La Gloria Cubana Serie N

This Friday, March 25, marks what General Cigar is calling the “first-ever national virtual cigar tasting,” or more simply, Serie N Day. The event will be streamed live from the famous El Credito Cigar Factory in Miami and will feature an open forum chat between the members of Team La Gloria and select retailers. They will be taking questions via Facebook and Twitter at that time as well.

La Gloria’s Serie N cigar was designed as a medium-bodied counterpart to its well-known (and full-bodied) Serie R line. I have heard that the N, which is emblazoned on the barrel of each cigar using a lighter colored leaf, stands for Nicaragua. So naturally, the wrapper leaf is an Ecuadorian Sumatra. (Maybe the N stands for something else then. Maybe they’re Cornhusker fans?) On the other hand, the rest of the cigar is composed of Nicaraguan tobaccos proprietary to General, so the N stands vindicated after all.

The Serie N was blended by Yuri Guillen, with the participation of the other members of the team: Benji Menendez, Michael Giannini, and Rick Rodriguez. The line is produced in the Dominican Republic and is presented in 24-count hexagonal boxes that are painted bright red with the Serie N logo in gold.

Four sizes are in production:

JSB – 5 1/2 x 54
Rojo – 6 1/2 x 46
Generoso – 5 3/4 x 49
Glorioso – 6 1/2 x 58

(Somehow I lost my N…)

Construction Notes

The blenders call the Serie N wrapper “capa oscura,” and it’s easy to see why. It’s a shiny, nearly uniform black. There is just enough variation in the black tone to see that the processing of the leaf was done naturally. The roll is solid, though one sample I received had a dent in one side (I’m blaming the mailman) and the draw is excellent. The head is round, but the cap is not particularly admirable. It sort of looks like a massive cheroot (with an N on it.) The prelight scent of this cigar is sweet with a raisin-like note over the cured tobacco smell.

The cap slices off neatly and even with a haphazard light the foot takes on an even burn. After ten or fifteen minutes of leisurely smoking the ash is solid and secure.

Overall construction excellent.

Tasting Notes

The Serie N starts up surprisingly sweet and cedary, with an earthy hint of sulfur lurking in the background. At odds with this is a plummy note, or more specifically, a whiff of prune. The lowly prune has a somewhat checkered reputation, so I am reluctant to use that reference, but the nose doesn’t lie. (Though I admit it is sometimes mistaken.) The smoke is very smooth on the palate, but quite flavorful.

After fifteen or twenty minutes’ smoking time, an acidic zing appears on the palate. The fruitiness fades and gives way to cocoa or chocolate flavors. It remains smooth and creamy on the palate, but picks up some spice on the nose. If you’re a retrohaler, you’ll find some exciting things going on here.

In the last section a leathery base emerges with an overlay of chocolate and pepper. The spice seems to be almost entirely in the nose, not on the palate, where it remains quite smooth.

Conclusion

The Gloria Cubana Serie N isn’t billed as a maduro, but with its sweet chocolate cocoa profile I think it smokes like one. Add to this its initial cedar flavor, the fruity note, and the transition to leather at the end, and you have a maduro-style cigar with more complexity than your standard maduro.

The Serie N is priced in the 6 to 7 USD range, which is eminently reasonable given its high quality. Light one up this Friday and enjoy Serie N Day with the folks at Team La Gloria. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Final Score: 90

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La Gloria Cubana Artesanos de Tabaqueros

A few weeks ago La Joya de Nicaragua’s Cabinetta surprised me by demonstrating that not all dual-wrapper cigars are trumped-up fashion plates. In that case both wrappers have distinct and useful functions, and I am finding that again with La Gloria Cubana’s new Artesanos de Tabaqueros.

In 2008 La Gloria Cubana announced a new direction with its release of the Artesanos de Miami — a small production blend made in Miami by a team of 10 rollers. The Artesanos de Tabaqueros is an extension of that concept, but this time the team is a little bit bigger (18 rollers instead of 10) and the factory is a small division in the Dominican El Credito facility.

The cigar is the concept of Rick Rodriguez with guidance from master blender Benji Menendez and their pick of General Cigar’s vast “library” of aged tobaccos. The filler and binder is of Dominican and Honduran origin, but the main attraction is of course the wrapper. Or wrappers, I should say.

At the foot of the cigar, and extending for the first third, is a Connecticut Shade leaf. From that point to the cap, a much darker Ecuadorian Sumatra leaf takes over.  The marketing director for LGC likens the intial shade portion to an appetizer before the “porterhouse” of the Sumatra takes over.

The Artesanos de Tabaqueros is produced in three sizes, each of which seems to have the same measure of Shade leaf. I would expect that initial section to be proportional to the whole, but I guess a bigger steak does not net you a bigger appetizer. For the review I lit up the 650 toro size.

