Particulares Robusto

Particulares

My original intention in trying more cigars from Tabacalera Tropical was to find a less expensive but comparable alternative to the Nicaraguan puros that I smoke on a regular basis.  The name Aganorsa kept popping up, and I thought that by following the trail of that grower’s tobacco I might find cigars of a similar style, possibly at a lesser price.

Since cigar makers like Pepin Garcia, Dion Giolito, and Ernesto Padilla have all at one time or another used Aganorsa leaf in their blends, I expected that Tropical’s blends would at least have a passing resemblance to smokes like DPG’s Cuban Classic, Illusione, etc.  Their JFR cigar certainly does.

I was a little disappointed to find that Lempira Fuerte and Condega didn’t live up to my expectations, though I still thought Condega was a very good blend. Particulares, on the other hand, is a great cigar, and it is the first in the series so far to really taste like it’s in the same category as the Big Nicaraguans I have been using as a benchmark.

Particulares is an old Cuban brand name (as well as a frontmark for the Cuban Hoyo de Monterrey “A” size) but the name was revived by Tropical as one of their first brands.  (Their very first brand was Solo Aromas, followed by Particulares, Cacique, and Maya.) And even though this appears to be the only formulation available it is listed with its royal appellation “Reserva Privada” in some online catalogs.

Not surprisingly, the Particulares (Reserva Privada) is a Nicaraguan puro. The wrapper is a Corojo leaf from 2006. Four sizes are currently in production:

  • Robusto – 5 x 50
  • Toro – 6 x 52
  • Torpedo – 6 1/4 x 52
  • Churchill – 7 x 48

Construction Notes

Particulares2I didn’t notice it immediately but it turns out these sticks have pig-tail caps. The tail is curled and pressed down into the head so it just looks like a small swirl. It can be easily prised up with a fingernail, though admittedly there isn’t much point. The rest of the head is wound perfectly into a fine triple cap. The wrapper is somewhat rough but consistent in color, a dark colorado maduro. The band features a lock-and-key motif that “locks” at the point where the band ends meet — a clever design, I think.

The draw is good and the  burn is slow and even. The ash flakes slightly, but not enough to matter. Overall excellent construction.Particulares3

Tasting Notes

The Particulares robusto starts up with a rich hickory-like aroma that is immediately recognizable. This is what I’ve been looking for. From the first puff this cigar tastes more like an Illusione or Padilla than the Lempira Fuerte or the Condega Corojo.  The flavor is a little charred, but not in the way that the Lempira was. The flavor is closer to grilled meat with some maple syrup-like sweetness.

The middle section continues in this vein but softens up a bit — it’s smooth with some fruity notes, almost brandy-like at times. It reminds me of the JFR cigar, but smoother and more refined.

Particulares4

The last third is spicier but still sweet. The finish lengthens, but it doesn’t settle in for the night like some cigars do after the mid-point. It stays clean and crisp and leaves in a reasonable amount of time, like a good guest.  The aftertaste gets a little tarry at the band, but by that time this cigar has said its piece.

Conclusion

The Particulares robusto is a tasty smoke that finally delivers on the flavor I was expecting from Tropical – Aganorsa.  The only hitch is that it isn’t much less expensive than Illusione or Padilla or others in that class. Prices range from 6 to 7 USD.  That’s not too much to ask for a cigar of this caliber, but I was hoping to tap a secret source of Nicaragua’s finest and save myself a bundle. But I really have no legitimate reason to be disappointed — it’s still a great smoke at a reasonable price.

Particulares5Final Score: 90

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Cruzado Dantes

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Cruzado cigars were introduced to the world in an unorthodox fashion last summer when the cigar’s creator, Dion Giolito of Illusione fame, decorated his booth at the IPCPR with pictures of the cult leader Jim Jones. There were those in attendance who immediately condemned this as offensive and in poor taste, which of course it was. But it was more than that, I think. Instead of drawing customers in with the treacle of bikini girls and tv celebrities, he seemed to be challenging us with a twisted kind of advertising archetype, an image of charismatic evil. Instead of hawking his new product (which is what the show is for)  he was offering a crowd of starry-eyed cigar fans an opportunity for self reflection, if not outright criticism. At the very least it was unexpected.

