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.


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.  

Kinky Friedman Kinkycristo

Kinky Friedman is best known as a musician, author, and perennial candidate for political office, but a cigar is his constant companion in whichever guise he appears. He is an American humorist in the tradition of Mark Twain, and like Twain his quips are many and well known. My favorite is still what he said to Bill Clinton after handing him a Cuban cigar: “Remember, Mr. President, we’re not supporting their economy. We’re burning their fields, one cigar at a time.”

Kinky prefers Cuban Montecristos, but laments the price. He considers Honduran leaf second only to Cuban, so it is fitting that the original line of Kinky Friedman cigars uses a Honduran Habano wrapper. The binder is from Costa Rica, and the filler is a Honduran-Nicaraguan blend. They are manufactured by Habana Cuba Cigars, the makers of Oliveros, in the Dominican Republic. Five sizes are in production:

  • Kinkycristo – 6 1/4 x 54 torpedo
  • Texas Jewboy – 6 x 56 torpedo
  • Governor – 5 3/4 x 60 toro
  • The Willie – 6 x 48 parejo with a shaggy foot
  • Utopian – 6 x 52 toro

Proceeds from sales of the Utopian size go to Friedman’s Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch in Medina, TX. So you can add animal lover and philanthropist to Kinky’s already extensive resume. He also makes salsa, which I haven’t tried but probably should since the proceeds from that product line also go to the Utopia Rescue Ranch.

Construction Notes

The Kinkycristo is a nice looking torpedo with a Texas-sized primary band featuring a silhouette of the Kinkster himself. There is an additional, more discreet secondary band bearing the frontmark name, “Kinkycristo.” Together these bands cover half the cigar, which wouldn’t be a problem were it not for the surplus glue that has been smeared all over the ventral side of the stick. I wonder what would happen if I ran that fingerprint through AFIS?

That rather unsettling aesthetic anomaly aside, the Kinkycristo is rolled well, draws easily, and burns evenly.

Overall construction: very good.

Tasting Notes

I’ve smoked a few “celebrity” cigars in my time, and I can’t say that I’ve been terribly impressed with any of them. Using one’s celebrity to market a product is a business decision, not a demonstration of talent, and I am accordingly skeptical of any product peddled that way. So my expectations of this cigar were lower than they might have been. All the same, I was pleasantly surprised.

The Kinkycristo is a smooth medium-bodied cigar with a substantial amount of complexity. In the first third I found a soft woody aroma coupled with an earthy aftertaste and a few flavor notes that kept me guessing.

The middle of the cigar is a little bit spicier, but is still balanced and smooth. Cocoa, or perhaps sweet coffee with lots of cream, makes an appearance at times, along with that elusive note. It reminds me of vanilla and balsa wood, but I could be persuaded otherwise.

The Kinkycristo is surprisingly complex, but it doesn’t change much from start to finish. It stays even tempered, mild and tasty to the end. I was expecting a little more power in the last act, maybe a shot of Tabasco or chile powder, but it just tips its hat politely and meanders into the sunset.


The Kinkycristo is a smooth medium-bodied smoke that could be easily enjoyed as a breakfast cigar, or anytime at all if the medium range is where you live. The MSRP is a bit high ($165 for a box of 20), but the online behemoths are selling them right now for about 70 dollars under that.  If you play your cards right on the auction sites you can do even better than that.

It’s nice to know that Kinky has a fall-back plan if the book-writing, song-singing, and campaigning-for-office gigs dry up. Cigar slinging might be what he was born for.

Final Score: 89

E.P. Carrillo Core Line

Ernesto Perez-Carrillo is best known as the blender of La Gloria Cubana, El Rico Habano, and as the former owner of the El Credito Cigar Company. His father, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, Sr., had been a tobacco buyer and a member of the Cuban Senate before the revolution. He started the company in 1968, about a decade after he brought his family to Miami. Four years after the company was established in Miami, he acquired the rights to the Gloria Cubana trademark.

The young Ernesto was an aspiring musician, and he entered the cigar business on a part-time basis. But when his father passed away in 1980 he took over El Credito and became a full-time tobacco man. El Credito was a fairly small-time operation in the early 80’s, making mostly short filler cigars and barely squeaking by financially. But in 1992 Cigar Aficionado gave the LGC Wavell a 90 and the business started rolling in. Almost two decades of continued success followed, after which Ernesto sold the company to Swedish Match/General Cigar.

In 2009 Perez-Carrillo re-entered the industry with his children as business partners. He wanted to make a cigar that was different from LGC or El Rico Habano, and he was willing to step away from the trend for bigger, bolder cigars. The E.P. Carrillo 2009 inaugural cigar was just that — with an unusual and limited supply of an Ecuador Habano wrapper leaf from ASP tobacco he was back in it again. After that came the “Short Run,” yet another limited edition.

The “Core Line” is described by Ernesto as a cross between the Inaugural 2009 Edition and the Short Run, but it presumably will be more consistently and widely available. The wrapper used is an Ecuadorian Sumatra from the Oliva Tobacco Company and the filler is roughly 80% Nicaraguan and 20% Dominican. The Core Line also employs a double binder from Nicaragua.

Construction Notes

The exterior of the Core Line is bumpy and veiny, but the color is an even colorado maduro. The triple cap is finely crafted and the roll is solid. The burn is a little uneven at times, and the ash is a bit crumbly. She may not be the prettiest debutante at the cotillion, but we’re going to burn her and leave her in the ashtray anyway. (I hope my wife isn’t reading this.)

Overall construction: Very good.

Tasting Notes

The EPC Core Line opens with a grassy flavor and a dry, somewhat tannic finish. The aroma is very nice from first light though — mild cedar with notes of vanilla and butterscotch.  After an inch or so the texture becomes almost buttery.

Nutty flavors take over in the mid-section, but the aroma continues to steal the show. It’s floral like Connecticut shade, but woodier. I noticed a touch of salt on the tongue as well.

There isn’t a whole lot of complexity to this cigar — the flavors just continue on the same nutty trajectory until they fall just before the band to a prematurely ashy end.


The EP Carillo Core Line is a welcome addition to the medium-bodied cigar market. It could easily be enjoyed as a morning or mid-day cigar, or even a dinnertime smoke if you prefer medium-bodied fare. The aroma is expressive enough to compete against most Connecticut Shade style cigars, although it is a bit heavier than most shade sticks. In any case it’s one of the nicer mediums I’ve smoked this year. I just wish it had a little more staying power though the last third.

Prices for singles are in the $5 USD range, and boxes run around $115-140. That results in a pretty reasonable price to quality quotient.

Final Score: 89