CAO Colombia Tinto

CAO Colombia Tinto

Using unusual tobaccos from countries not known for their tobacco production is a good way to appeal to the novelty-driven cigar smoker. Use fire-cured pipe tobacco in a cigar? Sure, I’ll try it. I might hate it — and I did hate it — but I had to try it. CAO’s Colombia blend relies on a similar device. They claim on the Cigar World website that the CAO Colombia is the “first cigar to prominently feature Colombian tobacco.” Well, it isn’t.

Not only is it not the first cigar to prominently feature Colombian tobacco, but it isn’t even CAO’s first Colombian. Only a few years ago, the CAO Escaparate Colombia was made for Serious Cigars, though admittedly in limited numbers for a limited time. The Escaparate was a Colombian puro, as was the Colombian Gold made by Bravo Cigars that I reviewed many years ago. I loved the Colombian Gold and I’m happy to see a major cigar producer using Colombian tobacco, however it gets to market.

CAO’s Colombia is not a puro like the Escaparate Colombia — not even close, actually. To get to the Colombian we first have to visit the Jamastran valley of Honduras, where the wrapper originates, take a side trip to Cameroon for the binder, swim the Atlantic to Brazil for some Mata Fina long filler, and then finally we arrive the tiny village of Masinga in the Magdalena Department of Colombia. Here is where the ICA Mazinga comes from.

I was a little concerned about this “Ica Mazinga.” Slide the a in “Ica” over to the next word and it’s “IC Amazing”. Uh, yeah. So I had to dig around a bit. ICA turns out to be the acronym for the Instituto Colombiano Agropecuario, the Colombian Agricultural Institute. It seems they are the the ones who developed this variety of black tobacco.

I ran across a document in Spanish that explains a little about ICA Masinga:

ICA-Masinga, an improvement on the Cuban Prieto, produces thin leaves with an abundance of fine veins, good color, texture and aroma; the plant has an average height of 2.20 meters, 40 leaves, and a growth cycle of 150 to 160 days.

The Cubita variety has been cultivated on the Atlantic coast since 1870 using varieties brought from Cuba with the initial goal of catering to the German cigar market. At first it was cultivated in the Departments of Sucre … and later expanded to Magdalena. The principal varieties cultivated have been ICA-Masinga, Cubita 12, Peraltero. Today they are exported to Germany for the production of cigars, and to France, Spain, Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco for the production of cigarettes.

— “Acuerdo de competitividad de la Cadena Productiva del Tabaco en Colombia”

Suffice it to say that ICA Masinga (or Mazinga) is a real thing.

Four sizes are in production:

  • Magdalena – 6.25 x 54
  • Bogota – 6 x 60
  • Vallenato – 5 x 56
  • Tinto – 5 x 50

CAO Colombia Tinto 2

Construction Notes

The CAO Colombia Tinto (robusto) is an attractive cigar with a glossy wrapper the shade of milk chocolate. There are some fine veins, but nothing to detract from this robusto’s uniform appearance. The roll is solid, the draw is easy, and it burns beautifully.

Overall construction: Excellent

Tasting Notes

As the curtain rises the Colombia Tinto goes into a soft-shoe routine that won’t offend anyone: mild notes of cedar overlay a grassy foundation. My first thought is that this is going to make a nice morning companion to my coffee on the patio. After a few puffs I’m impressed by the viscosity of the smoke: by the mid-point of the cigar I’d even call it buttery.

The flavor of this robusto does not undergo a dramatic metamorphosis in its journey to nubdom, but there is a gradual transition across the spectrum of sweetness. The herbal base flavor becomes a little earthier, almost musky, while another dimension of spice is added to the aroma: it’s a sweet woody aroma less sharp than cedar, almost like sandalwood joined by a touch of caramel.


