“Learn thou the worth of a dollar and how to keep it from damning thee.” –Joseph Seamon Cotter, Sr.
The other day I received in the mail sad tidings from the gentleman who claims to manage my meager stock portfolio. Like most people struggling to save for retirement (a very distant shore) I try to take the long view. But as I watch my modest investments dwindle further into the mire, my thoughts turn from luxury limited edition cigars to the humble bundle smoke, a suitable companion for a season of economic decline.
Unlike the federal government, I am not entirely comfortable with a budget extending far beyond my means, and since I am as yet unable to print money myself, I must instead seek solace in cheap Honduran stogies. Luckily there are a few out there, and there is a man named Nestor Plasencia.
Nestor over the years has produced a number of quality budget smokes — Maria Mancini, Mayorga, American Stogies, among others, and while none of these are exactly stellar cigars, they’re solid blue collar fare. And as I watch the foreign tourists pour in to feast on the weak dollar, I’m feeling bluer all the time.
So I thought I was exercising fiscal responsibility when I low-balled a “Mega Sampler” of these Nestor Reserves on Cigarbid. I’d tried the toro size previously and thought well of it, so when I came away a winner with a bid of 19 dollars I thought I hit the big time. 20 cigars for 19 dollars. Can’t beat it, right?
In the past I’ve really enjoyed the Connecticut version of this cigar — a mild and smooth smoking robusto that is unfortunately no longer available. The Maduro version is still kicking though, and comes in the standard sizes: corona, double corona, robusto, toro, and torpedo. The wrapper is Honduran, while the filler is a Honduran/Nicaraguan blend. The really interesting ingredient here is a Cameroon binder.
Curiously, the first thing I noticed upon slicing open my “Mega Sampler” bundle was that one of the double coronas was round, and the rest of them were square pressed. In fact, all the cigars were square pressed except for that one odd double corona. I figured that must be The One, the Neon of the cigar matrix. So I cut it, torched the end and prepared myself for a leisurely smoke.
But it was not to be. It wasn’t plugged, exactly, but it was extremely tight. I cut a bit more off the head to no avail. Diagnostically palpating the cigar to find a plug, I found that the plug seemed to start at the head and end somewhere close to the foot. Exploratory surgery was my only option. I cut it in half and gave the remainder a hearty pull. Nothing. Flat line. Most definitely not The One.
On to the next contestant, a square pressed double corona. No draw problems this time, but even before lighting it I was greeted with a bitter and unpleasant taste from the wrapper leaf. For the next ten minutes I couldn’t stop spitting and the taste seemed to worsen. The smoke wasn’t bad — woody, with some earthiness and a semi-sweet maduro aroma, but the flavor from the wrapper on my tongue was unbearable. And so round two sent me staggering to the corner with two unsmokeable cigars lying pathetically in the ashtray.
But I couldn’t give up now. After all, Cigars International calls this cigar “chocolate thunder.” Cigar Insider gave it an astounding 93! My double corona experience must have been a fluke. On to the robusto size.
The prelight impression this cigar makes is a good indication of how it smokes: mild and grassy. What lies hidden — until flame is set to leaf — is how smelly it is.
The first third is mild, smooth and focuses on sweet hay. After an inch a vegetal flavor makes an entrance, and the finish is mildly metallic. The Cameroon adds an earthy accent in the second third, blending nicely with the sweet aroma of the maduro. The robusto becomes increasingly earthy into the final stretch, a little flinty but still quite mild.
This cigar most emphatically failed the wife test. She coughed and waved her arms and put on quite a show for me and the dogs. But she’s right — this is a very smelly cigar, but in a sweetish maduro kind of way.
The toro is not quite as grassy, and not quite as mild as the robusto. It’s a little woodier, but it retains that flinty, metallic aftertaste. The maduro-cameroon tango is a little more animated in this size: it’s sweet and smooth, but tangier than the robusto. It tastes more like the double corona, but lacks the construction problems I had with those.
The torpedo smokes very much like the toro. It might be a tad smoother, but it seems so similar to me that any difference could easily be chalked up to what I was drinking or what I had for dinner on a given night.
What all the Nestor Reserve Maduro cigars have in common is this: they’re all relatively mild, smooth smoking cigars with a stinky disposition. They tend to burn erratically, but with one exception they all drew well and had decent construction. One annoying thing about them is that the wrapper bleeds and leaves brown stains on one’s lips and fingers. Along with the consistently oscuro coloration of the wrapper, this is a good indication that the leaf has been “cooked,” or artificially treated (perhaps even dyed) to speed up the fermentation process and achieve a uniform hue. I can’t say with total certainty that is what we have here, but it certainly seems like a possibility.
So, in the final analysis, are the Nestor Reserves worth two bucks a pop? It’s not easy to find a decent cigar for under two dollars, but with some effort it is possible. I don’t think this is Nestor’s best effort, and while there are some admirable qualities here (the cameroon binder is an intriguing touch) I think there are probably better bargains out there. It’s a passable yard gar, but even at less than a dollar a stick at auction I will probably seek out other pastures. I’m trying to be frugal, not masochistic.