La Antiguidad Toro

La Antiguidad

Sequels are not always a good idea on the creative side, but they are irresistible to both producers and consumers. Movies, TV shows — anything capable of continuation or spinoff demands a sequel when the original is a success. Cigars are no different, and we see this with brand extensions all the time. My Father Cigars had a hit in 2012 with Flor de Las Antillas, so they did the natural thing — they followed up on the success of that blend with another one and called it La Antiguidad.

I don’t think the Garcias are capable of making a mediocre smoke (barring the bargain market stuff) but I was expecting more from Flor de las Antillas. After all the hype and the stellar reviews (and the eventual 2012 Cigar of the Year crown bestowed on it by Cigar Aficionado) I was expecting a bit more. I’m still waiting for a My Father blend that revives the magic of the Rey de los Habanos years. So far I haven’t found it.

But the prospect of a new blend from “Don Pepin” and Jaime Garcia is enough to dry my tears, even if it is a sequel to a cigar I was slightly disappointed in. La Antiguedad plays on the same theme as Flor de Las Antillas — the 19th century Cuban artwork, the red cloth foot band, and the box press — but it is a somewhat bolder cigar.

All of the filler tobaccos in La Antiguidad, as well as the double binder, are grown on the Garcia farms in Nicaragua. The wrapper is an Ecuadoran Habano leaf described as “rosado oscuro,” which sounds to me like “colorado maduro,” but I will leave that distinction to the experts. The fillers are from three distinct regions in Nicaragua — San Rafael, Las Quebradas, and San Jose. The binders (two of ’em) are Nicaraguan criollo and corojo.

The cigar is made in five sizes, all box-pressed:

  • Robusto – 5 1/4 x 52
  • Toro – 5 5/8 x 55
  • Corona Grande – 6 3/8 x 47
  • Super Toro – 7 x 56
  • Toro Gordo – 6 x 60

Construction Notes

With its bright red foot ribbon and incredibly ornate band, the Antiguidad Toro is a fine looking cigar. The wrapper is colorado maduro in shade (or rosado oscuro, if you like) with widely spaced veins. It glistens with a slight sheen of oil. The cigar is box-pressed, but sharply enough to call it a square press. The head is nicely formed, but the triple-wound cap is not as perfect as the Pepin cigars of yore. The draw is excellent and the burn slow. The only criticism I can make on this front is that the ash was a little flaky.

Overall construction: Excellent.

La Antiguidad 1b

Tasting Notes

La Antiguidad opens with a healthy churn of the peppermill, which is not a surprise from this cigar maker. After five or ten minutes the pepper wears off enough to detect some cocoa, along with leather and a hint of honey on the nose. The tannins are strong, lending a citric tartness to the flavor and creating a dry sensation on the palate.

Over the course of the cigar the cocoa, leather, and tart flavors bob and weave around an earthy core which makes its presence known primarily in the aftertaste. By the end of the cigar the pepper has returned, and it finishes with a nice little punch to the gut. The smoke texture is medium to full, and the strength builds from moderate to quite potent in the last round.

Conclusion

La Antiguidad deserves a place in the humidor next to other My Father heavyweights like the Don Pepin Blue and My Father Le Bijou, though I’d say it has more nuance than either of those. It’s not a towering thunderhead, but it packs a nice little punch. More importantly, there is enough complexity here to keep my interest for an hour and half or so.  MSRP is in the $8 USD range, which is about right for a cigar of this quality.

It’s not a return to the reign of Rey de Los Habanos, but it’s fine cigar nevertheless.

La Antiguidad 2

Final Score: 90

San Cristobal Revelation Legend

San Cristobal RevelationFor as long as I can remember, Ashton’s Virgin Sun Grown (VSG) line has been revered and sought after by cigar smokers. It is not always easy to find, and it commands a price dictated by its quality and high demand. The Ecuadorian Sumatra leaf that covers the VSG is the benchmark for Sun Grown taste, in my humble (or not-so-humble) opinion. The bright zing of this tobacco, grown by the Oliva family for Ashton, is what makes the VSG sing.