Ultimately it was more of a comment on the cigar industry (and perhaps the show itself) than anything else. If it showed disrespect for anyone it was the ad execs who drive the cigar business, or whoever the guys are who mix the industry’s Kool Aid. And while I can see his point (without taking it quite so seriously) I think letting Jim Jones to do the talking was a somewhat sideways approach. Provocative, yes, but maybe more dramatic than necessary.  Gutsy though, definitely gutsy.

Later in the show a sign appeared plastered over the multiple faces of Jim Jones : SOLD OUT. I found this ironic on about seven different levels, but I’ll spare you the post-modern mumbo jumbo.

Since then the controversy has subsided and the reviews of Cruzado have been almost uniformly excellent — the cigar has scored very well with the mainstream press, the blogs, and the guy in the shop who told me I was really going to like it.  (Okay, maybe the last guy was selling me a little Kool Aid. But it did win the Zennie for 2008, which carries more weight with me than a retail pitch.)

Illusione is a pretty punchy cigar. Cruzado was designed by Giolito and Arsenio Ramos of Raices Cubanas to be a little less potent  than Illusione by substituting viso for ligero in the filler and by easing up on the corojo content in the blend. As Giolito told Blog of the Leaf:

Whereas Illusione is a corojo blend with one component of criollo, Cruzado is a criollo blend with one component of corojo. Illusione exhibits an earthy sweetness in the olfactory sense. The profile of Cruzado is more forward on the palate with leather and spice.

Six vitolas are available, all of which have relatively narrow ring gauges:

  • Avalitos: 4 x 46 (petit robusto)
  • Dantes: 5 x 48 (robusto)
  • Domenicos: 5 5/8 x 46 (corona gorda)
  • Elitas: 6 1/4 x 44 (corona larga)
  • Marios: 7 x 47 (churchill)
  • Marelas: 5 5/6 x 46 (perfecto)

They are produced at the Raices Cubanas factory in Honduras using Nicaraguan criollo wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder, and filler from both Nicaragua and Honduras.

The Dantes is Cruzado’s robusto entry, though the 48 ring makes it seem almost like a short churchill. The wrapper is rustic, a little rough, and the bumpy texture of the binder beneath is easily seen on the surface. The head is triple capped with an attractive pig tail.

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The pre-light characteristics are unremarkable, but the draw is spot on perfect. It lights up easily and gets things started with a bang — I was expecting a milder entry compared to the Illusione line, but the peppery overture with which this cigar starts is every bit as bold.

After half an inch or so the Dantes eases up a little and the differences between this and Illusione become evident. Cruzado lacks the same hickory/hazelnut flavor that makes Illusione so distinct. Instead I pick up freshly cut hardwood with an elusive sweetness on the edge. I’m not sure what it is…caramelized sugar maybe? Occasionally I’ll pass a little smoke through my sinuses to aid in my investigation, but I found the Cruzado to be a little too strong to do this comfortably.

The aftertaste is long and earthy, and it stays that way for the duration. The Dantes burns slowly and evenly, wavering only a little here and there, and builds a solid dirty gray ash.

The mid-section brings out some cocoa/chocolate flavors and continued earthiness on the palate. The last third is almost Honduran tasting — thick lashings of leather and pepper, almost like a Camacho Corojo, but lighter and more refined. And finally, as the band approaches, there are some hickory notes on the nose that are reminiscent of Illusione.

My expectation was that Cruzado would be a much lighter cigar than Illusione, but that was not my experience. It may be a tad lighter, but not by much, and it’s certainly not a lighter formulation of the Illusione blend. (For that, I might recommend the Illusione ~mk~, which is a brilliant cigar in its own right.)

