Alec Bradley Select Cabinet Reserve (SCR)

SCR

The Trojes region of Honduras came to attention last year when Alec Bradley released the long-awaited Tempus cigar. Alan Rubin has gone back to Trojes again for the Select Cabinet Reserve, but this time for a more balanced and less powerful blend.

The SCR cigar is made in the same factory as the Tempus — Raices Cubanas in Honduras — and that is a very good thing. And of course the tobaccos themselves are very similar, relying heavily on leaf from Trojes but also employing an Indonesian binder and some filler from Nicaragua.

SCRFootNow, keeping in mind that this area is still in the rich area of Central America that includes both the Jalapa Valley of Nicaragua and the Jamastran of Honduras, the Nicaragua-Honduras distinction might be a little academic. Trojes is equidistant from both Esteli, the capital of Nicaraguan cigar production, and Danli, it’s Honduran equivalent. (More importantly, I wonder if people from Trojes call themselves “Trojens.” Try yelling that when USC comes to play.)

An odd thing about the SCR is its use of two binders: the expected one from Trojes, but also a leaf called “Indonesia Embetunada.” Embetunar means “to polish” or according to my somewhat wonky Diccionario, “to cover with gum-resin or bitumen.” Betún is a common word for shoe polish. What on earth are they doing to this binder?

SCR2

I haven’t been able to uncover an explanation, but in the cigar world betún is a sweet fermented concoction created from the immersion of tobacco stems and scraps in water or rum or god-knows-what-else to create a sticky black casing. This is then used to treat tobacco leaves for cigars. Sometimes this is a way to artificially darken or flavor maduro wrappers, but in this case it appears to serve a different purpose. Maybe it’s the secret ingredient?

The SCR was released earlier this year in five sizes:

  • Churchill – 7 x 48
  • Robusto – 5 x 50
  • Corona – 5 1/2 x 42
  • Gran Robusto – 5 1/2 x 60
  • Torpedo – 6 1/8 x 52

I smoked the corona and the robusto for this review and was surprised to find that these taste like radically different cigars.

Construction Notes

SCRFootbandsThe huge band on this cigar, accompanied by its smaller foot band, might lead one to believe that this cigar has something to hide. And while it’s true that the dusky colorado maduro wrapper is a bit rough and veiny, it’s not so unattractive that it must be veiled from sight. Sometimes the foot band would slip off easily; other times I had to peel it, and as usual this meant chipping the wrapper at the foot. That is why I hate foot bands.

The roll tended to be inconsistent, but in all cases fair enough with no draw problems. The SCR is topped with a nice triple-cap, which seems to be standard procedure at Raices Cubanas. They’re not the museum quality specimens that roll off Don Pepin’s tables, but they’re attractive nevertheless. Most of these burned a little off-kilter but never needed correction.

Overall very good construction.

Tasting Notes

Frequently a single blend will exhibit distinctive characteristics depending on the size of the cigar, but in this case the difference was extreme. Smaller ring gauges tend to highlight the wrapper, which is usually the most flavorful part of the cigar, and this proved to the corona’s advantage here.

SCR3

The corona starts up with a spicy sharp flavor that slowly gives rise to smoked meat with a paprika sting on the nose. There is a serious sneeze factor. Eventually the meaty notes mellow a little and turn to leather. The robusto by contrast is much mellower, focusing on wood and leather with none of the zing of the corona.

The mid-section of the corona continues to showcase sweet spicy pepper notes that really rock the sinuses. On the lower end of the scale there is leather and a touch of cinnamon. The spices kick in for the robusto at this point, but are subdued when compared to the corona. Some of the cinnamon shows up in the robusto, but it is dominated by soft woody flavors with a maple syrup-like top note.

The last third of the corona is biting with a long peppery finish and a noticeable nicotine kick. The robusto gets a little more serious, picking up some of the pepper and sneeziness of the corona, but stays pretty mellow for the most part.

Conclusion

I really enjoyed both of these cigars, but to me they seemed almost unrelated to each other. The SCR corona smokes a lot like the Tempus — it’s an expressive and fiery little guy with a lot of spice. The robusto, on the other hand, is more reticent. A little wood, a little leather, and its job is done. The corona shows up with a shot of tequila. The robusto brings a microbrew.

Both are great smokes. I just can’t believe how different they are. I probably liked the robusto a little more because it lives up to the SCR billing: a smoother and more balanced Tempus. And while the corona is a fine smoke as well, you could just as well pick up a Tempus Genesis if this is what you’re after.

I picked up the coronas for around 5 USD per stick. The robustos might run a dollar higher. In either case it’s money well spent.

SCR4

Final Scores:

Corona: 88

Robusto: 89

Tempus Genesis by Alec Bradley

tempus

What initially lured me to the Tempus line of cigars was not the company behind the smoke — Alec Bradley — even though AB rolls out some really nice affordable blends. Nor was it the flashy yet tasteful band. What got me was the factory — Raices Cubanas in Honduras, where they also roll Illusione and Cruzado cigars for Dion Giolito.

So needless to say I was pretty excited to get my hands on a few of these a couple months ago.  By the time I finally acquired them I’d read many favorable reviews and my appetite was whetted. I ripped open the five-pack, put four in the humidor, and reached for my cutter. But wouldn’t you know it. After all that pent up anticipation the first cigar I try is plugged. GAHR!

I tried to smoke it anyway, but after half an hour of fruitless struggle I gave up. With one down and four to go I decided to let the new arrivals unwind for a bit in the humidor. Fast forward a couple months and their performance is either very much improved, or that tight one was an anomaly.