  • 650 – 6 x 50 (toro)
  • 652 – 6 x 52 (belicoso)
  • 750 – 7 x 50 (double corona)

Construction Notes

This cigar is very distinctive and attractive with its striking two-tone design. The band rides low on the cigar, covering the juncture where the claro and maduro-colored wrappers meet. The roll is solid and the draw is just right as well.

Connecticut shade burns extremely well, making it easy to blend a cigar that burns evenly.  The Artesanos de Tabaqueros takes full advantage of this wrapper’s superior burning qualities, and true to form it burns level straight.  I was expecting the burn to suffer once it hit the Sumatra leaf, but it follows through perfectly. Even the ash remains solid, though the Sumatra burns a slightly darker shade of gray.

Overall excellent construction.

Tasting Notes

The Connecticut shade portion is fairly typical of the breed — smooth, mild, and creamy. The flavor is a little nutty, and the aroma carries with it a pleasing and mild scent of cedar. The smoke texture is about medium in body, with no bite whatsoever. There is a touch of sweetness and an acidic tang on the finish.

The transition into Sumatra territory is obvious. If you were smoking this cigar in the dark you might think someone switched cigars on you. (There are several good reasons not to smoke in the dark. Having your cigar shanghai’d is just one of them.)

The flavor of the Sumatra wrapper is so different, it’s like starting a new cigar. By contrast with the Connecticut, the flavor is heavier, with a foundation of bittersweet chocolate. The aroma is woodier — more like hardwood than cedar, and it’s not as complex as the Connecticut section. The focus in this part is on the palate, where the chocolate flavor develops a tannic pinch and the finish is dry. The final inch, around the place where a band would normally sit, is marked by a coffee flavor that tastes a bit scorched as the cigar winds down.  This section of the cigar reminds me of the Punch Upper Cut, another General cigar with an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper.

Conclusion

Smoking La Gloria Cubana’s Artesanos de Tabaqueros is an interesting experience, and in addition to the two-wrapper novelty it is a very well made cigar. Both the first Connecticut and the second Sumatra sections are fine smokes in themselves, though they might not be the most interesting cigars taken separately.

The question is whether you are the type of smoker who wants to smoke two cigars back-to-back like this.  Personally, when I want to smoke a mild Connecticut shade cigar, I don’t want to mix it up with a heavier smoke. And when I feel like a medium or heavier bodied cigar, I don’t want to sit through a mild overture beforehand. That said, the Artesanos de Tabaqueros is still a very high quality cigar. At around 8 USD per stick, it’s definitely worth the experience.

Final Score: 89

LGC Serie R Lotus Giveaway

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I’m down for the count this week with an exquisitely sadistic flu bug, so instead of a cigar review I will pass along this bit of nifty news: General Cigar is giving away a Lotus. And that’s not a lighter, folks. That’s a 2010 Lotus Elise sports car, and it could be yours if you’re one of the five winners of a three-day, two-night stay in Las Vegas. Of those five lucky first-prize winners, one will get the key that starts the engine.

From the press release:

Richmond, VA – Serie R cigars invites its loyal legion of fans to celebrate their enjoyment of strength, refinement and performance through an exciting sweepstakes culminating in the giveaway in Las Vegas of a 2010 Lotus Elise sports car valued at more than $52,000.

Consumers of legal smoking age who make an online box purchase of Serie R cigars from Best Cigar Prices, Holt’s Cigar Company, JR Cigars, Mike’s Cigars, or Thompson Cigars between now and May 15, 2010 are automatically entered in to a drawing to win a trip to the Serie R Performance Driving School which will be held on 9/17 to 9/19, 2010 in Las Vegas. No purchase necessary. For complete official rules, visit www.cigarworld.com/lotus.

Strangely enough, the La Gloria Cubana Serie R Robusto was one of the first cigars I ever reviewed for this blog. (Long long ago, when I was young and laconic.) And having gone for a week now without a good cigar, a Serie R sounds really really good. This is what I thought of this stick in 2006:

The Serie R maduros I’ve sampled are indeed rich, hearty cigars. I was prepared to be blown away, but was pleasantly surprised by their smoothness. There is a solid woody element with a touch of sweetness on the nose. The construction and burn were perfect, which is not an easy feat with a maduro wrapper as luscious as this one. For some reason Connecticut broadleaf fermented to this hue with all its oils does not want to burn as readily as the rest of the cigar, but in this case that proved to not be true.

Slow down at the midway point to avoid a tarry aftertaste. This one does not want to be rushed. A great 30 to 45 minute smoke, and in my opinion the best LGC yet.

It’s been a while since I fired up a fat Serie R, but as soon as I get the green light from my immune system I have one clipped and ready… unless I find one of the new LGC Artesanos de Tabaqueros first. ( Read the CA blog entry for details. Sounds like a great experiment, and hopefully more than a gimmick.)

