Guayacan Torpedo

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Guayacan is a boutique cigar created by Noel Rojas and distributed by Emilio Cigars. Rojas has a familiar story — a Cuban immigrant with a background in agriculture and the cigar industry. He eventually got fed up with the Cuban government and found a way to ply his trade in the U.S. Now, why the name Guayacan?

Evidently Rojas carved sculptures from guayacan wood for tourists in Cuba (see Brian Hewitt’s Stogie Review for the full story.) Guayacan is a shrub native to the tropics and subtropics. It is drought resistant due to its deep taproot, and in severe winters the shrub can freeze to the ground and grow back from its roots in the spring. (I doubt this happens too often in Cuba, but it does in Texas.) The wood of the guayacan shrub is supposedly one of the hardest measured by the Janka hardness test, a measure of suitability for wood flooring.

Guayacan is tough stuff, and to carve it must take some skill. Making it in the cigar trade isn’t so easy either, but it looks like Rojas has the determination to do it.

The Guayacan cigar was originally released in four sizes, at which time each size used a slightly different blend. Rojas standardized the blend in 2012 after noting the popularity of the torpedo blend, and he now uses that blend for all of the various sizes. The binder and filler are 98 Corojo of the famous Aganorsa variety, and the cigar is topped off with a habano wrapper from Ecuador. Guayacan is made in Esteli, Nicaragua and is available in four sizes:

  • Robusto: 5 x 50
  • Toro: 6 x 52
  • Torpedo: 6 1/8 x 52
  • Churchill: 7 x 50 (box-pressed)

Construction Notes

Guayacan is a well built cigar, but it is admittedly a little rough-hewn. (Perhaps this is another reason for its name.) The wrapper has a reddish cast to it and it has a few thick veins. The roll is firm albeit a bit bumpy, and the torpedo tip is expertly finished. The wrapper burns with some reluctance, but after the first half inch or so it pulls itself together.

Overall construction: Very Good.

Tasting Notes

I smoked two torpedoes for this review and while I enjoyed both, one was spectacular and the other was just pretty good. The base flavors are earthy and the aromatics are mainly wood with a little leather thrown in. The first cigar was much more expressive, for whatever reason. (The cigars were received at the same time and were stored identically.)

The cigar does not develop too much from the beginning to the end of the smoke, but its pleasant complexity keeps things interesting for the duration. There is less sweetness and more spice toward the finale, but it never becomes overwhelming and stays evenly balanced.

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Conclusion

Guayacan is truly a boutique cigar, and one that is still in the early stages of development, so some inconsistency is to be expected. As long as the inconsistency varies from good to great, I see no room for complaint. I really enjoyed the sweet woody aromatics of this medium-bodied torpedo. MSRP is in the $6 USD range. You might score a great cigar, or a merely very good one. At that price you win either way.

Final Score: 89

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T. L. Johnson Tempio Extreme Box Press

I hadn’t heard of T. L. Johnson Cigars before, but I have heard of one of their brands — Jose Dominguez. In addition to this one, Johnson produces Palma cigars as well as three distinct lines under the T. L. Johnson brand name: the Legend Reserve Reserve 63, and the Signature line in Connecticut and Maduro. The company is located in Colorado, and it looks like their cigars are distributed primarily in-state.

Tempio is, I believe, their newest line, and since it is produced by one of my favorite boutique manufacturers — La Tradicion Cubana — I was itching to give it a go.

Tempio utilizes a Pennsylvania wrapper leaf (like the JML 1902) in conjunction with an habano binder and Dominican filler. The cigar is made in four sizes:

No. 50 (Robusto) — 5 x 50
No. 52 (Torpedo) — 5 1/2 x 52
No. 56 (Toro) — 5 1/4 x 56
No. 54 (Churchill) — 6 3/4 x 54

Construction Notes

If it weren’t for the sloping shoulders and tightly wound pig-tail cap of the Tempio, I’d say this cigar looks like a carpenter’s pencil. A big one. Maybe the right size for Shaq if he adds cabinetry to his career profile. The corners are clean and form tight right angles that relax a little as the cigar burns.