The Cruzado Dantes wins big points for complexity and style — there are some distinctly unusual flavors here, and they’re all balanced very well. Keep in mind that this is still a very Nicaraguan cigar and it comes with the bite — and the buzz — typical of the breed. Like Illusione, Cruzados are not easily found, but at around 8 dollars per stick they should be in the sights of medium to full-bodied cigar fans everywhere.

cruzado3

Final Score: 88

~cigarfan


Other Reviews

Matt gives the Elitas an A+ but has some trouble with the Marelas

Barry awards the Marelas a whopping 96 points

A nice guest review of the Marelas at Stogie Review

Doc give the Dantes a thorough physical for the Stogie Fresh 5

Padilla 1948 Torpedo

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All of Ernesto Padilla’s year-branded cigars correlate to an event in the life of his father, the Cuban poet Heberto Padilla. The Padilla 1948 was named for the year in which Heberto’s first book of poems, Las Rosas Audaces, was published. Incredibly, he was only 16 years old at the time.

The 1948 follows the success of Padilla’s Signature 1932 — both are blended by Jose “Don Pepín¨ Garcia, though the ’48 is produced in his Esteli, Nicaragua facility rather than in Miami. Four sizes are currently in production: robusto, churchill, lancero and torpedo.

If you know the cigars of Don Pepín, you will immediately recognize the sweet corojo that wraps the ’48. The blend is, as usual, a combination of Nicaraguan criollo and corojo, but for me the wrapper is what seals the deal. While I like what Pepín has done with Connecticut Shade (in the 601 Black and the Cabaiguan Guapo) and maduro (in the Series JJ and the 601 Blue & Green labels) there’s still nothing like this Nicaraguan corojo.

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The wrapper on the 1948 is a natural but dark looking colorado claro; not quite dark enough to reach colorado maduro, but there’s enough red in there to make it darker than the average colorado claro. It’s a little dry looking with significant veining. The foot is a little bit loose, but the rest of the cigar is firmly rolled. The head is flawlessly formed. There appears to be some lighter colored tobaccos, or very fine stems, at the foot; the head reveals the same thing after clipping.

Usually I find the strongest prelight scent to come from the wrapper of a cigar, but not in this case. The wrapper has a mild tobacco smell to it, while the foot has a stronger earthier scent. (Perhaps this is what I should expect from a foot.) There also seems to be something grainy about the scent, sort of like whole grain cereal, which can only mean one thing: this cigar is good for you!

The 1948 torpedo lights easily after a smooth clipping. The draw is good and the burn is mostly even: a little waver here and there, but it corrects itself and needs no supervision.

The first third is typical of most Pepin blends, but a little less aggressive. It starts up sweet and toasty with a touch of pepper on the tongue. Almost immediately the core flavors come to the fore: cocoa, caramel, and black pepper. It’s comparatively mild for a Pepin blend; it’s reminiscent of the Padilla Signature 1932, but not as intense. There is perhaps a little less complexity in the 1948, but it’s still a very engaging smoke.1948c.jpg

Into the second third the pepper dies away and is replaced by a dry woody flavor. The cocoa persists throughout the duration of the cigar, but at this point the aroma also takes on a spicy sweet character. I’m detecting something like cinnamon… maybe. Whatever it is lends delicacy to the aroma without overtaking the basic bean flavors of the smoke.

The last segment of the cigar continues to sing the same sweet beany, mildly spicy refrain. I’m usually not one to nub a cigar, but I like this one well into the band region. And speaking of the band, I should mention there are two on this cigar: the additional one is a counterfeit control label that is discreetly placed below the Padilla band. Whether this is really necessary, I don’t know, but in any case it’s tastefully executed. (pssst… mister. I got them Piddillers you like. 49.99 a box!)

Overall, the Padilla 1948 torpedo turns out to be one of my favorite blends from the master of vanguard Nicaraguan cigars. It’s medium bodied, well constructed, smooth, and oh so tasty. If you’re really into the heavy Tatuajes and 601s, the’48 might not float your boat. On the other hand, if you’ve developed a craving for Pepin’s signature corojo but prefer the lighter side of life, this cigar is for you.

Retail prices ring up in the 8 to 10 USD range, which seems about average for upper echelon cigars these days. (Reasonably priced ones, that is.) It may not be an everyday smoke for the budget minded, but in this case you definitely get what you pay for… and maybe just a little bit more.

