Alec Bradley American Classic Robusto

A few months ago I had the opportunity to review La Gloria Cubana’s new “Artesanos Retro” cigar, and what I liked most about it was the Honduran Connecticut seed wrapper.  It’s a tasty leaf, so it’s easy to see why Alec Bradley has gone the same route with the American Classic Blend.

Alec Bradley has some experience with Honduran tobacco. Their big hits in the past couple of years (including an impressive No. 1 for the Prensado in Cigar Aficionado’s 2011 lineup) have been from the Raices Cubanas factory in Honduras, so it’s not a huge surprise to see an unusual Honduran strain on the American Classic.

This blend was reportedly designed to mimic the style and evoke the flavors of cigars favored by Americans in the early part of the 20th century, when Tampa was King and cigars with double claro or candela wrappers were labeled “American Market Selection.” Wrapper shades darker than this were called “English Market Selection,” and the darkest cigars were called “Spanish Market Selection.” World markets and the tastes of smokers worldwide have obviously changed, but the American Classic Blend takes a step back in time.

Underneath the Honduran grown, Connecticut-seed wrapper lies a binder from Nicaragua and Nicaraguan filler leaves from both Esteli and Condega. Six sizes are in production:

  • Corona: 5 1/2 x 42
  • Robusto: 5 x 50
  • Toro: 6 x 50
  • Churchill: 7 x 48
  • Torpedo: 6 1/8 x 52
  • Gordo: 6 x 60

Construction Notes

The wrapper on the American Classic is somewhat dry and papery. It’s darker and more weathered in appearance than Connecticut Shade, and it seems a bit thinner. The rough texture of the binder shows through, giving the stick a slightly bumpy appearance. The cigar is finished in Cuban flat-head style with a triple wrapped cap.

Staring down the business end of this cigar I notice that the bunch appears to be partially booked. The draw was fine, however, and the cigar burned perfectly, so perhaps the evils of booked filler leaves are exaggerated. And like many other cigars using Connecticut Shade, this one left a solid light gray ash.

Overall construction excellent.

Tasting Notes

The Alec Bradley American Classic starts up with a toasty flavor common to many mild-to-medium bodied cigars, but the spice on the nose sets this one apart from run-of-the-mill Connecticut Shade smokes. It has the perfume of Connecticut Shade, but it’s sharper and less flowery. It blends extremely well with the toasty and woody foundation flavors.

The mid-section brings a bready note as the spice on the nose dies down. The sweet spot here is almost exactly at the half-way point of the cigar, where the  cedar and bread flavors are delicately balanced and the result is delectable. Unfortunately these flavors dissipate around the two-thirds point and the smoke becomes a bit hot and burnt tasting. Maybe in my zeal for that bready note I was pulling a little too hard, but I deliberately slowed my pace while smoking the second cigar and had the same experience.

Conclusion

The American Classic has the mild and floral sweetness of a high quality Connecticut Shade cigar, but an added complexity that I found quite enjoyable. The combination of toast and bread and soft spicy cedar make it a great smoke to pair with a morning cup of coffee.

Most of us weren’t around for the days of “classic” American cigars, the days of Thomas Riley Marshall’s “good five cent cigar.”  (I shudder to think about what my grandfather would say about  a 15 dollar stogie.)  At around $4 USD this one is a bit pricier than Marshall’s budget smoke, but by today’s standards it is still a relatively good value. Give it a shot one of these sunny spring mornings.

Final Score: 87

La Gloria Cubana Artesanos Retro

Team La Gloria is back again with an addition to La Gloria Cubana Artesanos series. This time it’s the Retro Especiale, inspired by an old humidor that they found in the El Credito cigar factory. This is the third entry in the Artesanos line, which also includes the dual-wrapper Artesanos de Tabaqueros and the pyramid-shaped Artesanos de Obelisco.

The Retro Especiale looks like a plain old cigar when compared to the eye-catching Tabaqueros and Obelisco, but the band and box design give it plenty of class. Each frontmark has a different box design, and like the band the images harken back to the early days of cigar making in Miami and Cuba.

The centerpiece of the Retro Especiale is a Connecticut seed hybrid wrapper that is grown in Honduras. It reportedly took eight years to develop the blend, which features Nicaraguan and Dominican fillers held in place by two binders: one from Nicaragua, and one from (gulp) Mexico.

Four sizes are in production:

  • Club 5 3/4 x 47
  • Taino 7 x 52
  • Habanero 6 x 52
  • Cubano 6 1/2 x 58

Construction Notes

The wrapper on the LGC Retro Club is an attractive milk chocolate color, a touch darker than is typical of standard Connecticut Shade wrappers. The wrapper is thin, allowing the rough texture of the binder to show through. The head is rounded, which is not unusual for General Cigar products, and the roll is solid. The burn is fairly slow (although one stick canoed a bit) and the ash is surprisingly dark.

Overall good construction, with a little concern about canoeing.

Tasting Notes

The most interesting aspect of this cigar is the Honduran grown Connecticut-seed wrapper, which gives the Retro a nice creamy body from the start. Cedary spice is evident as well, with a touch of vanilla on the nose. The aroma is slightly sweet but quite pungent, and the aftertaste is very dry. The flavors become a little bolder toward the middle of the cigar, but for the most part this is a medium bodied cigar.

The second half serves up an interesting combination of sweet cream, earth, and astringency. The flavors on the palate are dry and earthy, bordering on bitter at times. I’m not sure, but I’m going to guess that’s the Mexican binder in there. The aroma doesn’t have the same floral character that I expect from Connecticut Shade, but it stays creamy and assertive to the end of the cigar. Toward the band the flavors get a little darker and pepper vies with the dryness on the palate.

Conclusion

Despite good construction and considerable inventiveness, I’m afraid this cigar just isn’t for me. Maybe the dryness on the palate could be remedied by a good lambic or witbier, but I would not smoke this cigar straight up or with anything that might add to the bitterness. It needs something sweet to cut the astringency.

But again, there is a market for this style of cigar, and the wrapper on this blend is quite nice. I’ll be interested to see if Team La Gloria uses this Honduran-Connecticut leaf again in a cigar that is more my style. The Club size can be found for around 4 bucks a stick, so there’s definitely no complaining about the price.

Final Score: 82

A special thanks to General Cigar for the review samples, and for so generously engaging the blogging community.