The business side of the cigar world is a rapidly changing affair. This has been especially evident with a worldwide recession and the steady barrage of draconian government tax policies. The net effect is easily seen here: what used to be EO Cigars is now EO Brands, after an early summer split with Miami Cigar and a merger with Rocky Patel. The reason given for the new arrangement is that EO wants to lower prices — a laudable objective, but not one that bodes well for the industry at large. A few months after these developments I started seeing Mi Barrio cigars selling at reduced prices on one of the big online retail outlets. That is not usually a good sign, but in this case it seems to be a result of the business environment rather than production quality.
So I’m not sure whether I should put this review in the present or the past tense. Mi Barrio was originally designed as a limited edition cigar anyway, but at this time it is still on the market. I’ll be optimistic and hope for the best.
Mi Barrio is produced by EO Brands and manufactured by Pepin Garcia’s My Father Cigars in Esteli, Nicaragua. The first size that was introduced is the one I’m smoking today, the one called “El Puro,” a fat double corona made in July 2008 and released later that year at the IPCPR. (Or was it the RTDA?)
Only 1000 boxes in each of four sizes were slated for production. The toro was released in the fall of 2008, and the churchill and torpedo were unleashed in the summer of 2009. The bands and boxes feature art by Cuban artist Edin Gutierrez — a different design for each size. The band for El Puro, the double corona, shows Orestes Espinosa, Sr. (the father of EO Brands’ Erik Espinosa) and Pepin Garcia.
Like most of Pepin Garcia’s cigars, this one is a Nicaraguan puro.
- El Puro – 7 x 52 (double corona)
- El Acere – 6 x 50 (toro)
- El Forro – 7 x 48 (churchill)
- El Billetero – 5 1/2 x 52 (torpedo)
I’ve had a few of these double coronas put away since early 2009, and this is my last one. I have really enjoyed this cigar because it has all of the qualities that I really enjoy in a Nicaraguan puro without any of the harshness. They’re smoking so well right now that I just couldn’t hold off on them any longer.
At 7 inches long and with a 52 ring gauge, the “El Puro” double corona is an imposing stick. The wrapper is leathery, but somewhat dry in appearance. A few veins are apparent but not obtrusive. The overall effect is leathery. The roll and the cap are just about perfect, as is to be expected from My Father Cigars.
The draw on this cigar is effortless, and smoke wafts gently from the head after each puff. Inside or on a still day, this cigar is almost as much a pleasure to view as it is to smoke.
The only criticisms I can make are that the burn is uneven at times and the ash is a bit flaky. But these minor flaws are completely outweighed by its finer qualities.
Overall excellent construction.
Mi Barrio’s double corona is a medium-bodied cigar — by EO/Pepin standards I almost want to call it mild. It is certainly milder than any of the 601 or Don Pepin cigars (Blue, Black, and White labels.) Instead of high octane tobacco and an explosion of black pepper what Mi Barrio offers is a more even tempered, but still flavorful experience.
The smoke in the first third is remarkably creamy, and though there is a touch of pepper in the first half-inch the primary flavors are of earth and cocoa. It is surprisingly mild and a bit dry.
In the mid-section the flavors turn sweeter with caramel accents and a hint of vanilla. The flavors remind me a little of Vegas Cubana, but more substantial and complex.
The pepper returns in the last third, but in a complementary rather than a dominant way. I’m reminded of charred oak barrels and at one point thought I tasted bourbon. (Not that bourbon would be the best companion for this cigar, unless you like it weak, which means I am not letting you near my bourbon.) But most importantly, this cigar stays smooth to the band.
Mi Barrio in this large format is a smooth and cocoa-laden smoke that any fan of medium-bodied cigars will enjoy. It isn’t tremendously complex, but it is certainly satisfying. And coming from My Father Cigars in Esteli, the construction is as perfect as you’ll get in a Nicaraguan puro. The only hitch might be the price — around ten bucks a throw. But with the turbulence in the market and EO Brands’ commitment to lower prices, that ten dollar mark might fall.
Or Mi Barrio may just ride into the sunset. Or become gentrified. Whatever happens to barrios these days… In that case, I’m glad I had the chance to smoke a few before they’re gone.