St. Luis Rey Cazadore — Aging Report

This is one of the last of a box of Saint Luis Rey Cazadores that I bought in late 2005 to conduct an aging experiment.  Soon after this the Cazadores vitola went out of production.  The manufacturer toned down the blend for the other sizes in the line, but this is the original Honduran blend. After reading so much about how well Cuban cigars age, I wanted to see how a full-bodied Non-Cuban cigar would hold up over a few years. After acquiring some aged Camacho Havanas that had become extremely mild over the years I wanted to compare different styles of non-Cuban cigars after a few years of aging.

When I first cracked the box I found the Cazadores to be aggressive, but tasty — woody and spicy with a peppery bite. Two years in long-term parking mellowed the smoke significantly, allowing more distinct flavors of leather and cinnamon to emerge, while still retaining some of the original bite.

It has now been almost five years since I purchased this box, most likely more than five years since they were produced, so it’s time to give them a final assessment.

Construction Notes

The St. Luis Rey Cazadore has not suffered at all from its long cedar nap. The wrapper is just as pretty as it was on opening the box in 2005, and the roll is solid with just a bit of give. One improvement made over time is the burn — these senior smokes are burning righteously, though the ash is still a mite flakey.

Overall construction: Very Good.

Tasting Notes

The first few puffs on the Cazadore are reminiscent of the young cigar — a touch of spice on the tongue — but this sensation quickly dissipates and is replaced by a smooth, almost creamy smoke. The smoke texture is still full in body and has a decent kick, but this feisty Honduran of 2005 has finally matured into a respectable citizen of the world.

When new this cigar’s aroma was almost undetectable amidst the hammering that it gave the palate, but five years later it reveals an enjoyable and subtle spice over an earthy foundation.

The mid-section of the cigar is still hearty, but its spirit has waned over the years. More than anything I enjoy the cedar and light spice on the nose — cinnamon or nutmeg I think — and the smooth earthy flavor. The final section gets a little more serious as the black pepper kicks in again, but the flavor loses complexity and eventually flatlines.

Conclusion

I think these cigars are probably a little past their peak at this point. The flavor isn’t completely washed away yet (as happened with the Camacho Havana after six years) but the complexity of the cigar is waning. The toasty, earthy flavor of this 5 year-old blend is still very enjoyable though, and the soft subtle spices that have emerged in the aroma are a nice surprise.

Aging this now -extinct SLR blend has produced a pronounced change in flavor as well as performance, and each stage of its maturation has revealed a different set of characteristics. That’s what makes aging cigars fun. Leave a comment if you have any suggestions for other blends — especially Non-Cuban cigars — that you think age really well.

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3 thoughts on “St. Luis Rey Cazadore — Aging Report

  1. Are you certain that Pepin Garcia wasn’t just talking about his own cigars when he made the 10 years = smoking paper statement? I would find it surprising that he would be making a blanket statement about all cigars considering that he grew up around Cuban tobacco. Cuban cigars in particular benefit far more than any other tobacco from long term aging. At 10 years, a good percentage are at or around their peak of flavor, and absolutely sublime. 5 of the 10 best cigars I’ve EVER smoked had a minimum of 10 years of box age. As to a suggestion for what to try, this is what I’ve found concerning the long term aging of NC cigars:

    1)Nicaraguan Puros (or those blended with a majority of Nicaraguan leaf) were the worst candidates for long term aging. Admittedly the majority of older Nicaraguan leaf cigars were of milder blends, but I found that none of them aged well in the long term.
    Padron Anniversary 1964 (PAN/PAM) cigars are a good example. These cigars are at their peak the minute Padron ships them. Aging a PAN/PAM for 10 years really does ruin this cigar. As what it will do to the newer, stronger blends, only time will tell. But when a manufacturer himself makes a statement like Pepin did, I would assume they would not hold up to extended aging.
    2)Honduran Puros (or cigars constructed with a majority of Honduran leaf)-Very hit or miss. The stronger Camachos were almost as bad as the Nicaraguans for long term aging. Once the power was gone, there was little to no flavor. Some of the Villazon stuff like Punch or JR Ultimates can be excellent, but I don’t know the percentages of Honduran leaf in them. The older Puros Indios and Cuba Aliados were great for extended aging, but the only thing Honduran about them is where they were made.
    3)Cigars constructed with a majority of Dominican leaf-Here is where the biggest surprise came. What I found was that better quality mild Dominican cigars changed the least from long term aging. Good Dominican cigars with more than 10 years of age are closer to their original flavor than any other NC cigars I’ve aged (they don’t really “improve” or “evolve”, just hold their flavor). The exceptions are the stronger Dominican Puros such as Opus X. Of several thousand cigars smoked, the only 2 Non-Cuban cigars to crack my all-time top 10, were both a fresh Opus X (3 days off the rollers table) AND an 11 year old Opus X . 2 completely different cigars, that both blew me away with their complexity. The fresh stick literally made your palate “explode” with intense flavor. Almost 12 years later,it still makes my mouth water just thinking about it. The 11 year old sample seemed to meld all the flavors together in a way that could be better appreciated because all of the rough edges were gone. It was a wonderfully well rounded smoke, yet completely different from the fresh sample. Would any of the newer Dominican puros or stronger blends hold up as well? I don’t know, most haven’t been around that long to try. I did age the OR Ashton VSG’s. They tasted pretty much the same over time, losing very little strength and smoothing out a bit.
    Bottom Line-If you’re looking for candidates for long term aging, you have to start Cuban. Even with the construction issues to deal with, there is NOTHING like a well aged Havana. And although mfr’s have been trying, in every part of the world, and for over 40 years, they still can’t duplicate Cuban leaf. It makes no sense at all to waste $ and humidor space on boxes and boxes of cigars that don’t age well. I’d stick to the stuff that’s been proven over time.

    • I don’t know the exact context in which Pepin was speaking, but I suspect he was talking about cigars in general. But it’s a matter of taste, and judging by the kinds of cigars he blends, subtlety may not be what he prefers. After a DPG Blue, just about anything tastes like paper.

      Overall, it sounds like your experience is similar to mine. I think we agree that, with a few exceptions, most NC cigars don’t age well. (I have to disagree about the VSGs though — I’ve compared fresh VSGs with aged ones, and I prefer the bang I get with the fresh ones. The aged ones are still good, but I think they lose that sun-grown vibrancy.)

      I trust the opinion of experienced Havana aficionados that well-kept, well-aged Cubans age extremely well. My experience has been extremely mixed. I don’t know if that’s due to my questionable storage technique, or inconsistent production, but these days they don’t stick around long enough for me to judge the opinion of the experts. Enjoy em, Raq, and thanks for your very thoughtful comment.

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