Carlos Torano Noventa “La Esperanza”


When Daniel Ortega was elected President of Nicaragua last November, cigar makers and aficionados everywhere had to step back a moment and remember what happened the last time Ortega’s party was in power. When the Sandinistas assumed control in 1979, tobacco farms and factories were seized by the government and the Nicaraguan cigar industry was essentially decimated; cigar manufacturers took what tobacco they could and ran for the border to Honduras or other more hospitable countries. Tobacco production in Nicaragua was eventually retooled for cigarettes to be marketed in Eastern Bloc countries.

So when Ortega came back like a bad penny last November, Philip Wynne of Felipe Gregorio cigars did what seems the sensible thing — he got out of Dodge and moved his operation to the Dominican Republic. But the Toraño family evidently has no fear. Instead of leaving, or even hedging his bets, Charlie Toraño decided that they would go ahead with plans for a new facility four times the size of their current one in Esteli. The new factory will be set on a 30 acre campus complete with areas for social events and tourist attractions; in fact, Toraño says they want the new factory to have the air of a winery where people can relax and learn about the history of Toraño’s four generations in the business.

And if this weren’t enough, there’s the name of the new facility: Esperanza, which was the name of the Toraño farm in Cuba. It was confiscated by the Castro government in 1959 and led to Carlos Torano’s famous escape to the Dominican Republic with the seeds that would become known as piloto cubano, one of the great stories and historical milestones in the history of cigars. Esperanza is Spanish for hope, and hope is certainly alive in Nicaragua.

To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the company (dated from 1916, the year Santiago Toraño emigrated from Spain to Cuba,) Toraño Cigars released the Noventa. After five years of aging, the final product was released late last year. Noventa is a Nicaraguan puro utilizing a nearly flawless habano wrapper, a habano binder, and a complex blend of fillers from Jalapa, Esteli, Condega and Pueblo Nuevo. The names of the three available sizes are reflections of Toraño’s heritage: Santiago, a 5 x 50 robusto named after the patriarch of the family; La Esperanza, a 6 x 52 toro named for the original farm in Cuba; and Latin, a 6 1/4 x 54 torpedo named after the current business moniker.

The toro size Esperanza has a smooth shade-grown appearance with a slight sheen to the wrapper. A couple of discreet veins pop up toward the head from under the band. The foot reveals some dark leaf, and the pre-light scent is mildly spicy. The cap is smooth and shiny and applied in the flat Cuban style. A very attractive cigar.

I was expecting a bold spicy start typical of Nicaraguan puros, but what I got instead was a very smooth, nearly creamy smoke. The base flavor here is wood with a touch of cedary spice. The draw is perfect, and the burn is as close to razor straight as I’ve had in a long while. The flavors and aroma remind me of a Padron 1964 natural, though perhaps not as bold. The same smoothness and woody profile is there though, with maybe a little more sweetness on the nose.

There wasn’t too much development here, just a very relaxing spritely cigar with gentle spices jumping all over the palate — cedar, juniper, maybe a little vanilla bean. Never overbearing, perfectly balanced, and smooth as silk. I’d rate it a solid medium in body, though the smoke texture itself is a little bit heavier than that. It’s not heavy the way highly spiced Nicaraguan cigars can be — it’s substantial, but refined. I enjoyed this smoke for a good hour and fifteen minutes, pausing once to remove the band and wonder where the time went.

The Noventa is a great cigar worthy of the Anniversary status conferred upon it. The bad news is that it’s very expensive. At around 11 USD this isn’t going to be an everyday smoke for most people, and it probably shouldn’t be. Since Noventa means 90, I would prescribe one every 90 days. Even if you need to scrimp a little the rest of the week — have a Mayorga or a Maria Mancini instead of that Ashton –I think it’s worth the sacrifice.

La Aroma de Cuba Corona Minor


On November 30, 1895, Winston Churchill was fired upon by Cuban insurgents as he traveled with the Spanish Army as a military observer. It was his 21st birthday and his first experience under fire.

As a recent graduate of the Sandhurst Military Academy, Churchill’s eagerness for active service drew him to Cuba. But he left with a taste for something else — the Havana cigars he would treasure and continue to enjoy for the rest of his life. At this time he was loyal to two brands in particular: the famous Romeo y Julieta, and a lesser known label called La Aroma de Cuba.

