Well, Don “Pepin” Garcia has finally dropped the bomb. We knew it was coming, like the End of Days, but we didn’t know when. First Pepin announced he would no longer take on new clients. Soon after that, Ernesto Padilla announced that Pepin would no longer manufacture Padilla cigars. Then there was a public airing of grievances at Stogieguys.com regarding Pepin dropping Black Cat as a client. And at some point during all this, the prices on Pepin blends at Cigar King went through the roof. The time is nigh!
For lovers of full bodied Nicaraguan puros this may sound like a death knell, but of course it isn’t. Pepin will still make plenty of cigars (though a rumored 20% across the board price increase is entirely credible) but it’s not like he’s going away. Like he says, “The day I stop making cigars will be the day I die.” Furthermore, there are plenty of other fine Nicaraguan puros out there, many for a much more affordable price. The Famous Nicaraguan Corojo is one of them.
Now these coronas are not Pepin replicas or seconds, or what have you, but there is a connection. They’re made for Famous Smoke Shop by Tabacalera Tropical, where Pepin was once employed as a blender. The principal backer for Pepin’s solo venture was the owner of Tropical, Eduardo Fernandez, and Fernandez reportedly grows many of the tobaccos Pepin uses in his Rey de los Habanos blends.
I like small full-flavored cigars as “fixers.” Sometimes I’ll start a cigar that turns out to be plugged, or won’t burn right, or just rubs me the wrong way for some reason. Instead of struggling though the cigar and having a miserable experience, I’ll toss it and grab a fixer instead. The corona size in this line is a great fixer.
I bought a box of these about a year ago and have observed them mellow from sharp pungent smokes to smooth, but still quite bold cigars. They’re billed as having a 42 ring gauge, but they seem a little narrower to me — closer to a 40 I think. At 5 1/2 inches long they’re still well within the corona range.
The corojo wrapper is an oily colorado maduro and makes an attractive casing for the intensity of the ligero binder and filler within. The roll is firm, and like most corojo blends this one does best at a lower humidity — in the low 60s at most. The draw tends toward the firm side and can be difficult if these are kept at 70%.
The opening is classic Nicaraguan spice — lots of black pepper held in check by a leathery underpinning. After an inch or so the pepper subsides, but it never entirely disappears. The burn is a little erratic and needs an occasional touch up.
At the midway point the corona stretches its legs a little and becomes a smoother, more relaxing smoke. It’s not the most nuanced cigar on the planet, but at this point the spice melds with the leathery aspect and if taken slowly it’s quite enjoyable. It continues in this fashion as it glides in for a landing. My only advice here is to take it slow. Hotbox this one, especially in the last third, and it will get a little mean.
The Famous Nicaraguan Corojo blend is a solid blend of spice and leather that is reminiscent of the recent Nicaraguan corojo blends, but is available at a much more reasonable price. A box of 20 will set you back only 50 clams. It’s not the most subtle or sophisticated cigar on the market, but for the price it’s most definitely worth checking out, either as an everyday smoke for the medium to heavy bodied palate, or in my case, as a “fixer.”