CLE Corojo 50 x 5

CLE Corojo

The CLE Brand is named for its founder, Christian L. Eiroa, formerly President of Camacho Cigars. In 2008 Camacho was acquired by Davidoff, and a few years later Christian left the company entirely and lit out for the territories.

Well, not the territories exactly, except in a metaphorical sense. Actually, CLE cigars were first made in a location very familiar to Eiroa — the Tabacos Rancho Jamastran factory in Danli, where Camacho cigars have been made for years and years. Production has now shifted to a new factory, a renovated theater in Danli called El Cine Aladino. I suppose it’s no coincidence that the theater was opened by Christian’s grandfather in the 1970’s. You never have to look too far in the cigar industry to find the family connection.

The Eiroas are inextricably linked to Corojo, which probably wouldn’t exist in its original state were it not for Julio Eiroa, Christian’s father, smuggling the seed out of Cuba. So it is quite apt that one of the first blends from CLE should focus on this iconic strain of cigar tobacco.

CLE cigars are vintage dated, a practice that many cigar connoisseurs have advocated for a long time. As Eiroa said to Cigar Insider, “Tobacco is different year after year — a new year is a new vintage.”  A few weeks ago I sampled three different vintages of Don Pepin Garcia’s Blue Label cigar to demonstrate just this point, so add my name to the list of those glad to see that CLE is adopting this procedure.

The CLE Corojo is a Honduran puro, and there are four sizes in production. I haven’t omitted the frontmarks here — the size and the frontmark are one and the same:

  • 46 x 5 3/4
  • 50 x 5
  • 11 x 18  (figurado)
  • 60 x 6

CLE

Construction Notes

The Corojo wrapper on the CLE is colorado maduro in tone and is just slightly oily. The head is rounded and finished with a fine triple cap. The roll is solid, and the draw good. The cigar burns fairly slowly and produces a dark gray ash, similar to what is found on many Cuban cigars.

Overall construction: Excellent.

Tasting Notes

The CLE Corojo reminds me a lot of the Camacho Diploma, albeit a much lighter version. This is Honduran tobacco in all its brawny glory — rich meaty flavors with pepper and a touch of cedary sweetness. By the mid-point the woody flavors give way to leather, and in the final stage red pepper is quite prominent. The finish is lengthy. I recommend frequent palate cleansing with lashings of cold lager.

It’s a medium-bodied cigar, but the strength grows from moderate at the outset to fairly strong at the end. I would not recommend smoking this one on an empty stomach.

Conclusion

If you’re partial to full-bodied Honduran tobacco and rich meaty smoke, you’ll dig the CLE Corojo. It has more complexity than many cigars in the same strength class, and it also has a pretty reasonable price tag. Cigar Aficionado named it one of their “Best Bargain Cigars” for 2012. The 5 x 50 runs in the $6 USD range, or a bit less. This is not a “bargain” price by my standards, but it’s not extravagant either. All in all a fine hearty smoke.

Final Score: 90

CLE

Urbano Corojo Robusto

It is with some trepidation that I call Urbano Cigars a “boutique” manufacturer because the term has become a little shopworn. The word has become a mantra for the marketing departments of almost every cigar company, big and small, and I have consequently become wary of it.  But at this stage of the game it appears that Urbano Cigars is in truth a boutique manufacturer, and while no company wants to stay small forever, Urbano is committed to maintaining quality over quantity.

Urbano cigars are made in the Dominican Republic and limited to a total production of 75,000 cigars per year. The Corojo is their flagship blend, a Dominican puro with an assertive corojo wrapper. (The other primary blends are the Connecticut and the Sumatra.) The wrapper is triple fermented for smoothness and aged for three years.  The assembled cigars are then seasoned for at least 90 days before banding and boxing.

The rollers employ entubado bunching, a time-consuming process whereby the filler leaves are rolled into tiny tubes before bunching. This improves the cigar’s draw and eliminates the likelihood of plugging.

