When José “Don Pepín” García first started making cigars for Ashton in 2007 a few of us speculated that his commercial success would change him. I guess we’re used to seeing our small-town heroes ruined by large-scale success. And as some of Pepin’s smaller clients were shed for blue chip partners like Ashton, we anticipated that the unique flavor and superb construction of cigars like Padilla’s 1932 would become a distant memory.
Instead it appears that Pepin and family are using their well-earned capital to invest in infrastructure, and the quality of their cigars has not diminished a bit. Equally inspiring is the fact that some of Pepin’s former clients, like Padilla, are forging new paths and doing very well on their own as well.
Pepin now produces five blends under three different brands for Ashton — San Cristobal, La Aroma de Cuba, and Benchmade (an economy mixed-filler cigar.) The original La Aroma de Cuba has been phased out and was replaced this year by Pepin’s new blend, which is in addition to the Edicion Especial line which was introduced in 2008. The San Cristobal Selección del Sol is new for 2009 and adds another member to the San Cristobal family.
The Garcias have long aspired to sow what they reap, and as a natural development of their previous success they are now cultivating tobacco on their Estrella farm in Esteli. The San Cristobal Seleccion del Sol features one of the first fruits of this new endeavor: the sun-grown wrapper that graces this cigar.
Like the first San Cristobal, the Seleccion del Sol is a Nicaraguan puro, but it is in fact an entirely new blend. Only three sizes are currently in production:
- Robusto – 5 x 52
- Belicoso – 5.5 x 52
- Toro – 6 x 52
The Estrella Farms wrapper on the Seleccion del Sol is not much to look at — it’s dry and drab, and much lighter in appearance than the standard San Cristobal. The foot band slips off easily, which is very much appreciated. The roll is excellent, as expected, and the cap is wound to a blunt tip. The draw is fine.
I rarely find anything negative to note about the construction of any Pepin-made smokes, but I had issues with the burn on these. The foot of the cigar did not want to light evenly (even with a torch) and thence forward the burn was uneven, required correction several times, and went out a couple times when I wasn’t paying close attention. What we have here, ladies and gentleman, is a cigar with a crappy burn. And the ash is flaky to boot.
Overall construction: only fair.
The Selección del Sol exhibits a lot of the flair associated with sun-grown wrappers, and while it compares favorably in this regard to Ashton’s VSG and Rocky Patel’s Sun Grown cigars, it doesn’t quite live up to those standard bearers.
The first third is dry but sweet with a tingle on the tongue. The aroma is of sweet wood, which blends nicely with the minty note on the palate. There is a hint of a bite and just a dash of pepper, which seems unusually understated for a DPG blend. The smoke is smooth though, and the nicotine is moderate.
The middle section continues in the same vein, doling out lots of woody smoke with a sweet, fresh finish. There is some spice on the palate, but the woody flavors and the sun-grown zing take center stage. The resting smoke is very pleasant, even for the non-smokers in the vicinity who for once are not glaring at me.
The final stage is earthier on the palate, with continued sweet wood on the nose. The sensation on the tongue is interesting — almost like the effect of carbonation, and the overall effect is spirituous. Like champagne, if a champagne could taste like humus and sweet wood. The last half-inch into the band area gets a little harsh on the throat, but other than that this is a smooth tasting smoke.
This is a really unusual cigar from DPG. The burn is sub-standard by comparison with his other lines, and while the flavors are certainly interesting, they’re not what the typical Pepin fan is after. There is little here of the cocoa and black peppery bang that his cigars are best known for. This doesn’t make it a bad cigar by any means, but in my opinion it’s not really what he does best.
I think that if it were made by anyone else I would have rated the Selección del Sol more highly, but I expect more from The Great One. Maybe it isn’t fair, but when the man hits home runs every game, to get a double and a base hit are a little disappointing.