturally, and in five traditional sizes:

Belicoso – 6.1 x 52

Churchill – 7 x 50

Gordo – 6 x 60

Robusto – 5 x 50

Toro – 6 x 52

Construction Notes

The Legado belicoso is a snazzy looking stick. The wrapper is dark and oily with some fine veins, and the head is finished in classic Pepin style. I  tend to clip belicosos and torpedoes a bit more severely than some do because it usually improves the draw and it also limits the amount of residue that accumulates in the last third. The drawback to doing this is that sometimes the wrap will come unfurled at the shoulder of the cigar. (If a torpedo can be said to have shoulders, that is.) But the Legado was unfazed by this and held together to the end.

Just about every construction detail of this cigar was perfect — an open and productive draw, a slow burn, and a strong ash. The only deduction it suffered was a point or two for a ragged burn. The tercedors at My Father are still hitting on all cylinders, and quality control remains tops in the business.

Overall Construction: Excellent

Legado de Pepin 2

Tasting Notes

The Legado de Pepin is a medium-to-full bodied cigar, which makes it fairly mild by Pepin standards. Most cigars from the My Father factory initialize with a wave of black pepper, but this belicoso holds the spice back for a minute or two while earthy flavors and notes of cocoa open the show. It is surprisingly mild for the first half-inch or so.

The smoke texture is creamy, and the flavor is smoother than I’d expected. Up to a point, that is.

Mid-way through this cigar it turns up the heat and takes on a more classic Pepin character — loads of pepper and a fuller body. The subtler flavors are overwhelmed and the power amplified. While the sophistication and complexity of the cigar suffers for this, it’s what most smokers look for in a Nicaraguan puro, and what most smokers look for in a My Father blend.

The finale is marked by pepper, char, and a sharply earthy aftertaste.

Conclusion

I really enjoy almost any cigar from the My Father factory, and while Legado de Pepin might not be its crowning achievement, it is a worthy representative of the brand. What makes it particularly attractive is the price — a box of 20 runs around $90 USD, which is about half of what a box of My Father will set you back.

This is by no means a “budget” smoke, in terms of price or quality, but it is indeed a budget conscious smoke, and one worth checking out for the Nicaraguan puro aficionado, especially if price is an issue.

Legado de Pepin 33

Final Score: 88

Fonseca 120th Anniversary “Rarissimus” Corona

Fonseca CXX

I’ve been working my way through a couple of Fonseca samplers that I snagged on C-bid, and though I’m wary of cigars that have been repackaged in this way I’ve been quite satisfied this time around. Certainly there have been more hits than misses. One of the better finds is this Anniversary blend, dubbed “Rarissimus”.

The CXX Anniversary blend was released in 2011 to commemorate the founding of the Fonseca label in 1891. Francisco Fonseca established his Havana factory that year (or thereabouts) and eventually introduced two innovations still observed by some manufacturers today: he wrapped his cigars in fine Japanese tissue paper (which is still the case with the Cuban Fonseca) and he was the first to release cigars in tubes (tin, at the time). He immigrated to America in 1903 and registered the Fonseca brand name in 1907.

The 120th Anniversary line was issued by Quesada’s SAG Imports in a limited release of 120,000 cigars. The blend is composed of a Dominican and Nicaraguan filler surrounded by a Dominican binder and finished with a sungrown Dominican wrapper called Habano Vuelta Arriba, a tobacco that is presumably descended from that region in Cuba.

The Rarissimus was created in three sizes:

  • Corona – 6 3/8 x 46
  • Robusto – 5 7/8 x 52
  • Gordo- 4 7/8 x 60

I can only imagine what Francisco Fonseca would have thought of a gordo sized cigar.

Fonseca CXX 2

Construction Notes

The CXX Anniversary Corona is a rough looking customer with its mottled colorado maduro wrapper and pig-tail cap. The roll is solid, though on the surface it feels a little bumpy and lumpy. The head of the cigar is not particularly elegant, despite its pig-tail, but the cigar draws smoothly and burns beautifully. The ash is firm and a pleasantly dirty gray.

This rough looking parejo is not conventionally handsome, but it has character.

Tasting Notes

The Fonseca 120th Anni opens up with a moderate dash of black pepper, but this is quickly overtaken by the complex aroma of the cigar.  It reminds me of something like graham cracker, but with more cinnamon.  This is a medium-bodied cigar of equally moderate potency. At times the smoke seems a bit thin, but its flavor never wanes.

A caramel sweetness appears an inch or two into the cigar, supplanting the cinnamon and balancing out the mildly peppery sensation on the palate. The aroma continues to impress even without a dramatic transition.

The cigar settles into earthier territory at the conclusion but otherwise stays the course to its final destination.

Conclusion

The Rarissimus is a fitting tribute to the lasting legacy of Francisco Fonseca. True to the Fonseca tradition, it is a fairly mild cigar, but one with sophistication and finesse. Also true to the tradition is the price of this limited edition: around $5 US for the corona. That’s a remarkable price given the quality of the cigar, but that has always been the hallmark of Fonseca.

If you appreciate a quality medium-bodied cigar, don’t hesitate. I doubt these will be around for much longer.

Fonseca CXX 3

Final Score: 89