Four traditional sizes plus a Sixty are in production:

  • Robusto – 5 x 50
  • Torpedo – 6 x 52
  • Toro – 6 x 50
  • Churchill – 7 x 48
  • Sixty – 6 x 60

Construction Notes

The wrapper on the Urbano Corojo is a weathered, veiny, and rustic colorado maduro. The veins are a bit puckered in places, which I’ve seen on other Dominican wrappers (like La Aurora’s Cien Años) and I usually take this to be a good sign. The cap is functional but adds no aesthetic value to the cigar. I guess this cigar is meant to be smoked and not framed. Very well then.

The draw is excellent, but the burn is not. Over the years I’ve discovered there is a prima donna factor to be reckoned with when smoking certain cigars. Sometimes a difficult burn is an unavoidable side effect of complex flavors — it’s like putting up with a virtuoso’s personality defects. You rarely get an opera star without some temperamental antics. And the corojo wrapper on this cigar is a great example of that. It reminds me a little of the Habana 2000 that was used a few years back — great taste and aroma, horrible burn. It’s a trade worth making. Just keep your lighter handy.

Overall construction: Very good.

Tasting Notes

The Urbano Corojo robusto skips the overture and goes straight to the aria. That’s a diva for you. (Maybe I should say divo instead. There isn’t anything remotely feminine about this cigar.) From the opening bars the flavor is complex and hearty, spicy but not harsh. There are notes of leather, grilled meat, pepper on the back of the palate, and sweet caramel on the nose. The smoke is medium in texture but full flavored. The spice gives the illusion of greater strength, but as the cigar mellows a bit in the middle section it seems on the full side of medium.

The flavors calm down a bit in the second act, but leather and spice predominate with the addition of cocoa and a touch of citrus on the nose. The cigar winds down with charred wood and can get a bit sharp as the curtain falls.

Conclusion

The complexity and temperament of this cigar demand attention from the smoker, and that’s not entirely a bad thing.  I don’t mind touching up a cigar every once in a while if the flavors and aroma are outstanding, which here they are. How’s the phrase go? With great flavors come great responsibility? Hmm. Maybe not. In any case, the Urbano Corojo is not an effortless smoke, but in my opinion it is worth the effort.

Urbano cigars are currently available only from brick and mortal retailers or directly from the Urbano Cigars website. The price for the robusto is around $7 USD.


Final Score: 90

Alec Bradley Prensado Robusto

The Trojes revolution that started with the Tempus blend in 2008 is still going strong. Not long after the Tempus was released, Alec Bradley unleashed the Trojes-wrapped SCR (Select Cabinet Reserve) and about a year later the Prensado appeared on the shelves. Since then, leaf from this small Honduran village has almost become synonymous with Alec Bradley.

Las Trojes is a tiny border town about 40 miles east of Danli, the heart of cigar making operations in Honduras. The Jalapa valley is just across the border in Nicaragua, and Esteli is a few more miles down the road, or what passes for a road in this part of the country. This is solid tobacco country, and Alec Bradley seems pretty happy with it. They’ve gone so far as to trademark the name Trojes, so it seems certain that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of this fine leaf.

For the Prensado the blenders have chosen an aged 2006 Corojo wrapper from Trojes, a binder from Jalapa, and a Nicaraguan-Honduran filler combination. The cigar is pressed, which is nothing new for the company (remember the Trilogy?) but this fact is emphasized by the name — prensado means pressed in Spanish.

The cigar is made in the Raices Cubanas factory in Danli, where the Tempus is also made (along with many other cigars for various manufacturers.) Five sizes are in production:

Churchill – 7 x 48
Torpedo – 8 1/8 x 52
Gran Toro – 6 x 54
Corona Gorda – 5 5/8 x 46
Robusto – 5 x 50

Construction Notes

The Prensado Robusto is clearly pressed, but it’s not a severe press — a little more than box-pressed, but not a lot more. The wrapper is a dark colorado maduro with some inconspicuous veins. The head of the cigar is somewhat flat with classic Raices Cubanas finishing, including a smoothly executed triple cap. The draw is excellent and the burn is slow and mostly even. The ash is dirty gray, striated with black, and holds well.

Overall construction: Excellent.

Tasting Notes

The pungency of the pre-light tobacco comes through almost immediately as leather, and the smoke has a lengthy finish from the start. There is a peppery edge to it, which is supplemented by a sweet, nearly fruity accent. It is full-bodied, but smooth.  The combination of flavors here is impressively complex, which is unusual for the first inch of a cigar.