Now there is another voice to join that virgin choir — San Cristobal Revelation — which is made with a wrapper leaf from the same plant as the one used on the VSG. There is a slight difference, however. The VSG uses a stronger, spicier leaf from the top of the plant, whereas San Cristobal Revelation uses a milder mid-level viso leaf. But the similarities between the VSG and the SC Revelation end there. The VSG is more of a Fuente blend featuring Dominican tobacco,  while San Cristobal bears the mark of Pepin Garcia: the binder and filler leaves are Nicaraguan and the cigar is made by My Father Cigars in Esteli.

San Cristobal Revelation was introduced in 2013 in five sizes:

  • Leviathan – 6 1/2 x 64
  • Legend – 6 1/4 x 52
  • Odyssey – 5 3/4 x  60
  • Mystic – 5 5/8 x 48
  • Prophet  – 5 x 54

Construction Notes

The Revelation Legend is a box pressed toro with a mottled chocolate brown wrapper and a well formed head. The cap is not as perfect as I’ve seen on other cigars out of this factory in recent years, but it’s attractive and certainly functional. The roll is solid and the draw is excellent. The cigar burns evenly, especially for a pressed stick, although it seems to burn more quickly than I had expected. There are no overheating issues and the cigar is rolled well, so this isn’t a significant issue.

Overall construction: Very good.

San Cristobal Revelation 2

Tasting Notes

The first inch of the Revelation Legend is peppery with the tannic dryness typical of most Nicaraguan blends these days. Pepin’s peppery hallmark has been appropriated (or perhaps the polite word is emulated) by so many other cigar makers that pepper-and-tannin has become the standard for Nicaraguan cigars. But the pepper here is not overwhelming, and in keeping with the medium-bodied tenor of the cigar it fades to allow cedar and a slightly spicy floral note come to the fore.

Sun grown flavors make their appearance in the mid-section of the cigar — a cinammon zing with chocolate and cedar in the background. Along with the spice there is a touch of sweetness enhanced by the cedary aroma.

The smoke concludes with a spicy char and a lengthy finish. This is a medium-bodied cigar, but it ends on a powerful, if somewhat muddied and less complex note.

Conclusion

Revelation is a fine addition to the San Cristobal line. It’s not as heavy as the original San Cristobal, but it’s spicier than the San Cristobal Elegancia. The tannins in the first inch might lighten up a bit over time, but these blends are made that way intentionally and aren’t intended to fade, so pucker up and enjoy.

So how does the Revelation stand up to the VSG? It makes a decent showing, but it is a far milder cigar. It’s like comparing Beethoven to Schumann. Perhaps it’s not a fair comparison, but most cigar smokers will choose the pounding chords of the VSG over the gentle but soulful Revelation. That is no reflection on the quality of the Revelation; it’s just a matter of how much water you like in your whiskey. Sometimes a little splash is nice.

The Legend runs right around $8 USD.

San Cristobal Revelation 3Final Score: 90

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

San Cristobal Elegancia Pyramid

San Cristobal Elegancia

In the wintertime my thoughts usually turn to the rich dark flavors of maduro cigars, but I’ve been meaning to review this blend for so long that I’m going to make an exception to my cold weather routine and fire up a Connecticut shade.  Maybe I’m trying to turn the weather with my cigar. Let’s see if it works.

San Cristobal has been made by the crew at My Father Cigars since 2007, around the time when Don Pepin Garcia went from being the world’s premier boutique cigar maker to a major manufacturer. The cigar is made for Ashton Cigars, who began the series with a bolder blend more typical of Garcia’s stock-in-trade. In 2011 Ashton released the Elegancia extension, a much milder blend, in an attempt to satisfy the large number of cigar enthusiasts who opt for less aggressive smokes.

