Padilla Artemis

Padilla’s Artemis series is the first box pressed cigar for Padilla, but just about everything else about it is quite familiar — it’s a Nicaraguan puro utilizing Aganorsa tobacco, and it’s made at the Raices Cubanas factory in Honduras. Those are enticing details, and enough to get my salivary glands going.

Artemis uses Cuban-seed criollo and corojo from Nicaragua’s now-famous Aganorsa company, a tobacco grower affiliated with Casa Fernandez cigars. The line was originally released in 2011 as a brick-and-mortar exclusive, but it now appears to be available online as well.

It looks like the lion from the Dominus line has clawed its way to the top of the advertising department and has been declared the company’s icon. It now appears on the bands for Padilla’s Miami and 1932 lines as well, bringing some needed consistency to the brand’s presentation. (I was always fond of the fountain pen nib on the bands of some of the older blends, but there is something to be said for a single and recognizable emblem.)

Padilla’s Artemis is available in four sizes:

  • Robusto: 5 x 54
  • Torpedo: 6 1/4 x 52
  • Toro: 6 x 54
  • Double torpedo: 6 3/4 x 56

Construction Notes

I’m glad I smoked the Artemis in two sizes, the robusto and the double torpedo, because one was simply superior to the other. Both are nice looking sticks, especially the double torpedo. In reality this is a zepellin perfecto, and a big one, with a finely finished head and foot. (The head and the foot are distinguishable only by the placement of the band.)

The wrapper is a dark colorado maduro with a moderate amount of oil. Both sizes had an accessible draw, and the box press didn’t seem to have much of an effect on the performance of the cigar. But I experienced a burn problem with the double torpedo that I didn’t with the robusto, and it wasn’t the irregular burn that is the hallmark of many box-pressed cigars.  This was a more serious problem that affected the taste of the cigar — the wrapper would not burn in sync with the binder and filler, resulting in a flavor that was at first merely tepid, but quickly made it hot, bitter, and unbalanced.

For this reason I’m going to focus on the robusto and not the double torp.

Overall construction: Very good for the robusto; Needs improvement for the double torpedo.

Tasting Notes

If you’re familiar with the Padilla 1932 or some of the cigars from Casa Fernandez you’ll recognize the flavor of Aganorsa tobacco. It’s a little different in the Artemis, but it’s there. The first notes are of leather with some sweetness and a little bite. The aroma is slightly fruity, but also reminiscent of hardwood smoke — something like hickory, perhaps. After a minute or two the pepper begins to build on the palate.

The mid-section is earthy but a little sharp. The flavor isn’t quite as clean as Illusione’s “original document” line, but it has that crisp minerally tang which is Aganorsa’s trademark.

The final inch and a half is rich and powerful in flavor, though the cigar is still medium-to-heavy in both body and strength. The last section bottoms out a little as the spice takes over and edges out the subtle notes on the nose.


Fans of Padilla and Aganorsa leaf will probably enjoy the Artemis, though perhaps not as much as some other blends that employ that particular leaf. The flavors are quite pronounced, and in the robusto were well balanced up to the last third of the cigar.

I was more than a little disappointed in the double torpedo, but I would probably pick up the robusto again at the right price. The right price for me is a little south of the MSRP, which is in the 9 to 10 USD range. To be honest, Padilla has already provided this cigar’s competition in the Padilla 1932, and in that contest the winner goes to the elder blend.

Final Score: 86

Due to a memory error in my camera I lost my cigar-in-progress photos. I know you only come here for the articles, but my apologies anyway. 

Casa Magna Domus Magnus Limitada

Casa Magna won the critics’ hearts in 2008 with its original release, the Casa Magna Colorado. It won my heart as well, and its modest price has kept me coming back for more. So it’s no surprise that the team of Quesada and Plasencia have extended the brand twice now, and as far as I’m concerned it’s just getting better.

Domus Magnus is a Nicaraguan puro utilizing a sun grown wrapper leaf from Jalapa. The blenders do not disclose too much detail about the rest of the cigar’s composition, merely noting that the binder and filler are Nicaraguan. Only two sizes are made, a  5 3/4 x 52 size called “Optimus” and a slightly larger 6 1/2 x 55 parejo called “Primus.” The cigars are presented in 10-count boxes in a limited release.