Flavors of cocoa or chocolate emerge after an inch or so into the cigar. The leather remains in the background while the pepper fades a bit. The fruity accent seems to evolve into a minty, cameroon-like flavor. Taken as a whole, the combination of flavors here is really interesting.

The Prensado sails into band territory balanced and smooth, but it still hasn’t completed its voyage. The cocoa takes on a caramel-like tone, over which is laced a touch of vanilla. The cigar gets a bit sharp at the very end, but this is after an hour long journey with some gorgeous vistas.

Conclusion

The Alec Bradley Prensado is a fantastic cigar with a rare combination of complexity, smoothness, and body.  What is even rarer is that it wastes no time in getting to work — from first puff to last there is something to savor here. We’ve all had the “sweet spot” experience, but the Prensado seem to be all sweet spot.  The combination of leather, cocoa, sweetness and spice is extremely well balanced, and the construction is just about perfect.

The robustos are in the 7 to 8 USD range, and I’d say they’re worth the expense. It isn’t often that I enjoy a cigar from beginning to end, so I feel like I definitely got my dollar’s worth out of this one. The only thing I didn’t like about the Prensado is how long it took me to discover it.

Final Score: 93

Other Reviews of Note

The Toasted Foot examines the Robusto

Barry checks out the Robusto for A Cigar Smoker’s Journal

CigarChoice gives the Gran Toro a thumbs up

The Stogie Guys are a little underwhelmed by the Robusto

Ed and Tom award the Torpedo the Stogie Review Seal of Approval™

Casa Fernandez Aganorsa Leaf

As one of the purveyors of Nicaragua’s finest black tobacco, Casa Fernandez (and its farms) really ought to be better known by now. If you enjoy Illusione or Padilla cigars, both of which employ Aganorsa Leaf as a key ingredient,  you’re just going to have to hunt up some Casa Fernandez products: Particulares, Condega, and JFR (Just for Retailers) are all bangin’ smokes.

Last year I surveyed a few of their offerings, including the flagship Casa Fernandez cigar,  so I got a little chill up my spine when I saw there was a new formulation on the shelves.

Aganorsa is an acronym for Agricola Norteña S.A., the tobacco manufacturing arm of Casa Fernandez, and one of Jose “Don Pepin” Garcia’s first employers after he left Cuba. For quite a long time the company (also known as Tabacalera Tropical) was satisfied with rolling just a few different blends and concentrating its resources on tobacco production. With the advent of Casa Fernandez it looks like they are promoting the cigar side of their business with more gusto. It’s not hard to see why.

The Aganorsa Leaf extension of Casa Fernandez is similar to the original line in flavor, but with its dark corojo wrapper it is bolder and more potent. It might sacrifice a little complexity in exchange for power, but until I do a side-by-side comparison I can’t say for sure.

The binder and filler are also Nicaraguan, of course, and are probably from the Aganorsa farms as well. The Aganorsa Leaf line is box-pressed and sold in boxes of 15.  Three sizes are available:

  • Robusto: 5 x 52
  • Toro: 6 x 54
  • Torpedo: 6 1/2 x 52

Construction Notes

The Aganorsa Leaf torpedo is a solid and swarthy looking cigar. Its sturdy square press and dark, weathered wrapper give it a rustic appeal. The head is wrapped well and clips cleanly. It draws perfectly, though the burn is somewhat irregular, which is fairly typical of both maduro or oscuro wrappers and of box pressed cigars. The ash is a dark dirty gray streaked with black. If you smoke Illusione cigars you know what this looks like.

Overall excellent construction.

Tasting Notes

When you light up this cigar it is almost immediately apparent that you’re in for a ride. The smoke is thick, full-bodied, and rich. The flavors are crisp and sweet but heavy.

The first inch of the cigar is dominated by a sweet woody flavor, reminiscent of juniper smoke and the smells of late autumn as the temperature drops and people fire up the wood stoves and fireplaces. The smoke is smooth, but assertive.

In the middle section the assertion becomes more of an insistence. The flavors turn a little darker and less sweet: coffee and baker’s chocolate come to mind. The flavor is still crisp, but the smoke starts to bite a little. The finish is lengthy and the aftertaste spicy.