Romeo y Julieta has been in continual production since that time, but at some point La Aroma de Cuba fell by the wayside. In the late 1990’s, Robert Levin of Ashton Cigars read an article in Cigar Aficionado about Churchill’s exploits in Cuba and after doing a little research he discovered the brand name “La Aroma de Cuba” had been abandoned. He registered the name for future use.

In 2002 Ashton introduced La Aroma de Cuba with a Honduran wrapper (grown by Nestor Plasencia), a Honduran binder, and filler from Honduras and Nicaragua. The cigar is manufactured in the small colonial town of Santa Rosa de Copan in Honduras, most probably in the Flor de Copan factory. The artwork on the band and box is based on the original lithography. It certainly has that old timey look about it.

I read a review of this cigar somewhere that compared it the Cuban Bolivar petite corona. A far fetched claim, I thought. I had sampled La Aroma de Cuba a few years ago and wasn’t too impressed, but the review insisted that it was this particular size in the line that was the jewel in La Aroma’s crown. So I thought I’d give it a go.

The wrapper has a rough but robust appearance, slightly toothy with lighter colored veins. The cap is applied well and the roll is solid. The prelight draw is clear and we’re ready for takeoff.

The basic flavor of this little stick is leather and its highlight is spice. It produces a nice volume of medium bodied smoke which has a slightly sweet tinge to it. It’s not sweet like a habano though; it’s more of a sun-grown sweetness than the caramel and bread of a Bolivar. The smoke has a nice smooth texture, and while the finish is spicy it’s not biting. As a point of comparison, I’m thinking Camacho, but a sensitive Camacho, which I realize is an oxymoron. La Aroma de Cuba seems to me a more nuanced but still full bodied Honduran cigar.

This Corona Minor is a fine 20 to 30 minute smoke, but when I want this flavor profile I will probably reach for a Camacho instead. When you want to take a bull by the horns, you want some horns to hang on to.

Hoyo de Monterrey Dark Sumatra “Ebano”


Hoyo de Monterrey literally means “the hole of Monterrey,” which coincidentally is also the final destination of a good part of my paycheck. Not so literally, “Hoyo” means a valley, which is a nice place to grow tobacco because the plants are well protected from high winds. The valley of Monterrey is located in Cuba’s famed Vuelta Abajo, and this is where Jose Gener first grew the tobacco for his Hoyos in the mid nineteenth century.

In 1931 the Gener family sold their holdings to Fernandez, Palicio y Cia., the makers of Punch. They produced Hoyos for a couple decades and finally, after being hounded out of Cuba by the little green men, sold the Hoyo de Monterrey brand to the Villazon family. Today the Villazon outfit is owned by General Cigar, and the brand is still produced in their Cofradia, Honduras factory overseen by Estelo Padron.

The Dark Sumatra line was introduced in 2002 using an “unusually dark” Ecuadoran wrapper leaf that Estelo Padron found in one of his warehouses. It is certainly the darkest Ecuadoran wrapper I’ve come across — it is at least a maduro in color, if not oscuro. To create a striking and bold blend, Padron utilizes a Connecticut broadleaf binder and a filler combination of Honduran, Nicaraguan, and piloto cubano leaf from the Dominican Republic.

The names of the various sizes in this line all reflect the dark nature of the wrapper — Media Noche, Noche, and Espresso. This is the Ebano, a grand corona measuring 6 x 45.

Beneath the cedar sheath of the Dark Sumatra lies a very dry wrapper that is almost dusty in appearance — the dark hue of the wrapper highlights this effect, resulting in a somewhat rustic appearance.

The Ebano starts up with a hearty flavor of earth and surprised me with a classic Ecuador Sumatran aroma. I was expecting something different due to the unusual treatment of the wrapper leaf, but it turns out to be the aroma typical of ECSU — very autumnal, a scent of burning leaves and hearth smoke.

The smoke itself is fairly big-boned, full bodied but smooth with no initial bite. Overall, this stick is constructed very well: an even burn that leaves a solid dirty gray ash in its wake, and a firm but easy draw that results in nice clouds of smoke.

At the mid-point this cigar picks up some heavier flavors — a charred earthiness that reminds me of maduro without the sweetness. In the final stage it produces a slight burn in the sinuses and back of the throat.

This is a satisfying and straightforward smoke. There isn’t a whole lot of complexity here, but if you enjoy Ecuadoran Sumatra wrapper in a medium to full bodied cigar, the Dark Sumatra is worth a look. Like most premium cigars from General, these are attractively priced at around 3 or 4 USD per stick.