Beneath the suave Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper leaf of the Elegancia lies a blend of Nicaraguan filler leaves, including a Nicaraguan binder. Six sizes are currently in production:

  • Robusto – 5 x 50
  • Corona – 5.5 x 46
  • Grandioso – 6 x 60
  • Imperial – 6 x 52
  • Pyramid – 6.125 x 52
  • Churchill – 7 x 50

Construction Notes

The wrapper of the San Cristobal Elegancia is smooth and a light golden brown, fairly typical of Ecuadorian Connecticut. The roll is excellent, the cap is perfectly applied in an even spiral, and the cigar draws effortlessly yet yields a voluminous quanitity of creamy smoke. It burns evenly and builds a solid ash. There are a lot of things to like about Connecticut shade, and one of them is its predictably even burn. The Elegancia is no exception in that regard.

Overall construction: Excellent

Elegancia cigar

Tasting Notes

The Elegancia pyramid opens with its defining feature: a mild flavor combined with a very creamy texture. Many cigar smokers use the term “body” to refer to a cigar’s strength (which in turn can mean a few different things), but when I say “body” I mean the viscosity of the smoke. The Elegancia is a great example of a cigar with mild strength but full body. This smoke is like butter.

The opening flavors are nuanced and pleasant: a dry woody flavor with a smattering of black pepper, accompanied by a floral aroma. The aftertaste is tea-like, though this tea is a lot spicier than most.

As the cigar progresses it picks up a bready aroma, while soft baking spices replace the pepper on the palate.

Toward the band, the pepper returns and the base flavor becomes earthier, tannic with a citric edge. Smoking slowly, the aroma remains delicious to the end.

Conclusion

The San Cristobal Elegancia lives up to its name. This is indeed an elegant cigar. It has enough body to stand up as an after-dinner smoke, but it is probably best enjoyed after breakfast with coffee or tea. If it were just a tad less tannic in the last inch I would say it’s close to being the perfect morning smoke. As it is, it’s just damn good. Which is about what we expect from My Family and Ashton.

The Pyramid runs around $7 USD per stick, which is a good value given the quality of the cigar. Highly recommended.

Elegancia

Final Score: 90

DPG Blue Through the Years

Don Pepin Garcia Blue Label

Don Pepin Garcia Blue LabelA couple months ago Gordon Mott of Cigar Aficionado penned a blog post about the misleading use of cigar ratings in advertising. This was prompted by one manufacturer in particular who cited a 93 rating to promote a cigarillo line. The problem is that the rating was for a toro-sized cigar made by the same company 20 years ago. Unfair? Misleading? Of course it is. But if anyone should know something about smoke and mirrors, it’s a cigar aficionado.

Even if the advertising were for the same cigar, the use of that rating would still be questionable. Only the largest cigar companies are able to maintain the huge libraries of tobacco necessary to create the same blends, year after year. In many cases this just isn’t possible, especially with smaller boutique brands.

Take one of the great cigar success stories as an example. Ten years ago, Jose “Don Pepin” Garcia was virtually unknown outside the circles of cigar geeks who read blogs like this. El Rey de Los Habanos was just one of the many small shops that populated Miami’s Calle Ocho neighborhood, but they were making cigars like none other, and consumers quickly caught on. The Miami operation couldn’t keep up with demand, and after a change in name and a move to Esteli, Nicaragua,  My Father Cigars now operates a huge facility that rivals that of many long established cigar companies.

While they still make stellar cigars (some better than others) I would hesitate to call My Father “boutique” at this point in time. They are not the same company they were ten years ago, and they aren’t using the same tobacco. And yet… the Don Pepin brand name remains the same, and some fans of the brand still think of it as a boutique label. So the question is this: when I pick up a DPG Blue Label in my local cigar shop and think about that potent blast of black pepper and the cocoa and the caramel of that brilliant Nicaraguan Corojo — am I living in the past?

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I thought I might try a little experiment to test that hypothesis. Digging into the deepest recesses of my dwindling supply of aging cigars, I found DPG Blue Labels from three different years. Unfortunately they were not all the same size, but at least they represent the DPG Blue over a significant period of time: a robusto from 2006, a torpedo from 2009, and another robusto of recent vintage. All three cigars received the same treatment and were smoked under the same torrid desert conditions.