If olfactory memory serves, the CAO Colombia is a lot like Bravo’s now-extinct Colombian Gold. Like that cigar, CAO’s blend is a mild but earthy Cuban-style smoke with great aroma and a nice body. This is a medium-to-full bodied blend but it is mild in strength and flavor. A great breakfast smoke and a perfect choice for the mild cigar enthusiast. To cap it off, the price is surprisingly affordable: $4 to 5 USD per stick (box price).

CAO Colombia Tinto 3

Final Score: 90

Macanudo Cafe & Maduro Gigantes

Macanudo is reportedly the best-selling premium cigar brand in the United States; it therefore needs no introduction. Just about everyone who has smoked a cigar has smoked a Mac — it’s a mild cigar with a classic Connecticut shade wrapper, and it’s a great one to give to a virgin smoker who is curious about the lure of the leaf.

There are well over two dozen frontmarks of the Cafe blend alone, not to mention the several other blends that fall under the Macanudo umbrella. Recent blends such as the Macanudo 1968 and the Vintage 1997 have surprised grizzled veterans with their flavor and strength, showing us that Macanudo is not always synonymous with mild.

These are the original mild-mannered cigars that so many know so well, but in a new format. (Yet another frontmark. It occurs to me that an average-sized cigar shop housing all of the Macanudo blends and sizes would have no room left for any other brand.) Super large ring gauges are finding followers and selling well, so it’s no surprise that General Cigar is responding to the demand with the new Gigante frontmark.

The Cafe blend is the classic Mac, possibly the most consistently made cigar on the planet — a Connecticut Shade wrapper, a Mexican binder from San Andres, and filler from the DR and Mexico. The Maduro substitutes a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper for the Shade.

Construction Notes

Both cigars are well made with rounded Cullman heads. (Edgar Cullman, Sr, who died last year at the age of 93, was the man who made Macanudo into the best-selling brand it is. He and some investors bought General Cigar in 1961, and a few years later they acquired a small Jamaican factory called Temple Hall where an unknown cigar called Macanudo was made. The rounded head on the Macanudo, and now many other cigars, is named for Mr. Cullman.)

The draw, burn, and consistency of the Macanudo Cafe and maduro brands is beyond reproach. If you’ve ever smoked one that didn’t burn well, leave a comment, because I have yet to hear from anyone of a construction defect in this cigar. It must have happened some time — it’s a hand made product, but it’s remarkably consistent.

Overall excellent construction.

Tasting Notes

The Macanudo Cafe is a mild cigar with flavors that are typical of Dominican and Mexican tobacco — the base flavor is nutty with a little bit of astringency, just enough to work the salivary glands a bit. The Maduro version is somewhat sweeter. The broadleaf wrapper disguises the tartness a little more effectively than the shade wrapper does.

There isn’t much transition from the beginning of this smoke to the end, but this is normal for very mild cigars. The Cafe does get a little more tart at the end, and the Maduro picks up some char, but mostly what you get out of this cigar is a mild-mannered vehicle for a couple of great wrapper leaves. The aroma is what makes this cigar noteworthy — the soft floral creaminess of the Cafe, and bittersweet chocolate from the Maduro.

Though I’m not a regular smoker of this brand, the Gigante appears to be a little more flavorful than the robusto size. I’m not a big fan of the chunkster cigar trend either, but the amplified flavors in these Mac biggies were a welcome surprise. (My thanks to General Cigar for the samples, by the way.)


These are the same Macanudos that a lot of us started on, just in bigger sizes. And because they are so mild, the bigger size seems to be less of an extravagance than it does in many other blends.  Mild cigar aficionados will definitely want to try these out, but don’t look for any big surprises. These are the same consistent smokes that they’ve been for many years now. MSRP is in the $6-7 USD range.

Final Score: 86

Camino Real by Route 45 Cigars

Tobacco from Colombia has been used as filler in major brands for years. Big names like CAO, Alec Bradley, and others have used a leaf here and a leaf there to grace their blends with a touch of the exotic and add a nuance that can’t be found in more common varieties of cigar tobacco.