-cigarfan

    Comparison of the Rosado/Maduro     Don Pepin Garcia Serie JJ Belicoso (White Label)

DPG Serie JJ Belicosos 

Cigar Stats
Brand Owner: El Rey de los Habanos, Inc. – Miami, FL
Factory: Rosado Corojo – El Rey de los Habanos – Miami, FL
Factory: Maduro Corojo – Tabacalera Cubana de Garcia y Fernandez, S. A. (TACUBA) – Esteli, Nicaragua
Model/Vitola: Don Pepin Garcia Serie JJ (White Label) Belicoso
Size: 5.75 x 52 (torpedo)
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo (Rosado & Maduro)
Binder: Nicaraguan Criollo
Filler: Nicaraguan Corojo & Criollo

Other vitola sizes available
Rosado

  • Selectos 5.0 x 50 (robusto)
  • Sublime 6.0 x 54 (toro)
  • Salomon 7.25 x 57 (perfecto)

Maduro

  • Selectos 5.0 x 50 (robusto)
  • Sublime 6.0 x 54 (toro)

All sizes are offered in cedar boxes of 24 with the exception of the Salomon which comes in boxes of 5 – Rosado Corojo wrapped cigars are shipped naked and the Maduro with cellophane sleeves

El Rey de los Habanos (ERDLH) in Miami and Estelí

Being a lover of Pepin Garcia’s cigars, I follow events surrounding their production with great interest and, like many others, have a little concern about the volume of labels this man is producing. Not that I have experienced any degradation in quality but at some point, common sense would tell you something’s gotta’ give. There was some negative buzz surrounding new production at Pepin’s Tabacalera Cubana de Garcia y Fernandez, S.A. (TACUBA – co-owned by Garcia and Eduardo Fernandez) in Estelí, Nicaragua, which opened mid-2006. Most aficionados were concerned about maintenance of production quality and the availability of tobaccos but honestly, as a consumer, I have not detected any problems. Products are readily available (relatively speaking) and the quality seems to be improving IMHO. TACUBA will pump out 2 million-plus cigars in 2007 and the Miami facility, will achieve ~700,000. Jaime says, “The company will grow, but not at the expense of quality.” I believe him.

Some of the cigars produced at TACUBA

Don Pepín García Serie JJ (White Label) Maduro
Don Pepín García Cuban Classic (Black Label)
El Centurion by Don Pepín García
EO Brands 601 (United Tobacco)
Tatuaje Havana VI (Pete Johnson)
Tatuaje Havana VI – Exclusivo Verocu (Pete Johnson)
Tatuaje Series P (Pete Johnson)
Old Henry (Holt’s)
Fumadores (Holt’s)
Holt’s Connoisseur Selection
Padilla Edicion Especial Achilles (Cigars International)
Legends Pepín García – Yellow Label (Cigars International)
Troya Clasico
Cigar.com Corojo Label
Ashton San Cristobal
5 Vegas Miami (yes this is made in Nicaragua)

Tabacalera Cubana Factory in Esteli, Nicaragua
Video
10:56 minutes

A side note — Please do not confuse Tabacalera Cubana de Garcia y Fernandez, S. A. (TACUBA) owned by Garcia/Fernandez with Tabacalera Cubana Corp. (a cigar manufacturer) and Tabacalera Popular Cubana, Inc. (a cigar retailer) both of which are owned by Pedro Gomez and his sons Edel and Joel. Back in 2003, Altadis won a law suit against the Gomez family for violating Altadis trademarks by selling “Cuban replica” Montecristo, H. Upmann and Romeo y Julieta cigars. A federal judge ruled the Gomez’s were personally liable for the damages and awarded Altadis $900K. An expensive mistake. In addition, there is another factory in Estelí, Tabacalera Cubana Nicaraguense, S. A. (TACUNISA) also totally unrelated.