The colorado maduro wrapper is smooth but leathery in appearance. The veins appear to have been pressed into the leaf, so it looks rustic but doesn’t feel that way to the touch. The draw offers the right amount of resistance, and the burn is surprisingly even for a square pressed stick. The ash is a little bit flaky on the perimeter but holds strong.

Overall Construction: Excellent.

Tasting Notes

The Tempio focuses on a cedar flavor throughout the smoke, but it starts up with some unusual scents that are hard to place. There is a peppery spiciness on the tongue that fades pretty quickly, but the most interesting aspect of the first third are the fleeting sweet spicy notes in the aroma. There seems to be something vaguely fruity about the aroma, but not in a light way — it’s a spicy fruitiness that reminds me a little of the scent of mulled wine.

The spice loses some of that interesting sweetness in the mid-section, but it remains sweet in a more conventional way. There is less of a cedar flavor and the smoke becomes a little smoother. The smoke is medium in body, and probably a touch heavier than that in strength. There is a dry papery tartness in the aftertaste.

The last third reintroduces the pepperiness as the flavors begin to char, but even in the last few puffs some sweetness lingers.

Conclusion

I love the complexity of flavors that the Pennsylvania wrapper contributes to the Tempio, and the overall performance of the cigar is very good as well. It’s a balanced with just the right amount of spice, and it’s never boring.  In fact it’s a little bit edgy, which I think gives it some aging potential.

The MSRP on this cigar is about as bold as its flavors — around $11.00. I’d like to see that price drop a bit, but there’s no arguing with the quality of the stick. The biggest challenge will be locating a Tempio for purchase. It looks like there is at least one online vendor, or if you are lucky enough to live in Colorado, check out the T. L. Johnson website for retail locations.

Final Score: 90

La Tradicion Cubana Chulo

La Tradicion Cubana’s Chulo cigar is the perfecto in their figurado series. Other formats in the series are a Culebras, a huge 8 1/2 by 96 Great Pyramid, and the Reed, a toro-sized cigar with a head shaped like the bit on a clarinet (similar to La Flor Dominicana’s Chisel.) There is also a limited box pressed cigar called Teclas which comes packaged in a box shaped like a piano.

Talk about showmanship! With its two-toned appearance and shapely figure, it’s almost a shame to put the Chulo to the flame, and I find myself torn… To smoke or not to smoke, that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to keep a cigar as a museum piece, or to take up matches, and by smoking, ash it… But there’s nothing rotten in Denmark here, or in the Dominican Republic for that matter. In addition to its exotic appearance, the Chulo is also a fine tasting smoke.

The 5 x 54 Chulo (which means something like “cutie”) is available in two wrappers — a natural Ecuadorian and a Brazilian maduro, but the extremities of the cigars are wrapped in the opposite shade. I found that I had to clip most of the natural wrapper off the tip of the maduros I smoked, but the flavor of the Ecuadorian leaf at the foot was detectable for a few brief moments after lighting the cigar.

Construction Notes

The craftsmanship that goes into creating this little zeppelin is apparent at first glance. The dry but dark maduro wrapper creates a striking contrast against the natural leaf at the foot and head of the cigar. Both ends of the Chulo are finely finished.

The roll is solid and the draw is good, though to achieve this it is sometimes necessary to cut a little further down — all the way to the boundary of the maduro leaf — than seems optimal. They burn evenly and need to be ashed only once or twice.

My only criticism is that the cigar gets a bit hot in the last third, but that is probably just a natural hazard of a cigar shaped like this. Despite its advertised ring gauge, the Chulo is a fairly small cigar.

Overall construction very good.

Tasting Notes

The first flavors to come wafting from this little guy are smooth and nutty, due in part to the Ecuadorian wrapper which gets the ball rolling. The smoke is creamy and medium in body.

It doesn’t take long before the natural wrapper gives way to the bittersweet chocolate aroma of Brazilian maduro. The smoke is still smooth, but its character changes dramatically. The sweetness on the nose remains but is soon overpowered by earthiness on the palate, and this becomes the primary theme of the cigar.

