Flor de las Antillas Robusto

Flor de las Antillas

New for 2012 from My Family Cigars in Esteli, Nicaragua, is Flor de las Antillas. The “flower” of the Antilles is the island from which the Garcia family hails: Cuba itself. The brand name was in fact an old Havana trademark, and My Family Cigars has resurrected the name and rejuvenated the artwork for this new release.

Flor de las Antillas is a Nicaraguan puro featuring a sun-grown wrapper and several different Cuban-seed tobaccos. The cigar is box pressed and produced in four sizes:

  • Robusto: 5 x 50
  • Belicoso: 5 1/2 x 52
  • Toro: 6 x 52
  • Toro Gordo: 6 1/2 x 56
Construction Notes
The Flor de las Antillas robusto is a pressed cigar with a dry colorado claro wrapper. The cover leaf has a few veins, but it doesn’t look quite as weather-beaten as some sun grown wrappers. The head terminates in a flat triple-wrapped cap, and the draw is effortless. It burns evenly, and the ash it generates is almost as strong as the original cigar.

Overall construction: Superb. (No surprise, coming from My Father.)

Flor de las Antillas 2Tasting Notes

This is a somewhat unusual entry from the Garcias; it’s one of the smoothest and creamiest cigars I can recall from a cigar maker reknowned for big flavors and an explosion of pepper up front. A little bit of pepper creeps up in the sinuses for the first minute or two, but there is no bite on the tongue at all. Some leathery scents emerge which balance nicely with mild cedary spices, but for the most part this is just a very smooth medium-bodied cigar with a creamy smoke texture.

The middle section continues along the same trajectory, with some caramel sweetness added into the mix. This aroma doesn’t seem quite as robust as the Corojo 99 that I love on medium-bodied Garcia cigars like Vegas Cubanas, but it’s a little more complex and similarly balanced with mild spice.

The last third is increasingly peppery, but compared to many of My Father’s full-bodied blends (like Le Bijou, for instance) it’s really quite tame. Most of the spice tingles in the sinuses with only a fleeting nip on the tongue.

Conclusion

La Flor de las Antillas fills a spot in the medium-bodied lineup for My Father Cigars, perhaps to fill vacancies left by blends like El Rey de Los Habanos and El Centurion. It’s a nicely balanced cigar with hints of leather and cedar topped off with some caramel sweetness, and only a shadow of the pepper that is the hallmark of this Nicaraguan family. It’s also priced well. At around $6.00 it’s well within the median price range for premium smokes.

It didn’t blow me into the stratosphere, but smokers who like medium-bodied Nicaraguan blends — like Vegas Cubana or the old Padilla 1948 — should definitely check this one out.
Flor de las Antillas 3
Final Score: 89
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My Father Cedros Deluxe Cervantes

My Father Cigars reports that they have 700 employees, but there is nary a typist among them. Okay, I’m speculating about that last bit. Perhaps there is another reason why their website is so attractive and yet barren of content, but I’m fond of the notion that it is due to a paucity of secretarial skills in the workforce.

Those 7000 dextrous digits are kept away from all keyboards and directed instead to the rolling gallery of the Garcia Family Industrial Park, where they are producing some of Nicaragua’s finest smokes.

Soon after the My Father line of cigars was introduced in 2008, the Cedros Deluxe line was added in the lonsdale and corona gorda sizes, called Cervantes and Eminentes respectively. At first glance it’s difficult to see why the cedar is necessary because the regular My Father line is an impressively rich cigar to begin with. I guess cedar is like cowbell — more is better.

Due to the lack of information on this cigar I’m going to hazard a guess that the composition is the same as the standard My Father line — a blend of Nicaraguan fillers and binder (grown on the Garcias’ La Estrella farm in Esteli) and a Habano-Criollo hybrid wrapper from the Oliva Tobacco company in Ecuador.

