Cain Daytona 654T Torpedo

Cain Daytona

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Well, Mr. Shakespeare, that may be true. But there’s a reason you’ve never heard The Yellow Rhododendron of Texas. And there’s nothing in Holinshed about the War of the Daffodils, is there?

And yet I admit that half the reason I’ve never smoked a Cain cigar is because of the name. The story of Cain in Genesis is not one that I would expect to inspire greatness, unless the mark of Cain can somehow be construed to be a good thing. (Though Herman Hesse does this very thing in his novel Demian, so it’s not an impossibility.)

The other half of the reason is that Cain cigars are composed entirely of ligero tobacco leaf, the strongest and oiliest part of the stalk. Raw power is not really my thing. Ligero is an essential element in many fine blends, but I’ve always thought that smoking a ligero puro would be like sitting down to a tumbler of Bacardi 151. Drinkin’ TNT and smokin’ dynamite. (Yeah,I know — Muddy was smoking something a little different.)

But I love Jalapa tobacco, so when a reader last year mentioned that Cain’s Daytona blend is a Jalapa puro, I had to try it. The Jalapa Valley is the northernmost tobacco growing region of Nicaragua, and the shade afforded by the valley allows the tobacco to be a little more restrained than does the full sun of Esteli. The result is a complex tobacco with a soft and lush flavor.

Cain is made by Studio Tobac, the edgier wing of the Oliva Cigar Company. The cigar is made by Tabacalera Oliva in five sizes, from which the frontmarks take their names:

  • 660
  • 654T (torpedo)
  • 646
  • 550
  • 543

Cain Daytona 2

Construction Notes

The Cain Daytona torpedo arrives with only a foot band, and when this is removed it must stand naked before the world. But like a body builder on the beach, it has the physique to withstand close scrutiny, and seems to invite it. The wrapper is a smooth and attractive colorado maduro, with a touch of oil to highlight some fine veins in the leaf. The roll is even and solid. The cap is not Pepin-perfect, but the head clips easily and the wrapper doesn’t unfurl, which is always my primary concern.

It draws well, burns evenly, and builds a long, strong, dirty gray ash.

Overall construction: Excellent

Tasting Notes

What is immediately apparent about the Cain Daytona is its pungency. The resting smoke is powerful. The wrapper leaf is usually the most aromatic part of a cigar, so catching a whiff from the smoldering foot is one way I try to gauge its aroma. That is not easy to do with this cigar — and an accidental inhalation or even a retrohale might be a deal-breaker.

But the flavors on the palate are quite nice — lots of cocoa over an earthy and mineral-laced foundation. The smoke is not spicy on the tongue, but it leaves a peppery aftertaste. The smoke is not as astringent as a lot of Nicaraguan puros, but the cocoa screams Jalapa.

An odd thing about the Daytona is that the smoke is surprisingly thin. At first I thought the cigar might not be burning properly, but it turns out that the smoke texture is just very light. It isn’t often that a cigar’s body is outmatched by its strength, but here is a great example.

Conclusion

The Cain Daytona torpedo is a fascinating cigar, but as much as I love the tobaccos of Jalapa, I find this one to be unbalanced and thin. The lure of ligero is what the Cain line is founded on, so perhaps the blenders are simply sticking to their guns here — but I think a softer and more sophisticated wrapper leaf would go a long way toward smoothing out the pungency of the ligero and give the smoke a little more weight on the tongue.

On the other hand, if ligero is your thing, the Daytona might make a nice breakfast smoke for you. But not for me.  For now I believe I will stick with Torano’s Single Region to satisfy my craving for Jalapa.

Cain Daytona 3

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La Gloria Cubana Serie R Esteli

Serie R Esteli

La Gloria Cubana has always been associated with the Dominican Republic, so two new blends rolled in Nicaragua are an interesting development for the company. Both blends are in the “Serie R” line, and true to that tradition they’re all wide bodies. The “R” stands for robusto, even though ring gauges for these lines generally exceed the familiar 50/64 inch robusto size.

Both blends are Nicaraguan puros concentrating on the flavors of leaf grown in the Jalapa valley. What distinguishes them is the wrapper — the Serie R Black features a Jalapa ligero, while the Esteli line uses a Jalapa Sol wrapper.

