Over the years Guillermo Rico has been a tobacco grower, a leaf broker, and an accomplished catador, or cigar taster, who reportedly can distinguish five different leaves in a single blend. He was born to a family of tobacco growers in Cubita, Columbia, and with his son George is currently the owner of GR Tabacaleras Unidas and the Gran Habano line of cigars. The Ricos have farms in several countries, including Columbia, Costa Rica, and most importantly Nicaragua.
The Ricos established their Danli, Honduras factory, “La Perla Hondureña” in 1996, where they produced cigars for private labels such as Alec Bradley. But with all the experience and knowledge at hand it was inevitable that they would soon turn out their own brands.
The Ricos take great pride in the blending and production of their cigars, starting with Habano and Corojo seeds and finishing with draw testing individual cigars for quality control. All of their cigars are bunched using the traditional “entubar” method and are finished with triple caps. These are truly beautiful cigars — I had to get a close up shot of the cap on the 3 Siglos above because it’s really a work of art.
The first three Gran Habano blends — the #1 Connecticut, the #3 Habano, and the #5 Corojo — were introduced in 2003 and gained ground quickly due to their very high quality to price point ratio. These are great cigars regardless of price, but affordability is always attractive. Following on this came the V.L . (Very Limited) line in 2005, and last year the 3 Siglos was finally unveiled.
The Tres Siglos cigars use three types of ligero from three different countries — Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Columbia (Cubita) — in its filler blend, bound up in a Nicaraguan Habano leaf and capped with a Nicaraguan Corojo Shade Grown wrapper. Cuban style cigars often have a flattened rather than a rounded cap, but this one is almost as level as the foot. The wrapper is deliciously oily and and the stick weighs heavily in the hand.
The Gran Robusto is an imposing and impressive looking cigar with a 54 ring gauge; at six inches long it’s really more of a toro size. Commercial vitolas have always piqued my curiosity — why gran robusto instead of toro? Why double corona rather than churchill? Why 3 Siglos and not 3 Ligeros? (I actually wrote Siglo III earlier and had to go back and correct it. Maybe there’s something subliminal going on here… ) But when it comes down to it, the cigar must speak for itself. Or smoke for itself. With my assistance, of course.
The broad flat cap invites a punch, though carefully shearing off the cap with a cutter might work in a pinch. A pre-light test draw reveals an easy pull — maybe too easy. There is no resistance at all. Checking the barrel for loose fill and soft spots returns a negative, so the frictionless draw appears to be by design.
I subjected the foot of this Gran Robusto to almost 30 seconds of the Blazer’s full-on torch blast until it could finally be weaned from the flame. This would seem to presage burn problems to come, but there were no major issues once it got going.
The initial flavor from the 3 Siglos is a little funky — it reminds me of the Gran Habano #5 with its musty earthiness for the first few pulls. Despite the airy draw this cigar produces nice clouds of medium-bodied smoke and burns very slowly. I budgeted an hour for this cigar but it demanded another 45 minutes after that. I’m glad I brought a book.
In addition to its unusual draw and burn, it leaves a streaky black and gray-brown ash. Very odd coloring. It’s flaky and a little messy, but the cigar burns so slowly that’s it’s nothing to worry about.
As the first musty shot fades into the background it is replaced with a leathery sweet aroma that is almost fruity at times — something like cherries. The smoke is smooth but by the mid-point I am also noticing its potency. This is not a heavy smoke, but it’s big — perhaps it is by virtue of its size that it packs the punch it does.
By the end of the cigar — which requires the peeling of two bands — the flavor is at its height of pepper and spice with a finish that has graduated from negligible to considerable. It isn’t a cigar with dramatic development, but there is enough complexity and idiosyncrasy here to keep my palate interested throughout the course of a very long smoke. And as a final epilogue I noticed it left a residual odor of graham cracker or gingerbread on my finger tips.
The Gran Habano 3 Siglos is in a class of its own and there’s only one way to tell if you’re going to like it — try it. The Gran Robusto is available for around 7 USD and for a great tasting cigar with good performance that lasts almost two hours, this is a pretty reasonable price. I’m not sure I’m ready to snap up a box — not in this size anyway — but I’ll certainly be picking up a few more 3 Siglos at the local shops.