Construction Notes

The stamped cedar sleeve on the My Father Cedros is an attractive aesthetic feature as well as a flavor enhancer, and the fact that it slides off so easily is pleasing as well. The wrapper is a ruddy colorado maduro with some fine veins and a touch of oil. As expected, the roll and the finishing touches at the head of the cigar are precise and refined.

The Cedros version seemed to burn a little bit faster than the No. 1, but it also seemed lighter to me, so maybe the proportion of ligero to lighter more combustible leaf is a bit different here. The Cervantes burned beautifully and exhibited in all other respects excellent construction, even exceeding the high quality of the the No. 1.

Overall construction excellent.

Tasting Notes

Anticipating my experience with the My Father No. 1, I was expecting the Cedros Deluxe to open with lashings of black pepper, but the Cervantes turns out to be a much more congenial cigar. Pepper is still front and center, but it’s balanced by other flavors and takes a civilized approach (as opposed to the hooligan mentality of the DPG Blue or the like.)

The cedar lends a sweet character to the smoke that blends well with an earthy and tannic flavor on the palate. A caramel-like quality shows up after an inch or two as the pepper relaxes.

The second half of the cigar develops more complexity as leathery flavors overtake the earthy ones. The smoke remains quite smooth and easy going, about medium in body and strength. The sweet cedary notes turn a bit darker. At one point I detected coconut, which might be attributed to environmental factors, like smoking in the waning hours of a summer day that pushed the mercury to 114 degrees. At the band the flavors start to char a bit and I’m ready to seek psychiatric assistance, or at least to go inside and cool off.

Conclusion

The My Father Cedros Cervantes is a slightly milder and more aromatic version of the My Father blend. I’m not sure if that is due to the size or if the blend has been tweaked for the Cedros Deluxe, but either way it suits me fine. It’s smooth and laden with cedar sweetness in balance with leather and earth.

Though perhaps not quite as complex as the No. 1, it’s well worth smoking as a medium-bodied alternative. Pricing is about the same, unfortunately — around $8-9 per stick. But in this case it’s worth the expense.

Final Score: 91

La Casita Criolla

The wrapper leaf on a cigar is like the sear on a carefully cooked piece of beef — it’s often what makes the difference between a bland piece of protein and a sizzling dinner centerpiece. But the sear must be done right — overdo it and your dinner guest will send that Porterhouse right back to the kitchen. Like most of the fine things in life, flavors need balance.

So it’s a puzzle to me when a cigar maker decides to focus on one ingredient in the recipe to the exclusion of the other components, the ones that usually give a cigar balance. We’ve seen cigars that are almost exclusively ligero like Oliva’s Cain, and we’ve seen cigars that are 100% maduro, like Camacho’s Triple Maduro. I don’t care for either of them, and lack of balance is one of the reasons why.

So what possessed Pete Johnson of Tatuaje Cigars to create a cigar made entirely of Connecticut Broadleaf?

I’m not sure, but I was curious to find out. Connecticut broadleaf is prized by manufacturers of everything from machine-made Toppers to Fuente Anejos. It’s thick, it’s ugly, and it’s one of the most expensive tobaccos for blenders to use. But heavens, it’s tasty. (My apologies to Garrison Keillor.)

La Casita Criolla, an old Cuban brand name acquired by Johnson for this blend, means something like “the little native house.” That’s one brand name that is better left untranslated. I’m as puzzled by the name as I am by the idea of a broadleaf puro, but it does conjure up an image of rusticity which is reflected in the cigar’s appearance.

La Casita Criolla is made for Tatuaje by My Father Cigars in Esteli, Nicaragua, and was released last year in three sizes, all comfortably under a 50 ring gauge:

HCB Corona – 5 1/8 x 42
HCBC Corona Gorda – 5 5/8 x 46
HCBF Short Churchill – 6 1/2 x 48

Construction Notes

The HCB Corona is rough and marred with imperfections, which is typical of broadleaf. It’s maduro in color tone, a little bit oily, and has a rustic but rich appearance. The roll is firm, but staring down the barrel it appears to be loose due to the thickness of the leaf. Rolling broadleaf in the bunch must take some getting used to, but the torcedors have apparently made the appropriate adjustments.

