Particulares Robusto

Particulares

My original intention in trying more cigars from Tabacalera Tropical was to find a less expensive but comparable alternative to the Nicaraguan puros that I smoke on a regular basis.  The name Aganorsa kept popping up, and I thought that by following the trail of that grower’s tobacco I might find cigars of a similar style, possibly at a lesser price.

Since cigar makers like Pepin Garcia, Dion Giolito, and Ernesto Padilla have all at one time or another used Aganorsa leaf in their blends, I expected that Tropical’s blends would at least have a passing resemblance to smokes like DPG’s Cuban Classic, Illusione, etc.  Their JFR cigar certainly does.

I was a little disappointed to find that Lempira Fuerte and Condega didn’t live up to my expectations, though I still thought Condega was a very good blend. Particulares, on the other hand, is a great cigar, and it is the first in the series so far to really taste like it’s in the same category as the Big Nicaraguans I have been using as a benchmark.

Particulares is an old Cuban brand name (as well as a frontmark for the Cuban Hoyo de Monterrey “A” size) but the name was revived by Tropical as one of their first brands.  (Their very first brand was Solo Aromas, followed by Particulares, Cacique, and Maya.) And even though this appears to be the only formulation available it is listed with its royal appellation “Reserva Privada” in some online catalogs.

Not surprisingly, the Particulares (Reserva Privada) is a Nicaraguan puro. The wrapper is a Corojo leaf from 2006. Four sizes are currently in production:

  • Robusto – 5 x 50
  • Toro – 6 x 52
  • Torpedo – 6 1/4 x 52
  • Churchill – 7 x 48

Construction Notes

Particulares2I didn’t notice it immediately but it turns out these sticks have pig-tail caps. The tail is curled and pressed down into the head so it just looks like a small swirl. It can be easily prised up with a fingernail, though admittedly there isn’t much point. The rest of the head is wound perfectly into a fine triple cap. The wrapper is somewhat rough but consistent in color, a dark colorado maduro. The band features a lock-and-key motif that “locks” at the point where the band ends meet — a clever design, I think.

The draw is good and the  burn is slow and even. The ash flakes slightly, but not enough to matter. Overall excellent construction.Particulares3

Tasting Notes

The Particulares robusto starts up with a rich hickory-like aroma that is immediately recognizable. This is what I’ve been looking for. From the first puff this cigar tastes more like an Illusione or Padilla than the Lempira Fuerte or the Condega Corojo.  The flavor is a little charred, but not in the way that the Lempira was. The flavor is closer to grilled meat with some maple syrup-like sweetness.

The middle section continues in this vein but softens up a bit — it’s smooth with some fruity notes, almost brandy-like at times. It reminds me of the JFR cigar, but smoother and more refined.

Particulares4

The last third is spicier but still sweet. The finish lengthens, but it doesn’t settle in for the night like some cigars do after the mid-point. It stays clean and crisp and leaves in a reasonable amount of time, like a good guest.  The aftertaste gets a little tarry at the band, but by that time this cigar has said its piece.

Conclusion

The Particulares robusto is a tasty smoke that finally delivers on the flavor I was expecting from Tropical – Aganorsa.  The only hitch is that it isn’t much less expensive than Illusione or Padilla or others in that class. Prices range from 6 to 7 USD.  That’s not too much to ask for a cigar of this caliber, but I was hoping to tap a secret source of Nicaragua’s finest and save myself a bundle. But I really have no legitimate reason to be disappointed — it’s still a great smoke at a reasonable price.

Particulares5Final Score: 90

Advertisements

Bering Puro Nicaraguan

BeringPuro

When I see the name Bering I think of two things: a very cold northern sea, and “It’s a Baby” cigars in pink and blue accented aluminum tubes. I’ve always thought of them as drugstore cigars (though on the premium side of the drugstore range) so I was intrigued when I saw the new Bering Nicaraguan Puro.  And as my B&M manager knows well enough, I’m a sucker for anything new and somewhat affordable.

At this time there is no information available about this cigar.  Bering used to be owned by Swisher, but apparently the brand has been pulled away by the gravitational power of the giant Altadis. Maybe that’s the reason for the new extension, but you’d think Altadis could afford a press release, or at least thrown up a page on their website to announce the new arrival.

So I picked this one up pretty much blind. It’s safe to assume that the filler, binder and wrapper are all Nicaraguan. That’s all the detail I have for now.

Construction Notes

I must plead ignorance about the frontmark because I forgot to look at the box. These measure 6 x 50 — a traditional toro size — and they arrive square pressed.  They’re rustic in appearance, with a dark, mottled colorado maduro wrapper and a serviceable but unattractive double cap. The roll is a little soft.

