La Tradicion Cubana Chulo

La Tradicion Cubana’s Chulo cigar is the perfecto in their figurado series. Other formats in the series are a Culebras, a huge 8 1/2 by 96 Great Pyramid, and the Reed, a toro-sized cigar with a head shaped like the bit on a clarinet (similar to La Flor Dominicana’s Chisel.) There is also a limited box pressed cigar called Teclas which comes packaged in a box shaped like a piano.

Talk about showmanship! With its two-toned appearance and shapely figure, it’s almost a shame to put the Chulo to the flame, and I find myself torn… To smoke or not to smoke, that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to keep a cigar as a museum piece, or to take up matches, and by smoking, ash it… But there’s nothing rotten in Denmark here, or in the Dominican Republic for that matter. In addition to its exotic appearance, the Chulo is also a fine tasting smoke.

The 5 x 54 Chulo (which means something like “cutie”) is available in two wrappers — a natural Ecuadorian and a Brazilian maduro, but the extremities of the cigars are wrapped in the opposite shade. I found that I had to clip most of the natural wrapper off the tip of the maduros I smoked, but the flavor of the Ecuadorian leaf at the foot was detectable for a few brief moments after lighting the cigar.

Construction Notes

The craftsmanship that goes into creating this little zeppelin is apparent at first glance. The dry but dark maduro wrapper creates a striking contrast against the natural leaf at the foot and head of the cigar. Both ends of the Chulo are finely finished.

The roll is solid and the draw is good, though to achieve this it is sometimes necessary to cut a little further down — all the way to the boundary of the maduro leaf — than seems optimal. They burn evenly and need to be ashed only once or twice.

My only criticism is that the cigar gets a bit hot in the last third, but that is probably just a natural hazard of a cigar shaped like this. Despite its advertised ring gauge, the Chulo is a fairly small cigar.

Overall construction very good.

Tasting Notes

The first flavors to come wafting from this little guy are smooth and nutty, due in part to the Ecuadorian wrapper which gets the ball rolling. The smoke is creamy and medium in body.

It doesn’t take long before the natural wrapper gives way to the bittersweet chocolate aroma of Brazilian maduro. The smoke is still smooth, but its character changes dramatically. The sweetness on the nose remains but is soon overpowered by earthiness on the palate, and this becomes the primary theme of the cigar.

In the final section some peppery elements enter to complement the earthiness, and the cigar starts to heat up a little. I found it best to slow my pace at the mid-point of the cigar to keep the smoke cool and to keep the earthy flavors in proportion to the sweetness.

Conclusion

La Tradicion Cubana has a reputation for virtuoso cigar making, and this is exemplified by all of the cigars in the Figurado series, including the Chulo. But I was happy to discover that the cigar is more than mere eye candy — it’s a dandy little smoke with lots of smooth and earthy maduro flavors. It’s also pretty obvious that the chef who whipped up Sabor Cubano was supervising the design of the Chulo as well.

I’ll be looking forward to trying the natural version one of these days, but for now I can vouch for the maduro: it’s good. Boxes of ten sell for around $60 USD, which is a fantastic price considering the craftsmanship required to make these two-toned perfectos.

Final Score: 89

La Flor Dominicana El Jocko

In 1997 as the cigar boom began to wane, La Flor Dominicana blessed us with a funky little figurado called El Jocko. There were relatively few decent cigars to be found at that time —the few reputable manufacturers were struggling to keep up with demand and maintain quality amid severe tobacco shortages, while some retailers were limiting purchases of standards like Fuente 858s. El Jocko was exactly what seasoned smokers needed — a full flavored and consistent cigar with a strange shape that would confuse and repel the amateurs.

It only took a few years for the industry to recover from the boom. Quality improved dramatically, and the diversity of blends and brands expanded. In the late 90’s El Jocko crested in a sea of mild cigars, but within only a few years the full-bodied trend let it silently drift away. It’s been a long time since I’ve tried one of these, and my experience of them today is bound to be a lot different from what it was in the era of the “Don Nobodies.”

This small cigar is immediately identifiable by its bowling pin shape. It’s basically a “bouquet” perfecto, similar to a Fuente Short Story, but with more gradual proportions. It was named for a cigar retailer named Jacko Headblade who visited the Flor Dominicana farms and for some reason attempted to ride one of the farm’s donkeys (not very successfully, I presume.) The spectacle inspired Litto Gomez to name both the donkey and his new cigar “El Jocko.”

El Jocko comes in two styles: an Ecuadorian Connecticut, and a Mexican maduro. At one time there were two sizes as well, but it appears that now there is only one, which measures 4 1/2 inches long and has a 54 ring gauge at it’s thickest point. (The other size was a larger version of this one.) The binder is Nicaraguan, and the filler is Dominican piloto cubano.

The Connecticut and Maduro versions of this cigar have similar construction values. This shape is challenging and would seem to invite construction defects, but for the most part it avoids these. I smoked two of each for this review, and they all drew very well and burned with a slow determination. Minor burn problems had me reaching for the lighter a couple times, but the corrections I made were not entirely necessary.

Both species start out a tad harsh, but in different ways: the Connecticut is noticeably tannic, while the Maduro bursts with peppercorn. In both blends this dies away as the ring gauge expands.

The Connecticut is typical of medium to full-bodied Dominicans — the piloto gives it a respectably spicy spine, while the wrapper imparts a softer touch: nuts, and a sweet clover honey-like fragrance. As the bulbous section burns to a solid light gray ash the pepper returns, and the flavors grow more aggressive. Smoking slowly is highly recommended at this point to avoid overheating. The flavors remind me a little of the 601 Connecticut, but considerably toned down.

The Maduro displays a little more character. It comes out of the gate with a dose of black pepper and can initially be a bit harsh on the throat. It mellows after the first half-inch or so and the smoke takes on a creamier texture. The first section tastes of burnt coffee or bitter chocolate. As the cinder burns through the waist of the stick it gradually becomes sweeter and develops a leathery aspect. It’s slow burning with a lengthy finish and leaves an aftertaste of char. Into the final stretch the flavors turn darker and sharper once again, reminding me of La Flor Dominicana’s popular Double Ligero series. Again, not as bold as the DL, but similar in taste. Unfortunately, it’s not a taste I really enjoy. The middle section was quite nice — smooth and flavorful without the carbonized sugar taste that I didn’t care for in the last third.

These are both very good cigars, but when compared with the incredible array of fantastic smokes available right now, they pale a little bit. My memory of El Jocko is that it was much better ten years ago than it is now, but taste must be taken in context and memories fade. Trying to compare today’s cigar to a ten year old memory is probably no more than an interesting experiment. It’s a much better world for cigars now, and ten years of tasting many different blends has honed my palate a little… for the better I hope.

El Jockos sell for around $5 to $6 individually, or around $100 a box. That seems reasonable to me, especially considering the craftsmanship required to make this unique looking cigar. It may seem a bit much for such a small cigar, but take it slow and this little perfecto will spin an interesting yarn for up to 45 minutes.