Pepin has been rolling cigars since the age of 12 and aside from 2-years in the military, has not stopped. He received the rank of Tabequero Maestro while rolling and blending cigars in Cuba. He can make just about anything out of tobacco leaves. He personally specializes in those extremely difficult large figurados called diademas or salomons. A torpedo head and supple curves as you get toward the foot, which has a big bulb then a small nipple. It takes a lot of cuts to make that work, and Pepin makes it look simple. He always seems to smile as he rolls. Watching him, you can tell he really enjoys what he’s doing. He trained rollers in Cuba, and now he’s training them in Miami and in Estelí.

Video - DPG Rolling Demonstration at RTDA 2007

Don Pepín García Cigar Rolling Demo @ RTDA 2007
Video — 2:27 minutes

Video - El Rey de los Habanos at RTDA 2007

El Rey de los Habanos Booth @ RTDA 2007
Video — 1:52 minutes

When Pepin Garcia left Cuba for Nicaragua, he worked with Fernandez in the Jalapa region, and then opened El Rey de los Habanos (Little Havana) in 2003. High ratings in Cigar Aficionado soon followed. But the Garcia’s could only do so much in Miami. Given the tiny factory had a total of 12 rollers, expansion was inevitable and I believe the addition of 36 pairs of rollers in the TACUBA factory learning from Pepin is a boon for cigar smokers everywhere. There are differences in rolling approach at the 2 factories. In Miami, the cigars are made by one person, who bunches and wraps. In Estelí, the bunching is done by one worker, the wrapping by another, thus the “pairing” of rollers.

To help bring TACUBA up to speed Pepin’s son, Jaime, now spends much of his time there: one month in Nicaragua, followed by a few weeks in Miami, then back to Nicaragua. His father does a similar rotation to ensure that one of them is at the Estelí factory on most days.

It’s amazing to think that, with so many cigar making operations out there collectively employing tens of thousands of rollers, probably 50-60% of the cigars I regularly smoke are made by the same 12 rollers in one tiny little factory in Miami and 72 rollers in one slightly bigger factory in Estelí. That’s right, I am a Pepin whore and proud of it!

Don Pepín’s Dream Cigar

In an interview Pepin was asked what tobaccos he would use to make his finest cigar. Would it be all Cuban? All Nicaraguan? He replied, “The wrapper would be Cuban. The binder would come from Nicaragua, as would two leaves of ligero filler. The seco and viso filler would come from Cuba. That cigar,” he says with confidence, talking about his dream smoke, “would score perfectly in anyone’s rating system.” Jaime Garcia claims, “Cuban tobacco is the best in the world, when worked properly. Nicaraguan tobacco is very close to the quality of the best tobacco in Cuba.” I think the Garcia’s tried to create that incredible “dream cigar” when they blended the Serie JJ, or come as close to it as possible sans the Cuban tobaccos.

It is arguable that Don Pepin is currently making some of the best smokes in the world today. His secret family recipe for blending and fermentation has been handed down generation to generation since his family’s beginnings in old Cuba. I for one am oh so glad he left the island. Thanks Jose for all these fantastic smokes. Keep em’ comin’ big guy!

Don Pepín García Serie JJ (White Label)

The Don Pepin Garcia Serie JJ, a medium to full-bodied Nicaraguan puro, was blended by Jose in collaboration with his son and protégé, Jaime—thus the name “JJ”. It debuted in 2005. The tobaccos are rich Nicaraguan leaf that rivals the flavor, character and experience of the finest Cuban cigars. Exquisitely made with the careful construction that has become a DPG hallmark. This amazing cigar, which Pepin proudly called “his masterpiece”, was one of the highest rated and top selling cigars of 2006/2007. Because it is so popular, he has blessed the cigar world with a delicious Maduro version of this world-class blend, released at this years RTDA in August. Although it is not the first Maduro created by Don Pepin, it is the first with his name on it.

Also a medium to full-bodied smoke (ERDLH calls it 3/4 to full); the Serie JJ Maduro is an exquisite cigar sporting a luscious Nicaraguan Maduro Corojo wrapper leaf. It is a smooth smoke building in complexity as it is enjoyed and the aromas are truly mouth-watering. I have mentioned to several buds that I think the Serie JJ Maduro could be serious competition for the PAM. Not quite as strong but has all the other attributes one looks for in a special occasion cigar and comes in at less than half the price.