Tobaccos from Jalapa tend to be a little softer and less spicy than those from Esteli, even though these areas are not geographically all that distant from one another.  One of my favorite cigars in recent years is Carlos Torano’s Single Region blend from Jalapa, and I’ve noticed that Nicaraguan cigars that utilize leaf from this area fit my criteria for a great smoke: they tend to be rich in flavor, medium to full in body, and usually won’t knock a lightweight like me into the next county.

As of this writing, only three sizes are in production, all toro or toro-plus sized:

  • No. Fifty-Four – 6 x 54
  • No. Sixty  - 6 x 60
  • No. Sixty-Four – 6 ¼ x 64

Construction Notes

The LGC Serie R Esteli No. 54 appears princely with its dark colorado maduro wrapper and black and silver band. The wrapper is quite oily with some fine veins, and its rich hue makes an impression. The roll is slightly irregular, but solid, and the cap is bit messy yet entirely functional. (If something can be called functional by dint of its removal.) The draw is excellent, and the burn is extremely slow. I was able to stretch this cigar out for a good hour and fifteen minutes and never had a burn issue the while.

Overall construction: Excellent.

Gloria cubana esteli

Tasting Notes

The 54 opens with a sweet and woody character, punctuated by leather and spice. The woody element is sweet and clean, reminding me of juniper more than the cedary aroma typical of so many cigars these days. This toro seems to be more complex in its first third than it is later on, which is a bit unusual, but this may be in part due to the amount of time it takes to smoke. After an hour my taste buds get a bit fatigued and I’m less able to detect subtleties.

The smoke is medium in body and quite smooth. The flavors and aromas presented in the first third reappear in the middle section, though the taste is less clean and takes on a meaty, barbecued tang. The final section continues on that path but the sweetness wanes after a brief flirtation with chocolate.

Conclusion

La Gloria Cubana has a great new blend here, especially for fans of the rich complexity of Jalapa tobaccos. The combination of wood and leather with just the right amount of sweetness really hits the spot this time of year.  I would love to see this cigar in a standard robusto size, but the trend toward large ring gauges is apparently no longer a trend and is now simply what the market is demanding. So I will rest content with the relatively svelte 54.

The Serie R Esteli is available in boxes of 18, and singles go for around $6.50 USD.  Add two bits for the 60, and a buck for the 64. That’s a very respectable price for a cigar of this magnitude and quality.

LGC Serie R Esteli

Final Score: 91

Special thanks to General Cigar for providing samples for review. 

Asylum 13 Fifty

Asylum 13

It’s hard to believe that it has been five years since Camacho was acquired by Davidoff, but it’s true. And while Davidoff has managed to keep the sticks rolling out of the factory in an almost seamless manner, the intervening years have provided new opportunities for Christian Eiroa. Asylum and Asylum 13 are some of the results.

Asylum Cigars are a joint venture of Kevin Baxter and Tom Lazuka, who were later joined by Christian Eiroa. Eiroa formed Tabacaleras Unidas last year as the parent company for several brands including his own CLE and CLE Cuarenta brands, and it appears that Baxter and Lazuka have, well, taken Asylum there.

Asylum Cigars are rolled in the old Tabacos Rancho Jamastran factory in Honduras, a familiar name to Camacho fans. The Asylum 13 is a Nicaraguan puro featuring a dark habano wrapper. The cigar is made in four gobstopping sizes, with the 50-ring Fifty being the runt of the litter.

  • Fifty – 5 x 50
  • Sixty (double toro) – 6 x 60
  • Seventy (double churchill) – 7 x 70
  • Ogre (barber pole) – 7 x 70

Asylum 13

Construction Notes

The Asylum 13 has a slighly oily maduro wrapper that appears quite smooth despite a few prominent veins. The cigar is solidly packed but draws very easily. The burn is even and the ash holds well.

Overall construction excellent.

Tasting Notes

This is a fairly boisterous cigar from the first few puffs to the last. It introduces itself with a potent dose of red pepper and a strong, almost stinging, woody aroma. After an inch or so the spiciness wanes enough to detect more subtle flavors — some earthiness comes through to complement the woody flavors, and there is coffee or cocoa on the nose. A touch of anise appears at times, but fleetingly.

The smoke texture is medium to full in body, but this full-flavored cigar is a brawler from the start. I’ve read a few reviews that state the larger sizes are even stronger, so I think I’ll be sticking with the 50.

