Baez is a small town in the Villa Clara province of Cuba where in 1950 our hero José “Don Pepín” Garcia was born, presumably with chaveta in hand. (The first infant ever to cut his own umbilical cord!) Tabacos Baez, a newish blend from Tabacalera Cubana, is named for that town.
Of course, Tatuaje’s Cabaiguan was also named for Pepin’s hometown. So was Cigar King’s Sancti Spiritus.
I’m sure if we were to scry deeply enough into the crystal ball of Pepinolatry that some clarity could be found — maybe in the fact that the provinces of Villa Clara and Sancti Spiritus are contiguous and were at one time two separate parts of one province called Las Villas, and Cabaiguan is a city within Sancti Spiritus. Or perhaps we’d see that Pepin is a quasi-religious figure in these lands and thus his birthplace is claimed by competing bands of disciples — or we could just forget the magic carpet ride and smoke a cigar.
The Tabacos Baez brand name was at one time owned by Pete Johnson’s Havana Cellars, at which time they were the best of the student-rolled cigars coming out of Pepin’s factory. In a Cigarcyclopedia.com article from July 2007, Pete said:
Tabacos Baez is one of those things we use for factory seconds or student-rolled cigars. We use that brand name for cigars that Pepin has trained people on. If [a batch of student-made] cigars seems good to me, we pack it up as Tabacos Baez. It’s gained a little cult following, since people found out that they are student-rolled cigars and are half the price. It’s made from similar leaves [as Tatuaje]; if a roller knows how to blend them properly, they’re pretty good.
The Tabacos Baez name appears to have passed back to El Rey de Los Habanos, and from the looks of things they are no longer student products. At around 7 or 8 USD retail they aren’t “half the price” either.
There appear to be three sizes available at the moment:
- Monarcas (toro) – 6.5 x 52
- Favoritas (belicoso) – 5.5 x 52
- Robusto – 5 x 50
Some sites state that the wrapper used here is Connecticut Shade, others Ecuadorian Connecticut. I’m inclined to think that it is Ecuadorian Connecticut from the way that the cigar performs — it has that creamy, slightly salty flavor that I usually get from ECCT, and with its wide, almost parallel, veins it looks like Ecuadorian leaf. It’s also a little darker than typical shade tobacco.
The balance of the tobaccos in this cigar are Nicaraguan, as you’d expect from Don Pepín.
This is a stout and well packed cigar that scored perfectly in terms of appearance and roll. The wrapper is a smooth and oily golden brown and the triple cap is a work of art. A gorgeous stick.
The draw is good, but a couple cracks in the wrapper resulted in thin smoke volume at times. The cracks were small and near the foot, so I burned through them in short order. The burn was a little erratic at first, threatening to tunnel (which it did not) and it required a couple of corrections. After the first third these problems unnaccountably disappeared and the stick behaved perfectly.
The first half-inch of the Baez Monarca is hallmark Pepin — an aggressive peppery bite, accompanied by a slightly greenish tasting tannin. The wrapper contributes a smooth buttery element — at this point it’s reminiscent of the 601 Connect, also blended by Pepín. But soon the bite subsides and the flavor slides into mild cocoa. The aroma becomes more pronounced, somewhat floral and slightly caramel-like, almost like a mild corojo.
The middle section is quite mild in flavor while remaining a little tannic. The smoke texture is medium in body, mild in strength, and short on action. There are lightly spiced woody flavors here, but unless smooth and uninteresting is your thing you might want to get a book.
The last section returns with the black pepper that kicked things off, though not as intense and less tannic, and a dry finish that begs for a liquid refreshment.
This blend definitely goes through some changes, but they aren’t dramatic ones. The first inch of this cigar reminded me of EO’s 601 Connect — a relatively robust Pepin creation with a Connecticut wrapper — but the rest of this Tabacos Baez reminded me of a knockoff Cabaiguan. The flavors were smooth and familiar, but not as refined –or as interesting — as the Cabaiguan. (It even had some of the construction issues I’ve experienced with Cabaiguan.)
Overall, this is an above average smoke that just about anyone will enjoy. But for the same price (around $7 a stick) or only slightly more, you could be smoking a Cabaiguan Coronas Extra (about $8 each). If that’s the style of cigar you enjoy, as indeed I do, I recommend you compare and invest accordingly.
Final Score: 87
Other Points of View
The Baccy Bodhisattva meditates on the Monarcas
Lisa selects a Monarcas from Her Humidor
George meets the Quick Smoke deadline with a Monarcas for Stogie Guys