Cigars from Little Havana’s La Tradicion have garnered much praise from fans of boutique stogies. I certainly have nothing against huge conglomerates like Altadis or General because they make quality consistent cigars, but there’s something special about a small run handmade from a mom and pop chinchal. But business being what it is, successful small runs turn into bigger ones, and boutique companies become industry juggernauts.
This has not yet happened to La Tradicion — they are still a relatively small company (though not really a chinchal) and they are growing despite setbacks such as the fire that hit their Calle Ocho shop last November. The fire was suspected as arson, one incident in a string of such tragedies that befell the neighborhood last fall. The fire destroyed the strip mall in which La Tradicion was located, along with the celebrated Libreria Cervantes, a Spanish language book shop. The only items to survive the fire in the galera were some records on computer disks and their cigar store indian.
The only fortunate aspect of the fire was that La Tradicion had already begun a transition to the Dominican Republic under Sanchez’s partner, Pablo Romay. Romay is a veteran of Havana’s Romeo y Julieta factory who emigrated to the U.S. in 1994. He began rolling cigars for La Tradicion in 2000 and Sanchez quickly promoted him in recognition of his skills and management abilities. After several years in the Little Havana location Sanchez began to explore a move to the Dominican as a solution to labor difficulties and the rising cost of doing business… expenses like fire insurance, and rebuilding your factory after some asshat burns it down.
La Tradicion still maintains an office in Miami, but the new factory in Santiago — Real Tabacalera Sanchez-Romay— is now the main production facility.
Luis Sanchez succinctly describes La Memorias Cubanas this way: “Light wrapper. Full body.” Sometimes less is more… except when it comes to ring gauge. La Tradicion has set records for some of the largest ring gauges made — and this line follows the trend. “Campanas” is a traditional torpedo-shape production vitola; the Cuban Bolivar Belicoso Fino is one of the more common examples, but at 6 1/2 x 60 the LMC Campanas is a bit larger than the traditional vitola.
The wrapper is a silky claro Ecuadorian Sumatra. The filler is a blend of Dominican and Nicaraguan leaf, bound up in a selection from Honduras. The result is a nice looking, if somewhat unwieldy cigar. Between the fingers it feels like grasping a tree branch. The nice thing about a torpedo is that it allows you to choose the aperture of the opening depending on where you cut it. Otherwise, you’re stuck with a jaw breaker.
Las Memorias Cubanas come equipped with a thin cedar sheath — this imparts a distinctly woody scent to the wrapper and the prelight draw. There is an occasional small green blemish on a couple of these, but nothing to be concerned about.
This torpedo draws well and lights easily, even though it seems like a large area to light. It sort of felt like painting the foot with fire. Once it was lit it burned very well and needed no further attention. All the construction tests were passed with flying colors.
The initial flavor is a little mild, sweet and nutty with a hint of pepper on the nose and in the back of the throat. The weight of the smoke is quite heavy though, and the texture is deliciously creamy. For the first fifteen or twenty minutes this is a very domesticated cigar. At the two-thirds point it revs things up with a spadeful of earth and more generous helpings of pepper. The aroma from the wrapper is really nice — toasty with some delicate semi-floral accents. So far this has balanced really well with the earthier flavors on the tongue.
While I am admiring the solid salt and pepper ash that I’ve built and ashed only once, I become aware of an intensely earthy and quite lengthy finish. The last third of this cigar is quite powerful in terms of flavor, but it loses its sense of balance at this point. The nuances from the wrapper become completely obscured by the dark spice on the tongue, and the flavor itself seems a bit one-dimensional at this point. I found that this cigar is very good up to this point, but I didn’t find it “nubbable.”
I really liked this cigar… up to a point. But that point is where somebody with a taste for heavy earthy cigars might begin to really enjoy it. These will run you around 6 USD a stick, which is quite reasonable. These are very large, very well made cigars. But for me, I think I’ll be sticking to LTC’s Sabor Cubano and La Tradicion Cubana.