7-20-4 Lancero

7 20 4  lancero

Kurt Kendall’s 7-20-4 cigar has a colorful history, one that began in 1874 when R.G. Sullivan began making cigars in Manchester, New Hampshire. Starting with a single cigar roller, the company grew to employ over 1500 people by 1924 and at that time was producing 80 million cigars a year. Sullivan was known as America’s largest manufacturer of “ten cent” cigars. As the company grew, the factory changed locations several times, as did the brand name. Gold Dust Ten Cent Cigars, as they were known, became 7-20-4, derived from the factory’s address: 724 Elm Street.

Sullivan’s factory continued on for many years thereafter, but it finally closed in 1963 as yet another casualty of the U.S.-Cuban trade embargo. The building itself still stands, and has evidently been rehabilitated for use as office space. (But before you sign that lease, know there are rumors that the building is haunted.)

The brand name 7-20-4 was revived when cigar maker Kurt Kendall secured the trademark in 2008. Today 7-20-4 cigars are made in the Tabacos de Oriente factory in Honduras, utilizing leaf from five countries: filler from Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico and Colombia, a Costa Rican binder, and a Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper. The cigars are rolled using the entubado method to ensure a consistently even draw. With the recently added lancero, there are now six sizes in production:

  • Corona – 5.625 x 46
  • Churchill – 7 x 48
  • Gran Toro – 6.5 x 56
  • Robusto – 5 x 50
  • Torpedo – 6.125 x 52
  • Lancero – 7.5 x 38

Construction Notes

With its pigtail cap the 7-20-4 lancero does in fact look a bit like a lance. All it lacks is a bell guard and a tiny knight errant. The Brazilian wrapper is a uniform maduro in color, rich in appearance, and a little bit dry. A potential pitfall of the lancero size is a difficult draw, but utilizing the entubado rolling method seems to have eliminated the chance of that happening here. Just one of the three I smoked for review offered more resistance than I prefer, and the other two were perfect. The burn was dead even in each case and the narrow ash held longer than I expected it to.7-20-4 lancero

Overall construction: excellent.

Tasting Notes

The flavors and aroma of this cigar are pleasantly complex, and it wastes no time in presenting them. It introduces itself with pepper on the tongue and palate, in moderation, and the smoke is cool and surprisingly creamy. The foundation flavor is crisp and woody, similar to Illusione’s Original Document blend but without the sharpness. The aroma is rich and syrupy with chocolate and cedar spices.

I was expecting the cigar to exhibit a transition at some point, but it doesn’t change too much, aside from a general darkening from wood to char. Not every smoke needs a second and third act, however. The overall complexity of the 7-20-4 makes up for its lack of evolution, so there’s no room for complaint. Maybe it’s just human nature to ask for improvement when it’s already good to start with. Like raking your kid over the coals for that A- in AP Calculus.

Conclusion

Complexity and smoothness are what I really prize in my favorite smokes, and the 7-20-4 lancero has both. I shy away from lanceros because of the construction problems endemic to the size, but that’s not a concern at all with the 7-20-4. Entubado rolling and quality control have quelled those worries.

The lanceros run in the $8 USD range. Treat yourself for the holidays and pick up a few.

7 20 4 lanceroFinal Score: 90

Alec Bradley Sun Grown Robusto

Alec Bradley’s Sun Grown cigar is distributed as a Famous Cigar private label, so there is limited information about it available. The distinguishing feature of the blend is a Mata Fina wrapper from the Bahia region of Brazil.

Mata Fina is a region in the Reconcavo Bahiana, the “bay area” of the state of Bahia. Much of this part of Brazil has been cleared of its natural forest over the years and secondary regrowth has taken place. “Mata Fina” is a farmer’s term for the type of regrowth, secondary forest, in this area. The climate and soil is excellent for tobacco cultivation — tropical weather with plenty of sun (though an average of 42 inches of rain annually) and sandy soil that provides good drainage. Tobacco farmers like to point out that Bahia is the same distance south of the equator that Cuba is north of it.

Tobacco is native to Brazil and was quickly adopted by early Dutch and Portuguese settlers. By the late 19th century it was one of Brazil’s leading exports, both in raw form and finished cigars. Brazil still produces a prodigious amount of tobacco (and a few blends of Brazilian puros) but the vast majority is now exported to major cigar manufacturers in Central America and the Dominican Republic.

All of the tobacco in Mata Fina is sun grown, which is part of the reason for its dark appearance. When mata fina is naturally cured it turns quite dark and can be mistaken for maduro, but the leaf is actually less robust, more refined and more highly aromatic than most maduro wrappers. Mata fina is most frequently used as wrapper leaf (which is hand-picked) but it can also be used as binder and filler (which is stalk cut.)

In addition to a Mata Fina wrapper, the Alec Bradley Sun Grown employs a Honduran binder and fillers from Nicaragua and Colombia. Three sizes are in production:

Churchill – 7 x 48
Robusto – 5 x 50
Toro – 6 x 52

Construction Notes

I haven’t seen how the Alec Bradley Sun Grown is packaged (I picked up a five-pack from Famous), but they look box-pressed to me. The roll is a little bit soft and seems to have taken on some press. The wrapper is dark and rich in appearance, though every bit as rustic as you’d expect from a sun-grown leaf. The cap is purely functional. Actually, the stick seems to have been designed without aesthetics in mind at all — maybe after looking at the wrapper they just threw in the towel. The band, on the other hand, is gorgeous. The secondary “Sun Grown” band is probably unnecessary though.

The robusto burns quite well — straight, with an even draw, and a smooth light gray ash.

Overall construction very good.

Tasting Notes

The robusto starts up with a flare of sweet spice, but it’s not the explosion of pepper that is common to a lot of Nicaraguan cigars. It’s palate-tingling, but it’s more like the minty flavor found in  Cameroon. There is a mild bite on the tongue and the aroma is sweet and complex. I have a hard time distinguishing the scents on the nose at this point, but the base flavor is coffee and earth.

Cruising into the mid-section the smoke gets a bit smoother on the palate but remains spicy upstairs. As the flavors settle and coalesce there’s a hint of cherry over the continuing coffee and earth underneath.

The complexity of the cigar diminishes as the cigar burns into its final stage, concentrating on coffee, earth, and that minty or clove-like scent with which it opened. The coffee dwindles into a burned flavor and starts to turn bitter at the very end of the smoke.

(One of the three I’ve smoked so far was a dud. I’m going to count that one out of my assessment, but I’d be interested in hearing if anyone has had a similar experience. Maybe there was a bad leaf in there or something.  If anything it shows that you have to smoke more than one cigar (preferably several) before passing judgment on a blend.

Conclusion

I don’t usually expect much from large distributors’ exclusive cigars, but the Alec Bradley Sun Grown was a good one. The complexity of aromas that the mata fina wrapper contributes really distinguishes the cigar, and at a price around 5 USD it makes a great everyday smoke.

Pick up a five-pack and let me know what you think. (Strangely, buying four five-packs is significantly cheaper than buying a 20-count box. And it’s not like Kaizad Hansotia designed the box.)

Final Score: 89