In the final section some peppery elements enter to complement the earthiness, and the cigar starts to heat up a little. I found it best to slow my pace at the mid-point of the cigar to keep the smoke cool and to keep the earthy flavors in proportion to the sweetness.

Conclusion

La Tradicion Cubana has a reputation for virtuoso cigar making, and this is exemplified by all of the cigars in the Figurado series, including the Chulo. But I was happy to discover that the cigar is more than mere eye candy — it’s a dandy little smoke with lots of smooth and earthy maduro flavors. It’s also pretty obvious that the chef who whipped up Sabor Cubano was supervising the design of the Chulo as well.

I’ll be looking forward to trying the natural version one of these days, but for now I can vouch for the maduro: it’s good. Boxes of ten sell for around $60 USD, which is a fantastic price considering the craftsmanship required to make these two-toned perfectos.

Final Score: 89

Urbano Corojo Robusto

It is with some trepidation that I call Urbano Cigars a “boutique” manufacturer because the term has become a little shopworn. The word has become a mantra for the marketing departments of almost every cigar company, big and small, and I have consequently become wary of it.  But at this stage of the game it appears that Urbano Cigars is in truth a boutique manufacturer, and while no company wants to stay small forever, Urbano is committed to maintaining quality over quantity.

Urbano cigars are made in the Dominican Republic and limited to a total production of 75,000 cigars per year. The Corojo is their flagship blend, a Dominican puro with an assertive corojo wrapper. (The other primary blends are the Connecticut and the Sumatra.) The wrapper is triple fermented for smoothness and aged for three years.  The assembled cigars are then seasoned for at least 90 days before banding and boxing.

The rollers employ entubado bunching, a time-consuming process whereby the filler leaves are rolled into tiny tubes before bunching. This improves the cigar’s draw and eliminates the likelihood of plugging.

Four traditional sizes plus a Sixty are in production:

  • Robusto – 5 x 50
  • Torpedo – 6 x 52
  • Toro – 6 x 50
  • Churchill – 7 x 48
  • Sixty – 6 x 60

Construction Notes

The wrapper on the Urbano Corojo is a weathered, veiny, and rustic colorado maduro. The veins are a bit puckered in places, which I’ve seen on other Dominican wrappers (like La Aurora’s Cien Años) and I usually take this to be a good sign. The cap is functional but adds no aesthetic value to the cigar. I guess this cigar is meant to be smoked and not framed. Very well then.

The draw is excellent, but the burn is not. Over the years I’ve discovered there is a prima donna factor to be reckoned with when smoking certain cigars. Sometimes a difficult burn is an unavoidable side effect of complex flavors — it’s like putting up with a virtuoso’s personality defects. You rarely get an opera star without some temperamental antics. And the corojo wrapper on this cigar is a great example of that. It reminds me a little of the Habana 2000 that was used a few years back — great taste and aroma, horrible burn. It’s a trade worth making. Just keep your lighter handy.

Overall construction: Very good.

Tasting Notes

The Urbano Corojo robusto skips the overture and goes straight to the aria. That’s a diva for you. (Maybe I should say divo instead. There isn’t anything remotely feminine about this cigar.) From the opening bars the flavor is complex and hearty, spicy but not harsh. There are notes of leather, grilled meat, pepper on the back of the palate, and sweet caramel on the nose. The smoke is medium in texture but full flavored. The spice gives the illusion of greater strength, but as the cigar mellows a bit in the middle section it seems on the full side of medium.

The flavors calm down a bit in the second act, but leather and spice predominate with the addition of cocoa and a touch of citrus on the nose. The cigar winds down with charred wood and can get a bit sharp as the curtain falls.

Conclusion

The complexity and temperament of this cigar demand attention from the smoker, and that’s not entirely a bad thing.  I don’t mind touching up a cigar every once in a while if the flavors and aroma are outstanding, which here they are. How’s the phrase go? With great flavors come great responsibility? Hmm. Maybe not. In any case, the Urbano Corojo is not an effortless smoke, but in my opinion it is worth the effort.

Urbano cigars are currently available only from brick and mortal retailers or directly from the Urbano Cigars website. The price for the robusto is around $7 USD.


