Well, if it isn’t another San Andres Maduro cigar! Lucky for me, I can’t get enough of them. This entry is a recent blend from Ezra Zion, introduced last year at the annual IPCPR show. The initials stand for “Fathers of Hoover and Kelly,” owners of the company. The FHK is in the company’s “Honor Series,” so naturally this cigar is made in tribute to those gentlemen.
Beneath the FHK’s alluring maduro capa lies an Indonesian binder and filler leaves from Brazil and Nicaragua. The cigar is rolled at the Plasencia factory in Nicaragua in four sizes:
- 5.5 x 50 – “Inspired”
- 7 x 44 – “Truth”
- 7 x 54 – “Stature”
- 6 x 52 – “Character” (Belicoso)
The lancero-sized “Truth” is a well-made and attractive cigar. The bands are appropriately elaborate for a tribute cigar, and they set off the rusticity of the maduro wrapper. The foot band peels off easily. The roll is firm, as is the draw, but this does not inhibit smoke production in the least. The head is nicely triple-wound and the cigar burns evenly for the most part.
The “Truth” opens smoothly with coffee flavors and a slightly sweet chocolate on the nose. (In this case, the Truth does not hurt.) The smoke texture is dense and chewy, a perfect accompaniment for the richness of the flavor. The centerpiece of this cigar is its wrapper, but the fillers provide an earthy and at times herbal foundation which blends well with the aroma. In the last third a moderate spiciness enters to keep things interesting.
Ezra Zion’s FHK lancero is smooth without being simplistic — it reminds me a little of the Emilio AF-1, perhaps with a little more complexity. A delicious smoke for lovers of San Andres Maduro, and for maduro smokers generally.
Rodrigo Cigars began as a burning curiosity about the cigar-making process when George Rodriguez boarded a plane bound for the Dominican Republic in 2010. Soon that curiosity would blossom into a passion, a mission, and three cigar blends. (Rodriguez’s story is both funny and touching — check it out here.)
Based on the name of the blend I anticipated that the Rodrigo Fortaleza blend would be a powerful smoke, but I was surprised by its complexity. Most cigars in this class lean heavily on the pepper and char and not much else can break through. Not so with the Fortaleza.
The Fortaleza features a dark Ecuadorian Habano wrapper over a Dominican binder and filler blend. Four sizes are in production:
- 5 1/8 x 43 – “Absoluto”
- 5 1/2 x 50 – “Forte”
- 6 3/4 x 48 – “Elegante”
- 6 x 50 – “Cinco”
The Ecuadorian wrapper is dark, darker than some maduros, and thick, with some prominent veins. It’s slightly weathered in appearance and the seams are boldly apparent. Between the name of the cigar (meaning fortress, or strength, or resolution) and its rough-hewn appearance, the “Forte” strikes a formidable pose. The pig-tail cap is a mark of careful execution and the cigar is otherwise firm, though a tad bumpy. The draw is excellent. The only flaw might be an uneven burn, but I would almost expect that from a tough guy like this one.
The initial burst of black pepper is nearly a foregone conclusion. “What did you expect?” it seems to ask. “Gardenias?” The pepper is accompanied by sweet charcoal on the nose and a long finish with an earthy aftertaste. But as the cigar burns the pepper dissipates and some surprises are unveiled. Cedar and coffee are unexpected guests. They’re like your favorite aunt showing up on poker night with a case of your favorite microbrew. Unexpected, but welcome.
The Forteleza’s strength (if I can put it that way) is still power, but it’s not a monotonous power. I’m not sure I could handle this in a churchill or toro size, but the robusto was a nice little punch in the gut, and it is surprisingly sophisticated.
Ezra Zion’s FHK is a step up in strength from the Emilio AF-1, and Rodrigo’s Fortaleza gives the crank another turn. They’re all great cigars, but if I keep going in this direction I’m going to get myself in trouble. Next up will be something a little milder.