~cigarfan



La Gloria Cubana Reserva Figurado Flechas

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Here at Keepers of the Flame we support the preservation of formal cigar nomenclature, but occasionally a cigar comes with a designation that challenges our dedication. To restore the dignity of this cigar’s title from the abbreviation in the title above, allow me to present La Gloria Cubana Reserva Figurados Flechas Especiales Maduro. But since brevity is the soul of wit (or so I have been told) we’ll call it the LGC Flechas Maddie. In any case, this is a great blend, and one that almost always finds a place in Cigar Aficionado’s annual Top 25.

The big news for La Gloria Cubana is that Ernesto Perez-Carillo will no longer be the guiding force behind the brand.  LGC was first made in Miami by Ernesto’s father, a former Cuban Senator, starting in 1968, and it has been in the family ever since.  Ernesto Sr. nearly sold the brand at one point but decided to keep it when his son decided he wanted a part in the company. Now that son, Ernesto Jr., is leaving the brand behind for very similar reasons: to start a new cigar company with his son, Ernesto III.

That’s a lot of Ernestos to keep straight, but as long as they make cigars this good, I say keep the Ernestos coming.

The Reserva Figurados were first released in 2004 in only three sizes; a year later the number was increased to five. There was a suggestion that the lineup may be reduced again to 3, but so far all five sizes are still on the market:

  • Selectos de Lujos – 7 1/4 x 54  (previously reviewed here.)
  • Flechas Especiales – 6 1/2 x 49
  • Felicias – 4 5/8 x 49
  • Regalias Perfectos – 6 1/4 x 57
  • Piramides Clasicas –  7 1/4 x 56

The wrapper here is a well aged and fermented Connecticut Broadleaf. Beneath this is 4-year old Nicaraguan binder, and the filler is a Nicaraguan-Dominican blend. According to the General Cigar website, this line undergoes a special “cedar-aging” process whereby the cigar components are aged together in cedar bins for six months. They are then rolled by Grade 7 rollers and box aged for an additional three months before shipping.  “Flecha” by the way is Spanish for arrow, a fitting name for this figurado.

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Construction Notes

Despite the fact that this cigar is 6 1/2 inches long, it appears to be much smaller due to its proportions. This is a bouquet style perfecto, meaning it is tapered at both ends, but flared near the foot. The widest point is chosen as the measurement for the ring gauge, so it measures a 49 only at that one point. The remaining length of the barrel narrows, making this a smaller cigar than it appears to be on paper.

The wrapper is very dark, even for maduro, but not so black as to be suspicious. (In other words, it is certainly a naturally processed maduro leaf.) The pre-light aroma is of rich tobacco with a hint of cedar. The roll is solid all the way around, but one of my samples had a little crook in the head section. Maybe a level 6 roller was sitting in relief that day.

The burn on all of these has been absolutely perfect: straight as a plumb line, and leaving a solid gray ash to remember it by. The draw tends to be a bit tight until the point burns off, but after a few minutes it’s all good.

Overall excellent construction.

Tasting Notes

The Flechas Maduro took a few minutes to hit its stride due to a tight draw at the start. The first flavors are straight tobacco with a little char and it tends to taste a little papery. As soon as the foot opens up the flavors become richer as expected. Cedar makes an entrance and the aroma gets sweeter. There is a little licorice in the aftertaste.

The middle section features more cedar and throws in some roasted nuts. The licorice fades and the aftertaste becomes sweetly chalky. The smoke texture is medium to full in body, but at all times the smoke is full flavored.

The last section, up to the band, is where this cigar returns dividends. Here the aroma is at its most powerful — smoky cedar and sweet hickory in abundance. The flavor is almost meaty at times, but retains most of the previously mentioned attributes — nuts, earth, and rich tobacco. It’s a complex, but smoothly integrated brew.

Conclusion

The LGC Reserva Figurado line of cigars has been in my experience nothing short of excellent, in all sizes, in both natural Ecuadorian Sumatra as well as Maduro. The Flechas Maduro is representative of the line. This is a stellar example of a full-bodied cigar that has no harshness, an unfortunate rarity these days. There is enough complexity here to satisfy the most demanding palate, while remaining smooth enough for novices (assuming that a pretty good nicotine punch won’t spoil the experience.)

The Flechas Maduro carry a premium price of 8 to 9 USD per stick, but I do believe they are worth this asking price. My only hope is that General can maintain the quality of this cigar now that Ernesto Perez-Carrillo is no longer at the helm. And given his track record with LGC and El Rico Habano, it goes without saying that we await with baited cigar breath Ernesto’s new blends.

Final Score: 92

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Other Reviews of Note

Patrick A. gives the Flechas Maduro 4 out of 5 stogies for the Stogie Guys.

Cigar Jack finds the Regalias Maduro to be full flavored but less bold than the LGC Serie R.

Herfs up for the Cohiba Club as they give the Selectos de Lujos Maduro an 89.