Both samples drew very well — not too loose, despite initial visual impressions — and they burned almost evenly, much better than I expected. My only complaint is that the cigar burns a little too hot after the mid-point. Draw frequency should be limited to about once per minute in the last part of the smoke. Discipline is required.

Overall construction: Very good.

Tasting Notes

The Casita Criolla corona offers initial flavors of leather, minerals, and a whiff of black pepper, though there is far less pepper here than in many other Tatuaje blends. The aroma is what you’d expect from broadleaf — it’s rich and sweet with roasted coffee and chocolate.

The middle section doesn’t stray too far from the palate of flavors it starts with, but I notice that the smoke is surprisingly light in texture. The flavors are balanced, the strength is no greater than medium, but the body of the cigar is much lighter than I expected. An aftertaste of graham crackers is a nice touch.

The aroma in the last section turns from leather to wood, but the sweet chocolate notes remain as long as the draw frequency is kept to a minimum. A bitter taste appears if the cigar gets too hot, which it seems to do quite easily in the final stretch.

Conclusion

Contrary to my expectations, La Casita Criolla is a very well balanced cigar. Despite this, it seems to be lacking something. Maybe a different leaf thrown into the mix might give the smoke a little more weight and add to the overall experience. That said, the overall experience is still pretty good, and broadleaf lovers will get a thrill out of this stick.

The coronas are in the 5 to 6 USD range. For the experience of smoking a pure broadleaf cigar, it’s well worth the scratch. I’m not sure I’m ready to run out and buy a box, but I’m glad I had the chance to try them, and I expect I’ll be picking them up from time to time in the shop.

Final Score: 89

La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Magnifico

Legend has it that La Aroma de Cuba was one of Winston Churchill’s preferred brands. That would be La Aroma de Cuba de Cuba, a brand which exists today only in the protected vaults of highly disciplined cigar collectors. But all is not lost for the rest of us. “Never give in!” as the old man said.  For we still have Don Pepin. And with the able assistance of the Ashton Cigar Company we have La Aroma de Cuba redux.

There are three distinct blends of La Aroma de Cuba: the non-extension LADC with a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper (and distinguished red foot band), the Edicion Especial with a sun-grown Ecuadorian wrapper (and secondary EE band), and this one, Mi Amor. This incarnation features a Cuban-seed wrapper grown in Mexico. I’m not sure where in Mexico, but I’m guessing it’s not Tijuana. My guess would be somewhere in the San Andres Valley, one of the only regions in the world that produces leaf with the maduro potential of Connecticut’s broadleaf.

More detailed information about the San Andres region is available on the Montecristo Reserva Negra post. Come to think of it, the LADC Mi Amor reminded me a bit of the Monte Reserva — I wouldn’t be surprised if the wrapper is the same leaf, or at least a close relative. They look quite similar and they taste quite similar… so they must be, um, similar.

Mi Amor was reportedly in planning for two years prior to its release at the IPCPR convention last year. Since then it has garnered rave reviews, including the No. 6 spot on Cigar Aficionado’s Best Cigars of 2010. I don’t always agree with CA, but I think they got it right this time.

LADC Mi Amor is made by My Father Cigars in Esteli, Nicaragua. Five sizes are in production:

  • Robusto – 5 x 50
  • Magnifico – 6 x 52
  • Valentino – 5 3/4 x 58
  • Churchill – 7 x 50
  • Belicoso – 5 1/2 x 54

Construction Notes

La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor is not billed as a maduro cigar, but it looks like one, and it tastes like one, so I’m going to say it is one. The wrapper shade is a medium dark maduro, but the wrapper is a little drier and much toothier than what you get with typical maduro processing.

