It was William Faulkner who said, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” With the death of Fidel Castro and the relaxation (for now) of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, it would be good to remember what old Faulkner said. Regardless of what happens in the near future, what happened to Cubans during and after the revolution will continue to have an effect on thousands of Cubans and Cuban-Americans. There’s no escaping history.
The cigar business brings that history to the present, from seed to smoke. Take the subject of today’s little examination: the El Galan Reserva Especial. The founder and blender-in-chief is Felix A. Mesa, who is originally from the Cabaiguan region of Cuba. He comes to the industry with some familiar credentials: three generations of ancestors who worked the fields of Central Cuba and made their names in the business.
Look carefully at the band and you’ll see in the center El Galan himself, “the gentleman.” Flanking him are two small photographs: on the left is Felix Mesa’s mother, Ana Nancy, working in the tobacco field removing tobacco buds, and on his right Mesa’s grandfather Francisco working on his farm. (Check out a fine interview with Felix Mesa at hoochly for more.)
Like many cigar makers with Cuban roots, Mesa eventually made his way to Nicaragua, and today he operates a factory in Esteli where about half a dozen different blends are made. For many of today’s greatest cigar makers, Cuban roots now flower in Nicaragua.
El Galan Reserva Especial is a Nicaraguan puro made in four sizes:
- Airosos – 5 x 52
- Gallardos – 6 x 52 torpedo
- Apuestos – 5 3/4 x 54
- Obesos – 6 x 60
I test drove El Galan Reserva in the Apuestos size, a square pressed cigar with near-toro dimensions. The wrapper is a dark colorado maduro, rich and slightly rough. There are a few prominent veins and the triple cap is not quite perfect, but definitely serviceable.
The cigar is rolled well with a good draw and a slow burn that meanders a bit but corrects itself. Each one of the three I smoked for the review was consistent in this regard, so there’s good quality control here.
Overall construction: Excellent
There’s a nice blend of sugar and spice here. The Apuestos open bright and peppery with a citric bite, but this is balanced by cedar and a touch of graham cracker on the nose. The body is medium, growing to full, and the strength is around medium to medium-full.
The pepper diminishes as the cigar develops and more savory flavors appear on the palate. The smoke becomes meaty with an earthy aftertaste. A few sweet notes continue to dance on the nose, but they deepen a bit as the cedar loses its edge and becomes more oaky. A finale composed of increased earthiness, char, and pepper closes out the cigar.
I don’t usually expect a lot of complexity from cigars with wrappers this dark, but El Galan Reserva delivers. It’s well built, consistent, and in the $6-7 USD range for all four sizes, it’s nicely priced. This is one to check out if you’re looking for a complex and meaty maduro.
But don’t take my word for it. Ask Jeff, writing for Casas Fumando early this year.
Final Score: 90