Conclusion

One of my favorite cigars from the old Camacho days was the Diploma, but I rarely smoked it because it would invariably leave me on the floor. The Asylum 13 isn’t quite that heavy (nor is it quite as complex) but it’s still a tasty cigar with excellent construction. I hope to find similar flavors in the non-13 Asylum, perhaps with a little less power and a little more complexity.

Judging by the box counts, Asylum 13 is geared for brick-and-mortar sales. The Fifty and Sixty are sold in boxes of 50 cigars, and the Seventy and Ogre are available in boxes of 30. I picked up the Fifty for around $5.00 a stick, which is pretty economical for a boutique smoke.

Asylum 13

Final Score: 88

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

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

Aging Report: Oliva Serie V Lancero 2008

A few years ago I went to my one and only cigar event, a Cigar Aficionado Big Smoke evening at the Venetian Resort on the Las Vegas strip. I waited in the lines, met a few cigar stars, and went home with my swag. It was a good time, but not anything I’d go out of my way to do again. Crowds and noise are just not my thing.

But I do have one outstanding memory from that nicotine-powered, liquor-soaked evening: in the stygian gloom created by hundreds of cigar smokers a stout gentleman walked by me as I was waiting in line (a mob, really) at the La Aurora booth. He was smoking something so distinct and powerful that the aroma found a way through the thick cloud in the room to my nose, which was tickled and might have even twitched. I followed him around the corner and when he stopped to chat with someone I discreetly peered at the cigar in his left hand: an Oliva Serie V.

And I thought, Wow. That’s one I’m going to have to try.

In the four years or five years since then, the Oliva Serie V has become a staple in my humidor. I’m wary of its potency, which is a little outside my comfort zone, but I’m willing to smoke them slowly and carefully in exchange for the intensity of their flavor.

One way to mellow a powerful cigar is to stash it away. And though I have come to the conclusion that most cigars do not benefit greatly from aging, there are a few exceptions, and those exceptional sticks are all fairly strong blends. So when I opened the humidor and spotted an Oliva V Lancero with yellow cello and a 2008 sticker on it, I had to give it a go.

Construction Notes

We found some problems with cracking wrappers in our original review of the Serie V, but I have never experienced that with the lancero. In fact, I have experienced no construction issues with the lancero at any time, not even the occasional tight draw to which cigars with narrow ring gauges are prone. And this one was no different.

Overall excellent construction.

Tasting Notes

Four years in hibernation have mellowed this cigar to an appreciable degree, but the blend is robust enough by design that it is  “mellow” only by comparison with the original article. It begins with a cool and creamy demeanor, gradually heating up as the familiar flavors start rolling in: sweet smoky hardwood and leather in balanced proportions.

The mid-section adds a dose of cocoa which slowly turns darker and more roasted in flavor, eventually coming to resemble espresso or dark roasted coffee.

The last stage is peppery, but it’s not quite as explosive as it once was. There is also an unusual aftertaste to this cigar that I always enjoy — it’s earthy, but slightly herbal, almost like basil.

Conclusion

This slight-looking parejo still makes me a little weak in the knees when the cinder meets the band. The years have slowed the Oliva Serie V lancero down a bit, but not all that much. It’s still a brilliant cigar, and a great candidate for aging.

By an odd coincidence, Oliva just announced a new extension of the Oliva Serie V — the Oliva Serie V Melanio, which will feature a Sumatra seed wrapper grown by the Olivas in Ecuador. The only thing I’m not looking forward to is the price — $8 to 14, their most expensive offering to date. Time to raid the piggy bank again.

Final Score: 90

Padilla Artemis

Padilla’s Artemis series is the first box pressed cigar for Padilla, but just about everything else about it is quite familiar — it’s a Nicaraguan puro utilizing Aganorsa tobacco, and it’s made at the Raices Cubanas factory in Honduras. Those are enticing details, and enough to get my salivary glands going.

Artemis uses Cuban-seed criollo and corojo from Nicaragua’s now-famous Aganorsa company, a tobacco grower affiliated with Casa Fernandez cigars. The line was originally released in 2011 as a brick-and-mortar exclusive, but it now appears to be available online as well.

