Ashton’s Estate Sun Grown (ESG) was released in 2005 to salute “20 consecutive years of increased sales and overall growth.” That sounds a little like the theme of the Dunder Mifflin Christmas party, and the initial reviews of the ESG were nearly as embarrassing. The release of the cigar was highly anticipated for a number of reasons: it’s an Ashton product blended by Carlos Fuente, Jr., and it carries a super-premium price which inflated expectations accordingly. At around $20-25 USD per stick, the ESG could well be expected to take a place alongside Fuente’s Opus X and Diamond Crown’s Maximus cigars. But initial reviews were not kind, and at that price I decided I would give the brand some time to fix what went wrong or to let the aging process repair the flaws of youth.
After some initial delays, the first ESG was released in a churchill format sometime in 2006. The plan was to release an additional size each year after 2005 until Ashton’s 25th anniversary in 2010. The blend components are somewhat mysterious. The wrapper is a leaf grown especially for the ESG on the Chateau de la Fuente farm in the Dominican Republic, and that is all ye know and all ye need know. The origin and type of the binder and filler leaves are not public information.
The production sizes appear to have halted at four rather than the scheduled five, and they are as follows:
20 Year Salute — 6.75 x 49
21 Year Salute — 5.25 x 52
22 Year Salute — 6 x 52 (torpedo)
23 Year Salute — 6.25 x 52
The 22-Year Salute is a debonair torpedo with a leathery and slightly oily exterior. A few fine veins traverse the reddish wrapper. The head of the cigar terminates in a tightly wrapped point, and the stick appears to be softly box pressed. The draw is excellent, but the burn is a little uneven and the ash flakes at times. I had to apply a corrective flame to this ESG once or twice, but aside from that the construction is what you’d expect from an Ashton super-premium.
Overall construction excellent.
The ESG torpedo opens with a mild dose of black pepper and some tartness on the palate. The pepper is not overbearing, but it dominates the first inch of the stick. Despite the spice, the smoke texture is noticeably creamy. Within a few puffs the magic of this cigar becomes apparent: the aroma is extremely complex and totally unique. There are notes of both cedar and flowers on the nose, but neither is overt. The room scent is very nice.
The mid section of the cigar is earthier, with some lightly roasted coffee flavors. The aroma continues to be sweet and slightly floral, but this is accompanied by a dry tannic aftertaste that I don’t care for. The spice diminishes while the cigar gathers strength.
The final section remains smooth and creamy, and the aroma is nothing short of amazing. There are notes of lavender or violet, but it isn’t perfumey at all. It’s floral, but balanced. On the other hand, the tannic aftertaste persists. I’m completely entranced by the scent of this cigar, but after an hour my mouth is parched.
It’s easy to see why the Ashton ESG is in the super-premium category: the Chateau de la Fuente wrapper is extremely subtle and complex. Even though it burns a little erratically, it’s obviously the centerpiece of the cigar. But I can also see why the early reviews were less than laudatory. The cigar is quite dry, and the aftertaste is very tart. Perhaps this could be countered by the right drink; water didn’t work any wonders for me, and I didn’t want to spoil the scent of the smoke with anything stronger. Maybe the ESG is just looking for the right companion.
But at $23 USD I’m a little disappointed. The high price point held me to a single cigar for this review, so it’s possible another test drive would change my mind; another occasion, another drink, another cigar. But at this price, on my budget, one chance is all it will get.
Final Score: 85