The cigar is box pressed and sports a flat Cuban-style head and My Father Cigars’ impeccable triple-cap. The draw is excellent, and it burns slowly and evenly. The ash is a solid light gray verging on white, though it flakes slightly.

Overall construction: Excellent.

Tasting Notes

The Mi Amor Magnifico (the toro of the family) opens with a combination of earth and chocolate. In the first half-inch there is an old attic-like aroma, somewhat mushroomy, but sweetness soon takes over and the chocolate and coffee flavors prevail. When those somewhat outlandish initial flavors settle down the base flavor of the Nicaraguan filler comes through: a bright acidic tang on the palate. The smoke is rich and smooth.

The chocolate and coffee blend and simmer down to a smooth cocoa in the mid-section of the cigar, but the aroma is still distinctly sweet and the earth tones have almost entirely disappeared.

Some pepper enters the fray in the last third and the smoke is a little sharper on the tongue, though it never becomes harsh. On the nose it’s mostly coffee, but I’m surprised by the floral accents that remind me of another cigar with a romantic reputation — the Cuban Romeo y Julieta.

Conclusion

La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor is a damn fine smoke. It’s flavorful, smooth, rich, and almost perfectly balanced. The initial earthy flavors quickly mellow into the sweet ones, and the underlying zing keeps the palate popping. The smoke is smooth and the cigar burns beautifully.

After smoking a few of these I immediately went looking for the box price. A heavenly choir did not emerge from a cloud of smoke to sing the under $100 hymn, but I can’t say I was surprised. Around $170 USD is the going rate for the Magnifico. A little outside my range for boxes, but that puts them in the $7-8 range for a single, which I can manage every once in a while. And for a cigar this good, you can bet I will.

Final Score: 93

El Triunfador No. 4

El Triunfador is made by Pete Johnson, known best for his Tatuaje brand and his partnership with Jose “Pepin” Garcia. The El Triunfador name is an old Cuban mark that Johnson revived, but in order to retain ownership of the name he had to produce a certain number of cigars under that mark. So he made what he described at the time as a Cabaiguan Maduro in a lancero size and released it to a select few in 2009 as El Triunfador.

The blend in production today is entirely different from that original release, though the lancero with a broadleaf wrapper is still made in a limited number. The new blend, originally designed for release in Europe, has an Ecuadorian Habano cover. Under the hood is a Nicaraguan binder and filler, including leaf from Pepin Garcia’s La Estrella farm in Esteli. Seven sizes are in production:

  • No. 1 Lonsdale – 6 1/2 x 42
  • No. 2 Belicoso Fino – 5 1/2 x 52
  • No. 3 Corona Gorda – 5 5/8 x 46
  • No. 4 Robusto – 5 x 48
  • No. 5 Petite Corona – 4 3/8 x 42
  • No. 6 Lancero – 7 1/2 x 38
  • No. 7 Toro Grande – 5 7/8 x 54

The original release El Triunfador is easily distinguished from the No. 6 lancero by the band — the original broadleaf lancero has a dark brown band, while all of the newer numbered cigars have red bands. Both bands are classic and simple, reminiscent of the vintage Havana style. As are the cigars, for that matter.

El Triunfador is made by Jaime Garcia at My Father Cigars in Nicaragua.

Construction Notes

According to the specs on the Tatuaje website, the No. 4 Robusto is a standard 5 x 50, but it seems a bit undersized for a robusto. Maybe it’s because so many cigar makers are inflating their robustos with an extra leaf or two these days, or maybe it’s because of the box press. The roll is solid and the head and cap are classic Havana style, as expected from My Father Cigars. The wrapper is a rich looking colorado maduro with some fine veins. The burn is perfectly even and leaves a solid light gray ash in its wake.