Construction Notes

There are some minor differences in appearance, but all three are well made cigars. Both the 2006 and 2013 robustos have wrappers that are fairly dry and leathery in appearance, in contrast to the torpedo, which is noticeably more oily and smooth. All three are a little bit bumpy, but solid, and they all exhibit a firm but productive draw.

The biggest surprise was the way the 2013 robusto is finished. Early on, DPG became famous for the way his cigars were perfectly triple wound, and the 2006 robusto is no exception. The cap on this ’06 cigar was precisely applied by a master craftsman. A thing of beauty. On the other hand, the 2013 robusto is not triple wound at all. While still attractive and functional, the straight cap on the newer cigar is a surprise and leaves me with a little bit of nostalgia for the good old days… remember 2006? George W. Bush? Windows XP? Okay, I guess it wasn’t that long ago…

DPG Blue robusto

Tasting Notes

What I remember most about the DPG Blue is its explosive introduction. Ask anyone who smoked the big-bore Pepins back in the day, and you’ll probably hear the same thing. I expected the 2006 robusto to have mellowed, and my expectation was borne out. What I didn’t expect was that the 2013 blend would be almost as mellow as the 2006. Either the blend has been tamed by its designers, or my palate really rose to the challenge when I smoked the ’13.

Assuming the former, it seems that the power of the Blue Label blend has waned in recent years.

The oldest of the group, the 2006 robusto, turned out to be a disappointment. The opening was mildly spicy, but the palate flavors were papery and flat. The mid-section brought some cocoa and pepper finally showed up in the last third. A complex aroma of leather and caramel saved the cigar, though it could never quite overcome the tannic and dry qualities that appeared on the palate. I was expecting more from this elder statesman, but apparently its glory days have passed.

DPG Blue 06

The 2009 torpedo was the most complex of the three: leather, cedar, and roasted nuts with increasing earthiness on the palate as the cigar progressed. In the mid-section there are caramel notes and a rich potent aroma. The cigar ends with a pretty good nicotine thump, even after four years in the box. There is a dash of pepper before the inevitable char at the finish line.

The newest exemplar of the blend, the 2013 robusto, was surprisingly smooth. I expected a major recoil from this Nicaraguan cannon, but I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve never been a fan of overwhelming spice, but I would expect that smokers who pick up a DPG Blue are looking for that very thing, and I have to wonder if by now they’ve moved on to other blends. The smoke is medium in body and flavorful, but not wildly complex either. Some cocoa and cedar with a touch of sweetness round out the palate flavors, which get a little more concentrated as the cigar burns to its conclusion.

Conclusion

Even strong cigars lose their potency over time, but I was still surprised at how much the 2006 DPG Blue had faded. This used to be one of the heaviest sluggers around, but time has mellowed the old blend to a shadow of its former self. In the intervening years the cigar appears to have been reblended and refined, and while I wouldn’t call the 2013 blend a shadow exactly, it’s certainly not as substantial as the 2006 was when it was fresh. In between these two was the 2009 torpedo — the best of the bunch, and the closest to what I remember the original blend tasting like.

All of which is merely to point out what is fairly obvious to serious cigar connoisseurs — cigars in storage change with age, and blends change over time as manufacturers tinker with them or use other tobaccos out of necessity. The DPG Blue simply tastes different today than it did in 2006, and using a rating from years ago to describe a cigar made today is highly questionable at best.

DPG Blue 2013

El Rey de Los Habanos Toro

Rey de Los Habanos

This is the story of the one that got away.

Sometime in 2006, as the sun began to rise on the Empire of Jose “Don Pepin” Garcia, I acquired a box of El Rey de Los Habanos toros. This was the first cigar produced by Pepin’s fledgling cigar company, also called El Rey de Los Habanos, based in Miami. I smoked one every once in a while and enjoyed them. A superb everyday cigar, I thought, and one I intended to review at some point.

But I never got around to that review, and in the meantime the box got lost in the humidor shuffle. The few remaining cigars were consolidated with others that I shelved for aging, and the last remaining Red Labels were forgotten.

