I’ve been working my way through a couple of Cuban Crafters sampler boxes (which are a steal, by the way, at 20 USD for 12 different cigars) and have worked up to the Tabacalera Esteli toros. So far out of the sampler boxes I’ve really liked La Carolina torpedos, but I’ve felt a little lukewarm about everything else. I was hoping the Tabacalera Esteli would bump up my opinion a little bit.
As usual, the Cuban Crafters website waxes resplendent about their product, but here are the fundamentals:
The Filler is a triple-cured aged Cuban Seed Habano 2000 tobacco. The Binder and Wrapper are aged Cuban Seed Habano Criollo, also harvested from their own fields.
The Vegas de Tabacalera Esteli is a Nicaraguan puro, with all the tobacco coming from Kiki Berger’s farms near Esteli. There is a nice (but way too short) interview with Kiki in the Summer 2006 issue of Smoke magazine, where he explains his philosophy of cigar blending:
Smoke: Why grow tobacco and make cigars in Nicaragua?
Berger: It’s not just Nicaragua; it’s the Esteli area. The volcanic ground is very thick and dark, so you get this flavor that is sweet and strong. A lot of people want to make cigars very strong but they forget about taste. My cigars have full body, but they also have taste. Just making it strong is not enough. I learned that from my friend Orlando Padron, and I learned that from my father. When people try to copy Padron they make the mistake of making a strong cigar without any flavor. That’s the difference between me and other manufacturers. They want to to make a cigar that knocks you on your behind, but that’s not good. You have to give character to a cigar.
The VdTE toro has a rough and dark colorado maduro wrapper, though calling it colorado maduro is cutting it close — it’s nearly dark enough to be a full maduro. The roll is somewhat soft, but the draw is perfect.
It lights with some difficulty. The wrapper seems a little reluctant to burn, and this will be a continuing problem as the cigar progresses to its final destination in the butt bucket.
The first flavor is woody, but sharp. The first inch is fairly harsh, and then it mellows a bit into a rich wood and charcoal combination. I would say this flavor is fairly commonplace for Nicaraguan cigars, but here it seems a little unbalanced. It’s a very forthright full bodied smoke.
I like the aroma though — despite the wrapper’s burning problems it produces a very nice scent of juniper and something slightly floral, which I find unusual for a cigar with a heavy swing. Unfortunately it’s overpowered by the charcoal flavor and an uneven burn that is really distracting.
This stick has been at 65% RH for about a month now, so I can’t blame the burning issue on storage problems. The wrapper has really nice aromatic qualities, but it definitely has some burn issues.
Overall, I liked this cigar. It’s a full bodied, rich tasting cigar with an unusual and great smelling aroma, but the combustion problems would keep me from springing for a box.