Bering Corona Royale


There was a time when an American cigar smoker didn’t experiment with new brands and blends. He chose a brand that he liked and he pretty much stuck with that for as long as he chose to smoke cigars. This was a time when the cigar factories of Ybor City flourished and produced thousands of “clear havana” cigars made with tobacco imported from Cuba. The “premium” market of that day was for authentic Havana rolled cigars, but the average American working stiff was quite content with “two for a nickel” King Edward cigars or the like.

Today, most cigar enthusiasts cast a wary eye on King Edward and his drugstore brethren, but it’s worth remembering that Swisher International, the maker of King Edward, La Primadora, and of course Swisher Sweets, is the world’s second largest cigar company by revenue (trailing only Altadis.)

A Swisher executive once said, “There are two kinds of cigars in the world: those that sell and those that don’t.” While that explains Swisher’s business philosophy (and perhaps the secret to their success) it doesn’t explain why they entered the premium cigar market with Bering, a long filler hand-rolled that sells for around 2 dollars. A blue-collar two-dollar cigar.

Bering cigars were at first a long-filler machine-made cigar manufactured by Corral, Wodiska y Ca., starting in 1905. Their Ybor City factory no longer produces cigars (in fact this historic building has been converted to an office complex) but the Bering brand lives on, having been purchased by Swisher in 1985. Swisher eventually moved Bering production to Honduras and made it a 100% handmade cigar, a turning point for Swisher and the Bering line.

The Bering Corona Royale is a tubo, as pictured above. On the other side of the tube it reads “Very Mild Exquisite Cigar.” This is a long corona at 6 inches with a 41 ring gauge and comes equipped with a Connecticut seed wrapper shade grown in Honduras, a binder from Honduras, and filler from Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

This particular specimen has been lounging in my cheapodor for about four months, which I think is probably longer than necessary. I fired it up in the garage and roasted some coffee just to give the cigar some competition in the aroma arena. It starts up with a nice even burn and a straightforward tobacco flavor. I wouldn’t say it was either exquisite or excessively mild at this point, but it certainly wasn’t objectionable.

The aroma is probably the nicest thing about this cigar — a mildly sweet, slightly woody fragrance that blended very well with the Sumatra smoking in the I-Roast. The flavor is simple, everyday cigar tobacco. By the midway point the flavor intensifies somewhat and becomes a little tart. It’s still fairly mild in body, but stronger in flavor.

As it continues the flavor takes on a little cardboard, and then takes a shortcut to bitter paper bag. I wasn’t sure if this was an accurate description, so I cut up some Trader Joe’s paper bags and had a chew… I’m a professional, kids. Do not try this at home.

A cigar that reduces me to chewing on grocery sacks might not have much to recommend itself, but to be honest the cigar was actually better than the bags. Faint praise, I know. If you’re into that astringent flavor that Mexican and some Indonesian cigars have, this one might float your boat. Mine sank.

Bottom Line: This isn’t a half bad yard gar, but I can think of half a dozen yard gars for around the same price that I’d rather smoke.

La Aurora, S.A.


I thought I’d try something a little different this week by profiling a few different lines from one cigar maker. La Aurora has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity during the past few years, earning plaudits from pundits and neophytes alike. But the company itself has been around for years — over 100 years as a matter of fact — and has grown and diversified into a Dominican corporate giant called the Leon Jimenes Group that dwarfs its original cigar rolling concern.

The seeds of La Aurora were first planted in the tobacco fields of Antonio Leon in the late 19th century. His son, Eduardo Leon Jimenes, would use some of this tobacco for the first La Aurora cigars, perfectos called “preferidos” that were rolled and sold to the Dominican public.

In the early twentieth century the Dominican Republic was a very poor country struggling to maintain its independence, despite an American military occupation and the anarchy of warlord rule. In 1930 the dictator Rafael Trujillo came to power and established rule of law — his law — and while this lent some stability to the country it also stifled a free market. The Leon family wished to expand into the more profitable cigarette business but was prevented by the dictator. It seems that Trujillo owned the leading cigarette company and did not welcome the competition.

