Ezra Zion FHK & Rodrigo Fortaleza

Ezra Zion FHK

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rodrigo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rodrigo 2

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

 

About these ads

Ezra Zion Jamais Vu (Inception)

jamais vu

Up until a few weeks ago this cigar was known to the world as Ezra Zion Inception. But it turns out there is another company making cigars under the Inception name, and rather than engage in the legal grappling that often occurs with trademark disputes, Ezra Zion made the honorable decision to simply change the name of their blend. Jamais Vu is not the next big wing chun master. It is a French phrase meaning something like “deja vu,” but turned on its head. From the Ezra Zion website:

JAMAIS VU is defined as “…a sense of eeriness and the observer’s impression of seeing the situation for the first time, despite rationally knowing that he or she has been in the situation before.”

It’s an interesting choice of names, considering the situation which led to the name change. But a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet, to quote the Bard. Of course the Bard also says that men of few words are the best men, so I’ll get down to business.

Jamais Vu is a Nicaraguan puro with a 2007 corojo wrapper. Two different binders — corojo and criollo — from two different years hold in place a blend of viso, ligero, and medio tiempo tobaccos, all aged five to six years. The blend was released in 2012 (under its former name, Inception) in three sizes:

  • Corona Gorda – 6 1/2 x 54
  • Exquisito – 6 1/4 x 52
  • Gran Robusto – 5 1/4 x 50

Construction Notes
Upon picking up my first Inception/Jamais Vu Gran Robusto I wondered if I should discard the foot band, as is my customary practice, or if I should preserve it as an item of historical interest. I put the band aside for further consideration, but I really like the fact that it comes off so easily.

The wrapper on the Jamais Vu is an attractive and oily colorado maduro. Some fine veins run down and across the cigar. It looks leathery but not weathered. The bunch is solid, though there are interesting seams that are detectable beneath the wrapper. I’m not sure if this is the result of using two binders, or if it has to do with the bunching process. The seams are not obvious, and would not be noticed by most normal cigar smokers. (By the way, if you’re reading this, you’re probably not normal. We count that a good thing.)

The cap is beautiful and the draw is perfect. The burn was a little uneven, but not problematic.

Overall construction: Very good.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tasting Notes

The first flavors out of the gate are quintessentially Nicaraguan, and the best kind of Nicaraguan. The first few puffs are spicy without the sting, and notes of hardwood and caramel soon follow. The flavors are clean and bright with an acidic tang familiar to fans of Illusione’s Original Document and some of Padilla’s cigars (the Aganorsa years).

The smoke texture is medium to full in body, and the cigar becomes considerably potent in the last third.

The cigar develops a mild bite, but the combination of wood and earth on the palate with caramel and cocoa on the nose is an adequate distraction from a little burn on the tongue. This cigar is an engine that keeps the flavors pumping and jumping from beginning to end.

Conclusion

Jamais Vu reminds me of a number of other premium Nicaraguan smokes, which I sort of lump into a flavor bin I call “Aganorsa” (whether it is actually Aganorsa leaf or not.) Los Blancos Nine comes to mind, as do a number of Casa Fernandez cigars (but in my estimation this Ezra Zion blend is smoother). There is a bright and sweet quality to this tobacco which is really distinctive, and the caramel and cocoa from the corojo wrapper combines with the spice in the core to create a beautiful smoke.

Retail price looks to be around $9 USD. This is a cigar worth going out of your way to find and enjoy.

Jamais Vu

Final Score: 92