The draw on one of the two I smoked for the review was loose and drew hot in the last third, but the other one was just right. Both cigars seemed to burn very quickly, however. I can usually stretch a robusto sized cigar out to 45 or 50 minutes, but the No. 4 seemed to have only 30-35 minutes in the tank.

Good to very good construction, with possible consistency issues.

Tasting Notes

The styling of this cigar is classically Cuban, so it makes sense that the flavor would be similar, or as similar as possible outside of Havana. It’s a medium-bodied smoke that starts up with sweet cedar and an earthy muskiness eerily reminiscent of the classic Cuban blends. There is a touch of pepper in the first half-inch, but that quickly dies away. The Nicaraguan zing is present on the tongue for the first half of the stick, but eventually that too gives way to a smoother, but less expressive combination of sweet wood and musk. In the last half some saltiness comes through and at the very end are floral notes similar to what I love in La Riqueza, one of Johnson’s other blends.

Conclusion

El Triunfador combines the best of Nicaraguan tobacco and Cuban style into a medium-bodied package that almost anyone will enjoy. It’s mild enough for a mid-day smoke, but will serve medium-bodied cigar smokers well at any time of day.  It appears to be designed as a mainstream cigar, and it smokes like one. It’s very good, but it’s not going to blow away of any of the top tier smokes in Tatuaje’s portfolio.

Going price for the No. 4 is 8 USD. There is a lot of competition in that price range, but El Triunfador is still a blend worth checking out.

Final Score: 88

Jaime Garcia Reserva Especial Robusto

There are so many reviews of this cigar in the blogosphere — all of them positive from what I could see — that I can find no reason not to throw another one on the fire. Unfortunately the volume of material fact about the composition of this cigar exists in inverse proportion to the number of opinions, and the My Father Cigars website is still under construction. (A very classy site, by the way, but every link to actual information about a cigar blend yields only a promise that it is “Coming Soon”. )

But the reliable intel is that this cigar is made by My Father Cigars in Esteli, Nicaragua, and is named for (and probably blended by) Jaime Garcia, the son of cigar superhero Jose “Don Pepin” Garcia. The wrapper is a dark Connecticut Broadleaf, and the filler leaf is a combination of tobacco harvested from Garcia’s farms and Oliva’s farms in Nicaragua. Some sites indicate that the binder is Ecuadoran (which would be an unusual choice, but Oliva does grow a huge amount of tobacco in Ecuador) and other sites say the binder is Nicaraguan.

Six sizes are in production, including the newly introduced fireplug format, denominated here as the “super gordo”.

  • Petite Robusto – 4 1/2 x 50
  • Robusto – 5 1/4 x 52
  • Belicoso – 5 1/2 x 52
  • Toro – 6 x 54
  • Toro Gordo – 6 x 60
  • Super Gordo – 5.75 x 66

Construction Notes

It’s not easy to make broadleaf look beautiful, but My Father Cigars does about the best that anyone can to make it presentable. The wrapper is dark, but variegated in color from dark brown to black. No artificial processing here.  There are the expected veins, but they’re fairly discreet by broadleaf standards. The roll is solid, though the cigar seems a bit light in the hand for some reason. The  head of the stick is rounded and the cap is not triple wound. This is very unusual for a cigar from this factory, but it is understandable given the toughness of the leaf.

The draw is excellent, and while the burn wavers a bit it catches up without encouragement. It seems to burn rather quickly. The ash is solid but slightly flaky.

Overall construction: Very Good.

Tasting Notes

The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree, and the Jaime Garcia Reserva certainly retains many of the flavors we’re familiar with from his father’s blends. The toro starts up with a dry tannic pinch to the salivary glands, followed by a moderate amount of black pepper on the tongue. The base flavor is earthy, but it is balanced very nicely by the broadleaf’s sweet chocolate aroma.

The mid section continues in the same vein, dry and peppery, though the volume is dropped a few notches on the spice. The sweet earthy flavors momentarily combine to give the impression of pine resin.

