Espinosa Habano Toro

Espinosa Habano

Espinosa Habano was the first cigar to be made in La Zona, Erik Espinosa’s new factory in Esteli, Nicaragua. EO Brands, formerly owned and operated by Espinosa in concert with Eddie Ortega, broke up a few years ago. Both are producing blends on their own now: Espinosa is still producing 601, Murcielago, and Mi Barrio, and Ortega still has Cubao, my favorite of the old EO brands. But as we know, nothing remains static in the cigar world, so both cigar makers have new blends that are quickly gaining in stature.

The early EO Brands were made by the Garcia family. That is not an easy act to follow, but Espinosa is keeping the key construction features of those cigars, including entubado rolling and triple-seam caps.

Details of the composition of the Espinosa Habano are a bit cloudy. According to Cigar Aficionado and its affiliate publication Cigar Insider, the blend employs Nicaraguan binder and filler leaves with a “mid-to-low priming Ecuador Habano” wrapper. According to Halfwheel.com, the cigar is a Nicaguan puro with a Nicaraguan Habano wrapper. According to the source, it’s nunya business. Espinosa ain’t talking.

It seems I have no choice but to implement my own enhanced interrogation and lay some fire on the feet of these resistant subjects.

Four sizes are in regular production:

  • Robusto – 5 x 52
  • Toro- 6 x 52
  • Belicoso- 6 1/8 x 52
  • Trabuco – 6 x 60

Espinosa Habano 2

Construction Notes

The golden brown wrapper on the Espinosa Habano Toro is attractively smooth but a little bit fragile. The widely spaced views are a good indication that the wrapper is Ecuadorian, but whatever it is, it’s fine looking stick. The roll is solid, but a little bit bumpy, perhaps due to the delicate nature of the capa leaf. The head is neatly finished with a triple cap.

One of the toros I smoked had a perfect draw; the other was not plugged, but it was almost too tight to smoke. In both cases the wrapper was reluctant to burn in sync with the rest of the cigar, and then it cracked.  My experience is that a blender will often discount a wrapper’s flaws when the aromatic qualities outweigh them, and that seems to be what is going on here.

Overall construction: Fair, based on two samples.

Tasting Notes

The Toro opens with lots of black pepper and earth on the palate. The smoke is a little dry, but the flavors are sharp. On the nose there is an oaky vanilla with a touch of cocoa. The smoke texture is almost creamy at times; the combination of pepper and cream reminds me a little of another of Espinosa’s cigars: the 601 Connecticut.

The flavors don’t transition too much until the last stage of the cigar, but they are complex throughout. The pepper and earth continue strong on the palate but the aroma gets a little sweeter, adding cedar and a fruity element that I can’t quite identify. The aftertaste remains earthy and the finish is long.

The cigar is about medium in strength, but it flexes its muscles a bit in the last couple of inches. The last stage is packed with pepper and earth until it begins to char at the finish line.

Conclusion

The wrapper leaf on the Espinosa Habano is finicky, but oh so tasty. The combination of pepper and cream is unusual, but this toro pulls it off…like peanut butter and sriracha. I have some concerns about the cigar’s construction that require further research, but the flavors are exceptional. At around $6 USD it’s a bit above my everyday smoke range, but the complexity of flavor is commensurate with the price.

Espinosa Habano 3Other Opinions of Note

Casas Fumando reviews the Espinosa Habano Robusto.

Stogies on the Rocks takes stock of the Belicoso.

Stogie Press fires up the Toro.

Bodega Reunion Aperitivo and Digestivo

Bodega Reunion 1a

Bodega Premium Blends were launched in 2013 and are now distributed by the illustrious House of Emilio. The theme chosen to promote the brand is a common one in the cigar world: friendship, fellowship, and brotherhood of the leaf.

The company has a strong presence in social media — Facebook, Twitter, and a well-kempt website. The Aperitivo and Digestivo blends are cigars designed in tandem to mimic the roles that cocktails or liqueurs usually play in the culinary sphere. The Aperitivo is a lighter cigar with a Nicaraguan Jalapa wrapper, while the Digestivo features a hearty San Andres Maduro. These bodacious Bodegas are packaged in boxes containing both blends — 10 of each — and they are produced in three sizes:

  • Toro – 6 x 52
  • Double Robusto – 5 x 54
  • Corona Gorda – 5 1/2 x 46
For this review I smoked one of each in the Corona Gorda size.
Bodega Reunion 2a
Construction Notes

Both of these Bodegas are attractive and solid, with nicely finished, rounded heads. Both burn slowly, evenly, and leave a firm ash. The only difference in appearance, aside from the band, is that the Aperitivo has a dark colorado maduro wrapper with a little gloss to it, while the Digestivo looks like a more classic maduro.