But all bad things must come to an end, so in 1961 Trujillo was assassinated. This allowed La Aurora to expand, as it had always wanted to, into the cigarette and beer industries. As the Leon Jimenes Group, it now dominates both of those markets in the Dominican Republic, producing the ubiquitous Presidente brew and Marlboro cigarettes for Philip Morris. Recently they have also added a banking concern to their portfolio, and are now recognized as the largest company in the country.

Cigar production is now a very small part of what the Leon Jimenes Group does, but as recent years have shown, it is still very important to them. When Fernando Leon Asensio was asked in a Cigar Aficionado interview if he would ever sell La Aurora, his response was, “No. How can you sell a son?”

La Aurora continues to receive the attention it deserves, not only from its parent company but from the cigar world as well. The Cien Años line celebrating the 100th anniversary of the company has been held in the same high regard as Fuente’s Opus X as a super premium cigar, and La Aurora has followed on this success with the 1495 line. Meanwhile it continues to produce its traditional La Aurora line with a Cameroon wrapper and the mild and genteel Leon Jimenes. Additionally it produces 5 Vegas and Pueblo Dominicana for Cigars International, and CAO’s flavoured small cigars.

I looked in the humidor over the weekend and discovered I have quite a few cigars that I didn’t realize until now are made by La Aurora. (Yes, I have been spending a little too much time on Cigarbid.) In the next couple weeks I’ll be reviewing some of these cigars to see how they compare, starting with 5 Vegas Limitada torpedos from 2005 and 2006. Time for me to get out the notebook and start smokin!

Henry Clay Honduran Hermoso


In the early 1900s, two of the leading brands of Havana cigars in the United States were Henry Clay and Villar y Villar, both owned by Gustavo Bock’s Havana Tobacco Company. In the wake of the Spanish American War and the American occupation of Cuba, tobacco trusts were created to establish a foothold in the industry. I always wondered why a Havana cigar would be named after a prominent American statesman like Henry Clay — that’s why, or at least partly why. Gustave Bock, along with establishing several brands which would survive into the next century (if in name only) is also credited with creating the first cigar band. Why is still up for debate.

Rudyard Kipling took note of the brand as well in his poem “The Betrothed.” The line is repeated so often in cigar literature that it’s almost become a cliche, but here it is for the millionth time:

There’s peace in a Larranaga, there’s calm in a Henry Clay

But the best cigar in an hour is finished and thrown away.

Henry Clay came to mind the other day as I was reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s recent book about Abraham Lincoln: Team of Rivals. Lincoln called Clay “the man for a crisis” because he was primarily responsible for the Missouri Compromise which saved the United States from civil war for forty years. He was one of the great mediators between the North and South; in fact his headstone in Lexington Cemetery reads “I Know no North – No South – No East – No West.” If Kipling found calm in a Henry Clay, Clay himself must have been remarkably even tempered.

And while many other cigar bands bore the names of eminent politicians, Henry Clay survived as a brand up to the revolution in 1959. Evidently Castro didn’t care for the name. (Actually, Castro wanted to “communize” cigars as well as people and have ONE brand only. Che Guevara wouldn’t hear it.)

So today there is no Henry Clay Havana, but there are two others, a Dominican and a Honduran. The Dominican line is easily distinguished because the entire line is maduro only. The Honduran version is made in Danli, but the components are mostly Nicaraguan. The wrapper and binder are both Nicaraguan, and the filler is a blend of Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Peruvian leaf. At one time there was also an H2000 line, but unfortunately they appear to have been discontinued. (Too bad really. They were nice smokes.) The Hondurans are produced for Santa Clara cigars (JR) while the Dominicans are made by Altadis. How they can use the same brand name is somewhat mystifying, but trademark law is not exactly my forte.

“Hermosos No. 4” is a Cuban commercial vitola which is actually a little bit narrower than this Hermoso. The Henry Clay Hermoso is a traditional robusto at 5 inches by a 50 ring gauge. The Cuban vitola is the same length, but a 48 ring gauge.

This cigar has a rough, somewhat dry wrapper. Not the most attractive stick around, but the draw is good and it takes an easy light. The construction on this robusto is quite good all the way around: even burn, solid gray ash, the works.

This is what I’d call a real stogie. It’s a medium bodied easy smokin’ seegar. A nice aroma with a mild spice to it that is very pleasant — nothing fancy, but pleasant. The flavors fall in the earthy category, bordering on metallic at times. I have to say I wasn’t crazy about the flavor, but it’s mild enough not to be overbearing in that regard. The aftertaste follows suit.