SAG Imports states that the Domus Magnus

…is a full bodied cigar that should be enjoyed after a steak dinner and paired with a single malt Scotch from the Speyside sub-region of the Scotland Highlands.

 So I naturally smoked mine after a burger and paired it with a Sierra Nevada pale ale from the sub-region of my refrigerator’s bottom shelf.

Construction Notes

The Casa Magna Domus Magnus is a box-pressed cigar presented in boxes of 10.  The wrapper is a soft ruddy color, somewhat dry but smooth with a few fine veins. The cap is well constructed and terminates in a pig-tail which has been clipped instead of tied in the traditional knot.

I really dislike foot bands, but this one is easy to remove and discard. The draw is firm and the roll is solid. I would have preferred the draw to be slightly looser, but the few reservations I had about the draw were compensated by a rock-solid ash. The burn was mostly even, above average for a pressed stick, and required no correction.

Overall excellent construction.

Tasting Notes

My first impression was that this is a much smoother cigar than the Casa Magna Colorado. The smoke texture is mild to medium, but the flavors are quite complex, especially on the nose. Woody aromas predominate — cedary spice and softer notes of sandalwood, while the palate flavor is understated, at least for the first half of the cigar.

In the second half the smoke picks up a little more body and palate structure as flavors of nuts and earth emerge. The scents on the nose continue to complement these new flavors, but the increasing richness of the earthy component tends to overpower those more delicate subtleties. Some black pepper appears in the last inch of the cigar, just to verify the blend’s Nicaraguan birthright.


I was pleased but not thrilled by the Domus Magnus’ opening act, but the dramatic transition in the second half was truly impressive. A little more body in the first part of the smoke and this could easily be a Top Ten cigar for me. As it is, it’s still a very fine cigar.

At around 8 to 9 USD this incarnation of the Casa Magna is not a cheap thrill, but for fans of complex and medium-bodied cigars, I think it’s well worth the expense. This is a limited edition blend, so be sure to snap up a few of these if you can.

Final Score: 90

Torano Single Region Jalapa Serie

The word terroir means “land” in French, but it is most commonly used in the wine trade to indicate the qualities that are imparted to grapes by the growing environment. This basically comes down to soil quality and weather, both of which have a tremendous impact on the quality of the fruit.

The same thing goes for tobacco (and coffee, and probably all agricultural products.) Tobacco is a resilient plant that will grow almost anywhere, but black tobacco suitable for cigar making is much more finicky and is in many ways sensitive to the terroir. A tobacco grower does everything he can to produce the ideal conditions that will result in the type of leaf he wants —  from buttressing the soil with minerals and fertilizers to shading the plants with cloth to create a lighter shade of wrapper leaf.

Cigar blends usually incorporate leaves from several different regions to create a balance of the best qualities of each region. As an example (maybe not a great one), piloto cubano from the Dominican Republic might be used for spice, combined with a milder volado leaf to promote an even burn; a broadleaf binder from Connecticut might be used to give it a round leathery taste, and it might be finished off with a maduro wrapper from the San Andres Valley of Mexico for a chocolatey sweetness. It would be unusual to find tobacco with all of those qualities in one region, let alone one farm.

But that is exactly what the Toraño family has done with its Single Region release. Part of the reason they are able to do this is because it’s a hell of a region — the Jalapa Valley of Northern Nicaragua is one of the most fertile and productive places to grow cigar tobacco outside of Cuba. The Jalapa Valley is known for the sweetness and rich flavor of its tobacco, and is sometimes contrasted with tobacco from Esteli, which tends to be sharper and stronger.

All of the tobaccos in the Toraño’s Single Region come from one farm called El Estero after a stream that runs through the farm. Three sizes are in production:

  • 5 x 52 – Robusto
  • 6 x 54 – Toro
  • 7 x 50 – Churchill

Construction Notes

The Toraño Single Region Toro is a finely crafted cigar. The wrapper is ruddy, slightly veiny and rough, but it’s oily and luscious all the same. The roll is solid and the head is well formed. The neatly wound triple cap clips cleanly. The tobacco is packed tightly but it draws perfectly. The burn is slow, albeit somewhat uneven at times, and the ash is remarkably dark. I’ve only seen ashes this dark on Cuban and a few Nicaraguan cigars.

