Like any other publication that purports to recommend or dismiss consumer products, Cigar Aficionado magazine is sometimes accused of bias in favor of companies that advertise in its pages. This is an argument the premier publisher of cigar news and views can win only by refusing to favorably review its advertisers’ products. If this were even possible, given the wide range of cigars they review, it would probably be financial suicide. The wisest response is probably no response at all, and that seems to be the magazine’s stance.
My beef with the magazine is not that it’s biased — it’s that only a quarter of the coverage is devoted to cigars. I don’t golf, and I am currently one yacht and one Audi short of living the “good life…for men,” so I have to content myself with a microbrew and a decent smoke every now and again.
But the fact that the magazine is geared toward the stereotypical man of wealth and taste made their selection for 2008’s “Best Cigar of the Year” even more surprising. It wasn’t a 25 dollar Cuban, a 20 dollar Padron Anniversary, or a Fuente rarity. It was a 5 dollar Nicaraguan cigar made by guys who usually make cigars for regular blokes.
Casa Magna Colorado is the result of a joint endeavor between Manuel Quesada, maker of Fonseca and the founder of MATASA, and Nestor Plasencia, who is possibly Central America’s largest cigar tobacco producer and produces dozens of affordable blends.
Apparently when the maker of Joya de Nicaragua pulled its line from Quesada’s SAG Imports (the U.S. distribution wing of MATASA) it left an opening for a star player. Casa Magna made the tryout, impressed at the call back, and won the part.
Quesada and Plasencia’s newly crowned creation is a Nicaraguan puro utilizing tobaccos from Esteli and the Jalapa Valley regions. Six sizes are currently produced by Plasencia’s Segovia factory in Esteli:
- Corona – 5 5/8 x 42
- Gran Toro – 6 x 58
- Robusto – 5 x 50
- Torito – 4 3/4 x 60
- Belicoso – 6.25 x 54
- Pikito – 4 3/4 x 42
The Casa Magna corona makes a significant first impression: the colorado wrapper on this stick is saturated with oil. It quite literally glistens, enhancing the rich ruddy color of the cigar. The cap is somewhat flattened, and while not as perfect as a Cuban or Pepin made stick, it is quite presentable. The overall appearance of this cigar is superb. The roll is quite solid and regular.
After clipping the cap I discovered that the draw was a bit tight — in both samples, which were from the same box. Both cigars smoked well enough, but I had to work my buccinators a little more than usual to get a good puff. I work hard to buy good cigars so that I don’t have to work so hard to smoke them, ya know?
The slow burn went a little off kilter from time to time, but never needed correction. The ash was solid but flaked a little.
Like many top notch Nicaraguans, this one opens up with a peppery blast that attenuates gradually but doesn’t entirely vanish. The aroma from this outstanding wrapper leaf is sweet and hickory-like. The first couple inches of this cigar reminded me of the Illusione blend, but it’s not quite as sharp tasting or as clean, and it’s not as full bodied. Casa Magna by comparison seems about medium-bodied and it stays that way for the duration.
The cigar transitions through several distinct flavors in the middle section — leather, some woody spice, and a touch of caramel. I really enjoyed the range of different flavors this cigar serves up. The is one of the more complex smokes I’ve reviewed this year.
The last third enters beany territory — coffee primarily — but turns up the caramel accents a tad before it dives back to earth with a peppery flourish. The finish grows substantially and leaves an aftertaste of earth, char, and pepper.
Starting up with that trademark Nicaraguan pepper and marching though leather and spicy wood to a smooth earthy finale, I wasn’t bored for a minute. The sweet hickory-caramel aroma popped up from time to time, adding yet another voice to the conversation. I was really impressed by the complexity of this cigar, though somewhat disappointed with a tight draw. All things considered, I enjoyed this cigar a lot.
The obvious question is whether the Casa Magna is deserving of Cigar Aficionado‘s “Best Cigar of the Year.” I think it’s certainly deserving of a place on the top ten list, though I would be hard pressed to say it was the King of the Hill.
Factor in the price, however, and it could definitely be a contender. For around 5 to 6 USD per stick retail this is a most excellent smoke. The distributor is discouraging online or catalog sales, so definitely give them a shot if you can snag a few at your local tobacconist. They might not be your Numero Uno, but they may just make your fab five.
Final Score: 89