Both Cigarfan and I have sampled the Serie JJ and the following review represents a combination of both of our observations.

Bottom line up front …..
Both the Rosado and Maduro versions of the Serie JJ are not to be missed for anyone who enjoys complex full-bodied smokes. These are some serious good smokin’. The core blend is clearly evident in both while the different wrappers impart a unique experience. Son magníficas y deliciosos!

The Serie JJ is said to be one of Don Pepin’s favorite smokes. It ranks up there for me as well!

Pre-light
Both the Rosado and Maduro appear a bit ruddy with a few veins but the construction is solid with no soft spots. The belicoso’s are beautifully triple-capped in a large swirl. There is a very small tooth over the entire wrap. Pre-light draw is excellent with perfect resistance and the belicoso feels balanced in the hand, like it belongs there.

DPG Serie JJ - Foot Swirl

Rosado
The wrapper is a light-brown Rosado Corojo which is not as dark as regular Corojo and is a bit creamier on the palate. There is very little pre-light aroma from the wrap though the pepper did tingle my nose, even unlit.

Maduro
A thick, oily dark-brown wrapper with a deep red hue in the background envelopes this stogie. The aroma from the unlit wrap is hay with a touch of barnyard. The pre-light draw leaves an ever so slight sweet taste on the lips.

The Smoking Experience
Both versions of the JJ toast and light very easily for a large ring gauge and draw is superb end to end. Both burned well with the burn line getting a little bumpy but self correcting.

Both exhibit lite bite for the first half inch and then hold medium strength until the halfway mark where they begin to ramp up. The last third of each fit squarely in the full strength category. Doesn’t make you dizzy though. The nicotine is not overpowering. Just enough to let you know that you have smoked a fine cigar!

Both had a good volume of cool smoke and time to nub was around an hour fifteen minutes. Each provides a long smooth finish with a pleasant aftertaste of dark coffee or mocha.

DPG Serie JJ - Ash

Ash on both is a light to medium gray and holds well. First ash for me would hold until about the halfway mark. The Maduro ash did a little flaking but nothing obtrusive. I did find it interesting that both cigars seemed to have better flavor if I kept the ash short. Unusual.

Rosado
Starts with a little pepper on the back of the throat and some sharp pepper on the nose. That lasts about 1/2 inch, and then warms to a creamy and smooth core of toasty wood and leather with very distinct notes of vanilla, cherry and cinnamon. Some hints of coffee and toasted nuts (maybe roasted cashews) in the second half. Aroma is of sweet tobacco and has a “Corojo twang of pepper” pretty much through the entire cigar.

Maduro
Start is similar to the Rosado but has a little sweet edge to it I attribute to the Maduro wrap. It settles into a darker earthy core flavor of sweet wood and bittersweet chocolate with notes of espresso and cinnamon. The flavor and aroma is so buttery you might think you were in the theater for a movie. The aroma from the Maduro wrap is remarkably strong—that’s one serious leaf. You may want to have a handkerchief close by for the aftermath. What starts as a little pepper on the tongue and the back of the throat continue through the entire cigar. Pepper really ramps up in the last third.

My take …..
I read that Don Pepin Garcia feels cigar aging is not necessary, in fact, he says Cuban cigar makers pitch product if it hangs around the humidor too long (love to dumpster dive in that neighborhood). I find that intriguing since I am sitting on about 350 Pepin sticks that just seem to get better and better the older they get!

Both Serie JJ varieties are top notch and near the top of my favorite cigar list. You won’t find me without some these in the humi unless I’m pushing up daisies and my wife has thrown them away or, perish the thought, Pepin stops making them.

Both Cigarfan and I are hoping a little age will temper the pepper in the Maduro version. I like a little pepper, but in moderation.

