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

San Cristobal Seleccion del Sol by Ashton

When José “Don Pepín” García first started making cigars for Ashton in 2007 a few of us speculated that his commercial success would change him. I guess we’re used to seeing our small-town heroes ruined by large-scale success. And as some of Pepin’s smaller clients were shed for blue chip partners like Ashton, we anticipated that the unique flavor and superb construction of cigars like Padilla’s 1932 would become a distant memory.

Instead it appears that Pepin and family are using their well-earned capital to invest in infrastructure, and the quality of their cigars has not diminished a bit. Equally inspiring is the fact that some of Pepin’s former clients, like Padilla, are forging new paths and doing very well on their own as well.

Pepin now produces five blends under three different brands for Ashton —  San Cristobal,  La Aroma de Cuba, and Benchmade (an economy mixed-filler cigar.)  The original La Aroma de Cuba has been phased out and was replaced this year by Pepin’s new blend, which is in addition to the Edicion Especial line which was introduced in 2008. The San Cristobal Selección del Sol is new for 2009 and adds another member to the San Cristobal family.

The Garcias have long aspired to sow what they reap, and as a natural development of their previous success they are now cultivating tobacco on their Estrella farm in Esteli. The San Cristobal Seleccion del Sol features one of the first fruits of this new endeavor: the sun-grown wrapper that graces this cigar.

Like the first San Cristobal, the Seleccion del Sol is a Nicaraguan puro, but it is in fact an entirely new blend.  Only three sizes are currently in production:

  • Robusto – 5 x 52
  • Belicoso – 5.5 x 52
  • Toro – 6 x 52

Construction Notes

The Estrella Farms wrapper on the Seleccion del Sol is not much to look at — it’s dry and drab, and much lighter in appearance than the standard San Cristobal. The foot band slips off easily, which is very much appreciated. The roll is excellent, as expected, and the cap is wound to a blunt tip. The draw is fine.

I rarely find anything negative to note about the construction of any Pepin-made smokes, but I had issues with the burn on these. The foot of the cigar did not want to light evenly (even with a torch) and thence forward the burn was uneven, required correction several times, and went out a couple times when I wasn’t paying close attention. What we have here, ladies and gentleman, is a cigar with a crappy burn. And the ash is flaky to boot.

Overall construction: only fair.

Tasting Notes

The Selección del Sol exhibits a lot of the flair associated with sun-grown wrappers, and while it compares favorably in this regard to Ashton’s VSG and Rocky Patel’s Sun Grown cigars, it doesn’t quite live up to those standard bearers.

The first third is dry but sweet with a tingle on the tongue. The aroma is of sweet wood, which blends nicely with the minty note on the palate. There is a hint of a bite and just a dash of pepper, which seems unusually understated for a DPG blend. The smoke is smooth though, and the nicotine is moderate.

The middle section continues in the same vein, doling out lots of woody smoke with a sweet, fresh finish. There is some spice on the palate, but the woody flavors and the sun-grown zing take center stage. The resting smoke is very pleasant, even for the non-smokers in the vicinity who for once are not glaring at me.

The final stage is earthier on the palate, with continued sweet wood on the nose. The sensation on the tongue is interesting — almost like the effect of carbonation, and the overall effect is spirituous. Like champagne, if a champagne could taste like humus and sweet wood. The last half-inch into the band area gets a little harsh on the throat, but other than that this is a smooth tasting smoke.

Conclusion

This is a really unusual cigar from DPG. The burn is sub-standard by comparison with his other lines, and while the flavors are certainly interesting, they’re not what the typical Pepin fan is after. There is little here of the cocoa and black peppery bang that his cigars are best known for. This doesn’t make it a bad cigar by any means, but in my opinion it’s not really what he does best.

I think that if it were made by anyone else I would have rated the Selección del Sol more highly, but I expect more from The Great One. Maybe it isn’t fair, but when the man hits home runs every game, to get a double and a base hit are a little disappointing.

Final Score: 84