By the last third you’re either in it to win it or staring at the stars. This is a powerful smoke. The aftertaste is profound and cries out for a beverage to match — whisky would be a welcome companion. A strong aftertaste of pepper and char lingers long after the last puff.

Conclusion

For lovers of full bodied Nicaraguan style cigars, the Casa Fernandez Aganorsa Leaf is a must-try. Its powerful finish, peppery aftertaste, and solid kick are exactly what a lot of full-bodied cigar smokers are after. It is a little too aggressive for me to smoke on a regular basis, but occasionally even I like to get out the big guns. As long as it has the flavor and finesse to match the fire-power there is a place for it in my humidor. And this one achieves that balance. I also expect this cigar will age very well.

Boxes of 15 sell for around 100 USD, and singles are hovering around the $7 mark. Pick up a five-pack and let me know what you think.

Final Score: 89

Perdomo Habano Corojo

My first thought when I came across the Perdomo Habano in maduro was that it was strangely named. It’s a habano, but it’s also maduro? Well, yes, it is. It’s both. The term “habano” is used so loosely in the industry that there’s bound to be some confusion.

This confusion comes from the fact that some cigar makers issue the same blend in either maduro or “habano” wrappers. The problem here is that in one case the wrapper description refers to the processing (maduro) and in the other case it refers to the seed-type (habano.)

Generally speaking, “habano” is just another word for tobacco grown from cuban seed.  Needless to say, this covers a whole lot of cigar tobacco that isn’t necessarity identified as “habano.”  The Padrón family grows one type of cuban-seed tobacco on their farms in Nicaragua. If asked, they call it habano, but it’s not advertised that way. (As if Padrón needed to advertise.)

This is why Perdomo can issue a single blend with three different wrappers, and call them all Habano. Because in this case “habano” is not just a wrapper type, it’s a seed-type.

Perdomo’s Habano line was introduced in 2007 in two varieties: Corojo and Maduro. Both are cuban-seed (habano) tobaccos grown in Nicaragua. To compound our confusion, Perdomo released the Habano Connecticut (with a non-habano, Connecticut-seed shade wrapper) in 2008. In this case, all but the wrapper is actually habano.

Cuban-seed tobaccos from the three major growing regions of Nicaragua form the heart of the Perdomo Habano. Tobaccos grown in Esteli, Condega, and the Jalapa Valley all have their own distinct qualities, and here they are blended to make the best use of them.

Color-coded foot bands indicate which wrapper type is used — gold for Connecticut, platinum for maduro, and bronze for corojo.

Seven sizes are currently in production:

  • Petite Corona – 4 3/4 x 44
  • Robusto – 5 x 52
  • Toro – 5 1/2 x 54
  • Torpedo – 6 1/2 x 54
  • Gordo – 6 x 60
  • Presidente – 7 x 56
  • Gran Torpedo – 7 x 60

Construction Notes

The Perdomo Habano Corojo is an attractive cigar featuring a smooth wrapper with a slight sheen. The torpedo is wrapped very nicely and comes to a sharp point that skews a bit off-center. The robusto has a solid, well-shaped head, but the cap is pasted on without regard for aesthetics. In both cases the roll is somewhat irregular with a soft spot found here and there.

The pre-light draw is excellent, but a few inches into the stick I found it to be a little too loose. Both sticks burn evenly and produce a blooming ash that holds well but doesn’t inspire much confidence. I let the torpedo rest in the ashtray for only a couple minutes and the cinder cooled to the point where I had to relight.

Overall good, but not great, construction.

Tasting Notes

This blend opens boldly with a good belt of spice on the tongue and the upper palate.  After a minute or so it backs down a little and relaxes into leather with soft cocoa notes. The smoke is smooth, but has a sharply acidic aftertaste.

In the middle section the flavors gradually get a little darker, but don’t change too much. The cocoa notes stretch out and take on a mocha-like quality, and the leather stays leathery. I generally expect a caramel sweetness on the nose from corojo, but I’m not getting it here. The aroma is heavy, but pleasant. Unfortunately I don’t find it all that interesting.

