Sindicato Corona Gorda

Sindicato

Sindicato is a clever name for a cigar — it has that underworld overtone,  that slightly sinister suggestion of menace that is so common in cigar marketing these days. But the name is a classic red herring. Sindicato has nothing to do with the mob — it’s the Spanish term for a labor union. Leave the gun. Take the chaveta.

Sindicato Cigars are made by a union of cigar industry veterans: retailers, manufacturers, lobbyists, the whole kit. Their motto is “Join the Union.” After smoking a couple of their flagship brand cigars, I believe I will.

Sindicato is a Nicaraguan puro blended by Arsenio Ramos. The cigar is made in the Casa Fernandez factory, so it should be no surprise that the wrapper is a shade-grown Corojo leaf grown on the Fernandez farms in Jalapa. Under the hood is a double binder from Esteli and a filler blend of leaves from Jalapa and Esteli. I will openly confess my weakness for Jalapa tobacco, and I’ve been a fan of Aganorsa leaf from the early days of Tabacalera Tropical, so I was stoked to fire this one up.

Sindicato was released on March 1, 2014, in six sizes:

  • Corona Gorda – 5 1/2 x 48
  • Robusto – 5 x 54
  • Toro – 6 x 54
  • Belicoso – 6 1/8 x 54
  • Churchill – 7 x 52
  • Magnum – 6 x 60

Sindicato 2

Construction Notes

The Corona Gorda is a square pressed cigar with a soft and supple milk-chocolate brown wrapper. The cigar feels light in the hand, but it’s packed well and burns slowly. The foot is unfinished (flagged) and the head sports a tight pigtail cap. The draw is excellent, producing a consistent volume of medium-bodied smoke, and the cigar burns evenly.

This is a handsome cigar, obviously rolled by experts.

Overall construction: Excellent.

Tasting Notes

The Sindicato Corona Gorda is a medium strength cigar with notably aromatic complexity. The cigar starts out as smooth as its silky wrapper leaf and never gets harsh. Initial flavors are of roasted nuts with a dash of black pepper, but the aroma steals the show. It’s too complex to call it cedar –it smells to me like sandalwood. There is a sweetness to the scent that complements the flavors on the palate, a nutty brown sugar sweetness that grows earthier and more peppery as the cigar burns.

The finish is lengthy, and though it becomes fairly spicy in second half it stays smooth to the end.

Sindicato 3

Conclusion

Sindicato is an elegant and extraordinary smoke. I haven’t seen anyone do a flavor map for this cigar yet, but if I made one it would cover the whole spectrum. Everything from wood to pepper to floral scents — it pretty much made my palate light up like a Christmas tree. It’s smooth and sweet, very easy to smoke, and never boring. It’s one of the best new cigars I’ve tried in a long time.

Just one catch though, and you knew this was coming. You don’t get to join the Union without paying your dues. While the price is not exactly prohibitive, it is still considerable. The Corona Gorda runs around $10 USD, with larger sizes commanding commensurately larger fees. And you won’t find these in the discount aisle anytime soon, or ever, so save up your shekels. It’s a worthy investment.

Final Score: 94

 

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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

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.

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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