Aging Report: Medal of Honor “Intellect”

It’s been a little over two years since I visited the Medal of Honor Intellect, and while it hasn’t staged a remarkable transformation in that time, it’s still a really nice mellow smoke.

The Medal of Honor series was created for JR Cigars by Estelo Padron in Honduras to celebrate the cigar men who helped JR Cigars become the retail giant that it is today. This particular size honors Martin Herbst, who created the Maria Mancini and La Finca cigar brands.

I couldn’t remember exactly what went into this cigar when I pulled it out of long-term storage, and I decided to smoke it before refreshing my memory. This is not my habit at all, but since I’m quite familiar with this cigar I thought I could probably guess its composition.

My guess was wrong. Mid-way through this cigar I guessed that this was a Cameroon wrapper due to its bright cedary sweetness. I thought it was a little mild for Cameroon, but I attributed that to aging. For the first two inches it’s a simple blend of wood and cedar spice. As it turns out, this is actually an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper. The buttery texture (and lack of tooth in the wrapper) should have given it away, but not this time.

This has always been an easy going, mellow smoke, and it continues to be so. There isn’t much of a transition from first light to last ash, but this is nothing new either. The only surprise is a caramel spice in the second half that replaces the cedar from the first part. The foundation flavors remain woody from start to finish, and the aftertaste is pleasantly crisp and clean.

Construction values here have not changed over time and remain excellent — a beautiful solid ash and a razor sharp burn. Every one of these has been consistent in that regard.

The Medal of Honor Intellect is a mild mannered but articulate smoke that requires few words to make its point, which is well taken.

If you’re lucky enough to be sitting on a box of these from when they were first released in 2005, I’d say the time is ripe to break them out and pass them around to friends who enjoy lighter smokes; from this point forward I would expect them to simply make a gentle and gradual decline.

And if the mild-bodied stuff doesn’t interest you, stay tuned for the Padron Roundup scheduled to begin here on June 10 and continue for several weeks into the summer.


Aging Report: Padilla en Cedro Robusto

The Padilla en Cedro was a special edition cigar from Ernesto Padilla that was released in 2005. Production ceased sometime in 2006, and to my knowledge these are sold out everywhere at this point in time. It’s a mild Connecticut shade style cigar — an unlikely candidate for aging, to be honest.

When I first received these in early 2006 they were almost bitter. The tannins were puckery strong and not to my liking at all, especially not in a Connecticut shade selection. The blend just seemed all wrong for that.

But when I last checked in with the Padilla en Cedro it had improved remarkably from its fresh state: nine months in the humidor did wonders. The tannins had mellowed quite a bit and the cigar was a much smoother, and enjoyable, smoke.

And now, after two years, this robusto is completely transformed. While still mild, it has grown far more complex and subtly sophisticated than I thought possible. The only way in which it seems to have suffered is in appearance — the wrapper has become slightly faded, more drab and splotchy, though it seems to have retained its sheen.

Remembering this cigar’s original character, I was expecting at least a hint of tannin, but for the first third there’s nothing but nuts and honey sweetness, with a touch of vanilla that was not in the fresh cigar at all. A remnant of tannin is apparent in a generally dry flavor, but it’s nothing that approaches a full blown pucker.

At the half-way point the cedar qualities come to the fore, and a little black pepper sets in. The finish lengthens and there is a more substantial aftertaste, thanks in part to the pepper. As the flavor on the tongue gets stronger, the aroma seems to fade a little, which makes the Cedro a little less profound. A lot of its subtlety is in the nose.

Somewhere around the 3/4 mark it dwindles to a merely average cigar. The flavor bottoms out and veers toward bitterness — a slight disappointment considering how wonderfully the trip started.

Construction values here remain consistently very good on all levels — a perfect burn, a streaky but solid ash, and an effortless draw.

I suspect these robustos are at their peak right now. The highlights of this cigar — the gentle sweetness and vanilla overtones — are subtleties that I can easily see vanishing in a few months to a year. This seems to be the problem with aging mild cigars, though in this case it has really paid off. I may hang on to a couple of Padilla Cedros for “research” purposes, but the rest of them are in my sights right now.

Aging Report: Camacho Havana Monarca


There is no dearth of information on the internet about how to store and age cigars. Vintage cigar smokers have been hoarding boxes in their climate controlled cellars for a long time now, and they’re the real experts on the subject. Now I’d be happy to pontificate on the 70/70 rule for you (I don’t agree with it.) And I’ll tell you all about the Great Cellophane Debate (it’s air permeable and taking it off doesn’t make a damn bit of difference.) And some will agree with me. Some won’t.

What I can’t tell you is how aging affects cigar flavors and performance, because I don’t know. But I aim to find out.

Up until a few months ago I didn’t even date the singles in my humidor. Now most of them have neat little stickers on them and my humble collection looks like it has smallpox. I do have a few boxes that I had the presence of mind to date stamp, but not many. Smoke ’em if I got ’em is usually what I do, and quite promptly, so there aren’t too many cigars in my humidor that have escaped that pithy credo for long.

But there are a few long-term survivors. Periodically I plan to round up these refugees and put them to the test for a new category here called “Aging Reports.” Most of them will be cigars that I have reviewed here before, so there will be a reference point of comparison.

But this Camacho Havana is an unusual case: a box that I purchased already aged. I didn’t know it would be aged when I received it in the mail, but I was happy about it, because an aged cigar is always better… right? The box was stamped 2002 and by all appearances it was kept in great condition. But now that I’ve burned my way through most of the box, I have to say that an aged cigar is not always, without exception, a better cigar.

The Report

The Camacho Havana has been around for a long time. According to cigarcyclopedia it was originally produced in Nicaragua in the 1960’s. Later production was moved to Honduras, where it remains today. Like many Camacho cigars, the Havana is a Honduran puro — in this case a Jamastran criollo wrapper surrounding a corojo blend filler.

This is a great looking and well constructed robusto. The burn on all of these oldsters has been sharp and even, they have a perfect draw, and they form a strong solid light gray ash. Absolutely no complaints there whatsoever.

When I first received these about six months ago I noticed that they seemed incredibly mild when compared with the box of churchills I started in 2006. The Havana line is relatively mild, for a Camacho, but they still have a nice little kick to them when fresh. The flavor, if memory serves, is basically leather with a dash of black pepper. I like the fresh ones quite a bit.

After smoking through most of this 2002 box I have come to the conclusion that they are well past their prime. They still have a nice aroma — it’s almost like fresh sawdust and mild ginger. But the body has been completely sapped out of these poor seniors, and there’s nothing that Richard Simmons can do about it. No Sweatin’ to the Oldies for these guys.

There is almost no flavor left here. They start out super mild, and at the mid-point they take on a slightly unpleasant burnt rubber flavor, like air from an old tire. The wrapper is still putting out good vibrations, but it has no backup from the filler so I have been pitching them at this point, mostly from boredom.

The Camacho Havana line is normally a punchy smoke, and I would expect that a certain amount of age would mellow it a bit, but obviously six years is a few years past the mark. The aroma is still quite nice, though very subtle, and that’s about all that remains of a once admirable cigar.

I am doing a little research about tobacco chemistry and the aging process and if I can make any sense of some very technical papers I will post my findings here in the near future. Meanwhile, check out Stogie Fresh, where the good Doctor compiles reviews and ratings of many premium cigars at different points in the aging process. Definitely worth a gander if you’re at all curious about cigar aging.