Of all the new cigars I’ve tried this year (new to me, that is) I think the 601 Connecticut Black Label is the most interesting. The juxtaposition of a creamy Connecticut seed wrapper with a spicy Pepin core blend is truly an epicurean experience. And even if it isn’t my favorite blend from the hands of Don Pepin, it demonstrates the manifold nature of his skill. Just when you’re ready to settle in for another welcome, but familiar smoking experience, he pulls out the rug and presents a new blend with its own distinguished and delicious qualities.
With years of experience as one of Cuba’s premier blenders and rollers, it should be no surprise that his talents are diverse. In some ways it seems more of a surprise that he has been able to both keep up with the demand, and at the same time create even more new blends with tobacco that is almost always from the same region. While other cigar makers feel it necessary to advertise their “six-country” blend, Pepin Garcia is happy with just…Nicaragua. And so far, so are we!
Corojo wrappers have been, and probably always will be, a mainstay for the primary Pepin blends, but this year he has been going to the maduro well with a little more frequency. The Series JJ Maduro, the 601 Maduro, and now the 601 Habano Oscuro. (Is it a mere coincidence that Habanos S.A. is now releasing maduros as well? Probably.)
The folks at United Tobacco Inc have gone to the dark side twice now with their EO 601 series — first with the 601 Maduro (Blue Label) and once again with the 601 Habano Oscuro (Green Label). The Greens were just introduced this year at the RTDA, and so far they have elicited nothing but praise from lovers of full bodied and rich tasting cigars.
The 601 Green is a Nicaraguan puro — filler, binder and wrapper all from farms in Nicaragua. Coming from Tabacalera Cubana this is a familiar formula, but the curve is in the wrapper: a deeply fermented Habano. Both Lucky7 and I were really impressed with the appearance of this toothy leaf: rich, oily, and shall we say, redolent of the pasture. Nice and smelly, the result of a thorough fermentation.
Five sizes of this blend have been released:
Trabuco (a whopping grand corona at 6 1/8 x 58)
La Fuerza (5 1/2 x 54 robusto)
La Punta ( 5 1/2 x 52 perfecto)
Tronco (5 x 52 robusto)
Corona (5 x 42)
Construction qualities are good to very good; both of us noticed that the draw was very firm. Otherwise, this stick burns slowly with a good volume of cool smoke. The ash is light to medium gray with some black striations. I thought the ash was a bit crumbly, but I have to admit that I approached this cigar with caution and smoked it very slowly which may have had an effect on the burn in general. I found a mostly even burn, while Lucky7 had to apply the torch a few times to keep his ash in line.
I found the Habano Oscuro to be a full bodied ride from the first puff. The introductory Pepin pepper is present in the first half inch, but it’s not overwhelming; just a nice wake-up call. Both of us noted coffee and anise as core flavors in the first third; Lucky found some wood in the mix as well.
Into the second third I got lots of chocolate and a bouquet of licorice liqueur — smooth, pronounced, but not aggressive. (Did I mention that I take this cigar slooooowly?) Lucky found toasted nuts and cherry, a “creamy sweet” aroma, and a medium-length dark chocolate finish.
In the last third Lucky7 noted a little burnt cocoa and “a noticeable pickup in strength; not harsh, just strong with a little bitterness.” And as I lay reeling on the floor I found that I had to concur with his final comment: “big nicotine buzz.” No kidding. Tronco means trunk (or log) in Spanish, but it also has a colloquial meaning with a pejorative connotation — something like dolt, or dimwit. Kind of like the way I felt when I finished this cigar. But in a good way, of course.
The 601 Habano Oscuro Tronco is a big-boned cigar with lots of flavor and a surprisingly friendly disposition. It is indeed quite powerful, but take a little time with it and it won’t leave you legless. A full stomach and a little courage are all that’s required for middle-weights like myself. And for lovers of full-bodied cigars, it’s pretty much mandatory. Just smoke it.
Box prices are around 150 USD, about $8-$10 retail. This seems about standard rate for Pepin blends these days. A bit steep, but worth it, as usual.
-cigarfan & Lucky7