Final Score: 90

Isabela Miami

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First of all, thanks to the folks at Isabela cigars who were kind enough to send me a sampler pack of their Isabela Miami blend in robusto and esplendido sizes.  According to the promotional material, Isabela was designated the “Best of Miami 2008″ by Ocean Drive Magazine and has recieved 4-star ratings from both Smoke Magazine and Cigar! Cigar! Magazine, so I was looking forward to testing them out myself.

Isabela cigars are blended by Vicente Ortiz, who was born in Cuba and reportedly had a hand in the original Cuban Cohiba blend (hence the “homage” to that famous brand in the Isabela design.) This brand should not be confused with the Phillipine made “Flor de la Isabela;” this cigar is made in Miami by Ortiz and was named for Vicente’s daughter Isabela. With a total of only three experienced cigar makers, including Vicente himself, this is definitely a “boutique” operation.

One of the interesting details about this blend is that each size has a slightly different composition. Four sizes are currently made:

  • Robusto – Honduran wrapper and filler
  • Esplendido – (churchill) Dominican wrapper with Hon/Nic filler  blend
  • Belicoso Fino – Honduran wrapper with Hon/Nic filler blend
  • Torpedo – Connecticut wrapper with DR/Hon filler blend

I had the opportunity to smoke both the Robusto and the Esplendido sizes, and while they seemed to be roughly similar, they each smoked just a little bit differently.

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Robusto

The robusto is a nicely packed cigar with a fine semi-glossy wrapper.  Examining the foot of the cigar, the bunch appears to be solid and consistent with no evidence of stems.  The cap is applied well (though the Esplendido’s triple cap was a little more attractive) and after clipping I found the draw to be spot on perfect.

Up0n taking an initial pre-light draw I was struck by the sweetness of the cap. Evidently the rollers use a sugar cane-based gum rather than a neutral tasting adhesive to finish the heads on these cigars.  It’s been a while since I smoked a cigar like this — not since I unwittingly picked one up in a small Vegas tourist joint on the strip many moons ago. It’s generally not what I prefer, but I decided to keep an open mind about that aspect while I sampled these Isabelas.

The robusto is a very mild flavored, easy smoking cigar. Its starts up a little grassy and gradually takes on a nutty profile. The aroma is quite pleasant, adding a distinctly floral quality to the smoke. I would have guessed this to be a Connecticut Shade or Ecuadorian wrapper, but I’m told it is fact Honduran.

The middle section of the robusto continues on the same road, with herbal and nutty flavors on the palate and a sweet aroma on the nose.  Perhaps it’s due to the mildness of the smoke, but the sweet cap started to get on my nerves. I tried to ignore it, but it proved to be a bigger distraction than I thought it would  be.  So I thought of a solution: this ring gauge, I figured, would fit perfectly in the bowl of one of my pipes. That way I could enjoy the rest of the smoke without the sugar on the cap contaminating my palate.

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Unfortunately that solution was not entirely successful. The cigar smoked well enough, but I was losing the aroma. And that last bowl of Penzance probably didn’t help any.

In any case, I finished this cigar –and a couple more– the old fashioned way, and enjoyed its transition in the last third to an earthier flavor with a touch of pepper on the nose. The sweetness let up a little in the last third, which was welcome.

Esplendido

The Esplendido size shares many of the robusto’s fine qualities, with a couple exceptions. The wrapper is a little drier, more papery looking than the robusto, and the roll is not quite as solid. On the other hand, the caps on these sticks are gorgeous. They have the same excellent draw and burn as the robusto size.

The Esplendido is likewise a fairly mild smoke, with a very smooth and approachable flavor. By contrast with the robusto the flavor is earthier and instead of the robusto’s sweet, floral aroma the Esplendido is musky.  Once again, however, I was distracted by the sweetness of the cap. I thought this time I would try to simply remove the offending extremity by clipping off an inch from the head of the cigar, just to see what would happen.

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Alas, this was not very effective either. The gum that the rollers use must extend up the shank of  the cigar. On the other hand, my stogie surgery afforded me an opportunity to observe how well crafted these cigars are — I was still able to smoke this stick to the band without it uravelling or coming apart.