The last third of this cigar gets into tarry territory, so it’s not one I’ll ever nub, but the first half to two-thirds was a decent everyday smoke. I doubt I’d ever spring for a box of these guys, but having a few around for in-between times could be a good thing.

Henry Clay was the master of the compromise. While brokering a peace between factions that were destined for a bitter and violent war was no mean feat, I’d have to say this cigar is a compromise of sorts as well. It’s a middle of the road cigar that won’t compromise your budget. At around $2.50 a stick it’s a pretty good deal.

Fuente Fuente OpusX Perfexcion No. 5


This year marks the ten year anniversary of the Fuente Fuente OpusX, one of the most highly praised and sought after cigars in the world.

In the early 1990’s Carlos Fuente, Jr. had a dream to produce quality cuban-seed shade- grown wrapper leaf in the Dominican Republic. Wrapper leaf had never been grown there before, and the Fuente company was still importing wrappers from other countries to finish their cigars. The mere idea of growing wrapper leaf in the Dominican Republic was ridiculed and many believed it to be impossible.

But the Fuentes are not people who back down in times of adversity. From their beginnings in Cuba, to Nicaragua where their barns were burnt down by the Sandinistas, to Honduras and another fire, to the Dominican Republic where they were told they couldn’t grow wrapper leaf… this is not a family that gives up easily.

With the assistance of Angel Oliva and the Oliva family, the OpusX project was started on Chateau de la Fuente, about two hours south of Santiago, where Oliva believed the soil to be the closest he had ever seen to the soil in San Luis, Cuba. The first crop was sun grown piloto cubano, but soon after that the farm was expanded and began to produce the shade grown piloto that would make OpusX a star.

It wasn’t long after I first started smoking cigars that I heard about the OpusX, partly because of the way it was released and marketed to the public. At first the OpusX was only available on the east coast of the United States. At the same time, the Newman family’s Diamond Crown brand was released exclusively on the west coast… and being in the west, of course everyone wanted what was in the east. Because, as we know, the forbidden (or in this case unavailable) fruit is always sweeter.

These days the OpusX is sold throughout the U.S. and the world, though it’s not exactly easy to find, and comes with a super-premium price tag.

The Perfexcion No. 5 is the petite corona in the OpusX line, a handsome little stick at a bit under five inches long with a 40 ring gauge. I thought this little feller would be a nice cap on a pleasant Saturday evening. I was in for a little more than I expected.

I clipped the end and took a pre-light draw. The foot of the cigar shows a crazy swirling of leaves, with a solid black leaf curling in the center. The wrapper leaf is smooth and silky, and to my surprise it actually tastes peppery even before it’s lit. This should have been my first sign that this would be more than a little nightcap.

Unsurprisingly, the first taste is a burst of pepper. This lasts only a minute or two until the smoke mellows into a very smooth and complex blend of leather and cedar. It’s a very full-bodied, tasty smoke, but not harsh in the least. Sneaky little devil.

It burns very slowly, though I admit I took my time, smoking slowly and looking at the stars. I almost let it go out, as I felt myself sinking deeper and deeper into the chair. But it smoldered indignantly and never extinguished itself.

At the mid-way point the aroma turns a little musky, an aroma I associate with Ecuadorian sun grown wrappers — a rich scent like new leather, though this time spiked with a peppery flavor that grows to the end. By the finale the pepper had taken up residence in my sinuses and I enjoyed several hearty sneezes which I hope didn’t wake the neighbors. But at the same time, this was a very smooth, almost creamy smoke from start to finish.

And that’s the trouble. This is a powerful little smoke, which I didn’t realize until I stood up after about forty minutes to toss the nub on the compost heap and discovered I didn’t feel so well. This cigar is so smooth and tasty that you don’t realize that with the great flavor you’re also getting a serious nicotine payload.

The OpusX Perfexcion No. 5 is a great little cigar, but don’t take it lightly. It’s much much bigger than it appears.

(I received this cigar in a Club stogie trade from “StudentSmoker”. This was a great experience. Many thanks!)

La Carolina Capitan

In the late 90’s I was fond of a cigar called Cupido, a rich and earthy Nicaraguan cigar made by Henry “Kiki” Berger. Don Kiki was making cigars for private customers in Esteli when he ran into Yossi Kviatkovsky and Dixi Monaco who had a stockpile of tobacco they wanted to turn into the Cupido brand cigar.

cnv0229.jpgAt first it was only available as a churchill, and that’s the size I remember. Looking over my notes from 1997, I said it was a little tight on the draw, but very tasty. I even compared it to a Cuban H. Upmann, which I will attribute to the enthusiasm of my youth.

