Pelo de Oro Habano from Felipe Gregorio gets its name from the strain of tobacco used for its wrapper. Pelo de Oro — Spanish for “golden hair” — is grown in the highlands of Costa Rica by John Vogel’s Tabacos de la Cordillera, a plantation that specializes in the cultivation of tobacco from “ancestral” Cuban seeds. Over the past twenty years Vogel has accumulated a bank of pre-embargo Cuban seeds obtained from sources in the industry and his colleagues in the field of tobacco genetics.
Whether this tobacco is really comparable to the stuff that went into pre-embargo Cubans is at controversy. At the end of the day, this tobacco is grown in Costa Rica, not Cuba, and I have yet to meet anyone who can reliably compare a flavor today with a memory fifty years old. ( Pre-embargo cigars still exist in the collections of connoisseurs, but it is safe to say they don’t taste now the way they did fifty years ago.) In any case, the preservation of these original seeds is indeed a worthy enterprise. One can only hope that someday Vogel will be able to plant them in Cuba.
As Director of Tabacos de la Cordillera Vogel now produces several lines of cigars, but he also grows leaf from these seeds for other manufacturers, which is where Felipe Gregorio’s Pelo de Oro comes in. Phillip Wynne, founder and president of Felipe Gregorio, wanted to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the company with a new release. He ended up with two: Pelo de Oro Habano, and a line called Power. Both use the pelo de oro wrapper and were introduced in 2006.
Pelo de Oro is available in four sizes, this 6 x 50 perfecto, as well as corona, corona gorda and rothschild formats. The binder used here is Dominican Piloto Cubano, and the filler is composed of aged Nicaraguan leaf. They are presented in traditional cedar chests of 50 sticks.
This perfecto is an attractive and refined shape, with a barrel that very gently expands to the advertised 50 ring gauge, though it appears to be much more slender. The wrapper is rough enough that it is difficult to pick out the cap construction, but the slightly flattened head appears to have a triple cap. The wrapper itself is a little splotchy in color, slightly coarse and marred by veins. I’m not sure that this is what I would call “golden hair.” Rapunzel might be a little embarrassed.
The Pelo de Oro Habano is an earthy tasting cigar with an unusual and pungent aroma. I had trouble coming up with descriptors for the scent, but it reminded me of rich wet earth, recently fertilized the natural way. Lots of barnyard, with maybe a smidgen of leather thrown in for balance. The taste is of straightforward tobacco with a vegetal base, somewhat plain but satisfying. As the cigar progressed it didn’t change dramatically, but perhaps became a little sweeter while retaining its rustic edge.
This cigar scores well in the construction department, with an easy draw, even burn and a solid ash. This allowed me the leisure to puzzle over the aroma and enjoy a well -balanced medium-bodied smoke for a good 45 minutes.
Just for kicks I used the cigar evaluation sheet found on the Tabacos Cordillera website and scored the Pelo de Oro perfecto at 17.4 out of 20, or 87 on the standard 100-point scale. I’m not crazy about numerical scoring, but this number sounds about right.
The perfectos retail for around 10 USD each and are sold in boxes of 50. It may be worth picking up a stick or two (preferably at a discount) just to sample this unusual wrapper leaf. For now I think I’ll pass on the cab.