The prelight scent is alluring, however:  ripe tobacco with a leathery layer.  It lights well though it burns a little unevenly (which is not uncommon for a box pressed smoke.)  Overall  good construction.

BeringPuro2

Tasting Notes

I’m always prepared for a spicy start when I light up a Nicaraguan puro, but the Bering Puro is very smooth by comparison. The flavor, on the other hand, is typical of Nicaraguan tobacco — earth with a touch of black pepper on the palate. The aroma is woody and quite pleasant.

After twenty minutes or so the flavor develops a little more bite, but in compensation offers auxiliary notes of coffee and mild cocoa. The aroma gets a little sweeter, remaining woodsy and pleasantly autumnal.

The last section sacrifices subtlety for strength as the flavors become more and more charred. The finish lengthens and the aftertaste intensifies. By the band the cigar is burning a little too hot and the aftertaste is overwhelmingly burnt.

Conclusion

About half-way through this cigar I found myself thinking, “Padron Lite.” It has some of the same characteristics, but not the same intensity as the standard Padron line. Unfortunately the Bering Puro also has a tendency to cross the finish line a little too early. The first two-thirds of the cigar were quite flavorful and easy to smoke; but the last section burned a little hot and seemed to carbonize between my fingers.

That said, this is still a cigar to try if you like medium to full-bodied Nicaraguan style cigars and are looking for something a little smoother than the Padron 3000 or 4000. Personally, I don’t think the Bering can top Padron for flavor or value (I found the Bering Puro for 5 USD in this size) but a comparison might prove worthwhile for the intrepid Nicaraguan aficionado.

Final Score: 85

BeringPuro3

Famous Nicaraguan Corojo Corona

Well, Don “Pepin” Garcia has finally dropped the bomb. We knew it was coming, like the End of Days, but we didn’t know when. First Pepin announced he would no longer take on new clients. Soon after that, Ernesto Padilla announced that Pepin would no longer manufacture Padilla cigars. Then there was a public airing of grievances at Stogieguys.com regarding Pepin dropping Black Cat as a client. And at some point during all this, the prices on Pepin blends at Cigar King went through the roof. The time is nigh!

For lovers of full bodied Nicaraguan puros this may sound like a death knell, but of course it isn’t. Pepin will still make plenty of cigars (though a rumored 20% across the board price increase is entirely credible) but it’s not like he’s going away. Like he says, “The day I stop making cigars will be the day I die.” Furthermore, there are plenty of other fine Nicaraguan puros out there, many for a much more affordable price. The Famous Nicaraguan Corojo is one of them.

Now these coronas are not Pepin replicas or seconds, or what have you, but there is a connection. They’re made for Famous Smoke Shop by Tabacalera Tropical, where Pepin was once employed as a blender. The principal backer for Pepin’s solo venture was the owner of Tropical, Eduardo Fernandez, and Fernandez reportedly grows many of the tobaccos Pepin uses in his Rey de los Habanos blends.

I like small full-flavored cigars as “fixers.” Sometimes I’ll start a cigar that turns out to be plugged, or won’t burn right, or just rubs me the wrong way for some reason. Instead of struggling though the cigar and having a miserable experience, I’ll toss it and grab a fixer instead. The corona size in this line is a great fixer.

I bought a box of these about a year ago and have observed them mellow from sharp pungent smokes to smooth, but still quite bold cigars. They’re billed as having a 42 ring gauge, but they seem a little narrower to me — closer to a 40 I think. At 5 1/2 inches long they’re still well within the corona range.

The corojo wrapper is an oily colorado maduro and makes an attractive casing for the intensity of the ligero binder and filler within. The roll is firm, and like most corojo blends this one does best at a lower humidity — in the low 60s at most. The draw tends toward the firm side and can be difficult if these are kept at 70%.

The opening is classic Nicaraguan spice — lots of black pepper held in check by a leathery underpinning. After an inch or so the pepper subsides, but it never entirely disappears. The burn is a little erratic and needs an occasional touch up.

At the midway point the corona stretches its legs a little and becomes a smoother, more relaxing smoke. It’s not the most nuanced cigar on the planet, but at this point the spice melds with the leathery aspect and if taken slowly it’s quite enjoyable. It continues in this fashion as it glides in for a landing. My only advice here is to take it slow. Hotbox this one, especially in the last third, and it will get a little mean.