The middle section of the Esplendido is smooth with a medium-bodied smoke texture; from the initial earthy flavors it develops some cedar. This cigar has no bite whatsoever, and very little aftertaste. It is what I’d characterize as light in flavor, but it still has a little kick to it.

The last third becomes increasingly earthy and I found I had to smoke it carefully at this point to avoid a bitter aftertaste. The finish grows substantially, but never gets oppressive. There is an interesting licorice or anise quality in the last couple inches.

Conclusion

More than anything I was impressed by the construction of these sticks, and were it not for the sweetened tips I think I would have enjoyed them much more. Aside from my personal preference, I think the sugar masked or obscured some of the more delicate qualities of the tobacco. Overlooking that detail, I think the aroma and easy going nature of these cigars would make them great morning or mid-day smokes. I think this blend has potential.

Isabela Cigars are available for purchase from their website. The robustos run around 6.50 USD and the Esplendidos about a buck more.

Final Scores:

Isabela Robusto: 84

Isabela Esplendido: 82

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~cigarfan

El Titan de Bronze Redemption Belicoso

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Antonio Maceo y Grajales was “El Titan de Bronce,” the Bronze Titan. Second in command of the Cuban Liberation Army, he led a comparatively small force of Cuban rebels against the formidable Spanish army during the Cuban War for Independence, slowly bleeding the Spanish of almost a quarter of a million soldiers until he himself fell in battle in 1896.  Due to his ferocity –and his Afro-Cuban complexion– he was called the Bronze Titan.antonio_maceo

El Titan de Bronze is also a small cigar manufacturer based in Little Havana’s famous “Calle Oche” neighborhood, obviously named in honor of the famous Lieutenant General. Established in 1995, the factory is owned by Carlos Cobas, and until a short time ago his cigars could be purchased only at the store.  Level 9 cigar rollers with experience in Havana’s major factories — Partagas, Romeo y Julieta, etc. — make up the front line staff, and Pablo Romay (of La Tradicion Cubana fame) is the master blender for the shop.

Currently Titan de Bronze is producing four lines of cigars — the Gold, Maduro, Cameroon, and this one, the Redemption, which is the fullest bodied of the lot. For the Redemption, Romay wanted to create a cigar with a “medium to full body, no bitterness, and a sweet aftertaste.” To do this he utilizes a Nicaraguan blend for binder and filler coupled with an Ecuadorian Sun Grown Habano wrapper.

The Redemption line is available in four sizes in addition to the Belicoso:

  • Churchill – 7 x 50
  • Toro – 6 x 52
  • Robusto – 5 x 50
  • Coronita – 5.5 x 44

titanred1Since El Titan’s torcedors are all veterans of the Cuban cigar industry, it’s no surprise that they employ Cuban-style rolling and bunching in their cigars — “entubado” bunching to ensure a good draw, and triple caps on the parejo sizes.  The result is an attractive and consistently performing smoke.

The belicoso is a squat 4.5 x 54 cigar with a firm roll and an attractively leathery wrapper. The head is perfectly formed and wrapped. The prelight smell is of grass and cedar, with some richer earthy qualities from the foot.titanred2

Lighting up the 54 ring gauge foot takes some patience, but once lit it smolders nicely. The first couple of puffs are earthy and sweet, similar to Gran Habano’s Corojo #5, and a good jolt of pepper follows. After half an inch this mellows and cedar takes over from the pepper. The ash is flaky and disintegrates when I tap it into the ashtray after an inch or so.

There is a nice amount of complexity to this cigar, with woody and caramel flavors making an appearance after the mid-point. The sweet aftertaste that the blender was seeking is definitely in evidence here, and it combines with the cedary flavors very well. The last section of the cigar gets increasingly spicy, but never biting or bitter.

The Redemption Belicoso smokes like a lighter Nicaraguan style cigar with a sweet edge to it. I didn’t find the cocoa or coffee flavors that often crop up in Nicaraguan cigars, but there’s plenty here to keep your interest for a good 45 minutes. If you’re smoking a cigar from a smaller manufacturer, it’s probably because you’re looking for something new — and the Titan de Bronze Redemption is a refreshing change from the what the big industry players are offering. And to seal the deal: MSRP runs around 5 USD for the belicoso. Very competitive for a Miami-rolled cigar.

