Aging Report: 601 Oscuro Tronco

United Tobacco’s 601 series manufactured by Pepin Garcia has been a smashing success, and the Green Label is one of my favorites in the line. It hasn’t been easy to resist the siren’s call over the past year, but I still have a few of these left from the 2007 box that made it to the top ten list for the year.

This is a heavy cigar by design, and I was really curious to see how it would age. Many of the cigars I’ve chosen for “Aging Reports” have not benefited from their extended naps, but the ones that have are the sluggers like this one. I’m coming to the conclusion that as tobacco ages its strength and body attenuate, but in return more subtle nuances appear. So depending on the cigar, and the cigar smoker, this can be either a good or a bad thing.

I gravitate toward medium-bodied blends, with occasional forays into full-bodied and mild territory, so I was sort of looking forward to this one settling down a little. But only sort of, because the flavor is dynamite even if it’s not really in my weight class. So I still found myself picking at the box over the past year, handing a few out with both warnings and accolades, and now I have only a few left. But the year is up. Time for a visit from the ghost of Green Label past.

The first thing I noticed about the aged 601 Oscuro is that it doesn’t start up with the blast of pepper I was expecting — it’s certainly spicy, especially for the first half inch or so, but age has pacified the beast. The next thing I notice is that it burns very slowly, so slowly in fact that the time I allotted to smoke this robusto wasn’t enough to finish the cigar. But this being the 601 Green, two-thirds was enough. I’ve seen how this movie ends.

Despite the slow burn (and somewhat erratic burn line) the Green produces plenty of smoke. There is a sweet char on the nose that gradually becomes more chocolatey. On the palate I get wood with a nice black licorice accent, accompanied by a lingering but not overpowering aftertaste of chocolate and char. Ignoring the spicy overture, this is a medium bodied cigar that quickly becomes full bodied with a good nicotine hit, but it’s not the monster it was a year ago.

The bottom line is that the boldness of this cigar has faded somewhat. There’s plenty of flavor left for smokers of medium to full-bodied cigars, but if you love the explosion of pepper and tannin that a lot of Pepin blends offer when fresh, you’ll want to smoke these within a year of packing. But even after a year the Green Label is still a fantastic cigar, especially if you prefer a mellower profile. It looks like it’s time for me to restock.

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Some recent reviews of the 601 Oscuro Tronco:

Linus gives it a 7.5 out of 10 for Cigar Newbie.

Beezer goes toe to toe with the Tronco and learns his lesson.

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EO 601 Habano Oscuro Tronco

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Of all the new cigars I’ve tried this year (new to me, that is) I think the 601 Connecticut Black Label is the most interesting. The juxtaposition of a creamy Connecticut seed wrapper with a spicy Pepin core blend is truly an epicurean experience. And even if it isn’t my favorite blend from the hands of Don Pepin, it demonstrates the manifold nature of his skill. Just when you’re ready to settle in for another welcome, but familiar smoking experience, he pulls out the rug and presents a new blend with its own distinguished and delicious qualities.

With years of experience as one of Cuba’s premier blenders and rollers, it should be no surprise that his talents are diverse. In some ways it seems more of a surprise that he has been able to both keep up with the demand, and at the same time create even more new blends with tobacco that is almost always from the same region. While other cigar makers feel it necessary to advertise their “six-country” blend, Pepin Garcia is happy with just…Nicaragua. And so far, so are we!

Corojo wrappers have been, and probably always will be, a mainstay for the primary Pepin blends, but this year he has been going to the maduro well with a little more frequency. The Series JJ Maduro, the 601 Maduro, and now the 601 Habano Oscuro. (Is it a mere coincidence that Habanos S.A. is now releasing maduros as well? Probably.)

The folks at United Tobacco Inc have gone to the dark side twice now with their EO 601 series — first with the 601 Maduro (Blue Label) and once again with the 601 Habano Oscuro (Green Label). The Greens were just introduced this year at the RTDA, and so far they have elicited nothing but praise from lovers of full bodied and rich tasting cigars.

The 601 Green is a Nicaraguan puro — filler, binder and wrapper all from farms in Nicaragua. Coming from Tabacalera Cubana this is a familiar formula, but the curve is in the wrapper: a deeply fermented Habano. Both Lucky7 and I were really impressed with the appearance of this toothy leaf: rich, oily, and shall we say, redolent of the pasture. Nice and smelly, the result of a thorough fermentation.

Five sizes of this blend have been released:

  • Trabuco (a whopping grand corona at 6 1/8 x 58)
  • La Fuerza (5 1/2 x 54 robusto)
  • La Punta ( 5 1/2 x 52 perfecto)
  • Tronco (5 x 52 robusto)
  • Corona (5 x 42)

Construction
Construction qualities are good to very good; both of us noticed that the draw was very firm. Otherwise, this stick burns slowly with a good volume of cool smoke. The ash is light to medium gray with some black striations. I thought the ash was a bit crumbly, but I have to admit that I approached this cigar with caution and smoked it very slowly which may have had an effect on the burn in general. I found a mostly even burn, while Lucky7 had to apply the torch a few times to keep his ash in line.

Flavor

I found the Habano Oscuro to be a full bodied ride from the first puff. The introductory Pepin pepper is present in the first half inch, but it’s not overwhelming; just a nice wake-up call. Both of us noted coffee and anise as core flavors in the first third; Lucky found some wood in the mix as well.

Into the second third I got lots of chocolate and a bouquet of licorice liqueur — smooth, pronounced, but not aggressive. (Did I mention that I take this cigar slooooowly?) Lucky found toasted nuts and cherry, a “creamy sweet” aroma, and a medium-length dark chocolate finish.

In the last third Lucky7 noted a little burnt cocoa and “a noticeable pickup in strength; not harsh, just strong with a little bitterness.” And as I lay reeling on the floor I found that I had to concur with his final comment: “big nicotine buzz.” No kidding. Tronco means trunk (or log) in Spanish, but it also has a colloquial meaning with a pejorative connotation — something like dolt, or dimwit. Kind of like the way I felt when I finished this cigar. But in a good way, of course.

Conclusion

The 601 Habano Oscuro Tronco is a big-boned cigar with lots of flavor and a surprisingly friendly disposition. It is indeed quite powerful, but take a little time with it and it won’t leave you legless. A full stomach and a little courage are all that’s required for middle-weights like myself. And for lovers of full-bodied cigars, it’s pretty much mandatory. Just smoke it.

Box prices are around 150 USD, about $8-$10 retail. This seems about standard rate for Pepin blends these days. A bit steep, but worth it, as usual.

-cigarfan & Lucky7