The latest trend for cigar manufacturers is to resurrect extinct Cuban brand names, no matter how unusual, and slap them on their latest blend. (CAO’s La Traviata, for example.) The Newman family, on the other hand, has been sitting on an old Cuban brand name of their own for half a dozen decades. And instead of being unusual, it’s pretty mundane: Brick House. The original Brick House brand honored patriarch J.C. Newman’s Hungarian heritage by depicting his home in the old country, a home that reportedly doubled as the town’s tavern. Sounds like a rockin’ place.
The first incarnation of Brick House was released in 1937 as a “clear Havana,” a cigar made in the United States from imported Cuban leaf. The new blend released in 2009 is a Nicaraguan cigar with what I assume is a proprietary wrapper leaf called “Havana Subido,” ™ a sun grown Ecuadorian Habano. Like the Newmans’ El Baton, Brick House is made by Tabacos San Rafael in Totogalpa, Nicaragua. (On the map it looks like Totogalpa is right next door to Esteli, which mitigates the surprise.)
Four sizes are currently in production:
- Churchill – 7.25 x 50
- Robusto – 5 x 54
- Corona Larga – 6.25 x 46
- Toro – 6 x 52
The Brick House Robusto is a nice looking stick with a ruddy colorado maduro wrapper. It doesn’t glisten exactly, but it exhibits more shine than is typical on sun-grown wrapper leaf. The cigar is well built with a nicely finished cap. One sample was visibly underfilled at the foot, causing a very loose draw. I was surprised to find that this did not promote a fast burn — the burn wasn’t slow either, but it didn’t burn fast and hot the way I feared. The burn was a little uneven, but it corrected itself, and the ash was long and firm.
Overall good construction.
The Brick House Robusto smokes like a classic medium-bodied Nicaraguan — woody with a sweet spicy aroma. The smoke is smooth from the start as it opens with mildly spicy cedar and a dash of salt. After half an inch or so a cocoa flavor presents itself, but without the bite that often accompanies heavier Nicaraguan blends.
Some black pepper shows up on the palate in the middle section, but it’s fairly mild. The smoke is still medium-bodied and the texture is smooth. The finish is slightly dry.
The last third is meatier and has more zing. It edges into the full side of medium at this point, but remains well balanced. The aroma is sweet and cedary, blending well with the darker grilled flavors on the tongue. The cocoa fades a bit at this point and disappears as the spice takes over at the band.
The Brick House is far more approachable than many brawnier Nicaraguans, but it shares the flavor palette that has made Nicaraguan cigar tobacco so popular in the last few years — cocoa, black pepper, and cedary spice in a balanced combination.
The other significant difference between Brick House and the competing array of bigger-boned Nicaraguan cigars is the price. The Newmans have priced this cigar economically at around 5 USD retail, and have instituted price protection to prevent Internet discounters from undercutting local brick-and-mortar shops. This is great news for both smokers and tobacconists, because this is a really decent smoke for a very reasonable price. And these days you can’t ask for much more than that.