Other reviews of El Titan de Bronze Redemption:

Walt smokes the Redemption robusto for The Stogie Review.

Lisa tries the Coronita for Her Humidor.

Jesse’s take on the Belicoso for Cigar Jack.

Zen and the Art of Cigars checks out the Robusto.

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My duties to country and my own political convictions are above all human effort; with these I shall reach the pedestal of freedom or I shall perish fighting for my country’s redemption.

– Antonio de la Caridad Maceo y Grajales

E. Zarzuela Toro Fuerte

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First introduced in 2005, E. Zarzuela is a relative newcomer to the world of “boutique” cigars. This particular line is sometimes called the “Premium” line to distinguish it from Zarzuela’s milder-bodied “EZ” series released in 2006. Both are made in the Dominican Republic.

The Zarzuela website is sparing in detail about the company, but it does tell us that the chief blenders of this cigar — Felix Rodriguez and Eddy Fontana Zarzuela — have previous manufacturing experience with Arturo Fuente and La Gloria Cubana. So they come with impressive credentials.

The Zarzuela Premium has been rated highly in Smoke magazine and by cigarencyclopedia.com, and since I’m always game for a small production cigar I thought I should check it out.

One of the arcane aspects of the cigar industry is the seemingly arbitrary way that different shapes and sizes obtain their frontmarks — why double coronas are often called “churchills” and why toros are sometimes called “corona grandes” and so on. Here is a case in point: this “Toro Fuerte” measures 5 x 50, which is the standard robusto format. But there is no “Robusto.” On the other hand, there are two toro sizes in the line, the 6 x 52 “Toro Grande” and the 6 x 54 “Long Drive.” And to augment this toro madness, the petite coronas are called “Toritos.”

The torpedo size is refreshingly called Torpedo (I would have suggested Toro-pedo) and the 7 x 50 double corona is called, of course, Churchill.

The Zarzuela Premium features a Nicaraguan Cafe Habano wrapper, some Dominican piloto cubano for binding, and filler composed of Nicaraguan ligero and Dominican piloto. Habano, piloto, and ligero…sounds like a powerful brew.

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The wrapper on the Toro Fuerte is a splotchy colorado maduro, but it has a nice oily sheen and a roughshod leathery appearance. The prelight scent is tannic with maybe a tinge of ammonia, just enough to raise a pucker. The roll is solid and the draw quite firm.

The first few puffs taste dry and woody but in just a few seconds the wrapper kicks in a sweet and complex aroma typical of Nicaraguan habano. After smoking for five or ten minutes a solid and uniformly light gray ash forms that adds to the aesthetic appeal of this cigar. The burn is perfectly even up to this point.

Just after the one-third point the draw opens up like a door and this robusto becomes truly enjoyable. The burn is perfectly even and the ash holds solid. It’s not as strong as I had guessed it would be — it’s more a medium body smoke at this point, with a short finish and very little aftertaste. The aroma is the highlight at this point — a sweet, almost fruity perfume that blends well with the woody and leathery base flavors of the tobacco.

At the two-thirds point the body begins a gradual ascent to medium-full, some tannins enter the fray, and the flavor takes on an earthier aspect. The last third gets meatier yet, the finish grows and the aftertaste becomes more mineraly. Meanwhile the wrapper continues its sweet leathery contribution.

This cigar goes through a lot of changes in a short amount of time, but remains balanced all the way. Construction values are also very high. The tannins come heavier in the last third of the cigar, which may be by design, as some smokers love this tart flavor, or it could be youth. If the latter, this cigar will only improve over time.

A box of 24 will run around 100 USD, which in most places puts it in the $5 to $8 per stick range. Very reasonable, I think, for a cigar of this quality. Don’t take the “Fuerte” in its name too seriously, since this turns out to be a solid medium-bodied cigar. The flavors are good, and the aroma is outstanding. If that’s your style, I say go for it.

The E. Zarzuela Toro Fuerte is not a typical Dominican cigar — it’s closer to a Nicaraguan, but less powerful than what you’d expect from Pepin or Padron. And that’s what I love about boutique cigars: they’re usually not what you expect. This is a nice one.