But Colombian puros are another matter. To my knowledge Route 45 Cigars is now the only American company importing cigars made exclusively from Colombian grown leaf, and based on the quality of this tobacco I think they will find their niche in the U.S. cigar market soon enough.

Route 45 produces Colombian puros under the Camino Real and Don Jose Correa brand names. I had a chance to ask the owner, Jon van Bilderbeek, a few questions about the company and about the virtues of Colombian leaf.

Cigarfan: So how did you discover the merits of Colombian tobacco?

Jon Van Bilderbeek: As much as I have been to Colombia I never really paid much attention to the tobacco or the cigars for some reason until I was already very much into the lifestyle of enjoying cigars. I saw that in some of the supermarkets there were smaller cigars in bundles and boxes, maybe two brands at most. But of course these weren’t the premium cigars as until recently premium cigars in Colombia hasn’t quite caught on. So, I decided to try some of these cigars out anyways and sure enough, I liked them. It was something totally different than the usual Dominican, Nicaraguan, or Honduran cigars. They were much smother and mellower but also they just had a very unique flavor profile. This led me to look into the cigars a little more and sure enough just near the city I was living is where the cigars were made.

Cigarfan: Colombia has a long history of tobacco production, but until recently there have been few all-Colombian puros available in the American market? Why not?

JV: I’m not sure really as to why there have been few Colombian puros in the American market or anywhere else aside from Colombia but it might be that most people just look to the more well known cigar producing countries. I definitely do believe that there is a market in the U.S. for Colombian cigars as well as worldwide. I know that competing with the Cuban cigar market is very difficult but not impossible. For the American market though, I think they are a great change, especially for someone who is looking to try something very different from the hundreds of Nicaraguans or Hondurans, etc. They can also be a good start into the lifestyle of cigar smoking as they are not overpowering yet they are full of flavor and aroma, and even better still is the pricing as we aimed at having affordable high quality cigars.

Cigarfan: The Colombian blends I’ve smoked, including Camino Real, are really distinctive, very flavorful, but also quite mild. Most “serious” cigar smokers that I run into are not into mild cigars at all. How do we get these guys to put down their Nicaraguan ligero bombs and appreciate the subtleties of milder smokes?

JV: Exactly, Colombian cigars are very unique and everyone that has tried them has said the same. For some reason we just can’t get very strong tobacco without using imported leaf. What I have noticed is that even the guys who only smoke the Nicaraguan ligero have come to enjoy Colombian cigars. It’s a different experience, and I think that Colombian cigars can even complement the ligero cigars. For example, not many will smoke a ligero cigar in the morning. But with Colombian cigars you could wake up, light one up as you make coffee in the morning and you will not have any of those bad feelings, unless you are inhaling the thing… I think really it will mostly come down to people wanting something new, something totally different and not just with a funky name or packaging, or for some the crazy infusions. I mean, how many peoples humidors have just one type of cigar, or even just one brand?

Camino Real is produced in two blends, the Cabinet Selection, which bears a red label, and the Series 6, which has a blue label. Both are 100% Colombian tobacco, but the Cabinet uses a blend of Colombian and Cuban seed tobaccos, while the Series 6 uses Colombian, Cuban and Dominican seed leaves. Both have Habano wrappers.

Four sizes are in production:

  • Churchill – 7 x 48
  • Torpedo – 6 1/2 x 52
  • Toro – 6 x 50
  • Robusto – 5 x 49


Route 45 Cigars was kind enough to send me a sampler pack of their Camino Real line — a couple of Cabinet Series robustos, a couple Series 6 torpedos, and a Series 6 churchill. One of the Cabinet Series robustos was rolled too tightly and couldn’t be loosened up; the other one smoked well, but since I really don’t like to review a cigar on one experience, I’m going to concentrate on the Series 6, which I liked better anyway.

