A man doesn’t get to be 85 years old in the cigar industry without seeing a lot of changes, and Rolando Reyes, Sr. has seen a thing or two. He currently presides over a thriving facility in Danli, Honduras, where most of the Reyes Family cigars are made, but a couple years ago he made a trip to Miami to interview cigar rollers for a special project.
It certainly wasn’t Reyes’ first experience in Miami — for four or five years in the ’80s he made Miami his home, until the move to Danli in 1989. And while Don Rolando remains in Honduras to supervise the factory there, his grandson and president of the company, Carlos Diez, has been revitalizing the company in Miami.
In 2009 the company inaugurated the Reyes Family line of cigars, a sign that the company might be headed in a new direction. At the time I thought that the old blends — Puros Indios, Cienfuegos, and Cuba Aliados — would be subsumed under the new name, but it didn’t turn out that way. Which is good, because Cuba Aliados must hold a special place in Don Rolando’s heart — it’s been his brand ever since the the ’70’s when he emigrated to the U.S. from Cuba.
With only six rollers, the Miami shop is very small, especially by comparison with the hundreds of Hondurans employed in the Danli factory. The rollers in Miami are Cubans who come to the table with experience in the Cuban cigar industry, as opposed to the folks in Honduras who had to learn the trade from scratch. Give one of these Miami cigars a gentle squeeze and you’ll see the difference is palpable. Each roller rolls one and only one specific size, which improves consistency. And the blend is quite a bit bolder than is typical for Reyes.
The Aliados Miami uses a Nicaraguan Habano wrapper, binder from the Dominican Republic, and filler leaf from Nicaragua. Only three sizes are made, but they’re all big smokes:
- Robusto – 5 x 50
- Toro Viejo – 6 x 53
- Valentino – 7 x 49
What I noticed first about the Cuba Aliados Miami (after removing the cedar sleeve) is how densely rolled it is. This is a really solid cigar, and this is made clear by the slow and regular burn as well as the pre-light characteristics. The Habano wrapper is dark and grainy with plenty of oil. The head of the cigar is shaped well, and even though it isn’t perfectly triple-wrapped it cuts cleanly and looks fine.
The grain from the wrapper is evident in the dark gray ash, which holds for a good inch and a half before it starts to bend a little precariously. These are slow burning, luxurious cigars, so make time for them. I spent about an hour with the robusto, and close to 90 minutes smoking the toro and churchill sizes.
Overall excellent construction.
The Aliados Miami opens with a combination of black pepper and a dry woody flavor that I think of as quintessentially Nicaraguan. After half an inch or so the wrapper kicks in a sweet cedary aroma that blends really well with the spicier notes on the palate.
The mid-section turns to another flavor on the Nicaraguan palette — cocoa. The spice mellows but remains assertive. The cedar and cocoa meld nicely and produce a sweet sensation on the tongue that at times almost reminded me of mint.
The last third turns a little darker. The cocoa turns to a semi-sweet chocolate taste with tannic overtones, and the nicotine kicks in. The smoke texture is full in body, leading me to think it would be matched by this in power, but it’s a little more moderate in that regard. It starts out in medium-strength territory and sneaks up to full strength only at the finale. The burn gets a bit hot at the band, but the flavor and aroma are still fresh for the nubbin’.
Cuba Aliados Miami is a crisp, well-balanced cigar that exhibits what I think of as Nicaraguan flair, but it does so without losing its composure. (Or making me lose mine.) It’s assertive, not aggressive, and that is a quality that I wish more upper echelon cigar makers would emulate.
The construction qualities of this cigar were top notch. I had to double check my math after scoring one of these cigars — the Toro Viejo — at a 47 out of 50 construction points. That’s the high water mark for the year so far, and judging by last year’s entries it might be the one to beat for 2010.
Considering the quality of the blend and the limited nature of the release, it’s surprising to see how reasonably the Miami edition is priced — around 6 or 7 USD per stick.
The modest price tag is about the only thing it has in common with Reyes’ other cigars. For fans of Puros Indios or the classic Cuba Aliados, the Miami Limited will be a bold new experience, but a very enjoyable one.
Final Score: 90