Overall construction: Independently and collectively excellent.

Tasting Notes

As the preprandial cigar, the Aperitivo is a suitably lighter smoke than the Digestivo. It opens with some cedar and a shake of powdered sugar sweetness. The smoke texture is smooth, but not light. Despite the mellow timbre of the smoke there’s still some chew here.

As it burns the aroma becomes noticeably floral — violets maybe — with just a touch of spice on the nose. In the next section the cigar picks up some earthy notes but remains light on the palate. The scale tips toward cedar and away from the floral flavors until the last third, where light roasted coffee flavors take over. Some sweetness lingers even into the last part of the cigar, which is a nice change of pace for me. The aftertaste is quite mild even to the end, which is very much appreciated by the chef preparing your meal. (Assuming your chef is not working up a sweat in the local taqueria.)

After the champagne has been drained and the capon consumed, the Digestivo arrives to put everything in place. It is naturally a heavier cigar, though the weight is concentrated in its flavor rather than its smoke texture or nicotine payload. The opening flavors are tangy, but still sweet — though not sweet in the light and floral manner of the Aperitivo. Licorice and cherry notes emerge at times through a spicy aroma. The flavor on the palate is crisp, almost minty, but with a Nicaraguan bite. Chocolate predominates in the last third, as the San Andres Maduro wrapper insists on having its say.

 

Bodega Reunion Digestivo 2

Conclusion

Both of these Bodega Reunion cigars are excellent smokes, but I particularly enjoyed the complexity of the Aperitivo. With its mild aftertaste it fulfills its role as an aperitif, but it could also serve as an opulent morning cigar.

The Digestivo is much richer, and more appropriate as an after-dinner smoke, but it also exhibits more complexity than the average maduro. Not to mention they both showed flawless construction qualities.

But this complexity and quality comes with a price: $10 USD a pop. I liked the Digestivo just fine, but for a special occasion when a cigar before dinner is on the menu, I’ll be looking for the Reunion Aperitivo.

Bodega Reunion 3a

For another opinion, be sure to check out Jeff’s review  of these blends at Casas Fumando.

Sindicato Maduro

Sindicato MaduroLast summer I had the chance to smoke and review what would become my 2014 Cigar of the Year — the Sindicato Corona Gorda. A combined performance in both construction and flavor earned that cigar 94 points and a trip up the aisle to collect the trophy. Instead of a speech, however, the folks at Sindicato and blender Arsenio Ramos are giving us a lagniappe: another Sindicato, this time in maduro.

The original Sindicato with its Nicaraguan Corojo wrapper certainly made an impression on me, so I was eager to try the same blend with a maduro wrapper. This time around it’s a San Andres Morron. (Morron refers to a chestnut shade of dark brown.) The internal components appear to be the same as the natural Sindicato: a double binder from Esteli and filler from Esteli and Jalapa, all Aganorsa tobacco from Eduardo Fernandez’s farms in Nicaragua. The sizes are also the same.

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

Construction Notes

The wrapper is typical of high quality maduro — thick and rough, with signs of a rugged and thorough maturation process. The shade is darker than the word “morron” suggests: there isn’t much chestnut in this maduro, just rich earthy maduro browny-blackness. The foot of the cigar is unfinished, but not ragged, and the head is capped with a pig tail. The cigar is square pressed, just like the natural version, which is sometimes a concern because it tends to promote an uneven burn. Not in this case, however. The Sindicato Maduro burns just as evenly and easily as its natural counterpart, though maybe a bit slower. A long light gray ash builds and taps off in the ashtray with some hesitance after a couple inches. Clearly a well made cigar.

Overall construction: Excellent

Sindicato Maduro 2

Tasting Notes

The Sindicato Maduro opens with the hallmark flavor of San Andres maduro: chocolate. There is a hint of pepper here as well, but the first few puffs are predominately bittersweet baker’s chocolate. The smoke is medium to full in texture and has a slightly tannic aftertaste.  After a few minutes woody flavors become noticeable below the sweetness of the aroma.