The Famous Nicaraguan Corojo blend is a solid blend of spice and leather that is reminiscent of the recent Nicaraguan corojo blends, but is available at a much more reasonable price. A box of 20 will set you back only 50 clams. It’s not the most subtle or sophisticated cigar on the market, but for the price it’s most definitely worth checking out, either as an everyday smoke for the medium to heavy bodied palate, or in my case, as a “fixer.”

Vegas Cubanas Generosos by Don Pepin Garcia

vc1.jpg

With the manifold array of brands issuing from the factories of Jose “Don Pepín” Garcia, it is interesting to note that only six of them bear the imprint of the master’s name. Vegas Cubanas (by Don Pepín Garcia) is one of them.

Introduced in 2005, before the Pepín renaissance reached full bloom, Vegas Cubanas was just another “boutique” cigar from Miami’s El Rey de Los Habanos.

By contrast with the swooning that accompanied Tatuaje, Padilla Miami, and later on San Cristobal, vclabel.jpgVegas Cubanas never really attracted that much attention. Perhaps because it’s a lighter-bodied cigar? Or because it is in relatively good supply? (When we all know that the power hitters and the “exclusive” limited editions are by definition better. Right?) In the retail shops I frequent this one is usually shunted off to the side, in the vicinity of the Tatuajes, Series JJ, El Centurion, etc., but never in the same spotlight.

So maybe they were trying to amp up the label a bit when El Rey de Los Habanos gave Vegas Cubanas a makeover in 2007: new box art, a new band, and cellophane. (Matt’s review shows the somewhat lackluster original band.)


Like most of Pepín’s blends, this one is a Nicaraguan puro. The wrapper is touted as “Habano Rosado Claro” and under the hood there’s a “Cuban Seed Corojo 99 blend.” Vegas Cubanas are available in six sizes:

  • Invictos – 5 x 50
  • Generosos – 6 x 50
  • Delicias – 7 x 50
  • Imperiales – 6.125 x 52
  • Magnates – 7.625 x 49
  • Coronas – 5.5 x 44

Early in my journey through the vast cigar wilderness I became partial to the toro size. I found that most draw problems could be avoided with a larger ring size, and a six inch cigar allows a little more room for development than a stubby robusto, so I gravitated to the toro, or corona grande, or whatever name is applied to a cigar with a 48 to 52 ring gauge and a length from 6 to 6 1/2 inches. Construction qualities have generally improved over the years, but I still like this size.

vc2.jpg

So the one I reached for was the Generosos. The wrapper on this cigar is an attractive colorado claro, with an emphasis on the colorado. It has a sleek appearance without being oily. A close examination shows a small amount of tooth, but not enough to overcome the overall smooth impression. The roll is solid and the head bears the classic cuban triple-cap we expect from El Rey de Los Habanos.

Once lit, the Generosos opens with a tannic woody flavor and a smattering of pepper. Compared to a blend like the DPG Blue Label, this one is a sweetheart. After half an inch or so, the tannins and the wood merge and morph into the smooth cocoa flavor that for me defines DPG’s lighter bodied cigars. The finish at this stage is lingering, but mild — just a slightly earthy aftertaste, and a grazing of a scratch on the back of the throat.

Into the two-thirds stage the smoke evens out and takes on a wonderfully creamy and smooth texture. If by “body” you mean the texture of the smoke, this is a full bodied cigar at this point. But it’s not powerful; it’s simply full on the palate, like a full bodied Sumatran coffee with cream: it sits heavily on the palate, but doesn’t overwhelm with nicotine.

The final stage of the cigar features a gentle transition from smooth cocoa flavors to a darker, earthier taste. Up to this point, the wrapper has not really distinguished itself. For most of the way the wrapper melds nicely with the rest of the blend, but in the last couple inches the wrapper contributes an aroma that steps out and shouts Twang! It’s a sweet, spicy, caramel inflected aroma that defies description, but you know it when it shows up at your door.

My only complaint, and it is a minor one, is that the burn was uneven throughout the length of this smoke. It wasn’t serious enough to affect the balance of the flavors, but it was just a tad annoying.

In the brick and mortar retail shops this cigar sells in the $6-7 US range. Boxes can be found for around $130 online, which is quite decent for a cigar of this quality. It compares favorably to the more expensive Troya Classico and Cabaiguan lines, though I’d have to say this one is a less complex experience than those.

From first light to last ash, Vegas Cubanas is an everyman’s cigar. It does not stomp on the terra like some of Pepín’s other blends; it steps lightly and sings a tuneful little ditty. It’s bound to please everyone, at one time or another, with the exception of those who insist on double ligero for breakfast. If I had to smoke nothing but these for a long time, I might get a little bored, but I’d be happy.

vc3.jpg