Overall construction: excellent.

Tasting Notes

The Single Region toro is nicely balanced from the very first puff. The smoke is soft and subtle with a peppery note that serves as an accent rather than the central flavor. It is medium in body, but high-toned with a notably acidic zing. Notes of cedar are prominent.

Cocoa and caramel come to the fore in the second stage, creating a sweetness that is almost syrupy at times. The aroma is complex, balancing cedar with something slightly fruity. It’s fairly unusual.

The last third becomes more concentrated as the pepper returns and the tobacco picks up a touch of char. At one point I found overtones of whisky on the nose, or maybe butterscotch. The body of this cigar seems to be uniformly medium, with a relatively light nicotine kick.


Based on some lukewarm reviews I was prepared to be underwhelmed by the Single Region, but it turns out this is a fantastic smoke. It reminds a little of Pepin Garcia’s Troya Classico, another medium-bodied Nicaraguan puro that I like a lot (and which is unfortunately no longer in production.) In some ways it’s a classic Nicaraguan cigar — woody with notes of cocoa and that characteristic zing — but it’s more complex than most cigars in its class, particularly on the nose.

This is a really interesting cigar that is both wonderfully complex and also very easy to smoke. I enjoyed it a lot, and with a price around 5 or 6 dollars, I’m think I’m going to be enjoying it a lot more in the near future.

Final Score: 92

Padilla Dominus Robusto

Padilla is best known for his Miami blend and the year-branded lines that were created while Jose “Don Pepin” Garcia was manufacturing his cigars: Signature 1932, Padilla 1948, and the Serie 68. When Pepin withdrew from the partnership in 2009, the brand names stayed. There is some debate about how much the blends really changed at this point — to me they seem very similar but not exactly the same. In any case I think the new ones are just as good, if not better, than the old ones.

Dominus is one of the post-Pepin brands that was released in 2009. The name “Dominus” means master or lord in Latin, which along with the lion on the band seems to indicate that Padilla has not suffered any loss of self-esteem after the Pepin thing. (As he shouldn’t, because his cigars are still among the best Nicaraguan puros on the market.)

The Dominus  line is composed of Cuban seed corojo from the Esteli and Jalapa regions of Nicaragua. The tobacco was harvested in 2007, but is called Corojo 2006 — I’m not sure if that refers to the strain of tobacco or the crop year. The flavors here are clearly Nicaraguan, but I’ll go a bit further out on the limb and say this is Aganorsa — to me, it has that sweet caramel tang that is so characteristic of Aganorsa leaf in Illusione, Casa Fernandez, and the Padilla 32. Whatever it is, it’s good stuff.

Seven sizes are in production:

  • Perla – 4 x40
  • Robusto – 5 x 50
  • Torpedo – 6 1/8 x 52
  • Corona Gorda – 5 5/8 x 46
  • Toro – 6 x 52
  • Churchill – 7 x 48
  • Double Robusto – 5 x 54

Construction Notes

The Dominus robusto has an oily, dark colorado maduro wrapper. It’s ruddy with a few veins, but very rich in appearance. The cap is wound three to four times and set solidly on the head of the cigar. The roll is compact, almost hard to the touch, which results in a firm but still productive draw. The cigar burns evenly and builds a solid dark ash.

Overall construction very good.

Tasting Notes

The robusto opens with pepper, cedar, and a sweetness on the nose that is typical of Aganorsa leaf. It has a caramel-cocoa sweetness to it, with a whiff of hazelnut.

After an inch or so the cigar deepens into leather and the finish lengthens, leaving a peppery aftertaste. It’s bracing, rather than harsh or sharp tasting. The woody notes fade a bit on the palate but the aroma still carries the cedar. At the mid-way point the cigar is medium bodied.

The Dominus grows earthier in its last stage. The woody notes get a little darker, turning from cedar to hard wood with a touch of clove. The sweetness on the nose continues, like caramel spiked coffee. The band, which is fairly large, must be removed to reach the final smokeable inch of the cigar. At this point the potency of the blend is apparent.


The Padilla Dominus is a very tasty smoke with fine construction values. I’m tempted to say it’s a little earthier, and a little more rambunctious than the Signature 1932 and Miami blends. (If palate memory serves, which it may not.) Regardless, I love the dark woody flavor and sweet edge of this tobacco. And it’s nice to start off the year with a hit.