Midway through the cigar the sweetness of the chocolate gives way to dark roasted coffee flavors. There is an increasing spiciness, but in addition to the pepper that you’d expect from a Nicaraguan cigar there is also a hint of mint or eucalyptus. Not much, just a fleeting hint to add unexpected complexity, which is somewhat rare for a maduro blend.

The finale of the cigar turns dark; the woodiness becomes earthy, and the cigar starts to wind down. The subtleties are overtaken by black pepper and at the very end the smoke becomes a little burnt tasting. The lights come up, the audience applauds.

Conclusion

There is hardly any difference in quality between the Sindicato natural and the Maduro blend. I would liken it to the difference between the natural and maduro versions of the Padron Anniversary 1964  — both are excellent, well-made cigars, and both have a reputation beyond question. I am one of the few who favor the natural 1964 over the maduro, and I do the same with the Sindicato.

The Sindicato Maduro is smooth, rich, and it exhibits a great deal more complexity than I had expected. The base flavors are typical of Nicaraguan cigars, but better behaved, and the aroma is full of chocolate and coffee — just what we crave in a maduro. It isn’t as complex as the natural Sindicato, which is why I lean towards the natural, but this is one of the better maduros I’ve smoked this year.

Both blends run in the $11-13 range. Try them both and enjoy an embarrassment of riches.

Sindicato Maduro 3

Final Score: 91

Battle Jalapa: Quesada vs. Plasencia

Battle Jalapa

Two iconic cigar makers clash in a battle of titans: Nestor Placencia versus Manuel “Manolo” Quesada, distinguished gentlemen of the leaf. Their choice of weapon: Nicaraguan tobacco from the Jalapa Valley.

That’s how it was supposed to be. But then I learned that the wrapper used by Quesada for his Jalapa blend is in fact from one of Plasencia’s farms. So instead of a cataclysmic battle of the ages we have some kind of royal intermarriage. I guess I’ll have to leave the battling tobaqueros to the ads in the cigar catalogs.

But I still can’t resist comparing the Quesada Jalapa to the Plasencia-driven Montecristo Espada. Both employ Jalapa tobacco to great advantage. Does one do it better?

Quesada Jalapa

The Quesada Jalapa has its roots in a cigar I’ve only read about: the Quesada Selección España. It was designed for the Spanish market exclusively, but when American cigar heavyweights had an opportunity to try it at the ProCigar festival in 2011, they reportedly went bananas over it. The problem is that Quesada could not increase production of the Selección España because the wrapper, an Ecuadorian Arapiraca, is rare and in short supply. So he went looking for an alternative to the Arapiraca. He found it in Jalapa. In one of Nestor Plasencia’s barns. Plasencia had produced the wrapper in 2002 as an experiment, and he had a few hundred bales just waiting around for Quesada to discover.

The binder and fillers employed for the Quesada Jalapa are the same as the ones used in the Seleccion Espana: the binder is Dominican, and the fillers are Dominican and Nicaraguan. The only difference is the wrapper, which is Plasencia’s Jalapa. The blend is made in three sizes:

  • Belicoso – 6 1/8 x 52
  • Robusto – 47/8 x 50
  • Prominente – 7 5/8 x 49

Quesada Jalapa

Construction Notes

The Belicoso is a stately looking cigar, solid with a soft claro wrapper through which the texture of the binder shows. The tip is rolled well, though I have had a few of these split at the head after spending a few months in 70% humidity. The draw is good to excellent. The cigar burns slowly and evenly.

Overall construction: Very good.

Tasting Notes

The Quesada Jalapa is a creamy and aromatic cigar with just a touch of pepper on the finish. The base flavor is earthy — even mushroomy at times — with an occasional whiff of sulfur. The earthy flavor turns musky in due course, complemented by a woody aroma with some floral notes.

The smoke texture is full, creamy, and well balanced. The cigar picks up an extra shake of black pepper in the last lap, but aside from this there are no dramatic transitions. Consistent, tasty, and moderately complex.

Montecristo Espada

The Espada is Montecristo’s first Nicaraguan puro, blended by Nestor Placencia in concert with Altadis’s “Grupo de Maestros.” The name of the cigar is a tribute to the Montecristo insignia depicting crossed swords in a triangular pattern — espada is  the Spanish word for sword.