Construction Notes
The wrapper on the Camino Real Series 6 is a fine looking claro leaf with a few prominent veins that are widely and evenly spaced; wrappers from Colombia’s neighbor Ecuador frequently appear this way, so maybe it’s a geographical trait. The wrapper is fairly thin and shows the texture of the binder leaf beneath. The roll is solid and regular, the cap is well formed, and the draw is excellent. The burn is slow, even, and cool. The ash is a little uncivilized — it varies from light gray to almost black; it’s solid but a little flaky.

Overall construction: Very good.

Tasting Notes

As expected, the Camino Real is smooth and mild. What I didn’t expect was that the smoke texture would be as full as it is; in fact, it’s almost creamy. It starts up with a sweet flavor on the palate, which is also unusual. I had expected a sweet aroma, but the light sugary touch on the tongue is pleasant and sits nicely with a morning cup of coffee.

The aroma is fragrant but it isn’t floral the way Connecticut Shade tends to be. It’s lighter and less cloying. The base flavors of the cigar become earthier as the smoke progresses, and the aftertaste grows from nothing at all to slightly woody. There is a suggestion of toast with powdered sugar in the aroma as it drifts from the foot of the cigar.

The flavor grows a bit stronger in the last third of the cigar, but it’s still mild enough that it can easily be nubbed. The last inch is less sweet and earthier, with a note of bergamot (like Earl Grey tea.)


Camino Real is a very distinctive cigar, and I would consider it a serious contender in the featherweight division. Smokers of mild cigars who reach for Macanudo or other lightweight Connecticut Shade smokes should really give this one a shot. I believe its complexity and unusual palette of flavors raises it above the competition in the mild category.

While not readily available in stores, five-packs can be purchased from the Route 45 website. The MSRP is around 5 USD, which is extremely reasonable. If you’re up for a walk on the mild side and want out of that old Macanudo-Baccarrat-RP Connecticut rut, I can recommend this Colombian puro for a nice change of pace.

Final Score: 89

Puros Huerfanos 52X

I recently smoked a cigar from Drew Estates that was so surprisingly bad that I had to go out and buy a few more just to ensure that my first impression wasn’t a sign of premature senility.  (Or maybe the fact that I went out and bought more is the sign itself.)

That review has been put on hold until my senses recover from my flirtation with disaster.  In the meantime, I thought I’d give Drew Estates another opportunity with Puros Huerfanos, a Famous Smoke exclusive which is described as an “ultra premium first overrun.” I’m not sure if that description is internally consistent, but the price was right on a sampler pack so I snapped up a few.

The story on these cigars is that they were somehow “orphaned,” as if they were left by a skittish teenager at the convent door. I’m not sure if this story is meant to inspire pity or suspicion. Maybe both.

These “ultra premiums” are available in four sizes — robusto, toro, corona, and belicoso — and are a blend of Brazilian, Dominican and Nicaraguan long leaf tobaccos in an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper. Sometimes I wonder if a reputable cigar maker could wrap sawdust and carpet trimmings in an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper and get away with it. There seems to be no better way to dress up a cigar than with a golden buttery shade wrapper. (For the record, the very attractive PH 52X is entirely free of sawdust and carpet fibers.)

Construction Notes

Pro: In addition to its general aesthetic appeal, the Puros Huerfanos 52X is a well rolled cigar. All of the samples I’ve smoked so far have exhibited a fine draw and an even burn, though some of them seem to burn rather quickly.

Con: The ash is a little crumbly and they burn a little hot in the last third.

Overall very good construction.

Tasting Notes

The opening notes of the Puros Huerfanos 52 are dry and papery with an earthy aftertaste. Dirt might be an acquired taste, but I’ve come across some wonderfully earthy smokes in my time. Combining those flavors with paper and tannin might not suit everyone though, I admit.

In any case, the earthiness is quickly replaced by a smooth nutty flavor. The smoke texture is creamy and the strength is mild enough that this cigar could make decent breakfast material. The middle section of the stick is less tannic and sweeter. The aroma is typical of good Connecticut shade wrapper — sweet and floral, with some woody characteristics. The finish lengthens and the dry aftertaste lingers.