The Cupido brand expanded and was eventually available in several more sizes, including the “torpito,” a truncated torpedo. A few years later the Cupido Criollo and the Tuxedo versions were also introduced. I liked these, but not as much as the original.

And then around 2002 or 2003 something happened and the brand went under. Sources vary as to whether it was poor business practices or just another victim of the “boom”. I bought several boxes on clearance around that time, and that was the end of my Cupidos. Or so I thought…

Regardless of what happened to the Cupido brand, Kiki Berger stayed in Nicaragua and continued to produce cigars. In 2005 Tabacaleri Esteli resurrected the Cupido under a new name: La Carolina. According to the manufacturer, La Carolina was an old Cuban brand that only “select connoisseurs” were able to obtain in the United States. The same tobacco and the same blend that was used to make the Cupido is now going into La Carolina, so I was eager to meet the reincarnation of what used to be one of my favorite smokes.


La Carolina cigars are Nicaraguan puros, and the Capitan is the line’s torpedo entry. The wrapper is a smooth EMS color with a few prominent veins. The first thing I noticed when I clipped the head and took a quick draw-check is that the wrapper is sweet, like a Baccarat. I usually don’t care for this, because there seems something unnatural about it, but that didn’t stop me from lighting up.

The draw is perfect, by the way, and this cigar exhibited excellent construction in all other ways as well. It burned perfectly from start to finish, and formed a solid near-white ash. Someone once said you could let a Cupido cigar burn for an inch or so, remove the ash with moistened fingers, and then stick the ash back on the cigar. I tried this with the Capitan. It didn’t work, but it’s still a solid ash.

This is a mild to medium cigar with an incredibly sweet floral scent. For the first half of the cigar it’s so smooth that it has no aftertaste at all. But the aroma is worth the price of admission alone. It’s hard to believe this is a Nicaraguan cigar until the half-way point where it picks up a little more body and a woody flavor enters the stage. From this point to the end it gets slightly salty. The real highlight of this cigar is the fantastic perfume. I can’t think of another cigar that smells quite like this — almost like lavender at times.

I don’t remember exactly what the Cupido tasted or smelled like, but I can see how I could, as a new cigar smoker, become quite enamored of a cigar like this. It’s a little too light for me now, as a grizzled fan of El Rico Habano and Padron, but on the right evening, when the air is still and the moon is full, I could still get sentimental about a cigar like this.

La Carolina is a winner. I’ll be looking for more of this great cigar from Cuban Crafters.

Cusano Corojo 1997 Robusto


The term “Corojo” has been used to describe both a particular type of wrapper leaf and the style of a cigar. In the case of the Cusano Corojo, it’s a little of both.

The original corojo leaf was developed in Cuba on a plantation called Santa Ines del Corojo by agriculturalist Diego Rodriguez. This leaf became famous for its delicate and silky texture as well as its flavor and fine burning qualities. Genuine corojo was Cuba’s premier wrapper leaf for several decades.

But cultivation of corojo in Cuba came to a halt in the mid 90’s because the strain is highly susceptible to blue mold and other diseases. Corojo hybrids were then developed that could withstand the ills that cigar tobacco is heir to. Among the more famous — and infamous — Cuban hybrids are H2000, Corojo 96 and Corojo 97.

The corojo on the Cusano Corojo is a hybrid of some sort, but as owner Michael Chiusano said in Smoke Magazine, “You can make an orange pest-resistant without turning it into something other than an orange.” From this I take it that Chiusano means that his corojo is still Corojo, and bears at least a family resemblance to the original Cuban variety.

Cusano’s corojo is grown naturally tapado under cloud cover in Ecuador. The original crop was harvested in 1996 and the seeds from this harvest were selected and produced the 1997 wrappers the following year. The 1996 Corojo was released with a Connecticut binder, but the 1997s have a spicy Mexican Sumatra binder. The filler is Dominican in both cases. The brand was first released in 2004.

The wrapper on this robusto is a toothy dark colorado maduro. I used a punch on the cap and found the preliminary draw to be very good. The cap itself was not applied with the greatest care, but the rest of the cigar looks to be in good shape.