The wrapper is a habano-seed leaf grown in Jalapa. The binder and a good part of the filler are also from Placencia’s Jalapa farms, bolstered by tobaccos from Condega and the volcanic island of Ometepe. The cigar is made in the Placencia S.A factory in three sizes (the frontmarks are technical names for parts of the guard section of a sword) :

  • Ricasso – 5 x 54
  • Guard – 6 x 50
  • Quillon – 7 x 56

Montecristo Espada

Construction Notes

The Espada is made with the craftsmanship expected of a Montecristo — an attractive golden brown wrapper, a perfectly executed flat cap, a solid roll and a draw with just the right amount of resistance.

Overall construction: Excellent

Tasting Notes

The Espada Guard is similar in one respect to the Quesada Jalapa: the smoke texture is rich and creamy. But the Espada is spicier, and it packs a bigger punch. Black pepper blends with oak on the nose and earth on the palate. The smoke is smooth and refined, but more assertive than the Quesada. As the Guard burns to the finish the flavors intensify but don’t transition too much. The cigar is refined, well balanced and expressive, but not tremendously complex.

Quesada Jalapa 2

Conclusion

Montecristo’s Jalapa entry is everything I expect from a Montecristo — it’s a sophisticated and classy smoke, but predictable. Predictably good, but not as adventurous or unique as I’d hoped. Quesada’s Jalapa is a bit milder than the Espada, but it makes up for this with complexity.

The Quesada is also a little less expensive, coming in at around $8 USD to the Montecristo’s $11. Both are excellent cigars, but in my opinion the complexity of Quesada’s Jalapa trumps the refinement of Placencia’s Montecristo. But since the wrapper leaf on the Quesada bears the stamp of Placencia, I have to say that both cigar makers come out on top.

 

Nomad S-307 and Rodrigo Boutique Blend G4

Nomad S-307

Attentive readers will have noticed that the number of reviews on this blog has fallen precipitously over the past few years. Some readers may wonder, why does he bother at all? Why doesn’t he just shut up and watch the game? (Wait, though. Maybe he’s a Vikings fan.)

Well, I’ll tell you. I am a Vikings fan, but that’s not it.

Sometimes I’ll smoke a cigar and think, this is pretty good, maybe I should review this one. But time goes on, the Vikings lose again, and the inspiration simply isn’t there. But there are times when the spirit moves me, when I feel called to review a cigar because it is distinctive and exceptional and it just isn’t getting the attention it deserves. I can say that is the case with nearly every blend I’ve smoked from the House of Emilio.

The Nomad and Rodrigo blends are members of that esteemed House, which distributes and promotes some of the finest boutique cigars in production today.

Nomad S-307 Robusto

Nomad Cigars debuted in 2012, focusing on Dominican tobacco. It didn’t take long before Nomad founder Fred Rewey was drawn by the lure of Esteli and the production of a limited edition Nicaraguan blend was in the works. The S-307 was the first full production Nicaraguan cigar for Nomad. The heart of the cigar is, of course, Nicaraguan, but the binder is Ecuadorian Habano and the wrapper is Ecuadorian Sumatra. (The S in the brand name stands for Sumatra.) The cigar is produced in the A.J. Fernandez factory and is available in five sizes:

  • Toro – 6 x 50
  • Robusto – 5 x 50
  • Torpedo – 6 1/2 x 52
  • Toro Grande – 6 x 58
  • Corona – 5 1/2 x 46

Nomad S-307b

Construction Notes

The S-307 Robusto is square pressed with a mottled, fairly dark colorado maduro wrapper. The roll is solid and it draws well. It’s a nice looking stick, and it burns evenly, which is always a pleasant surprise in a pressed cigar. The long, solid gray ash is another bonus. Overall construction: Excellent.

Tasting Notes

The cigar opens with leather on the nose and a long peppery finish on the palate. The pepper diminishes after the first inch or so and it develops a sweeter profile: cocoa and caramel over an earthy foundation. The S-307 is a medium bodied cigar with considerable complexity, and after the first bout of pepper the smoke is quite smooth. It’s a little less boisterous and a little less tannic than the typical Nicaraguan cigar, which allows the flavor development to go in a more interesting and unexpected direction. There aren’t too many cigars that can balance leather, earth, and sweetness this well. A very nice smoke.