There isn’t much of a transition into the last third, as there rarely is with mild cigars. The flavors seem to settle on dry wood with a sweet floral component, balanced by a slightly dry bitterness on the tongue. My only concern is that the smoke gets too warm in the last lap. Smoking this cigar past the band is not recommended, or in my case, even possible.


Right now it looks like the robustos are selling for around 70 USD per box of 25, and the belicosos for around 80. That’s a reasonable price for this smoke. It’s well made, tastes okay (if dry and a bit greenish are okay), and it’s relatively cheap. It won’t knock your socks off, but if you’re in the market for a mild morning smoke it might be worth a shot.

If you can, try a few before you buy a box.

Final Score: 84

Famous 70th Anniversary by Plasencia

To celebrate 70 years of continued success in the cigar business, Famous Smoke Shop enlisted ten of the industry’s key players to each create a 70th Anniversary blend. I managed to lowball a box of the Plasencia version on the Famous auction site, and since Plasencia makes some decent econo-smokes I was willing to take a blind shot at them.

Unfortunately, four of the five reviews of this cigar on the Famous website are scathing, calling it, among other things, terrible, very poor, and “worst cigar I have bought.”  Three of the negative reviews complain about its lack of flavor, comparing it to the Perdomo and Pepin Garcia versions.  Needless to say, these reviews gave me a moment’s pause about my winning bid. On the other hand, I must give Famous Smoke Shop a tremendous amount of credit for letting anonymous reviewers publicly slam their merchandise on the very same page they are using to sell it.

But those reviews ring hollow. To me, complaining about a light-medium bodied cigar because it’s not full-bodied enough is like going to an Italian restaurant and complaining because they don’t have sashimi.

Which is not to say that a cigar can’t live up to your expectations, assuming that there is enough information available to base an expectation on. In the case of the Famous 70th Anniversary series, there is little to go on except information from Famous.  Nestor Plasencia is one of the largest, if not the largest tobacco grower in Central America, but he keeps a pretty low profile.

Plasencia’s 70th Anniversary blend for Famous is primarily Nicaraguan, but it incorporates no ligero in the blend. This information is front and center in the catalog description for good reason: no cigar is going to make the heavyweight division without some ligero, some medio tiempo, or at least a sungrown wrapper.

The wrapper and binder are both Nicaraguan Habano, though the wrapper is a little finer and receives the designation “Rosado.” The filler is a blend of Nicaraguan and Honduran leaf, and since I can’t conceive of Plasencia having to buy tobacco from anyone I will venture that all of this is grown on the Plasencia farms in Nicaragua and Honduras.

Three sizes are available:

  • Churchill – 7 x 50
  • Robusto – 5 x 50
  • Toro – 6 x 50

Construction Notes

I’ve smoked five of the toros so far, and all of them have burned perfectly: an even burn requiring no attention, a solid ash, and an easy draw. And they’re attractive as well — not Don Pepin attractive, but still easy on the eyes. The wrapper is described as “rosado” but I think I’d settle on colorado claro;  in any case it’s a smooth looking smoke.

Overall construction: excellent.

Tasting Notes

This is an extremely approachable and  mild tasting cigar from start to finish. It opens with a cedary aroma and a mild tingle on the tongue — it’s not a brawny cigar, but it’s still Nicaraguan. The smoke texture is medium in body, creamy and smooth but not thick. The aftertaste is earthy, maybe even a bit chalky. I can see how some might not appreciate that, but I don’t mind it too much.

The aroma of this cigar is intriguing, especially in the mid-section where it gets quite sweet. It moves from a base note of cedar to a chocolatey pecan type of flavor. It remains smooth with a fleeting finish of earth.