In the ensuing years, El Rey de Los Habanos grew from a gleam in Don Pepin’s eye to an industry giant. The company shed first its name and then its home base in Miami to emerge as My Father Cigars, a very sizeable factory in Esteli, Nicaragua. And in 2011 the humble ERDLH Red Label was discontinued.

So when I uncovered these Red Labels in a box of assorted old stuff I felt a pinch of nostalgia. Back when Pepin made cigars for private clients I remember going into Cigar King in Scottsdale and examining the wares. After asking a few questions about his Pepin-made lines, the owner ripped open a fresh bundle of ERDLH and asked me to take a whiff. The smell was strong, and rich, and the owner swore up and down that it was just like opening a box of Habanos.

I can still get a trace of that grassy funk from the wrapper of these now 7 year old cigars.

El Rey de Los Habanos came to be known as the “Red Label” to distinguish it from other cigars made at the small Miami factory. The Red Label was a Nicaraguan puro with a corojo rosado wrapper, and up until 2011 it was made in four standards sizes: robusto, toro, torpedo, and corona.

Don Pepin Red Label

Construction Notes

Cigars from the My Father factory have a well-deserved reputation for fine craftsmanship, but the construction quality of those made in the early days in Miami were even better. The head and cap on this Red Label is a work of art. The rosado wrapper still shines with oil, even after seven years in my less than optimal storage facility (a converted wine refrigerator).

Aesthetically, this is as close to perfect as a cigar gets. It is almost a shame to cut and light this toro, but after doing so I find a pleasantly easy draw and an even burn. The ash does not want to drop, but after a couple of inches I have to force the issue. I hate ash in my lap.

Overall construction: Beyond excellent.

Tasting Notes

The Red Label is a medium-bodied cigar, and as such I should have known it wasn’t the best candidate for long-term aging. The palate flavors have faded and lost a lot of complexity, but I’m happy to report that the aroma is still amazing.

The flavor for the first inch of the cigar is of plain old toasted tobacco. It’s pleasant, but one-dimensional. There is a slightly tannic flavor on the tongue, even after all these years, but the sweetness of the aroma blends with this very nicely. The quality of the aroma saves the cigar at this point.

Black pepper makes an appearance about a quarter of the way through the cigar, but this flavor stands apart and alone. It’s as if the orchestra stopped and left the bassoon player to play the rest of the piece. It’s not bad, if you like bassoon solos.

Conclusion

Over time, the tannic backbone that supported this cigar has weakened to the point that the auxiliary flavors just don’t come together anymore. It’s still a pleasant medium-bodied cigar, with a lovely woody aroma and a hint of caramel here and there, but unfortunately I think my Red Labels are past their sell-by date.

I don’t regret buying this box at all. I only regret letting the last of them get away. If you’re lucky enough to still have a few around, smoke ’em now and enjoy.

ERDLH Red Label

Flor de las Antillas Robusto

Flor de las Antillas

New for 2012 from My Family Cigars in Esteli, Nicaragua, is Flor de las Antillas. The “flower” of the Antilles is the island from which the Garcia family hails: Cuba itself. The brand name was in fact an old Havana trademark, and My Family Cigars has resurrected the name and rejuvenated the artwork for this new release.

Flor de las Antillas is a Nicaraguan puro featuring a sun-grown wrapper and several different Cuban-seed tobaccos. The cigar is box pressed and produced in four sizes:

  • Robusto: 5 x 50
  • Belicoso: 5 1/2 x 52
  • Toro: 6 x 52
  • Toro Gordo: 6 1/2 x 56
Construction Notes
The Flor de las Antillas robusto is a pressed cigar with a dry colorado claro wrapper. The cover leaf has a few veins, but it doesn’t look quite as weather-beaten as some sun grown wrappers. The head terminates in a flat triple-wrapped cap, and the draw is effortless. It burns evenly, and the ash it generates is almost as strong as the original cigar.

Overall construction: Superb. (No surprise, coming from My Father.)

