First introduced in 2005, E. Zarzuela is a relative newcomer to the world of “boutique” cigars. This particular line is sometimes called the “Premium” line to distinguish it from Zarzuela’s milder-bodied “EZ” series released in 2006. Both are made in the Dominican Republic.
The Zarzuela website is sparing in detail about the company, but it does tell us that the chief blenders of this cigar — Felix Rodriguez and Eddy Fontana Zarzuela — have previous manufacturing experience with Arturo Fuente and La Gloria Cubana. So they come with impressive credentials.
The Zarzuela Premium has been rated highly in Smoke magazine and by cigarencyclopedia.com, and since I’m always game for a small production cigar I thought I should check it out.
One of the arcane aspects of the cigar industry is the seemingly arbitrary way that different shapes and sizes obtain their frontmarks — why double coronas are often called “churchills” and why toros are sometimes called “corona grandes” and so on. Here is a case in point: this “Toro Fuerte” measures 5 x 50, which is the standard robusto format. But there is no “Robusto.” On the other hand, there are two toro sizes in the line, the 6 x 52 “Toro Grande” and the 6 x 54 “Long Drive.” And to augment this toro madness, the petite coronas are called “Toritos.”
The torpedo size is refreshingly called Torpedo (I would have suggested Toro-pedo) and the 7 x 50 double corona is called, of course, Churchill.
The Zarzuela Premium features a Nicaraguan Cafe Habano wrapper, some Dominican piloto cubano for binding, and filler composed of Nicaraguan ligero and Dominican piloto. Habano, piloto, and ligero…sounds like a powerful brew.
The wrapper on the Toro Fuerte is a splotchy colorado maduro, but it has a nice oily sheen and a roughshod leathery appearance. The prelight scent is tannic with maybe a tinge of ammonia, just enough to raise a pucker. The roll is solid and the draw quite firm.
The first few puffs taste dry and woody but in just a few seconds the wrapper kicks in a sweet and complex aroma typical of Nicaraguan habano. After smoking for five or ten minutes a solid and uniformly light gray ash forms that adds to the aesthetic appeal of this cigar. The burn is perfectly even up to this point.
Just after the one-third point the draw opens up like a door and this robusto becomes truly enjoyable. The burn is perfectly even and the ash holds solid. It’s not as strong as I had guessed it would be — it’s more a medium body smoke at this point, with a short finish and very little aftertaste. The aroma is the highlight at this point — a sweet, almost fruity perfume that blends well with the woody and leathery base flavors of the tobacco.
At the two-thirds point the body begins a gradual ascent to medium-full, some tannins enter the fray, and the flavor takes on an earthier aspect. The last third gets meatier yet, the finish grows and the aftertaste becomes more mineraly. Meanwhile the wrapper continues its sweet leathery contribution.
This cigar goes through a lot of changes in a short amount of time, but remains balanced all the way. Construction values are also very high. The tannins come heavier in the last third of the cigar, which may be by design, as some smokers love this tart flavor, or it could be youth. If the latter, this cigar will only improve over time.
A box of 24 will run around 100 USD, which in most places puts it in the $5 to $8 per stick range. Very reasonable, I think, for a cigar of this quality. Don’t take the “Fuerte” in its name too seriously, since this turns out to be a solid medium-bodied cigar. The flavors are good, and the aroma is outstanding. If that’s your style, I say go for it.
The E. Zarzuela Toro Fuerte is not a typical Dominican cigar — it’s closer to a Nicaraguan, but less powerful than what you’d expect from Pepin or Padron. And that’s what I love about boutique cigars: they’re usually not what you expect. This is a nice one.