The last third gets a little spicier, but only by comparison to the rest of the cigar. The strength builds a little bit, but it still barely scratches the palate.  The chocolate and sweetness fades close to the band, leaving a dash of pepper and some earthiness on the palate.


The Famous 70th Anniversary by Plasencia isn’t a bad cigar at all, certainly undeserving of the harsh critiques it receives on the seller’s website. But it isn’t a cigar for everyone either —  this is a demure smoke with a mild disposition and an attractive aroma. It is best smoked earlier in the day or by fans of milder cigars. Approached in this frame of mind I think it is quite enjoyable.

The retail price for the Toro is around 5 USD per stick, but deals may be had on

Final Score: 87

Verdadero Organic Torpedo


Organic agriculture is always a challenge for the farmer, but you’d almost have to be crazy to try to grow and process tobacco without recourse to fertilizers and pesticides.  The tobacco plant is notoriously susceptible to blight and infestation — cigar makers contend with everything from blue mold to the lasioderma t0bacco beetle before those beautiful brown sticks are layered into the dress box. The wrong amount of rain, an influx of hornworms, any number of untold misfortunes, and your cigars never see the light of day.

Nicaragua_mapNestor Plasencia Jr. produced the first organic cigar, the Plasencia Organica. It’s a decent cigar, though I admire Plasencia’s success more than I appreciate the cigar itself.  But in the last year or so another organic cigar has arrived, the Verdadero Organic, so I thought I’d give it a go. This one is made in the Dona Elba cigar factory in the scenic town of Granada, which is situated by the shore of the giant Lake Nicaragua.

Silvio Reyes grows  tobacco for the Verdadero on family land at the base of the Mombacho volcano near Granada. (Bottom center on the map.)Granada2 Before the land was cleared for planting it had never been used for any kind of agriculture, so it can truly be called “virgin soil.”  This  Nicaraguan grown Cuban-seed filler is the heart of the Verdadero Organic cigar, but it is completed with a binder from Sumatra (Indonesia) and a Connecticut seed wrapper from Ecuador.  I have seen no claims that the binder and wrapper are organic, so maybe it should be called the Verdadero (Very Nearly) Organic?

Construction Notes

The Verdadero torpedo is an attractive stick with a perfectly pointed tip that snips off easily with a guillotine. Prelight, the scent is bright and grassy, like freshly mown hay. The shade wrapper is slightly glossy with minimal veins, and the roll is mostly solid; the only exception was a bunching error that resulted in a lateral furrow running down one cigar. It was similar to a “soft spot” but rather than a spot it ran down the entire side of the cigar. It didn’t affect the burn, but it was a defect nevertheless.

The draw is trouble free, and while the burn is a little fast the smoke never gets hot. The light gray ash flakes a bit and crumbles in the ashtray. Overall very good construction.


Tasting Notes

The Verdadero Organic is a mild cigar that offers a minimal amount of drama but is unique enough to remain interesting. It starts up with a dusty, toasty flavor that has a hint of anise about it. The aroma is earthy with some cedary spice, and it has an unusually herbal aftertaste that coats the tongue in a waxy sort of way. I’m not sure if I dislike this, or if it’s just strange to me. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but it seems to supply a subtle note of pumpkin or banana.

The cigar picks up a little more body and grows woodier as the the stick burns down. The aroma is classic Connecticut Shade — creamy and mildly floral with a touch of cedar. The smoke texture is buttery.

The last section continues on in the same vein but gets a little bit sweeter, adding a cotton-candy like element, and it finishes up with a light touch of caramel. The aftertaste remains mild but earthy with a relatively short finish.


The Verdadero Organic is a very well constructed cigar with a distinctive flavor profile. I wasn’t crazy about the waxy aftertaste, but I was able to overlook that and appreciate the stick’s other fine characteristics. The aroma has some really unusual qualities, making this more than just a conventionally mild Connecticut Shade cigar. Folks who gravitate to mild cigars and are looking for something a little different might want to check this one out. Retail prices hover around the 5 USD mark. Grab yourself a 5-pack at, or try your luck on the auction sites.