The Dominus is reasonably priced for the quality of the cigar, but it’s still on the high end of the spectrum at around $9 USD for the robusto. At this price it is in competition with several other very good blends in a similar style (Illusione), so we’ll see how it fares over the long run.

Final Score: 91

Other Reviews of Note

Walt and Mike team up on the Dominus for the Stogie Review (and it makes Walt’s Top Ten List for 2010.)

Adam digs the torpedo for Fire Up That Cigar, but he prefers the 1932.

The Perfect Draw gives the robusto a 93.

99 Cigar Guy gets uncharacteristically gushy on the churchill.

Mi Barrio El Puro

The business side of the cigar world is a rapidly changing affair. This has been especially evident with a worldwide recession and the steady barrage of draconian government tax policies. The net effect is easily seen here: what used to be EO Cigars is now EO Brands, after an early summer split with Miami Cigar and a merger with Rocky Patel. The reason given for the new arrangement is that EO wants to lower prices — a laudable  objective, but not one that bodes well for the industry at large.  A few months after these developments I started seeing Mi Barrio cigars selling at reduced prices on one of the big online retail outlets. That is not usually a good sign, but in this case it seems to be a result of the business environment rather than production quality.

So I’m not sure whether I should put this review in the present or the past tense. Mi Barrio was originally designed as a limited edition cigar anyway, but at this time it is still on the market. I’ll be optimistic and hope for the best.

Mi Barrio is produced by EO Brands and manufactured by Pepin Garcia’s My Father Cigars in Esteli, Nicaragua. The first size that was introduced is the one I’m smoking today, the one called “El Puro,” a fat double corona made in July 2008 and released later that year at the IPCPR. (Or was it the RTDA?)

Only 1000 boxes in each of four sizes were slated for production. The toro was released in the fall of 2008, and the churchill and torpedo were unleashed in the summer of 2009. The bands and boxes feature art by Cuban artist Edin Gutierrez — a different design for each size. The band for El Puro, the double corona, shows Orestes Espinosa, Sr. (the father of EO Brands’ Erik Espinosa) and Pepin Garcia.

Like most of Pepin Garcia’s cigars, this one is a Nicaraguan puro.

  • El Puro – 7 x 52 (double corona)
  • El Acere – 6 x 50 (toro)
  • El Forro – 7 x 48 (churchill)
  • El Billetero – 5 1/2 x 52 (torpedo)

I’ve had a few of these double coronas put away since early 2009, and this is my last one. I have really enjoyed this cigar because it has all of the qualities that I really enjoy in a Nicaraguan puro without any of the harshness. They’re smoking so well right now that I just couldn’t hold off on them any longer.

Construction Notes

At 7 inches long and with a 52 ring gauge, the “El Puro” double corona is an imposing stick. The wrapper is leathery, but somewhat dry in appearance. A few veins are apparent but not obtrusive. The overall effect is leathery. The roll and the cap are just about perfect, as is to be expected from My Father Cigars.

The draw on this cigar is effortless, and smoke wafts gently from the head after each puff. Inside or on a still day, this cigar is almost as much a pleasure to view as it is to smoke.

The only criticisms I can make are that the burn is uneven at times and the ash is a bit flaky. But these minor flaws are completely outweighed by its finer qualities.

Overall excellent construction.

Tasting Notes

Mi Barrio’s double corona is a medium-bodied cigar — by EO/Pepin standards I almost want to call it mild. It is certainly milder than any of the 601 or Don Pepin cigars (Blue, Black, and White labels.) Instead of high octane tobacco and an explosion of black pepper what Mi Barrio offers is a more even tempered, but still flavorful experience.

The smoke in the first third is remarkably creamy, and though there is a touch of pepper in the first half-inch the primary flavors are of earth and cocoa. It is surprisingly mild and a bit dry.

In the mid-section the flavors turn sweeter with caramel accents and a hint of vanilla. The flavors remind me a little of Vegas Cubana, but more substantial and complex.