It looks like the lion from the Dominus line has clawed its way to the top of the advertising department and has been declared the company’s icon. It now appears on the bands for Padilla’s Miami and 1932 lines as well, bringing some needed consistency to the brand’s presentation. (I was always fond of the fountain pen nib on the bands of some of the older blends, but there is something to be said for a single and recognizable emblem.)

Padilla’s Artemis is available in four sizes:

  • Robusto: 5 x 54
  • Torpedo: 6 1/4 x 52
  • Toro: 6 x 54
  • Double torpedo: 6 3/4 x 56

Construction Notes

I’m glad I smoked the Artemis in two sizes, the robusto and the double torpedo, because one was simply superior to the other. Both are nice looking sticks, especially the double torpedo. In reality this is a zepellin perfecto, and a big one, with a finely finished head and foot. (The head and the foot are distinguishable only by the placement of the band.)

The wrapper is a dark colorado maduro with a moderate amount of oil. Both sizes had an accessible draw, and the box press didn’t seem to have much of an effect on the performance of the cigar. But I experienced a burn problem with the double torpedo that I didn’t with the robusto, and it wasn’t the irregular burn that is the hallmark of many box-pressed cigars.  This was a more serious problem that affected the taste of the cigar — the wrapper would not burn in sync with the binder and filler, resulting in a flavor that was at first merely tepid, but quickly made it hot, bitter, and unbalanced.

For this reason I’m going to focus on the robusto and not the double torp.

Overall construction: Very good for the robusto; Needs improvement for the double torpedo.

Tasting Notes

If you’re familiar with the Padilla 1932 or some of the cigars from Casa Fernandez you’ll recognize the flavor of Aganorsa tobacco. It’s a little different in the Artemis, but it’s there. The first notes are of leather with some sweetness and a little bite. The aroma is slightly fruity, but also reminiscent of hardwood smoke — something like hickory, perhaps. After a minute or two the pepper begins to build on the palate.

The mid-section is earthy but a little sharp. The flavor isn’t quite as clean as Illusione’s “original document” line, but it has that crisp minerally tang which is Aganorsa’s trademark.

The final inch and a half is rich and powerful in flavor, though the cigar is still medium-to-heavy in both body and strength. The last section bottoms out a little as the spice takes over and edges out the subtle notes on the nose.

Conclusion

Fans of Padilla and Aganorsa leaf will probably enjoy the Artemis, though perhaps not as much as some other blends that employ that particular leaf. The flavors are quite pronounced, and in the robusto were well balanced up to the last third of the cigar.

I was more than a little disappointed in the double torpedo, but I would probably pick up the robusto again at the right price. The right price for me is a little south of the MSRP, which is in the 9 to 10 USD range. To be honest, Padilla has already provided this cigar’s competition in the Padilla 1932, and in that contest the winner goes to the elder blend.

Final Score: 86

Due to a memory error in my camera I lost my cigar-in-progress photos. I know you only come here for the articles, but my apologies anyway. 

Casa Magna Domus Magnus Limitada

Casa Magna won the critics’ hearts in 2008 with its original release, the Casa Magna Colorado. It won my heart as well, and its modest price has kept me coming back for more. So it’s no surprise that the team of Quesada and Plasencia have extended the brand twice now, and as far as I’m concerned it’s just getting better.

Domus Magnus is a Nicaraguan puro utilizing a sun grown wrapper leaf from Jalapa. The blenders do not disclose too much detail about the rest of the cigar’s composition, merely noting that the binder and filler are Nicaraguan. Only two sizes are made, a  5 3/4 x 52 size called “Optimus” and a slightly larger 6 1/2 x 55 parejo called “Primus.” The cigars are presented in 10-count boxes in a limited release.

SAG Imports states that the Domus Magnus

…is a full bodied cigar that should be enjoyed after a steak dinner and paired with a single malt Scotch from the Speyside sub-region of the Scotland Highlands.

 So I naturally smoked mine after a burger and paired it with a Sierra Nevada pale ale from the sub-region of my refrigerator’s bottom shelf.

Construction Notes

The Casa Magna Domus Magnus is a box-pressed cigar presented in boxes of 10.  The wrapper is a soft ruddy color, somewhat dry but smooth with a few fine veins. The cap is well constructed and terminates in a pig-tail which has been clipped instead of tied in the traditional knot.