Final Score: 85

Chateau Real Lord Tennyson


Once upon a time I smoked an ACID Cigar called “Extraordinary Larry,” and that was the beginning and the end of my dangerous liaison with Drew Estate cigars. It wasn’t such a bad cigar, for what it was, but I knew immediately that “infused” cigars were definitely not for me.

A few years passed and I saw an ad in one of the cigar mags for Drew Estate’s new “Natural” blend. But when I saw the Drew Estate  logo I had a strange kind of synesthetic reaction and could taste the ACID welling up in my mouth. For relief, I turned the page.

And then I received the Summer issue of Cigar Magazine in the mail the other day. I was sitting in the smallest room of my house, where I am wont to read cigar magazines and such, and discovered a nicely written article about Jonathan Drew and the other folks who run Drew Estate. I passed over it, whistling past the graveyard, and read a couple other things. But something caught my eye. A sidebar page had a really interesting story about a bonchero in the Drew Estate factory whose arms were blown off in a pyrotechnics accident. Sad to say, this is what drew me in (so to speak) to the rest of the article, and then I remembered that I was given a Chateau Real cigar a few months ago. I thought it might  be time to try it.

For the history of Drew Estate, I recommend giving the Cigar Magazine article a once over. In brief: Jonathan Drew and Marvin Samel started selling cigars from a 16 square foot cart in the World Trade Center in 1995, in the middle of the cigar boom. It wasn’t easy to acquire quality cigars during the boom, so they started selling a house brand made by a local Dominican roller, calling it La Vieja Habana. Eventually the boom went bust and the company withered. Drew moved to Nicaragua and remade the company from scratch, inventing ACID cigars along the way. By 2007, Steve Saka was on board as company president and a new 96,000 square foot factory was open for business in Esteli. Around the same time, the company was about to introduce two new blends that would get plenty of attention: the Liga Privada No. 9 and the Chateau Real.


Construction Notes

This 7 x 50 double corona is called “Lord Tennyson” for reasons I cannot divine. Maybe it’s the Tennyson quote about there not being any good cigars in Venice and his having to leave in disgust? That would not be an auspicious way to name a cigar, but I can’t think of any other likely reason.

The wrapper on this cigar is a smooth even colored claro. Apparently the first run of this line turned out blotchy because the Mexican binder was showing through the Ecuadorian Connecticut — they fixed it by choosing a slightly darker shade of wrapper.  (And on the subject of Mexican leaf… it’s interesting that this detail is often left out in the promo material. The reality is that Mexican leaf has a place in cigar blending, but its reputation is wanting. Unfortunately the result has been a wholesale discounting of the entire country’s tobacco production.) The filler is a Nicaraguan and Dominican blend.

The single cap is clean and attractive. The roll is solid, but the cigar feels light in the hand. The draw has more resistance than I like, but it isn’t problematic, and the burn is slow and almost perfectly even. The ash is firm and holds well.  Overall this cigar has excellent construction.

Tasting Notes

The pre-light flavor is grassy and hay-like, but once lit the Lord Tennyson offers plenty of traditional Connecticut Shade appeal: the first third is toasty with a touch of roasted nuts. The gently floral aroma is in balance with the flavors on the palate. The only unusual characteristic is a smattering of black pepper on the back of the tongue. ChateauReal3

The middle section is earthier and tastes a little sweeter than the first third. The smoke texture takes on a little more body and builds to about a medium, but remains creamy smooth and light in nicotine. This would be a morning or mid-day cigar for most smokers.

The last third presents some citric notes and gets a little dusty (that would be earthy and dry) but is otherwise still mild and smooth. Some very light tannins show up at the end, but not enough to ever get bitter.