The last third focuses on a black coffee flavor as the sweetness dissipates. It finishes a little bit harsh, as if it were serving up a mouthful of grounds rather than a smooth cup o’ joe. The complexity of flavors presented up to this point might have persuaded me to smoke this cigar beyond a prudent point, but I couldn’t help myself.

Conclusion

The Jaime Garcia Reserva Especial robusto is an excellent medium-bodied smoke with an earthy taste on the palate but a sweet broadleaf maduro-style aroma. The blend tastes very much like what one would expect from My Father Cigars, though perhaps a little milder than many of them. It reminded me of a less manly 601 Maduro. 601’s little brother, maybe.

There is a slight raspiness to the smoke that won’t bother My Father aficionados, but I’m hoping that with a little age these will smooth out a bit more. That said, they’re certainly not difficult to smoke now. MSRP appears to be in the 7 USD range. Definitely worth a look for maduro lovers, especially those who enjoy the Garcias’ tannic pinch.

Final Score: 89

Aging Report: Nacionales W

Over the years I have really questioned whether aging a cigar is always worth the effort. I’ve made a committed attempt, but so far I haven’t found it to be uniformly successful. Obviously there are many dedicated proponents of cigar aging, but I was heartened to read that Jose “Don Pepín” Garcia is not one of them. A few years ago he was at an event and a participant asked him if aged cigars were better than freshly rolled sticks. “A ten year old cigar, you might as well smoke paper.” Garcia said that cigars are meant to be enjoyed while the oils and moisture are still present — and it makes sense as a cigar maker that he would say this. He’s blending cigars to be smoked with the qualities that the tobacco has now, not what it will have years from now.

So it is a little ironic that of all the cigars I’ve aged, this one has performed the best over time — Garcia’s Nacionales W El Mundo. I picked up a handful of these in 2006 at the Cigar King in Scottsdale, Arizona, for which the Nacionales is made. I smoked most of them then (you can see the original review here), but this one has been resting quietly in my long-term humidor ever since. The cellophane has taken on a yellowish-brown hue, but aside from that the cigar still looks perfect.

The El Mundo is a 5.5 x 52 robusto with a triple-wound pig-tail cap that makes it look like a Cabaiguan Guapo. The wrapper is a Nicaraguan Corojo 99, and if any of the oils have volatilized over the years it’s not easy to see —  the leaf is supple and displays a nice sheen. The roll is solid, and the draw is as perfect as you can get.  I was surprised to find that the prelight scent of the tobacco is still pungent with earth and musk.

It often takes a few minutes for an aged cigar to awaken after its long slumber in the humidor, but the Nacionales W perked up right away with a dry woody flavor and a dash of black pepper on the tongue. The flavors of this cigar suddenly came back to me — dry tannins, woody spice, and a sweet semi-floral note on the nose. The aroma is complex, exhibiting everything from cocoa to sandalwood.

At the mid-point this cigar is wonderfully expressive, and I think it probably has improved over time. The tannins have dropped off a bit but the pepper lingers on the palate. There is a bready note that I rarely notice in non-Cuban cigars. The body is in the medium range, and even after five years the nicotine kick is still considerable.

The last third of the cigar is earthy with coffee and cocoa-like overtones. The finish is lengthy and the aftertaste somewhat bitter at the very end.

Conclusion

After five years, the Nacionales W shows none of the evanescence that the blender fears — this is a solid smoke that is every bit as complex and enjoyable as it was on its release, if not more so. My only complaint is that I don’t have more of these on ice. With the tremendous surge in Don Pepín’s production it doesn’t seem likely that the blend is exactly the same today, though there’s always hope.

But at least the Nacionales W is still available, presumably in a formulation that is at least close to the one here. This blend is available only from Cigar King, and the El Mundo size sells for around 6 USD each. I’ll be tempted to pick up a few more the next time I swing through the Phoenix area.

Final Score: 90