Emilio AF 1 and AF 2

Emilio AF

Established in 2010, the House of Emilio is now home to nine different brands, and that number seems to be growing by the month. These are all boutique blends, made and distributed by cigar enthusiasts with the passion and resources to blaze new trails through a field dominated by industry heavyweights. 

What is unique about this consortium is that it doesn’t operate like a business conglomerate. The brands are all made independently and retain their individual identities. As the creator of the house, I would expect the Emilio brand to reside in the Master Suite, but the other brands have their own rooms, and it looks like the additions and improvements are still coming.

The House of Emilio was kind enough to offer me the grand tour, or at least a glance through the porch window, so over the next few weeks I plan to offer a few unvarnished thoughts on what I’ve seen and smoked.

Emilio AF 1

Emilio AF-1 Robusto

Probably the best known of the 8 or 9 different blends that fall under the Emilio brand umbrella, the AF-1 is a delicious cigar reminiscent of A.J. Fernandez’s San Lotano Maduro. Strangely enough, I had just smoked one of these the night before I lit up the AF-1 and remarked on its similarity. It would have been no surprise, had I done my homework, because the AF in the name of the cigar stands for Abdel Fernandez.

Like the San Lotano, the star of the AF-1 is its San Andres maduro wrapper. The bones of the blend are Nicaraguan, naturally, but that is as far as mere mortals are allowed to see into its musculoskeletal structure.

What I noticed most about the AF-1 was that the flavors were similar to the San Lotano, but the overall demeanor of the cigar was much smoother, creamier, and on the whole more enjoyable. This particular specimen had about a year to meditate and become one with my humidor, so maybe that was a contributing factor. But it’s easy to see why the AF-1 is one of Emilio’s best selling smokes.

Chocolate and cedar are the highlights of the AF-1. There is a touch of astringency  and a little roughness on the tongue which quickly dissipates, and from there it’s smooth sailing. The richness of the chocolate balances wonderfully with the cedary spiciness — a touch of pepper is a nice flourish. It’s similar to the San Lotano Maduro and also the Montecristo Reserva Negra – but in my opinion, better than either of those. A fantastic smoke.

Emilio AF 2

Emilio AF-2 BMF Gran Toro

While I am not a BMF aficionado, I was still excited to set this log alight. The wrapper on the AF-2 is an Ecuadoran Oscuro, which sounds like a mythical creation but isn’t. Remembering that maduro and oscuro are fermentation and maturation processes as well as color designations, it is indeed possible for a leaf to be lighter in color than “oscuro” represents. In this case the leaf is a dark golden brown, not quite maduro in color. What’s the Spanish word for the color of  an over baked peanut butter cookie? That would be close.

The AF-2 is a solid stick, but the draw is very loose. It didn’t seem to affect the burn though, so perhaps the loose draw is by design. This cigar is fairly peppery with some cocoa on the nose and later on some nice caramel sweetness. It’s also quite potent — just the sort of thing that followers of AJ Fernandez will appreciate.

Conclusion

Both the Emilio AF-1 and AF-2 are upper echelon boutique cigars worth seeking out. The AF-1 is a tasty and well-balanced cigar that should appeal to all but the most jaded ligero junkies. For a smoker of medium-bodied maduros, it really doesn’t get any better than this.

The AF-2 is a more potent, more complex cigar, at least in the BMF size that I smoked. I would like to try this one in a smaller size next time and see if it still knocks me overboard. Experienced cigar smokers and lovers of Fernandez blends will not be disappointed.

Both cigars are competitively priced in the $6-7 USD range.

Emilio AF 3

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1502 Ruby Toro

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA1502 cigars are named for the year that Christopher Columbus first explored Nicaragua and claimed the territory from Honduras to Costa Rica for Spain. Within a few years of Columbus’s “discovery,” most of present-day Mexico and Central America would be subsumed under the formal title Viceroyalty of New Spain. At its greatest expanse, in the late 18th century, this territory would include most of western North America as well. It’s a little ironic then that it’s hard to find the 1502 cigar anywhere in this area (unless you are lucky enough to be in Esteli, Nicaragua where the 1502 is made.)

But that is the nature of boutique cigars. If you can find one in every corner smoke shop, it ain’t boutique.

The brand is owned by Enrique Sanchez Icaza of Global Premium cigars, and while distribution seems to be restricted to the Eastern U.S., the company entered into a distribution agreement with Emilio Cigars late last year, and that may improve availability.

Precise data on this cigar is also hard to come by. What is known is that there are three blends of 1502 — Emerald, the lightest of the bunch; Ruby, with an Ecuadorian wrapper; and Black Gold, the heaviest blend, with a sun-grown maduro wrapper. Three sizes appear to be made: Robusto, Toro, and Torpedo, though I don’t have measurements on those either.

As Columbus once said, “Nevermind the details. Anchors aweigh!”

1502 Ruby

Construction Notes

The 1502 Ruby Toro is a box pressed parejo with an attractive colorado maduro wrapper. There are some fine veins, but the wrapper is smooth and the roll is supple. There are a few small irregularities in the bunch, a couple of barely noticeable dents, but nothing that would turn up in a casual inspection. The cap is integrated well and shears away nicely.