The Chateau Real Lord Tennyson is a stately smoke that most fans of mild Connecticut Shade will enjoy. (Macanudo lovers take note.) There are no dramatic transitions and not much complexity, but those are hard to come by in mild bodied cigars anyway. The construction is damn near perfect, allowing the smoker to puff away and sip his or her latte with the Woe Street Journal worry-free.  The price is not bad either: around 6 or 7 US greenbacks per stick.

Final Score: 85


Ted’s Made By Hand



So the question is, of course, who is TED? This is a mystery the makers of Ted’s Made by Hand choose to leave unsolved. For the moment Ted appears to be a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a bunch of advertising rhetoric, but hey, ya gotta sell cigars somehow. I’ll say this much for Ted’s right off the bat: the distributor was kind enough to offer up a hundred sticks to Club Stogie members to try for free, and that’s about as classy as it gets.

A little research shows that Emprise Cigars, the distributor of Ted’s, is also the outfit behind Maker’s Mark and Courvoisier flavored cigars. Following the thread, it turns out that behind Emprise is English Emprise, a company that specializes in building brands and “riding the coattails of brand loyalty.” Among other licensees in the Emprise stable are the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Rudy Giuliani Presidential Committee. (And if you didn’t think the leader of the free world could be a brand, check out the George W. Bush store. The Spalding Group is another Emprise company.) And who is the man behind English Emprise, the Spalding Group, and Emprise Cigars? An entrepreneur named Ted Jackson. Gotcha, Ted.

Ted’s website is sharp, if a bit flashy, and offers up this information about the blend: a Connecticut Shade wrapper, a Dominican binder, and filler from Brazil, Nicaragua and a little more DR. (What Ted’s website does not say, but Cigar Insider does, is that Ted’s cigars are made by Victor Sinclair.) They are rolled in the DR, after which they are packed in “seamless, foil debossed wood boxes.” I’m no design expert, but it looks like Ted has the packaging down pat.

But wait… there’s more! The test package that arrived in my mail box was a marketing marvel: a thin cardboard sleeve holding a box that opens like a book. On the verso a nice photo of some good old boys in a corn field having a laugh and smoking Ted’s handmade cigars. The picture spills over onto the recto side where recessed in the page is another cardboard box containing one of Ted’s finest 6 x 50 Connecticut Shade toros. Snazzy!

On to the cigar, with a caveat: my impressions are based on sampling one cigar only. Bearing that in mind…

Ted’s toro comes equipped with a standard ring in the usual place, plus a large paper sleeve of questionable value that is difficult to remove without damaging the wrapper leaf. The wrapper itself appears smooth and dry with moderate veining but is slightly marred by a pea-sized greenish discoloration near the band.

The prelight scent is grassy. I used a straight cut and took a prelight pull: easy, a little too easy maybe. The prelight flavor is typical light tobacco with a little alfalfa.

It lights without much effort and maintains an even burn for the next hour, leaving a light gray to white ash that flakes a bit and crumbles in the ashtray. As a personal preference I like a tighter draw, but the cigar never burns hot or suffers from burn problems, so the loose draw can’t really be called a construction defect.

Ted’s Made By Hand is a mild cigar with a pleasant floral aroma. The base flavor is nutty with a light woody element that gets increasingly vegetal as the smoke progresses. There isn’t a whole lot of complexity here and the only transition I noticed was at the band, where the flavor starts to muddy and gradually bitters out. The highlight of this cigar is the aroma — a really nice, lightly spiced floral scent. Despite the discoloration, this turns out to be a sweet wrapper.

About the worst I can say about Ted’s is that it’s a little on the boring side. It needs a companion like the Sunday morning paper or some other light diversion. For me it’s more of an accent smoke than a centerpiece. It just didn’t hold my attention all that well.

Fans of lighter bodied cigars in Connecticut Shade will probably dig Ted’s Made By Hand. Otherwise I think they would probably make good breakfast smokes. Retail prices are a little steep, but it looks like discounts can be found, knocking the box price down to around 90 USD for a box of 20. A reasonable price for an aromatic morning cigar.