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Las Memorias Cubanas Campanas

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Cigars from Little Havana’s La Tradicion have garnered much praise from fans of boutique stogies. I certainly have nothing against huge conglomerates like Altadis or General because they make quality consistent cigars, but there’s something special about a small run handmade from a mom and pop chinchal. But business being what it is, successful small runs turn into bigger ones, and boutique companies become industry juggernauts.

This has not yet happened to La Tradicion — they are still a relatively small company (though not really a chinchal) and they are growing despite setbacks such as the fire that hit their Calle Ocho shop last November. The fire was suspected as arson, one incident in a string of such tragedies that befell the neighborhood last fall. The fire destroyed the strip mall in which La Tradicion was located, along with the celebrated Libreria Cervantes, a Spanish language book shop. The only items to survive the fire in the galera were some records on computer disks and their cigar store indian.

The only fortunate aspect of the fire was that La Tradicion had already begun a transition to the Dominican Republic under Sanchez’s partner, Pablo Romay. Romay is a veteran of Havana’s Romeo y Julieta factory who emigrated to the U.S. in 1994. He began rolling cigars for La Tradicion in 2000 and Sanchez quickly promoted him in recognition of his skills and management abilities. After several years in the Little Havana location Sanchez began to explore a move to the Dominican as a solution to labor difficulties and the rising cost of doing business… expenses like fire insurance, and rebuilding your factory after some asshat burns it down.

La Tradicion still maintains an office in Miami, but the new factory in Santiago — Real Tabacalera Sanchez-Romay– is now the main production facility.

Luis Sanchez succinctly describes La Memorias Cubanas this way: “Light wrapper. Full body.” Sometimes less is more… except when it comes to ring gauge. La Tradicion has set records for some of the largest ring gauges made — and this line follows the trend. “Campanas” is a traditional torpedo-shape production vitola; the Cuban Bolivar Belicoso Fino is one of the more common examples, but at 6 1/2 x 60 the LMC Campanas is a bit larger than the traditional vitola.

The wrapper is a silky claro Ecuadorian Sumatra. The filler is a blend of Dominican and Nicaraguan leaf, bound up in a selection from Honduras. The result is a nice looking, if somewhat unwieldy cigar. Between the fingers it feels like grasping a tree branch. The nice thing about a torpedo is that it allows you to choose the aperture of the opening depending on where you cut it. Otherwise, you’re stuck with a jaw breaker.

Las Memorias Cubanas come equipped with a thin cedar sheath — this imparts a distinctly woody scent to the wrapper and the prelight draw. There is an occasional small green blemish on a couple of these, but nothing to be concerned about.

This torpedo draws well and lights easily, even though it seems like a large area to light. It sort of felt like painting the foot with fire. Once it was lit it burned very well and needed no further attention. All the construction tests were passed with flying colors.

The initial flavor is a little mild, sweet and nutty with a hint of pepper on the nose and in the back of the throat. The weight of the smoke is quite heavy though, and the texture is deliciously creamy. For the first fifteen or twenty minutes this is a very domesticated cigar. At the two-thirds point it revs things up with a spadeful of earth and more generous helpings of pepper. The aroma from the wrapper is really nice — toasty with some delicate semi-floral accents. So far this has balanced really well with the earthier flavors on the tongue.

While I am admiring the solid salt and pepper ash that I’ve built and ashed only once, I become aware of an intensely earthy and quite lengthy finish. The last third of this cigar is quite powerful in terms of flavor, but it loses its sense of balance at this point. The nuances from the wrapper become completely obscured by the dark spice on the tongue, and the flavor itself seems a bit one-dimensional at this point. I found that this cigar is very good up to this point, but I didn’t find it “nubbable.”

I really liked this cigar… up to a point. But that point is where somebody with a taste for heavy earthy cigars might begin to really enjoy it. These will run you around 6 USD a stick, which is quite reasonable. These are very large, very well made cigars. But for me, I think I’ll be sticking to LTC’s Sabor Cubano and La Tradicion Cubana.

-cigarfan