Rodrigo G4

Rodrigo Boutique Blend G4

Rodrigo Cigars began when founder George Rodriguez stumbled upon former Davidoff blender William Ventura on a tourist foray into Santiago, D.R.  The story Rodriguez tells on his website is one of smoky serendipity. He went to Santiago to learn about cigars, and simply chanced on the man who would later make Rodrigo for him. Fortuitous happenstance, or destiny? Whichever it is, the Boutique Blend is Rodrigo’s “answer to the large ring cigar.” I’m not sure what the question was, but the blend is Dominican with a Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, and of course the cigar is made in Ventura’s factory in three large-ring sizes:

  • G4 – 6 1/4 x 54
  • G5 – 5 1/2 x 56
  • G6 – 6 x 60

Construction Notes

The Boutique Blend G4 has the smallest ring gauge of its brethren, but it’s still a big ol’ cigar. The rough colorado claro wrapper is set off nicely by its red and gold band. The roll is solid and the head is finished with a workman-like rounded head. It draws well. It burns evenly. It’s made the way every cigar should be made. Overall construction: Excellent.

Rodrigo G4b

Tasting Notes

The Rodrigo Boutique Blend is smooth with a creamy texture. The foundation flavor is woody with just enough tannin to provide a nice pucker on the palate. The aromatics are cedary with some baking spice accents. As the cigar progresses to its conclusion it passes through the woods into earthier territory, but the cedar on the nose lingers and blends nicely through the transition. It’s a fairly mild cigar, a suitable cap to a luxurious breakfast.

Conclusion

The Nomad S-307 and the Rodrigo Boutique Blend are two totally different types of cigars, so there’s no comparing them except in terms of their overall performance, which is exemplary in both cases. The S-307 was the more interesting cigar for me, but it’s a slightly heavier smoke with more flavor resources at its disposal. The Rodrigo Boutique Blend is just as distinguished in its class. There is no reason to reach for one of the industry standard Connecticut-shade breakfast smokes if the Rodrigo is an available option. These are both great smokes, and both are highly recommended.

Nomad S-307c

 

Padilla Reserva: Habano v. Maduro

Padilla Reserva

Every garden needs weeding, and perfectly healthy trees need a trim now and again. So it was with Padilla Cigars a few years ago, when Ernesto Padilla restructured his company. It seemed like the catalog companies were unearthing forgotten troves of Padillas on a monthly basis. They were good cigars selling at a nice price — but they went largely unappreciated (except by the bargain hunters) and were finally closed out. (Some are still in the process, so get ’em while you can.)

Today the Padilla portfolio is lean and mean, with only a few top-tier blends in circulation. One of them is the Padilla Reserva, available in two wrappers: Habano and Maduro.  Both cigars are made for Padilla by Tabacalera Oliva in Esteli, Nicaragua. The Habano features an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper with binder and filler leaves from the Oliva farms in Condega and the Jalapa Valley. The Maduro swaps out the natural capa for an oily San Andres maduro.  Both variations were introduced in 2012 and are produced in four sizes:

  • 4 x 60 – Short Robusto
  • 5 3/4 x 50 – Toro
  • 6 x 54 – Torpedo
  • 5 3/4 x 60 – Double Toro

I smoked both Habano and Maduro cigars for this review, just to contrast and compare, both in the Toro size.

Padilla Reserva habano

Construction Notes

Both cigars were very well made, though they shared a common flaw: a tight draw. The draw on the Habano was firm, but productive, while the Maduro was on the uncomfortably tight side for the first two inches and then opened up a bit. Both are nice looking smokes. I generally don’t care about band design, but  the Padilla band exudes class.

The Ecuadorian leaf on the Habano is a gorgeous milk-chocolate brown, smooth with a slight sheen. The Maduro is matte black with little variation in color. It’s a little bit rustic with its lumpy round head, but that’s the nature of maduro. Both cigars burned very well, especially the Habano. “Razor sharp burn” is a cliche to which I occasionally fall prey, but in the case of the Habano it was no hyperbole.

Overall construction: Very good, with some slight hesitation about the draw.

Tasting Notes

The Habano Reserva focuses on cedar and cocoa, while the Maduro tastes a little richer — think pine rather than cedar, combined with the dark chocolate flavors typical of San Andres maduro. A tannic dryness is apparent in both, a slight astringency that wanes as the cigar burns.

