Long ago and far away, in a distant decade called the Eighties, there was an upstart cigar brand called Ashton. Robert Levin, who had been running Holt’s Cigar Company, decided to get into the cigar manufacturing business and borrowed the Ashton name from the respected line of English pipes. The very first Ashtons were produced in the Dominican Republic by Henke Kelner of Davidoff fame, but within a few years Levin began to work with his old friends the Fuentes.
Levin and Carlos Fuente Jr. began developing the Ashton Cabinet blend in the late eighties. The story goes that Levin asked the Fuentes if they could make a Hemingway cigar with a Connecticut Shade wrapper. Carlito Fuente said they could, and after working the blend for a couple years the final result was the Ashton Cabinet cigar. The original release comprised three shaped sizes; today there are ten, including four perfectos.
Levin remarked in an interview for Cigar Aficionado that at the time of release, the Ashton Cabinet was the highest priced cigar on the market. He doesn’t say what that price was, but the original Ashton Churchill at the time sold for $2.50. My, how times have changed.
The Ashton Cabinet was developed right around the time that Tabacalera A. Fuente took over Ashton production from Tabadom. The blend includes “no less than six different tobaccos” and features a golden Connecticut Shade wrapper. The binder and filler are Dominican, and the belicoso in the line is a short torpedo at 5 1/4 inches long by a 52 ring gauge.
This little belicoso is a handsome cigar — with its finely formed head and firm roll it balances nicely in the hand. The wrapper is a smooth colorado claro typical of quality shade leaf, but I noticed in one sample that the color varied within the leaf. The section toward the foot was a slightly tawnier shade than the upper half. A little distracting, but not a serious defect.
This cigar starts up with a dry flavor that some have described as bitter, but I wouldn’t go that far. This astringency dissipates after half an inch or so, within a few pulls at most, and is replaced by a mild nutty flavor. The smoke becomes increasingly creamy, and then the distinguishing element of the Ashton Cabinet comes to light: a deliciously sweet aroma that in a strange way reminds me of bubblegum. Not as cloying as a big wad of Bazooka, but to me there is something very confectionary about it.
Into the second half the flavor gets nuttier and the creamy texture of the smoke approaches a medium body. At times a dash of pepper touches the palate and throat, but the overall impresson is smooth and sweet with some light kitchen spice.
The burn tends to be a bit erratic but is mostly self-correcting, and the draw is just about perfect. Aside from the wavery burn this stick earns good marks for appearance and construction.
The Ashton Cabinet Beli is a tad pricey at around 8 USD, and I can think of cigars that are comparable in quality that are more affordable (La Tradition Cubana comes to mind) but this is indeed a high quality premium cigar. If price isn’t a determining factor, this is certainly a cigar to try if you’re after a light to medium bodied cigar with that creamy spice one often finds with Connecticut Shade.