The last section is laden with leather and spice and a truckload of nicotine. The smoke texture is medium-bodied, but it’s powerful and biting. The aftertaste is heavy with earth and char and the finish is off the chart. Like many full-flavored cigars, the last third is lacking in subtlety. I lost interest close to the band, and it’s a large band.

Conclusion

I’ve smoked the Habano Maduro in the past, and I have to say I like it quite a bit more than the Corojo. There’s plenty of leather and spice to the Corojo, but it lays it on a little too thick for my taste. That said, it’s still well built premium smoke. It’s just a little outside my preferred flavor profile.

The Perdomo Habano lines average around 5 USD per stick or 100 per box of twenty. If you dig leathery sluggers like the Camacho Corojo or LFD Coronado, you might get a bang out of this one. The price is certainly right.

Final Score: 82

Tatuaje Havana VI Verocu No. 9

This boy is no longer a boy. He’s a brave. He is little in body, but his heart is big. His name shall be “Little Big Man.”

–Calder Willingham

So let’s get this straight. The Tatuaje Havana VI series is a toned down version of Tatuaje, but the Verocu is the “Havana VI on steroids.” Not a big man, but not a small man either. A little big man.

Whatever it is, the Verocu is a little hard to find these days except in the stubby form of the No. 9. The first Verocu blends were regional releases — the 6 1/4 x 52 parejo dubbed No. 1 and sold west of the Mississippi, and the 5 1/2 x 54 No. 2 for those east of the river. Those releases are sold out, but the No. 9 is still available as an exclusive from Holt’s. I picked these up about six months when they were running a special, and I’m glad I did.

But I wasn’t so glad when I first got them. There aren’t too many cigars made by Don Pepin’s outfit that I haven’t been pleased with, but the Verocu No. 9 left a lot to be desired right off the truck. They were quite harsh, unbalanced, and burned terribly. Not what I expected from a Tat at all.

So I did what all hapless victims of the badly behaved box do: I attributed its faults to youth and put it away for a few months. And here I am, a few months later, with another good Nicaraguan puro to crow about.

The Verocu No. 9 is a short rothschild — at 4 1/2 inches long the cigar is almost eclipsed by its double bands, but its 49 ring gauge provides enough girth to keep it from petite corona status.

Construction Notes

The first impression this cigar makes is that it is well made, but rustic. The wrapper has a dry leathery appearance with a lot of variation in shade — from a dark brown, maduro-like color, to a ruddy colorado. The roll is solid and the head is finished with a traditional triple-cap. It’s not a gorgeous cigar, but it has redeeming qualities to be found elsewhere.

The draw is excellent, but these bad boys still burn a little off kilter. They behave much better than the fresh ones I smoked last summer, but they haven’t been completely reformed.

Overall good construction, but it has a stubborn wrapper leaf.

Tasting Notes

The Verocu No. 9 opens with flavors that I usually associate with maduro wrappers — anise and chocolate. Of course it wouldn’t be a Tat without a little black pepper to liven things up, and the No. 9 does not disappoint in this regard. It’s not overpowering, but it spikes the palate in a friendly way. The underlying flavor seems to be leather, and this continues for the duration of the cigar.

The bold corojo heart of the No. 9 beats a little stronger in the mid section, adding some caramel-tinged sweetness to the aroma. It helps to slow down a little with this one to minimize the sharpness of the aftertaste. The resting smoke seems a little sweeter this way as well.

The last stage continues to serve up a base flavor of leather with delicious caramel tones, along with a more assertive spice on the tongue.

Conclusion

Tatuaje’s Verocu No. 9 is a cigar to be savored. It cannot be rushed or all kinds of things go wrong — the burn goes haywire, the flavors get muddied, and the aftertaste becomes burnt tasting. Taken slowly, the flavors are instead quite distinct and enjoyable and the burn is decent (but not great.) They do have a decent kick, but by Tatuaje standards these are still medium-bodied.

This cigar doesn’t really taste like the standard Havana VI (which I think I like a bit better) or any other Tatuaje exactly. It’s a blend unto its own, with its own merits and downfalls.  I think any lover of Tatuaje or Pepin Garcia’s blends will find the Verocu No. 9 an enjoyable experience, though it might not rate among the best of them all.