I really dislike foot bands, but this one is easy to remove and discard. The draw is firm and the roll is solid. I would have preferred the draw to be slightly looser, but the few reservations I had about the draw were compensated by a rock-solid ash. The burn was mostly even, above average for a pressed stick, and required no correction.

Overall excellent construction.

Tasting Notes

My first impression was that this is a much smoother cigar than the Casa Magna Colorado. The smoke texture is mild to medium, but the flavors are quite complex, especially on the nose. Woody aromas predominate — cedary spice and softer notes of sandalwood, while the palate flavor is understated, at least for the first half of the cigar.

In the second half the smoke picks up a little more body and palate structure as flavors of nuts and earth emerge. The scents on the nose continue to complement these new flavors, but the increasing richness of the earthy component tends to overpower those more delicate subtleties. Some black pepper appears in the last inch of the cigar, just to verify the blend’s Nicaraguan birthright.

Conclusion

I was pleased but not thrilled by the Domus Magnus’ opening act, but the dramatic transition in the second half was truly impressive. A little more body in the first part of the smoke and this could easily be a Top Ten cigar for me. As it is, it’s still a very fine cigar.

At around 8 to 9 USD this incarnation of the Casa Magna is not a cheap thrill, but for fans of complex and medium-bodied cigars, I think it’s well worth the expense. This is a limited edition blend, so be sure to snap up a few of these if you can.

Final Score: 90

Torano Single Region Jalapa Serie

The word terroir means “land” in French, but it is most commonly used in the wine trade to indicate the qualities that are imparted to grapes by the growing environment. This basically comes down to soil quality and weather, both of which have a tremendous impact on the quality of the fruit.

The same thing goes for tobacco (and coffee, and probably all agricultural products.) Tobacco is a resilient plant that will grow almost anywhere, but black tobacco suitable for cigar making is much more finicky and is in many ways sensitive to the terroir. A tobacco grower does everything he can to produce the ideal conditions that will result in the type of leaf he wants –  from buttressing the soil with minerals and fertilizers to shading the plants with cloth to create a lighter shade of wrapper leaf.

Cigar blends usually incorporate leaves from several different regions to create a balance of the best qualities of each region. As an example (maybe not a great one), piloto cubano from the Dominican Republic might be used for spice, combined with a milder volado leaf to promote an even burn; a broadleaf binder from Connecticut might be used to give it a round leathery taste, and it might be finished off with a maduro wrapper from the San Andres Valley of Mexico for a chocolatey sweetness. It would be unusual to find tobacco with all of those qualities in one region, let alone one farm.

But that is exactly what the Toraño family has done with its Single Region release. Part of the reason they are able to do this is because it’s a hell of a region — the Jalapa Valley of Northern Nicaragua is one of the most fertile and productive places to grow cigar tobacco outside of Cuba. The Jalapa Valley is known for the sweetness and rich flavor of its tobacco, and is sometimes contrasted with tobacco from Esteli, which tends to be sharper and stronger.

All of the tobaccos in the Toraño’s Single Region come from one farm called El Estero after a stream that runs through the farm. Three sizes are in production:

  • 5 x 52 – Robusto
  • 6 x 54 – Toro
  • 7 x 50 – Churchill

Construction Notes

The Toraño Single Region Toro is a finely crafted cigar. The wrapper is ruddy, slightly veiny and rough, but it’s oily and luscious all the same. The roll is solid and the head is well formed. The neatly wound triple cap clips cleanly. The tobacco is packed tightly but it draws perfectly. The burn is slow, albeit somewhat uneven at times, and the ash is remarkably dark. I’ve only seen ashes this dark on Cuban and a few Nicaraguan cigars.

Overall construction: excellent.

Tasting Notes

The Single Region toro is nicely balanced from the very first puff. The smoke is soft and subtle with a peppery note that serves as an accent rather than the central flavor. It is medium in body, but high-toned with a notably acidic zing. Notes of cedar are prominent.

Cocoa and caramel come to the fore in the second stage, creating a sweetness that is almost syrupy at times. The aroma is complex, balancing cedar with something slightly fruity. It’s fairly unusual.

The last third becomes more concentrated as the pepper returns and the tobacco picks up a touch of char. At one point I found overtones of whisky on the nose, or maybe butterscotch. The body of this cigar seems to be uniformly medium, with a relatively light nicotine kick.