MSRP on the Corojo wrap is $210.00/24 or $8.75 per stick. MSRP on the Maduro wrap is $238.00/24 or $9.92 per stick. Best online price at the moment is Cigar Place at $149.99/24 or $6.25 per stick. A steal for this kind of quality. These cigars compare to stogies that cost 3 times as much in some cases.

Smoke Til You're Green  Like it … Love them
Smoke Til You're Green  Buy it again … As many as I can afford
Smoke Til You're Green  Recommend it … Strongly

What others are saying about Don Pepin Garcia Serie JJ (White Label) …..

29 May 2007
cabaiguan – Cigar Live
Don Pepin Garcia SERIE JJ ROBUSTO

29 May 2007
Jerry – Stogie Review
Don Pepin Garcia (Series JJ)

27 September 2007
Jerry – Stogie Review
Serie JJ Maduro by Don Pepin Garcia

Top 25 Cigar – As of 1 November 2007
Don Pepin Serie JJ Cigars (Rosado)
9 reviews
7.96 out of 10

Publications

Rich Perelman – Author of Cigar Cyclopedia
A New Star In The Sky (Don Pepin Garcia)

Wikipedia on the Don Pepin Garcia (cigar brand)

El rey de los Habanos, Inc. – Don Pepin Garcia Cigar Selection


… lucky7

“It has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep,
and never to refrain when awake.” (Mark Twain)

La Aurora Preferidos Corojo

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“Preferidos” are what they were called in 1903, when Eduardo Leon Jimenes first produced these little perfectos for the locals. Today there is a modern preferido, a tribute to the original, produced in two sizes with five different wrappers.

Preferidos are produced by a limited number of rollers who work under the curious gaze of visitors to the Centro Leon — a complex established by the Leon Jimenes Foundation as a museum and center for the promotion of Dominican and Caribbean art and culture. Recently cigar production for La Aurora moved to the town of Guazumal, quite close to where the original factory was established in 1903, but Preferidos production will remain in Santiago at the Centro Leon.

The filler and binder are the same for all the cigars in the Preferidos line: filler from Brazil, Cameroon, and the Dominican, with a Dominican binder. (The Cameroon-wrapped Platinum is an exception– it uses all Dominican filler.) The binder and filler leaves are aged for six months in rum barrels before they are bunched for Preferidos. The Gold version uses a Dominican corojo wrapper from Navarette.

The tubo versions of this cigar are the same size as the No. 2 – 5 x 54. The tube is solid aluminum and executive gift quality… for the guy who has everything, that sort of thing. (Of limited use, but attractive.) I was unable to find these cigars in their unarmored state, so I bid on a couple singles at non-tubo price and won. Now I’m trying to figure out how to turn the empty tubes into Christmas tree ornaments; whether my wife will let me hang them is another matter. They do make rather lurid ornaments.

The size of the tubo Preferido is magnified by the packaging — once the tube is set aside and the head is clipped it’s actually a fairly small cigar. The wrapper is a smooth and leathery colorado maduro. The foot is cut down to about a 36 ring gauge and the head is a perfectly finished point. The prelight scent is pleasant but unremarkable, offering some mild tobacco and a little hay.

The draw provides the perfect amount of resistance and the foot fires up without a second thought. The base flavor here is earthy, most strongly pronounced in the first half inch and then again at the conclusion of the smoke. In between lies a perfect balance of earth with a little dry wood and a dash of black pepper.

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This cigar most definitely has a “sweet spot” at the center where the smoke is at its creamiest and most interesting — the caramel and spice in the aroma is delicious, reminding me a little of small Cubans like the Trinidad Reyes. The last stage is intensely earthy but still relatively smooth. Smoking slowly is recommended.

The only negative here, aside from its small stature, is an uneven burn. Oh, and let’s not forget the price — Preferidos Gold tubos run in the 12 to 14 dollar range. (Retail box of 24 for $408. Ouch.) But all told, this is a little gem of a cigar. It’s about medium until the last inch or so when it ramps up to a full body, but at this point you should be sipping slowly anyway. I’m recommending this one to all my rich friends as worthy gifts — to themselves, or to their less fortunate herf-mates… like me!

-cigarfan