Flor de las Antillas 2Tasting Notes

This is a somewhat unusual entry from the Garcias; it’s one of the smoothest and creamiest cigars I can recall from a cigar maker reknowned for big flavors and an explosion of pepper up front. A little bit of pepper creeps up in the sinuses for the first minute or two, but there is no bite on the tongue at all. Some leathery scents emerge which balance nicely with mild cedary spices, but for the most part this is just a very smooth medium-bodied cigar with a creamy smoke texture.

The middle section continues along the same trajectory, with some caramel sweetness added into the mix. This aroma doesn’t seem quite as robust as the Corojo 99 that I love on medium-bodied Garcia cigars like Vegas Cubanas, but it’s a little more complex and similarly balanced with mild spice.

The last third is increasingly peppery, but compared to many of My Father’s full-bodied blends (like Le Bijou, for instance) it’s really quite tame. Most of the spice tingles in the sinuses with only a fleeting nip on the tongue.

Conclusion

La Flor de las Antillas fills a spot in the medium-bodied lineup for My Father Cigars, perhaps to fill vacancies left by blends like El Rey de Los Habanos and El Centurion. It’s a nicely balanced cigar with hints of leather and cedar topped off with some caramel sweetness, and only a shadow of the pepper that is the hallmark of this Nicaraguan family. It’s also priced well. At around $6.00 it’s well within the median price range for premium smokes.

It didn’t blow me into the stratosphere, but smokers who like medium-bodied Nicaraguan blends — like Vegas Cubana or the old Padilla 1948 — should definitely check this one out.
Flor de las Antillas 3
Final Score: 89

My Father Cedros Deluxe Cervantes

My Father Cigars reports that they have 700 employees, but there is nary a typist among them. Okay, I’m speculating about that last bit. Perhaps there is another reason why their website is so attractive and yet barren of content, but I’m fond of the notion that it is due to a paucity of secretarial skills in the workforce.

Those 7000 dextrous digits are kept away from all keyboards and directed instead to the rolling gallery of the Garcia Family Industrial Park, where they are producing some of Nicaragua’s finest smokes.

Soon after the My Father line of cigars was introduced in 2008, the Cedros Deluxe line was added in the lonsdale and corona gorda sizes, called Cervantes and Eminentes respectively. At first glance it’s difficult to see why the cedar is necessary because the regular My Father line is an impressively rich cigar to begin with. I guess cedar is like cowbell — more is better.

Due to the lack of information on this cigar I’m going to hazard a guess that the composition is the same as the standard My Father line — a blend of Nicaraguan fillers and binder (grown on the Garcias’ La Estrella farm in Esteli) and a Habano-Criollo hybrid wrapper from the Oliva Tobacco company in Ecuador.

Construction Notes

The stamped cedar sleeve on the My Father Cedros is an attractive aesthetic feature as well as a flavor enhancer, and the fact that it slides off so easily is pleasing as well. The wrapper is a ruddy colorado maduro with some fine veins and a touch of oil. As expected, the roll and the finishing touches at the head of the cigar are precise and refined.

The Cedros version seemed to burn a little bit faster than the No. 1, but it also seemed lighter to me, so maybe the proportion of ligero to lighter more combustible leaf is a bit different here. The Cervantes burned beautifully and exhibited in all other respects excellent construction, even exceeding the high quality of the the No. 1.

Overall construction excellent.

Tasting Notes

Anticipating my experience with the My Father No. 1, I was expecting the Cedros Deluxe to open with lashings of black pepper, but the Cervantes turns out to be a much more congenial cigar. Pepper is still front and center, but it’s balanced by other flavors and takes a civilized approach (as opposed to the hooligan mentality of the DPG Blue or the like.)

The cedar lends a sweet character to the smoke that blends well with an earthy and tannic flavor on the palate. A caramel-like quality shows up after an inch or two as the pepper relaxes.

The second half of the cigar develops more complexity as leathery flavors overtake the earthy ones. The smoke remains quite smooth and easy going, about medium in body and strength. The sweet cedary notes turn a bit darker. At one point I detected coconut, which might be attributed to environmental factors, like smoking in the waning hours of a summer day that pushed the mercury to 114 degrees. At the band the flavors start to char a bit and I’m ready to seek psychiatric assistance, or at least to go inside and cool off.