The pepper returns in the last third, but in a complementary rather than a dominant way. I’m reminded of charred oak barrels and at one point thought I tasted bourbon. (Not that bourbon would be the best companion for this cigar, unless you like it weak, which means I am not letting you near my bourbon.) But most importantly, this cigar stays smooth to the band.


Mi Barrio in this large format is a smooth and cocoa-laden smoke that any fan of medium-bodied cigars will enjoy.  It isn’t tremendously complex, but it is certainly satisfying. And coming from My Father Cigars in Esteli, the construction is as perfect as you’ll get in a Nicaraguan puro. The only hitch might be the price — around ten bucks a throw. But with the turbulence in the market and EO Brands’ commitment to lower prices, that ten dollar mark might fall.

Or Mi Barrio may just ride into the sunset. Or become gentrified. Whatever happens to barrios these days… In that case, I’m glad I had the chance to smoke a few before they’re gone.

Final Score: 90

Esencia Corona Gorda

Esencia cigars were introduced in 2008 by Brothers of the Leaf, LLC, the same people who produce the fantastic Palio line of cigar cutters.

A cursory search for information about this cigar produced only a few basic facts: it is a Nicaraguan puro made in Honduras. The blend is composed of Nicaraguan criollo and corojo. According to one website, the wrapper is Nicaraguan corojo; official sources can’t confirm that, but it sounds about right.

The Esencia website shows four sizes in production — the churchill appears to be a recent addition:

Robusto – 4 7/8 x 50
Petite Corona – 5 1/8 x 42
Belicoso – 5 1/2 x 52
Corona Gorda – 5 5/8 x 46
Churchill – 7 x 47

Construction Notes

The Esencia Corona Gorda is quite dark, weathered, and almost maduro in color. A discreet sheen of oil gives it a glint of seriousness. The roll is solid and the cap is well integrated, though not perfectly wound. Both samples drew well with a burn that was a bit jagged at times, but acceptable. The ash is a dirty gray-black, very similar to what you get with an Illusione or many Padilla cigars.

Overall very good construction.

Tasting Notes

This swarthy Esencia cigar fires up woody and sweet, developing a rich flavor of hickory and pecan with some pepper on the tongue. The aroma is heavy, reminding me a little of resinous pine and cloves.

The peppery element is toned down a little in the middle section and the woody flavors lose some of their sweetness on the palate. The smoke continues its sweet serenade on the nose, however, producing sensations of caramel and molasses. The flavor on the palate is slightly tannic, which balances nicely against the aroma.

The final section of the Corona Gorda closes the circle and recapitulates its initial impressions of pepper and sharp spice. Towards the band the smoke becomes fairly aggressive, but taken slowly the smoke is still smooth and enjoyable. This is a medium-to-full bodied cigar, but fans of full bodied smokes will particularly enjoy the last section.


Based on the flavor of the cigar, I would guess that there is some Aganorsa leaf in this blend, and if I had to guess where it’s made I would guess the Raices Cubanas factory. There is a definite resemblance to Illusione, Padilla, and Particulares (as well as other Casa Fernandez blends.) I may well be wrong, but that’s what my taste buds are telling me.

If you enjoy that style of Nicaraguan smoke — crisp, spicy, and fairly complex — you will assuredly find this one enjoyable as well. If anything, the Esencia is a little bit smoother.  Unfortunately, the price is well over the century mark for a box — around USD 8.00 per stick for the corona gorda. Not the price I was hoping for, but certainly not unreasonable either, and in any case it’s money well spent.

Final Score: 90

La Reloba Habano

In Cuba, La Reloba is a well known “peso” cigar, which is what the locals smoke. Peso cigars are more or less like bundled cigars: they are economical unbanded cigars sold in mazos, and they cost around one Cuban peso each. Hence, peso cigar. Cigars for export are generally too expensive for the average Cuban citizen. Come to think of it, Cuban cigars are too expensive for the average American these days as well, which is perhaps what gave My Father Cigars the inspiration to release this economical blend.

Released to little fanfare in April of this year, La Reloba is a Nicaraguan puro available in both Habano and Sumatra wrappers. The press on this cigar has been minimal. I think I saw one paragraph in CA that said, in essence, “Pepin releases cheap smoke” and that’s about it. If nothing else, the diffidence of the mainstream media is nice for the legion of cigar bloggers and our brothers and sisters on the cigar boards who will thereby exercise greater influence on the market. (Think positive, guys.)

