Augusto Reyes Criollo Corona

A few months back I gave the Augusto Reyes Nativo corona a walk around the block and found it to be a tasty — if a little bit quirky — cigar. Around the same time I pick up a couple of their cousins, the Augusto Reyes Criollo coronas. Having consigned my Nativos to the flames with fine results, I thought it was time for the Criollos to have their day of reckoning as well.

The robusto size in the AR Criollo line earned an accolade from the Robb Report as the “Best of the Best 2007.” I’m not sure how many cigars are entered into their evaluation, or what their technique is, but I would expect that they’re not testing too many Consuegras. Cruising in your Audi R8 with a Connie just ain’t happening.

The information I have on the blend is pretty basic: the binder and filler are Dominican, and the wrapper is Ecuadorian grown Connecticut Shade. One of the few articles I could find about this cigar is from a Dominican social news site, which relates that it was “designed for smokers who enjoy a blend a little smoother than the Nativo, but with a lot of aroma and flavor.” Having smoked this cigar, I have to disagree that it’s smoother, but it certainly does have plenty of flavor and a nice aroma.

I had forgotten that this cigar had a Connecticut wrapper when I first lit it up — because the name of the cigar is Criollo, I assumed that the wrapper was as well. So I was surprised by the first few puffs, which were smooth and nutty. Hmmm, I thought. It’s almost like Connecticut Shade. After half an inch or so I changed my mind because a touch of cayenne kicks in; too spicy to be Connecticut, I thought.

My first impression was correct, of course. The Connecticut wrapper itself is a smooth claro in shade, with a very light sheen of oil and miniscule veins. The draw is excellent, and these little coronas burn perfectly to a solid light gray ash.

Into the second third the Criollo turns up the intensity. The flavor turns from nuts with a bit of pepper to earth with even more pepper, and the finish lengthens considerably. The aroma contrasts with the changes in the flavor of the cigar in an interesting way — as the flavor takes on more minerals and becomes richer, the aroma seems sweeter.

The last third is positively punchy. This is basically a medium-bodied cigar, but the nicotine content is nothing to sneeze at. The flavor is intensely earthy, almost ashy at times, and the aftertaste is overpowering. Some might call this “harsh,” but I find it just very intense. On the other hand, if earthy is not your thing, you’ll want to avoid this smoke.

The “criollo” in this smoke is obviously not from the wrapper — it’s from the blend itself, which has a lot in common with the flavors of Creole food — charbroiled seafood, paprika, and cayenne. Topped off with a little sweet nuttiness from that wrapper and a good dose of nicotine.

The Augusto Reyes Criollo line runs a little less than the Nativo, but not by much. Expect to see these for around 7 USD, if at all. They’re still in production, but not exactly ubiquitous. Consuegras they’re not. Just ask the folks at the Robb Report.

–cigarfan

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Augusto Reyes Nativo Corona

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Unlike many of the big names in the Dominican and Central American cigar industry, this one has no Cuban ancestry. The Augusto Reyes family has roots in the Dominican Republic and the Dominican tobacco world going back 150 years and six generations, though much of that time has been in the agricultural and leaf brokerage side of the business rather than in cigar manufacturing.

Currently the Augusto Reyes family of companies includes a leaf importing concern (Tobacco Leaf Sorting S.A.), a company that processes Dominican leaf only (Capas Nacionales), and two cigar manufacturers: Corporacion Cigar Export and De Los Reyes Inc.

The first Reyes-operated cigar factory was established in 1990 in Navarette. Over the years they have produced several different private label cigars but the only one to gain much recognition is the Fittipaldi brand designed for Emerson Fittipaldi, the racing legend.

It was only in 2006 that the Reyes came up with a blend they could truly call their own. It was fittingly introduced at the wedding of Augusto Reyes to Monika Kelner. (I was unable to determine if Monika is a relation of Hendrik, but it wouldn’t surprise me!) After the wedding those who had tried the cigar began to clamor for more, so it was readied for commercial production and finally released at that year’s RTDA.

This blend also has the honor of being the first non-Cuban cigar to be featured at the “Epicur Dinner” hosted by the the Spanish cigar club of the same name. As Augusto explains, it is a more powerful Cuban style blend that Spanish smokers frequently prefer. This style has also developed a following in America, so we are lucky to have the same cigar available now in the U.S. It is currently being distributed here by SAG Imports, who also bring us Fonseca and Joya de Nicaragua.

There are now three lines of the Augusto Reyes brand: the Criollo and Epicur lines — both of which are finished with Ecuadorian Connecticut wrappers — and this one, the Nativo, a Dominican puro. The Reyes have been experimenting with wrapper crops in the DR since the 1960s and at various times have provided wrapper leaf to other companies, but the Criollo 98 wrapper for the Nativo comes from a farm dedicated to AR cigar production. It is complemented by an olor binder and a piloto/criollo filler blend.

The Nativo is available in seven sizes from double corona to a 4 x 34 perla. The corona size I’ve been smoking measures 5 1/2 inches by a 44 ring gauge. They’re nice looking smokes with wide bands and a decorative gold ribbon at the foot. The wrapper is a creamy looking colorado claro with very moderate veining and a few small water spots. The cap is nicely formed and the stick is firm to the touch. My only initial concern was that the feet on a couple of these seemed underfilled.

The prelight scent from the wrapper is very mild. The draw is acceptable (maybe just a tad loose) and a prelight draw results in some grassy and coffee bean flavors.

The loose fill at the foot made for a difficult light, and one sample had a seriously deficient burn. Consistency problems aside, I found this to be a complex and fascinating little stick.

It starts up with an earthy, dusty quality that quickly takes on a peppery edge. The base flavor is leathery with a dollop of musk that rises from the wrapper. This wrapper, despite its smoldering hesitance, is extremely pungent. In fact, when my wife stepped outside for a moment she thought the kids down the block might be smoking something illegal. “No,” I told her, “it’s my cigar. Which isn’t illegal. At least not yet.”

The AR Nativo produces a good volume of smoke that I would characterize as full bodied in terms of texture and mouth feel, but medium in terms of strength. The flavors become more concentrated as the cigar burns, getting spicier as the ash gets longer. That is, if the ash actually succeeded in getting longer…which leads to what might be a problem with this cigar.

The first sample I smoked went out several times, needed constant adjustment, and developed an ash that was flaky, crumbly and tragic to behold. And while I have to say I really enjoyed the rich peppery flavor and musky aroma of this cigar, its burning qualities (or lack thereof) really weighed it down. The second cigar was much better — it burned straight and the ash didn’t peel away like the first one, but without constant puffing (which results in a hot smoke) it went out. To be fair, I have to say that I let these rest for less than a week after receiving them in the mail… but even so, the construction could probably use a little work.

The retail price on these is in the 7 to 9 USD range, which makes them the most costly of the three Augusto Reyes lines. Lower prices may be found online, but I’ll be trying a few different sizes before I invest in a box. The smooth peppery flavor and funky aroma have convinced me to give the Nativo another shot, but if other sizes have the same inconsistency I won’t be returning. There are just too many great cigars out there right now to put up with faulty or inconsistent construction in a 7 dollar smoke.

-cigarfan