Los Blancos cigars have been in production since 1998, but this blend — NINE — has made the biggest splash of them all. It may be because this is the heaviest cigar in Los Blancos’ stable — the heaviest swingers seem to get the most press for some reason — or it may be because it’s simply the best. NINE has been recommended to me by several posters, and after the last comment a few weeks ago I decided I really had to give this blend a test run.
Los Blancos Cigar Company is based in Chicago, Illinois, but their cigars are produced in Esteli, Nicaragua. The Blanco family has a storied past that is similar to many in the industry, having been exiled from Cuba after the revolution, but they are fortunate to be cousins to the Plasencia family. The Plasencias oversee all of the farming and manufacturing of Los Blancos cigars in Honduras and Nicaragua, and they produce NINE in the Segovia factory in Esteli.
Evidently this blend was originally a house blend for C.I.G.A.R. in San Antonio, and the name derives from the number of attempts required to arrive at the final blend. It has been available on a wider basis since 2009. (For the full story, see Charlie’s review of the Lancero at The Cigar Feed.)
Los Blancos NINE is a Nicaraguan puro with a corojo oscuro wrapper. Five sizes are in production:
- Robusto – 5 x 52
- Double Corona – 7 x 52
- Toro – 6 x 52
- Torpedo – 6 1/2 x 52
- Lancero – 7 x 38
The NINE toro is a solid chunk of cigar. The oscuro wrapper is not really as dark as the name implies, but the shade is nothing lighter than maduro. The leaf is slightly veiny but quite oily. It has a flat head and broad shoulders, and is finished with an attractive single cap. It strikes me as a masculine looking smoke, though I’m not sure what that means. (I’m hearing Luca Brasi: “May your first cigar be a masculine cigar.”)
The draw is firm but not tight and it burns evenly most of the time. It needs no supervision while it constructs a solid ash.
Overall construction excellent.
The first time I lit up the NINE I was expecting a blast of pepper, but the toro saves that for later. It opens with a smooth blend of cedar and cocoa that is surprisingly easy on the palate. The aroma is sweet, spicy, and somewhat woody. The flavor on the palate is notably acidic, quintessentially Nicaraguan. (This flavor is often described as tea-like, which seems accurate. Maybe I need to start drinking more tea.)
The cocoa flavors briefly turn to caramel in the middle third and then the spice takes over. The flavors turn deeper and darker. The smoke texture is medium in body but it develops a discernible bite. This is where the NINE gets serious.
In the last third the pepper on the palate drowns out most of the subtlety that this cigar has to offer. The sweet cocoa and caramel flavors linger in the aroma, but the battle on the palate takes center stage. The transition from subtle to powerful is gradual, but impressive.
Los Blancos clearly has a hit with the NINE, and now I can see why. It has all of the flavor of the big Pepin blends, but opens with a lot more subtlety. It has the sweetness of maduro, the cocoa and coffee flavors of top-shelf Nicaraguans, and the spicy pop that I love in a corojo wrapper. The storm of black pepper and char in the last inch might be a bit much for some palates, but it is a fitting conclusion for a dramatic smoke.
The NINE runs in the 8 to 9 USD range, and that is not at all unreasonable for this cigar.