Four sizes are available:

  • 5 5/8 x 46 – Corona
  • 5 x 50 – Robusto
  • 6 1/4 x 52 – Toro
  • 6 1/8 x 52 – Torpedo

Construction Notes

La Reloba is a nice looking stick, as one would expect from My Father Cigars. The wrapper is a smooth colorado maduro with a slight sheen, otherwise marred only by a few unobtrusive veins. The roll is solid and the caps are of course triple-wound. The draw is firm, but not tight, and the burn is even. The coronas I’ve been smoking build a long and handsome ash.

Overall excellent construction.

Tasting Notes

The corona opens up with a woody flavor and that trademark Pepin overture — lip smacking tannin and a blast of black pepper. It’s actually pretty restrained compared to higher end smokes from My Father Cigars, but there’s still no mistaking that you’re smoking a Nicaraguan puro.

After an inch or so the spice backs off and the flavor becomes a little more basic: cedar, toasted tobacco flavors, and a touch of cocoa on the nose. The aroma is not as complex as you’d find in the Black Label or the Series JJ, but it’s nothing to sneeze at either.

After mellowing in the mid-section, the final third turns up the heat, stoking the fires with hard wood and another dose of pepper. It gets a little aggressive at the band, but again, not in the way Pepin’s heavy hitters do.


When I feel like a medium-bodied Nicaraguan puro in the Pepin style I usually reach for a Vegas Cubanas or a Tatuaje Havana, and I think either of those would surpass La Reloba in a blind taste test.  But one of the most attractive details about La Reloba is the price: the coronas retail for around $4.50 a pop and the torpedos top out around $6.50. That’s outstanding for this level of quality, so the price can not be left out of the equation.

La Reloba is an extremely well constructed cigar available at an excellent price. And while it’s a fine cigar, it’s not as complex as higher-end brands from the same outfit. I think most of us have a balance in our collection between higher priced, complex, gourmet cigars and everyday, affordable, decent smokes. This is one to consider for the everyday job.

Final Score: 87

Aging Report: Troya Clasico LXIII

One of the exciting things about being a cigar smoker is that there’s always something new on the shelf, and cigar makers take full advantage of our excitable nature. It doesn’t matter to me if a cigar has been hailed as the Second Coming or panned like a Uwe Boll movie — if Pepin Garcia made it, I’m buying it. At least once.

But this phenomenon is not without its drawbacks. There is a commercial law of conservation at work here that says for every new blend that hits the shelves, an older one must go. Shop keepers struggle to find shelf space, and consumers have only so much money in their wallets. At the end of the day it’s a popularity contest. The winners are restocked and the losers go to the discount warehouses.

It’s disappointing to see the sun set on a great blend, but Pepin Garcia’s Troya Clasico is about to disappear into the glare. The company that distributed the blend was acquired by Britain’s Imperial Tobacco, which acquired Altadis, which is why there are still Troya brands in circulation — but they’re not Pepin’s blend. The newest Troya is the Clasico Limited Edition, blended by the late great Frank Llaneza. It’s probably a good smoke, but it’s not the same cigar.

It looks like the remaining Pepin Clasicos were picked up by one of the usual suspects (JR Cigar) and have been on the chopping block for a few months now. Late last year I picked up a couple boxes of the churchills at a cut rate price, and I may have to double up on that soon, before they’re gone forever.

But before I wash away in a tide of nostalgia I thought I should muster up an aging report on this great cigar. I broke a few of these out of long-term storage to see what three years has done for them.

Construction Notes

The wrapper on this cigar is not quite as supple as it used to be, but I’d put that down to less than optimal storage conditions. My vinotemp does a pretty good job, but it’s not a locker at Alfred Dunhill.  The roll is solid and it clips cleanly. The draw is perfect, the burn is straight, and the ash is built like a dowel rod. My only complaint, if I have to have one, is that it burns a little quickly. But even at the band it doesn’t get hot.

Overall construction: Excellent.

Tasting Notes

After three years this cigar retains most of its identifying characteristics — primarily wood with a sweet, beany aroma, something like caramel and coffee. The Troya Clasico hasn’t undergone any radical transformations, but the bitterness is completely gone. Fresh Pepin blends almost always have a tannic edge to them, and although this cigar wasn’t over the top in that regard, it was still a touch bitter. The years have taken that edge off completely.

