From Tabacos de la Cordillera in Costa Rica comes another Fundación Ancestral — this time the Pinar del Rio 1941, the heaviest of the three blends currently available. I say blends, but these are actually puros blended from different primings of the same strain of tobacco.
Like the Vuelta Abajo 1940, this cigar is rolled using “genetically pure” pre-Castro Cuban seed tobacco grown in the mountains of Costa Rica. A few weeks ago I reviewed the Vuelta Abajo and found it to be an exceptionally smooth cigar with a truly unique flavor.
One of the outstanding characteristics of this line is its crisp and clean flavor profile. This may be due to the purity of the genetic strain, but the soil and growing technique may be equally responsible. In the last review I discussed the history of John Vogel’s project and his dedication to maintaining the integrity of the pre-embargo Cuban seed bank. It’s important to note that this tobacco is also grown in an entirely organic fashion, meaning all fertilization and pest control is accomplished without the use of industrial chemicals.
The soil is prepared using only natural organic fertilizers and nutrients, levels of which are tailored to each specific type of tobacco. All of the work is done by hand — other than hand tools, very little farm equipment is used. Traditional organic methods of pest deterrence, including the cultivation of pest-resistant varieties, are used instead of chemical pesticides. The result is a virtually chemical-free cigar. (More details about the organic growing process are available on the Tabacos de la Cordillera website.)
The only other non-Cuban cigar I’m aware of that can lay claim to being totally organic is Plasencia’s Reserva Organica. Incidentally, the PRO is also a very clean-tasting cigar, so I have to wonder if there really isn’t something to all this organic stuff.
The Fundación Ancestral Pinar del Rio is an attractively rolled stick. The wrapper is a tawny claro with evenly spaced veins and a slightly oily appearance. The surface texture is a little bumpy from the binder beneath, but nothing you’d notice without close examination. The head of the cigar is rounded, “Cullman” style, and finished neatly. It cuts simply and lights with a single match.
I really liked the Vuelta Abajo cigar, but any resemblance between that cigar and regular production Cuban cigars escaped me. With the Pinar del Rio it’s a different story. Almost immediately upon lighting up the Pinar I was greeted with that Cuban “twang,” a sweet bready aroma that I’ve come to think of as exclusive to Havana cigars.
The first half of this corona brings a complex brew of wood, earth and gentle spice that is truly delicious. The draw is easy, but firm, and the burn wavers only slightly. The ash is dark and flaky, but holds. The finish is short and the aftertaste minimal at this point — the effect is crisp and clean, much like the Vuelta Abajo. The flavors are distinct and pronounced while the smoke lingers on the palate, and then they quickly dissipate, leaving only a trace of wood and nuts.
This is a solidly medium-bodied smoke, heavier than the Vuelta Abajo, but without the gravity or the bite of the Nicaraguans I’ve been smoking lately. The subtlety of the smoky wood flavors continues into the second half of the cigar, but an inch before the band a dose of pepper enters the fray and gives the blend a little boost as things wind down. The finish at the end is stronger and lasts a little longer, but it remains crisp and clean.
Hardcore cigar enthusiasts seem to be overwhelmingly partial to full-bodied cigars, and while there’s no arguing with taste I find that I frequently disagree, and I’m happy to say I’m not alone. There is much to be said for the subtleties of milder cigars like the Fundación Ancestral (which is mild only by comparison) and there is an eloquence to this cigar that high-powered ligero-laden blends can’t match.
If giant-killers like Opus X or Camacho Diplomas are what get you going, you probably won’t find this cigar too impressive. But if you enjoy the subtle nuance that mild to medium bodied cigars can bring, particularly that mildly spicy bakery aroma that distinguishes some Cuban cigars, I think it will be worth your while to seek this one out. They’re not easy to find, and they’re pricey — I paid around $12 retail — but I’m not disappointed with my purchase. (I’m just disappointed that I can’t afford to buy more.)