Conclusion

The My Father Cedros Cervantes is a slightly milder and more aromatic version of the My Father blend. I’m not sure if that is due to the size or if the blend has been tweaked for the Cedros Deluxe, but either way it suits me fine. It’s smooth and laden with cedar sweetness in balance with leather and earth.

Though perhaps not quite as complex as the No. 1, it’s well worth smoking as a medium-bodied alternative. Pricing is about the same, unfortunately — around $8-9 per stick. But in this case it’s worth the expense.

Final Score: 91

La Casita Criolla

The wrapper leaf on a cigar is like the sear on a carefully cooked piece of beef — it’s often what makes the difference between a bland piece of protein and a sizzling dinner centerpiece. But the sear must be done right — overdo it and your dinner guest will send that Porterhouse right back to the kitchen. Like most of the fine things in life, flavors need balance.

So it’s a puzzle to me when a cigar maker decides to focus on one ingredient in the recipe to the exclusion of the other components, the ones that usually give a cigar balance. We’ve seen cigars that are almost exclusively ligero like Oliva’s Cain, and we’ve seen cigars that are 100% maduro, like Camacho’s Triple Maduro. I don’t care for either of them, and lack of balance is one of the reasons why.

So what possessed Pete Johnson of Tatuaje Cigars to create a cigar made entirely of Connecticut Broadleaf?

I’m not sure, but I was curious to find out. Connecticut broadleaf is prized by manufacturers of everything from machine-made Toppers to Fuente Anejos. It’s thick, it’s ugly, and it’s one of the most expensive tobaccos for blenders to use. But heavens, it’s tasty. (My apologies to Garrison Keillor.)

La Casita Criolla, an old Cuban brand name acquired by Johnson for this blend, means something like “the little native house.” That’s one brand name that is better left untranslated. I’m as puzzled by the name as I am by the idea of a broadleaf puro, but it does conjure up an image of rusticity which is reflected in the cigar’s appearance.

La Casita Criolla is made for Tatuaje by My Father Cigars in Esteli, Nicaragua, and was released last year in three sizes, all comfortably under a 50 ring gauge:

HCB Corona – 5 1/8 x 42
HCBC Corona Gorda – 5 5/8 x 46
HCBF Short Churchill – 6 1/2 x 48

Construction Notes

The HCB Corona is rough and marred with imperfections, which is typical of broadleaf. It’s maduro in color tone, a little bit oily, and has a rustic but rich appearance. The roll is firm, but staring down the barrel it appears to be loose due to the thickness of the leaf. Rolling broadleaf in the bunch must take some getting used to, but the torcedors have apparently made the appropriate adjustments.

Both samples drew very well — not too loose, despite initial visual impressions — and they burned almost evenly, much better than I expected. My only complaint is that the cigar burns a little too hot after the mid-point. Draw frequency should be limited to about once per minute in the last part of the smoke. Discipline is required.

Overall construction: Very good.

Tasting Notes

The Casita Criolla corona offers initial flavors of leather, minerals, and a whiff of black pepper, though there is far less pepper here than in many other Tatuaje blends. The aroma is what you’d expect from broadleaf — it’s rich and sweet with roasted coffee and chocolate.

The middle section doesn’t stray too far from the palate of flavors it starts with, but I notice that the smoke is surprisingly light in texture. The flavors are balanced, the strength is no greater than medium, but the body of the cigar is much lighter than I expected. An aftertaste of graham crackers is a nice touch.

The aroma in the last section turns from leather to wood, but the sweet chocolate notes remain as long as the draw frequency is kept to a minimum. A bitter taste appears if the cigar gets too hot, which it seems to do quite easily in the final stretch.

Conclusion

Contrary to my expectations, La Casita Criolla is a very well balanced cigar. Despite this, it seems to be lacking something. Maybe a different leaf thrown into the mix might give the smoke a little more weight and add to the overall experience. That said, the overall experience is still pretty good, and broadleaf lovers will get a thrill out of this stick.