In the second and last thirds the flavor turns to leather, but the sweetness and mild-mannered nature of the cigar continues on. It’s smooth as butter, about medium in body, and easy on the nicotine. The flavor starts to muddy at the band, but that is after 60 minutes of pure pleasure.


My opinion of the Troya Clasico hasn’t really changed too much — I picked it as the second best cigar of 2007, and I don’t regret that ranking.

For me, a new Pepin Garcia blend is like a new Francis Ford Coppola movie. I don’t always like the movie, but my respect for his talent dictates that I will get in line on opening night and watch whatever it is that he’s decided to do. I feel the same way about Pepin. A lot of what he blends is too strong for my taste, but for me the Troya Clasico hits all the right notes, and it doesn’t play them too loud.

It’s one of the nicer cigars I’ve smoked this year, and it’s sad to see it go.

Final Score: 93

Casa Royale Crown

I love those cheesy ads for no-name cigars that proclaim they are made by “the Number 1 Cigar Maker in Nicaragua,” (or Miami, or the DR.) No names please! That won’t be necessary, because we all KNOW who that cigar maker is. I’m so excited I can barely get my credit card out.

Casa Royale is not advertised that way, but the name Jose “Don Pepín” Garcia is often associated with this “Number One” cigar maker. I haven’t had the opportunity to smoke everything that has rolled off the tables of My Father Cigars, but I wouldn’t balk at the chance. I’d even try that odd mixed-filler cuban sandwich cigar, made with floor sweepings and yesterday’s La Prensa, if the blend was blessed by the Pope of Esteli himself.

And to be honest, there are a few DPG blends I don’t particularly care for. (How Ambos Mundos made it on CA’s top 25 list is a mystery to me.) But a misstep here or there has not yet cooled my ardor for this great blender.  So when I saw that a “Six-Pack” of these Casa Royale Crowns could be found at Holt’s for just over 20 bucks, I took the bait.

Casa Royale is a Nicaraguan puro with a sungrown Esteli wrapper leaf that supposedly is the same one used on the Tatuaje Black. Whether that is an apology of sorts for the rustic appearance of the wrapper, or just plain hooey, is for you to decide. In any case, this Holt’s exclusive is available in five sizes:

  • Ace – 5.625 x 46
  • Aristocrat – 5.5 x 52
  • Crown – 5 x 50
  • Imperial – 6 x 50
  • Prestige – 7.75 x 49

Construction Notes

I’m trying to think of what color these cigars might be — colorado amarillo? Amarillo claro? They’re a light to medium shade of brown with a yellowish tinge, similar to some Connecticut Shade wrappers I’ve seen, but much less suave. The wrapper on the Casa Royale is rough, as is to be expected from a sungrown leaf, but it’s much lighter than most sungrown leaf, and it’s quite dry as well.

The head is finished nicely, but not as neatly as many “premium” cigars from the Garcias. The roll is firm with a slight box press, but the cigar feels a little  bit light — this did not affect the burn, however, which was slow, even and consistent.

As I cut one of these robustos my thumb slipped and I really bungled the cut. Despite a relatively fragile wrapper I was able to slick the torn wrapper together with saliva and by some small miracle it held together for the duration of the smoke. That’s quality construction.

Tasting Notes

The first few puffs are typical Pepin — tart on the palate. Gradually I notice notes of sweet cedar on the nose, which makes an interesting companion to the greener flavors on the tongue. There is some vanilla in the aroma as well, with a touch of cinammon.  The smoke is smooth and medium in body.

The middle stage continues in the same direction, smooth and woody with vanilla overtones.

This robusto is suprisingly smooth and mild-mannered up to the final third, where the spice picks up. Some white pepper tingles the sinuses while the cedary base flavor continues to hold. There are some subtler spicy notes as well — the cinnamon from the first third appears again, and brings with it a touch of sandalwood.  It stays smooth and even to the nub.


Casa Royale is one of Pepín’s milder and less complex smokes, but it is still quite flavorful and the construction is excellent, as usual. Tart flavors on the palate are nicely balanced with sweet ones on the nose, and the subtle but exotic aromatics make this an interesting cigar.