The Habano is the more complex of the two — the aroma is sweet and spicy, assertive like a good perfume, but not overwhelming. The cedar gradually fades into the background as an earthy note takes over, accented by mint. The finish is lengthy and the aftertaste spicy.Padilla Reserva Maduro

The Maduro starts out with a heavy, almost resinous pine which is slightly harsh on the tongue. It mellows out though as the pine turns to cedar with occasional spikes of bittersweet baker’s chocolate. It bangs this drum all the way to the end, making it somewhat one-dimensional, though still tasty. The aftertaste is tannic, with some black pepper toward the band.

In both cases the smoke texture is medium in body, though the Maduro is a bit thicker, and both are about medium in strength.

Conclusion

The Padilla Reserva is a top tier cigar in both the Habano and the Maduro incarnations, but the Habano is the more complex and interesting smoke. The Maduro is a decent cigar, but I might be just as happy with a musty old St. Luis Rey Serie G for half the price if those are the flavors I’m after.  Both cigars ring in at around $8 USD for the toro size, but I would only be willing to pay that again for the Habano.

Bear in mind that my assessment is based on one cigar only in each wrapper, and was perhaps skewed by the Habano’s utterly perfect construction.

Padilla Reserva 3

 

La Aurora Preferidos Ecuador No. 2

Preferidos Ecuador

Preferidos have been rolled and sold for a long time now. Since 1903, to be exact, with some production interruptions for things like world wars, revolutions, global depressions, and that sort of thing, and I expect that the blend is bit different now than it was in Teddy Roosevelt’s day. Currently there are six blends in this La Aurora line, including the newest Diamond Preferido made with a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. But as usual I am lagging far behind the vanguard, taking the time to smell the pilones, so I’m going to take a look at the Ecuador blend which has been out for several years now. (An historical sidenote: the Aurora Preferidos Emerald was selected the 7th best cigar of the year in 2006 by Cigar Aficionado magazine.)

Preferidos in the wild are most frequently found living in shiny zeppelin-shaped tubes, and this one normally comes in a green one denominated “Emerald.”  This one was farm-raised, however, and caught on C-bid for less than half the standard retail price, so no tube. I must admit to one lingering concern about the identity of this cigar — the band reads ECUADOR, rather than EMERALD, as it does on the wild-caught tubed variety. Is the blend the same? I haven’t found any information to the contrary, but I can’t say for sure.

The wrapper is unsurprisingly from Ecuador, grown from Sumatra seed. The binder is Dominican, and the filler is a blend of Dominican, Brazilian, and Nicaraguan leaves. How they get all those into this little double-perfecto is a mystery to me, but La Aurora assigns only their most talented (and tourist-friendly) torcedors to the Preferidos line, so they get it done somehow.

Preferidos perfectos are produced in two sizes: this one, the classic 5 x 52 No. 2, and also a larger No. 1, at 6 x 58. A few are made in parejo vitolas as well, including robusto, lancero, and most recently a corona size.

Construction Notes

The Preferidos Ecuador No. 2 is a small double perfecto with two wrapped ends. The foot of the cigar is open, but some smokers like to trim a bit more off to create a slightly larger landing pad for the flame. The wrapper is slightly oily but otherwise unrefined: colorado maduro in color with the widely spaced veins typical of Ecuadorian wrapper leaf.  The roll is solid, and the draw is good. Without opening up the foot a little more it can be tough to get lit, but the patient puffer will find this is not necessary.

Overall construction: Very Good.

Preferidos Ecuador 2

Tasting Notes

It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, as they say… and this little mutt has more bite than I expected. Both ends of the cigar are marked by loads of black pepper. The first part offers some leathery flavors and a hearty meatiness, but the best part  is a transitional sweet spot right in the middle of the bulb where the pepper gives way to dark chocolate on the palate and a spicy oak-and-vanilla aroma. Unfortunately the crest of this wave is only momentary and then it’s a quick descent back into black pepper, even more pronounced and one-dimensional on the back end.

Conclusion

Compared with other Preferido blends the Ecuadorian entry is a ruffian. Particularly compared to the Cameroon, or even the Corojo, which has potency on display but a little more sophistication. If only that mid-point highlight of chocolate, oak, and pepper could be extended throughout the cigar, I might be won over. Alas and alack, ’twas not to be. And with an MSRP of around $9 to 10 USD, ’twill not be again.

Preferidos Ecuador 3

 Final Score: 84