United Tobacco’s “EO Premium Brands” are blended by the team of Erik Espinosa and Eddie Ortega, (the E and the O of the brand name.) Previously they have partnered with Rocky Patel to produce the REO and Vibe Corojo cigars, and they also have a line of flavored smokes called Bluebanana made in the Cojimar factory. But for their most recent project they enlisted the expertise of Jose “Pepin” Garcia and the result is pure Pepin.
The 601 Serie are produced in Pepin’s Tabacalera Cubana in Esteli, and first appeared on the market last year. So far there are two versions, the black label Connect and the red label Habano. (A box pressed maduro is also forthcoming.)
One of the goals of the blenders was to create a full bodied Connecticut cigar, which on the face of it sounds like a contradiction in terms. Connecticut Shade is smooth and creamy, notable for its soft aroma and beautiful texture. It’s not really Pepin’s style, which tends more toward full flavor and vibrant potency. Topping Pepin’s peppery Nicaraguan tobaccos with an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper sounds a little like experimental cuisine, dipping jalapeños in chocolate or something. It might work, but it’s not exactly intuitive.
There were no construction problems to speak of — the burn was even and the draw perfectly generous. It isn’t the prettiest Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, but I’m sure it was picked for other reasons. This wrapper has a big job to do, so aesthetic appeal was probably not the first item on the blenders’ list of desired qualities.
Like many of Pepin’s productions, the 601 Connect opens with a good dose of pepper delivered straight to the sinuses. When you light this cigar, you know you’re smoking. It’s full bodied from start to finish, but it goes through a fair number of changes and shows a lot of complexity. The wrapper imparts a really nice buttery aroma to an otherwise spicy Nicaraguan brew — an unusual combination, but for whatever reason it works. After an inch or so the spice dies down a little and makes way for a citric, dry wood type of taste. It’s not quite astringent, but it’s dry.
After the mid-point the smoke becomes creamier in texture and the flavor takes on a leathery aspect. The spice lightens up a bit, but this cigar never strays too far from the pepper mill. The aroma from the wrapper is a little bit overpowered by the full bodied blend at this point, but it’s still present enough to maintain the balance of the cigar. About half way through the last third my nose was running so much that I couldn’t really enjoy the cigar anymore so I laid it to rest.
For some reason this cigar makes me think of the baptism scene in the Godfather. While the discreet and dignified wrapper is pledging fidelity to God and renouncing Satan, the filler and binder are taking out the family’s enemies in brutal and symbolic fashion. Meanwhile the moviegoer– or the cigar smoker– is enthralled by both at once. And like Michael Corleone, this cigar is a paradox of sorts, a gentleman and loving father and at the same time a killer without remorse. If nothing else, this is a very dramatic cigar!