Best of all, this cigar is truly affordable. Boxes of 25 retail for 127 USD, and if you run you’ll find six-packs on sale now for 21.95.  Factor in that price and this is a great deal. It sure beats scrambling for the “No. 1 Cigar Maker’s” leftovers .

Final Score: 88

San Cristobal Seleccion del Sol by Ashton

When José “Don Pepín” García first started making cigars for Ashton in 2007 a few of us speculated that his commercial success would change him. I guess we’re used to seeing our small-town heroes ruined by large-scale success. And as some of Pepin’s smaller clients were shed for blue chip partners like Ashton, we anticipated that the unique flavor and superb construction of cigars like Padilla’s 1932 would become a distant memory.

Instead it appears that Pepin and family are using their well-earned capital to invest in infrastructure, and the quality of their cigars has not diminished a bit. Equally inspiring is the fact that some of Pepin’s former clients, like Padilla, are forging new paths and doing very well on their own as well.

Pepin now produces five blends under three different brands for Ashton —  San Cristobal,  La Aroma de Cuba, and Benchmade (an economy mixed-filler cigar.)  The original La Aroma de Cuba has been phased out and was replaced this year by Pepin’s new blend, which is in addition to the Edicion Especial line which was introduced in 2008. The San Cristobal Selección del Sol is new for 2009 and adds another member to the San Cristobal family.

The Garcias have long aspired to sow what they reap, and as a natural development of their previous success they are now cultivating tobacco on their Estrella farm in Esteli. The San Cristobal Seleccion del Sol features one of the first fruits of this new endeavor: the sun-grown wrapper that graces this cigar.

Like the first San Cristobal, the Seleccion del Sol is a Nicaraguan puro, but it is in fact an entirely new blend.  Only three sizes are currently in production:

  • Robusto – 5 x 52
  • Belicoso – 5.5 x 52
  • Toro – 6 x 52

Construction Notes

The Estrella Farms wrapper on the Seleccion del Sol is not much to look at — it’s dry and drab, and much lighter in appearance than the standard San Cristobal. The foot band slips off easily, which is very much appreciated. The roll is excellent, as expected, and the cap is wound to a blunt tip. The draw is fine.

I rarely find anything negative to note about the construction of any Pepin-made smokes, but I had issues with the burn on these. The foot of the cigar did not want to light evenly (even with a torch) and thence forward the burn was uneven, required correction several times, and went out a couple times when I wasn’t paying close attention. What we have here, ladies and gentleman, is a cigar with a crappy burn. And the ash is flaky to boot.

Overall construction: only fair.

Tasting Notes

The Selección del Sol exhibits a lot of the flair associated with sun-grown wrappers, and while it compares favorably in this regard to Ashton’s VSG and Rocky Patel’s Sun Grown cigars, it doesn’t quite live up to those standard bearers.

The first third is dry but sweet with a tingle on the tongue. The aroma is of sweet wood, which blends nicely with the minty note on the palate. There is a hint of a bite and just a dash of pepper, which seems unusually understated for a DPG blend. The smoke is smooth though, and the nicotine is moderate.

The middle section continues in the same vein, doling out lots of woody smoke with a sweet, fresh finish. There is some spice on the palate, but the woody flavors and the sun-grown zing take center stage. The resting smoke is very pleasant, even for the non-smokers in the vicinity who for once are not glaring at me.

The final stage is earthier on the palate, with continued sweet wood on the nose. The sensation on the tongue is interesting — almost like the effect of carbonation, and the overall effect is spirituous. Like champagne, if a champagne could taste like humus and sweet wood. The last half-inch into the band area gets a little harsh on the throat, but other than that this is a smooth tasting smoke.


This is a really unusual cigar from DPG. The burn is sub-standard by comparison with his other lines, and while the flavors are certainly interesting, they’re not what the typical Pepin fan is after. There is little here of the cocoa and black peppery bang that his cigars are best known for. This doesn’t make it a bad cigar by any means, but in my opinion it’s not really what he does best.

I think that if it were made by anyone else I would have rated the Selección del Sol more highly, but I expect more from The Great One. Maybe it isn’t fair, but when the man hits home runs every game, to get a double and a base hit are a little disappointing.

Final Score: 84