The coronas are in the 5 to 6 USD range. For the experience of smoking a pure broadleaf cigar, it’s well worth the scratch. I’m not sure I’m ready to run out and buy a box, but I’m glad I had the chance to try them, and I expect I’ll be picking them up from time to time in the shop.

Final Score: 89

La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Magnifico

Legend has it that La Aroma de Cuba was one of Winston Churchill’s preferred brands. That would be La Aroma de Cuba de Cuba, a brand which exists today only in the protected vaults of highly disciplined cigar collectors. But all is not lost for the rest of us. “Never give in!” as the old man said.  For we still have Don Pepin. And with the able assistance of the Ashton Cigar Company we have La Aroma de Cuba redux.

There are three distinct blends of La Aroma de Cuba: the non-extension LADC with a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper (and distinguished red foot band), the Edicion Especial with a sun-grown Ecuadorian wrapper (and secondary EE band), and this one, Mi Amor. This incarnation features a Cuban-seed wrapper grown in Mexico. I’m not sure where in Mexico, but I’m guessing it’s not Tijuana. My guess would be somewhere in the San Andres Valley, one of the only regions in the world that produces leaf with the maduro potential of Connecticut’s broadleaf.

More detailed information about the San Andres region is available on the Montecristo Reserva Negra post. Come to think of it, the LADC Mi Amor reminded me a bit of the Monte Reserva — I wouldn’t be surprised if the wrapper is the same leaf, or at least a close relative. They look quite similar and they taste quite similar… so they must be, um, similar.

Mi Amor was reportedly in planning for two years prior to its release at the IPCPR convention last year. Since then it has garnered rave reviews, including the No. 6 spot on Cigar Aficionado’s Best Cigars of 2010. I don’t always agree with CA, but I think they got it right this time.

LADC Mi Amor is made by My Father Cigars in Esteli, Nicaragua. Five sizes are in production:

  • Robusto – 5 x 50
  • Magnifico – 6 x 52
  • Valentino – 5 3/4 x 58
  • Churchill – 7 x 50
  • Belicoso – 5 1/2 x 54

Construction Notes

La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor is not billed as a maduro cigar, but it looks like one, and it tastes like one, so I’m going to say it is one. The wrapper shade is a medium dark maduro, but the wrapper is a little drier and much toothier than what you get with typical maduro processing.

The cigar is box pressed and sports a flat Cuban-style head and My Father Cigars’ impeccable triple-cap. The draw is excellent, and it burns slowly and evenly. The ash is a solid light gray verging on white, though it flakes slightly.

Overall construction: Excellent.

Tasting Notes

The Mi Amor Magnifico (the toro of the family) opens with a combination of earth and chocolate. In the first half-inch there is an old attic-like aroma, somewhat mushroomy, but sweetness soon takes over and the chocolate and coffee flavors prevail. When those somewhat outlandish initial flavors settle down the base flavor of the Nicaraguan filler comes through: a bright acidic tang on the palate. The smoke is rich and smooth.

The chocolate and coffee blend and simmer down to a smooth cocoa in the mid-section of the cigar, but the aroma is still distinctly sweet and the earth tones have almost entirely disappeared.

Some pepper enters the fray in the last third and the smoke is a little sharper on the tongue, though it never becomes harsh. On the nose it’s mostly coffee, but I’m surprised by the floral accents that remind me of another cigar with a romantic reputation — the Cuban Romeo y Julieta.

Conclusion

La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor is a damn fine smoke. It’s flavorful, smooth, rich, and almost perfectly balanced. The initial earthy flavors quickly mellow into the sweet ones, and the underlying zing keeps the palate popping. The smoke is smooth and the cigar burns beautifully.

After smoking a few of these I immediately went looking for the box price. A heavenly choir did not emerge from a cloud of smoke to sing the under $100 hymn, but I can’t say I was surprised. Around $170 USD is the going rate for the Magnifico. A little outside my range for boxes, but that puts them in the $7-8 range for a single, which I can manage every once in a while. And for a cigar this good, you can bet I will.

Final Score: 93