The Ruby burns very well, especially for a box pressed cigar, and the ash is firm. The draw is easy and the smoke volume generous.

Overall construction: Excellent.

Tasting Notes

The Ruby Toro has all the characteristics of a good Nicaraguan cigar — there is some pepper up front and an acidic, mouth-watering quality that is typical of Nicaraguan tobacco. The aroma is sweet and woody. As the cigar develops, a fruity note rises up that is somewhat like cherry. To me it’s reminiscent of Tatuaje’s La Riqueza blend, which is surprising because La Riqueza uses a completely different kind of wrapper (Connecticut broadleaf).

In the middle section of the cigar there are notes of coffee and cocoa and the spicier aspects of the cigar tone down a bit, only to return in the last third. The smoke is medium in body, and about medium in strength as well. The woody notes become earthier as the cigar winds down, but the cherry note in the aroma lingers. I frequently find that by the end of a cigar the palate flavors overwhelm the aroma, but the 1502 Ruby is really well balanced in that respect.

Conclusion

The 1502 Ruby shows restraint and finesse, which is usually not Nicaragua’s strong suit. A lot of Nicaraguan cigars emphasize the explosive factor of that nation’s tobacco, and it often results in an unbalanced flavor spectrum and a shell-shocked palate. The Ruby showcases the classic Nicaraguan cigar flavors — wood, pepper, and citric acidity — in a less boisterous, but still flavorful way. And I especially like the cherry note in the aroma.

It looks like the going price for these is in the $6 USD range, which is quite reasonable given the quality of the cigar. The only problem for me, as a denizen of the desert southwest, will be sourcing them locally. With any luck we’ll see wider distribution soon.

1502 Ruby

Final Score: 90

La Musa Mοῦσα

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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον

“Tell me, Muse, of the man of many ways.”

The invocation that serves as Homer’s introduction to the Odyssey is a fitting way to introduce Emilio Cigars’ rebranding of Grimalkin, now called La Musa. I studied Ancient Greek as an undergraduate and enjoy reading it still, so I applaud the name choice. I’m not sure if Gary Griffith was thinking of Homer when he chose this name for this blend, but it’s hard for an old classics major not to think of him in association with the word Mοῦσα. The other interesting word in the line is polutropon, an adjective which has no exact equivalent in English. A translator has no choice but to compromise. It’s like describing the aroma of a complex cigar: the result is always  a frail approximation, and the description is never an adequate substitute for the experience of smoking the cigar itself. Polutropon literally means “many ways.”  It  encapsulates the spirit of Odysseus — his craftiness, intelligence, and sophistication. Homer calls on the Muse to help him describe this ineffable man. Perhaps I should do the same before I try to describe this cigar.

Rumor has it that La Musa Mousa is a Nicaraguan puro, and more reliable information indicates that it is made in Esteli. Evidently the plan for La Musa is to release three lines, one for each of the three Plutarchian Muses, plus the original Mousa. (There are several different accounts of the Muses, so there are more of them available for expansion if necessary. With all those lovely ladies it could end up being the most popular booth at the trade show.)

The blend is available in four sizes, with a limited lancero release not listed:

  • Corona – 5 1/2 x 46
  • Robusto – 5 x 52
  • Toro – 6 x 52
  • Torpedo – 6 1/2 x 52

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Construction Notes

The cover leaf on La Musa Mousa appears maduro in shade, with a rough texture almost like broadleaf. The cigar is rolled perfectly, terminating in a sharp torpedo tip. The draw has just the right amount of resistance, and it burns beautifully.

Overall construction: Excellent

Tasting Notes

La Musa Mousa is an essentially Nicaraguan smoke, but it doesn’t start out that way. The first few puffs are much creamier than what I expect from a Nicaraguan cigar (and of course, I’m not completely sure that this cigar is entirely Nicaraguan) and the pepper gradually builds from there. Notes of coffee and cocoa appear in the aromatics, and there is an intermittent sugary sweetness on the tongue.

The complexity of the smoke is demonstrated in the middle section as woody flavors appear alongside the tobacco sweetness on the palate. The peppery intensity gets cranked up a notch as well.

The last part of this torpedo features bittersweet chocolate and tannic wood until it begins to char. It becomes quite powerful by the end (though others have characterized the cigar as “medium-bodied”) and the spice doesn’t let up. It had me tearing up and sneezing at points. In the best way, of course. There’s nothing like a good tobacco sneeze.

Conclusion

There are rumors that this cigar is made at the My Father factory, but it’s almost the inverse of a Pepin blend — it starts out smooth and saves the pepper blast for the finale. But if you gave me this cigar blind, I’d probably guess Pepin anyway: partly for its impeccable construction, and partly for the combination and complexity of flavors — wood and cocoa and pepper in a balanced and well-planned blend. It’s very much a full-flavored and spicy cigar, but it’s also quite creamy.

La Musa Mousa in the torpedo size sells for around $8.75 USD. Given the complexity of flavors and the superb construction of the cigar, that’s not a bad asking price. Seek it out if you’re a fan of big Nicaraguan blends, and let me know what the Muse tells you.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinal Score: 91