The Genesis is the corona entry in the Tempus lineup. They were originally released (to much acclaim) in May of 2008, along with the standard robusto, torpedo and churchill formats, in addition to a lancero. Recently a large perfecto has been added. In line with the Latin theme (tempus is Latin for time) the vitolas have very Roman sounding frontmarks:

  • Centuria (7 x 49 churchill)
  • Imperator (6.1 x 52 torpedo)
  • Terra Nova (5 x 50 robusto)
  • Creo (7.5 x 41 lancero)
  • Magistri (6.5 x 53 perfecto)
  • Genesis (5.5 x 42 corona)

Alan Rubin, the man behind Alec Bradley, says that the Tempus has been in development since 2001. It has taken that long to work the blend, hence the name Tempus (I presume.) The cigar was built around the wrapper leaf — a rich and bold Honduran Criollo 98.  Beneath the hood there is an Indonesian binder and a blend of corojo and criollo tobaccos from Honduras and Nicaragua.

The rough and veiny wrapper is lacking in aesthetic appeal, but the complexity of flavor and aroma of the cigar proves once again that looks can be deceiving. The caps on some of these sticks are bumpy and irregular, but they are nicely mounted, some with triple and others quadruple seams.tempus2

I would classify this as a fairly aggressive medium-full bodied cigar. It starts up with a zingy sweet char and a leathery aroma. The flavor is earthy with a good dash of pepper. There is a mild bite on the tongue, but it mellows after about half an inch. At this point the smoke takes on a somewhat musky quality.

Two thirds of the way in and I’m picking up more woody notes — that sweet char remains, but it is augmented by a sweeter, woodier aroma.  The burn is very good, but the ash has a tendency to crack and fall off.  The draw problems I had with that first Genesis are all but a distant memory — the rest of them were just about perfect in that department.

Forty five minutes later and I’m entering the last leg of this corona — the woody core is still beating strong, accompanied now by a return of that initial peppery spice. The aroma retains that musky element that cropped up early on, but now there’s a sweet corojo-like caramel edge to it.

This cigar is best approached slowly — smoking it quickly, or pulling on it too forcefully, results in a smoke that is both more aggressive and less complex than it should be. There’s a decent kick to this smoke as well, but nothing that warrants concern. My only complaint was that it wasn’t quite as smooth as I had hoped, but smoking slowly helped to minimize the bite.

Overall I’d say the Tempus Genesis offers a lot of complexity in a small package, but it lacks gentility, and there may be some consistency issues in construction.

And who knows? Maybe the rough edges on this cigar will be tempered by time… so to speak. In any case, with its very reasonable price (in the 6 to 10 USD range) and fantastic aroma I will most definitely be trying some other sizes in the line.

tempus3

Final score: 87

cigarfan

Other Reviews of Note:

Her Humidor reviews the Genesis

Brian’s take on the Terra Nova for the Stogie Review

Jamie endangers his designer cut-off t-shirt with the Genesis

Cigar Bastard objects and Cigar Monkey sustains.


Alec Bradley Harvest Selection ’97

A few months ago I finally polished off a box of Alec Bradley Trilogy Cameroons. That box lasted over a year, and while it wasn’t quite up there with Torano’s 1916 cameroon, it was still a good smoke for a reasonable price. I have yet to smoke an Alec Bradley cigar I didn’t like (though I don’t care much for the proportions of the stump sized Maxx.)

Lately AB’s new Tempus brand is hogging the spotlight, and rightly so since the reviews that I’ve seen are almost uniformly favorable. But at nearly the same time that Tempus debuted, Cigars International unleashed an AB exclusive called Harvest Selection ‘97. I haven’t had a chance to smoke the Tempus, but when I saw CI running a Harvest Selection special for two bucks a stick, I jumped on them.

Since these appear to be made exclusively for CI, there isn’t much information about them aside from what CI generously extends to us: a Nicaraguan Habano wrapper (from 1997), plus filler leaf from the DR (1997 piloto cubano), Mexico (1997 ligero), and Nicaragua (criollo, class of 1998.) The description doesn’t specify a binder type, but it does supply lavish praise for the ample oils and medium bodied bouquet, etc. etc.

Which at least simplifies the research part of this review, so thank you CI.

The band on this cigar is just as large and ornate as the one on the Tempus. I’m hard pressed to think of another three-dollar cigar with a band this attractive — all that embossed red, yellow and gold detail is pretty impressive.

Setting off the brilliancy of the band is a golden colorado wrapper that appears almost semi-glossy. There are a few fine veins, but again, for a three-dollar smoke this one’s a looker. The roll is solid and the cap is firmly fixed. No triple wrap, but decent enough.

The draw is initially very good and it stays that way. The first flavors are earthy with a mildly peppery finish. It starts off fairly mild and slowly amps up to about a medium in body. The aroma is excellent, adding a sweet and fragrant element to the earth on the palate. The earthiness here reminds me of a milder version of the Gran Habano No. 5, with maybe a little more pepper (but less strength) than what the Gran Habano provides.

There aren’t any profound transitions in the second half, just a little more peppery intensity with maybe a touch of leather thrown in for good measure. Ironmeden from the Velvet Cigar thought this cigar bottomed out half-way through, but I didn’t find that the flavor vanished as much as it just coasted on. The last third seemed to get fairly dry, so having a neutral-flavored beverage on hand would be a good idea. (I was swilling some cheap light-bodied beer from El Salvador called Taurino.) The aroma from the Harvest Selection remains sweet to the end, but by the final stage the fragrance notes seem woodier and not as earthy as they were at the starting line.

I have noticed no construction issues with these cigars — so far all of them have burned evenly (with a little waver here and there) and have drawn very well.

The Alec Bradly Harvest Selection is not going to blow anyone’s socks off, but it’s a fantastic value. I managed to snag these for well under three dollars shipped, and I’m completely satisfied with them as an everyday casual walk-the-dog kind of cigar.