Conclusion

Based on some lukewarm reviews I was prepared to be underwhelmed by the Single Region, but it turns out this is a fantastic smoke. It reminds a little of Pepin Garcia’s Troya Classico, another medium-bodied Nicaraguan puro that I like a lot (and which is unfortunately no longer in production.) In some ways it’s a classic Nicaraguan cigar — woody with notes of cocoa and that characteristic zing — but it’s more complex than most cigars in its class, particularly on the nose.

This is a really interesting cigar that is both wonderfully complex and also very easy to smoke. I enjoyed it a lot, and with a price around 5 or 6 dollars, I’m think I’m going to be enjoying it a lot more in the near future.

Final Score: 92

Padilla Dominus Robusto

Padilla is best known for his Miami blend and the year-branded lines that were created while Jose “Don Pepin” Garcia was manufacturing his cigars: Signature 1932, Padilla 1948, and the Serie 68. When Pepin withdrew from the partnership in 2009, the brand names stayed. There is some debate about how much the blends really changed at this point — to me they seem very similar but not exactly the same. In any case I think the new ones are just as good, if not better, than the old ones.

Dominus is one of the post-Pepin brands that was released in 2009. The name “Dominus” means master or lord in Latin, which along with the lion on the band seems to indicate that Padilla has not suffered any loss of self-esteem after the Pepin thing. (As he shouldn’t, because his cigars are still among the best Nicaraguan puros on the market.)

The Dominus  line is composed of Cuban seed corojo from the Esteli and Jalapa regions of Nicaragua. The tobacco was harvested in 2007, but is called Corojo 2006 — I’m not sure if that refers to the strain of tobacco or the crop year. The flavors here are clearly Nicaraguan, but I’ll go a bit further out on the limb and say this is Aganorsa — to me, it has that sweet caramel tang that is so characteristic of Aganorsa leaf in Illusione, Casa Fernandez, and the Padilla 32. Whatever it is, it’s good stuff.

Seven sizes are in production:

  • Perla – 4 x40
  • Robusto – 5 x 50
  • Torpedo – 6 1/8 x 52
  • Corona Gorda – 5 5/8 x 46
  • Toro – 6 x 52
  • Churchill – 7 x 48
  • Double Robusto – 5 x 54

Construction Notes

The Dominus robusto has an oily, dark colorado maduro wrapper. It’s ruddy with a few veins, but very rich in appearance. The cap is wound three to four times and set solidly on the head of the cigar. The roll is compact, almost hard to the touch, which results in a firm but still productive draw. The cigar burns evenly and builds a solid dark ash.

Overall construction very good.

Tasting Notes

The robusto opens with pepper, cedar, and a sweetness on the nose that is typical of Aganorsa leaf. It has a caramel-cocoa sweetness to it, with a whiff of hazelnut.

After an inch or so the cigar deepens into leather and the finish lengthens, leaving a peppery aftertaste. It’s bracing, rather than harsh or sharp tasting. The woody notes fade a bit on the palate but the aroma still carries the cedar. At the mid-way point the cigar is medium bodied.

The Dominus grows earthier in its last stage. The woody notes get a little darker, turning from cedar to hard wood with a touch of clove. The sweetness on the nose continues, like caramel spiked coffee. The band, which is fairly large, must be removed to reach the final smokeable inch of the cigar. At this point the potency of the blend is apparent.

Conclusion

The Padilla Dominus is a very tasty smoke with fine construction values. I’m tempted to say it’s a little earthier, and a little more rambunctious than the Signature 1932 and Miami blends. (If palate memory serves, which it may not.) Regardless, I love the dark woody flavor and sweet edge of this tobacco. And it’s nice to start off the year with a hit.

The Dominus is reasonably priced for the quality of the cigar, but it’s still on the high end of the spectrum at around $9 USD for the robusto. At this price it is in competition with several other very good blends in a similar style (Illusione), so we’ll see how it fares over the long run.

Final Score: 91

Other Reviews of Note

Walt and Mike team up on the Dominus for the Stogie Review (and it makes Walt’s Top Ten List for 2010.)

Adam digs the torpedo for Fire Up That Cigar, but he prefers the 1932.

The Perfect Draw gives the robusto a 93.

99 Cigar Guy gets uncharacteristically gushy on the churchill.