The Verocu No. 9 is a Holt’s exclusive. Boxes of 20 retail for around 130 USD, though that price occasionally drops. I snagged a box for $100 last summer, and I’m not disappointed. The intervening months have done them a world of good, and if they continue on their current trajectory, these could turn out to be bigger little men than they already are right now.

Final Score: 85 (but climbing)

Casa Fernandez Robusto

CasaFernandez

It’s safe to say that the Casa Fernandez cigar is the flagship blend of Casa de Fernandez, the new face of Tabacalera Tropical. The cigar was introduced in 2007, before the company’s name change, but it hasn’t gotten as much press as I would expect. The lancero has received some attention on the cigar forums (mostly positive) but only a few of the review sites have taken a serious look at the blend. After smoking this cigar, I don’t think that it’s a quality issue. The fact is that this cigar is not terribly easy to find on the shelves.

It looks like the distribution of this brand is spread worldwide, so maybe it’s easier to find in Europe or Asia than on American retail shelves. I had to track these down online.

The Casa Fernandez features a wrapper that is dramatically described as “Super Premium grade ‘A’ 2006 Sun Grown Corojo.” It is of course an Aganorsa grown Nicaraguan leaf, as are the binder and filler leaves.

Five vitolas are listed as currently in production, per the Casa de Fernandez website:

  • Robusto – 4 1/2 x 52
  • Torpedo – 6 1/4 x 52
  • Toro – 6 1/2 x 52
  • Lancero – 7 1/2 x 40
  • Salomon – 7 1/8 x 60  (the Salomon is also available in Ecuadorian Connecticut and Nicaraguan Maduro)

Construction

This robusto seems squat by comparison with traditional 5 x 50 robustos; it’s slightly truncated and a little overinflated, but handsome nevertheless. It feels a little light in the hand, but the pack is firm with no soft spots. The pig-tail cap is mashed into the head of the cigar, making a little swirl that is easily overlooked.CasaFernandez2 (The same technique is used to finish the Particulares cigar.)  The triple cap is otherwise extremely well executed. The wrapper is dark, glossy and attractive, despite being a little rough. The corojo cover leaf seems to be very thin, allowing the  texture of the rough binder leaf to show on the surface of the cigar. One sample arrived with a small v-shaped crack that posed only a cosmetic threat.

The Casa Fernandez burns well with an open draw.  The ash is dark and little bit crumbly — typical of Aganorsa leaf, and not really an issue. CasaFernandez3One odd thing I noticed was that the ligero centered in the middle of the cigar seems to flame out as the cigar burns, creating the illusion that the cigar is tunneling, when it really isn’t. I would say it was my imagination, but it happened with both of the cigars I smoked.

Tasting Notes

The smoking characteristics of the Casa Fernandez are quite similar to the Particulares, but a little heavier. There is more pepper and more punch to this cigar, especially in the back half.

The first few puffs of smoke are smooth in texture but are served with plenty of black pepper. It doesn’t come out as trenchantly as say, the Don Pepin Blue, but it isn’t shy either. The aroma is corojo all the way — caramel sweetness over an underlying cedary base.

The pepper dies down after the two-thirds point and the flavor becomes less sharp. An astringent woodiness takes over from here, accompanied by a pleasant and familiar nuttiness. The aroma continues on the same track as before, but replaces some of its sweetness with a stronger pungency while remaining woodsy and cedar-like.

The last part of the cigar turns up the heat. Pepper returns on the palate and the aftertaste becomes tannic. While still tasty, the smoke becomes a little too aggressive for my taste. I let it smolder on anyway to enjoy the aroma, hoping the neighbor doesn’t think I’m nuts for waving a cigar butt under my nose instead of just smoking it. Corojo is good stuff.

CasaFernandez4

Conclusion

The Casa Fernandez robusto is a fine smoke, but it loses some of its finesse in the home stretch. It’s similar to but more complex than its sister blend Particulares, but it’s also slightly more expensive. Ringing in at around 8 USD per stick, it’s not over the top for a “super premium” smoke, but I’d think twice before picking the Fernandez over Particulares.

Final Score: 87

Other Thoughts

Brian finds the Torpedo to be boxworthy for the Stogie Review

Rob digs the robusto but finds the price discouraging for PuffingCigars.com