When I whipped the cello off this stick I thought I detected a whiff of ammonia. Not strong, but present. Lighting up this cigar confirmed my first impression — this cigar is a youngster. The first taste is grassy and slightly bitter, and it remains this way to the end. The aroma is toasty and delicate, but the greenish flavor doesn’t do the wrapper justice.

Additionally, the ash is crumbly and a mottled gray and black in color. Min Ron Nee in his seminal work on Post-Revolution Havana Cigars notes that this phenomenon is caused by incomplete combustion of the leaf. I’m not sure if this is true or not, but it is relatively common with unaged Cuban cigars.

Try this. Torch the black/grey ashes. They become white. The black/grey ashes are due to incomplete combustion. The black particles might be partially burnt organic molecules, because they are too large to be combustible.

He goes on to say that the fermentation process causes the breakdown of these molecules, resulting in complete combustion and a white ash.

Again, I don’t know if MRN’s explanation carries any scientific weight, but it is, as Plato says, “a likely story.” What I do know is that this is the second Cusano cigar I’ve tried that has tasted like this.

Aside from the green issues, this is a very well constructed medium-bodied smoke. Toward the mid-point it turns a bit musky, and the aroma remains pleasantly toasty throughout.

Like the Cusano 18 Double Connecticut I think the Corojo 1997 shows great potential, but it’s not there yet. I’m going to pick up a few and stow them away for a few years to see if my hypothesis is correct. Both the 18 Double CT and the Corojo 1997 are reasonably priced — well worth the investment of time and space in my humidor.

Peterson Gran Reserva Robusto


Peterson has a long established reputation as an Irish pipe maker. I smoke a pipe on occasion, and two of the three pipes I own are Peterson system pipes. The “system” was invented by Charles Peterson in the late nineteenth century, a few years after he joined the tobaconnist brothers Friedrich and Heinrich Kapp on Grafton Street in Dublin. The Peterson system employs an extra chamber in the pipe that funnels some of the moisture produced by the tobacco and results in a dry carefree smoke. They’re quite popular pipes even today, a hundred and some odd years later.

An exact replica of Charles Peterson’s favorite pipe has been released to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the company. Engraved on the silver band is the phrase “When stolen, please return to 55, Grafton Street. Charles Peterson.” And that is the beauty of pipes — they can be returned after curious thieves have given them a joy ride. Not so with cigars, I’m afraid.

The Peterson Gran Reserva line was introduced at the RTDA trade show in 2004, but it wasn’t Peterson’s first foray into cigar production. In 1995 they came out with the Peterson Hallmark series, but it was washed away by the storm of the boom years.

Peterson pipes are distributed by Ashton here in the U.S., so perhaps it was natural for Peterson to ask Ashton to give the Peterson name another shot at a cigar line. Ashton makes several well known and highly sought after cigars under their own name, so who better to partner with?

Peterson’s Gran Reserva is produced at the Flor de Copan factory in Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras, and is imported and distributed by Ashton. The filler is a Honduran-Nicaraguan blend, the binder is Nicaraguan, and the wrapper is a smooth but dry Cameroon leaf. Not quite the toothiest Cameroon around, but tasty.

Some of the wrappers have water spots carefully arranged at the back of the cigar. (Clever.) The roll is firm and the prelight draw is very good. The caps are well formed and tight on the head of the stick.

The Gran Reserva fires up with a burst of spice typical of Cameroon wrapper. It’s a little rough at first, but smooths out after a half inch or so. It maintains a medium body throughout the smoke, gathering a little strength toward the end, but not enough to become truly heavy. The base flavor is leather. Combined with the spicy floral aroma from the wrapper this is a tasty smoke.

The samples I tried were fairly dry. I found minor splits in the wrapper after the half-way point, but they didn’t affect the cigar and weren’t large enough to be annoying. They also seemed to burn quickly, which may be another indication that they enjoy more tropical storage conditions. (My humidor has been reading in the 65 – 67% range.)

The Peterson Gran Reserva reminded me a little of the Ashton Heritage Puro Sol, but it didn’t have the same depth. They share the same fine aroma, but the Puro Sol just seems to have a more refined and complex flavor.

Despite this perhaps unfair comparison, the Peterson is a fine cigar, and I will be trying these again in the future after storing them at a higher RH. I’m going to consider these first two just a trial run.