Alec Bradley Post Embargo Robusto

AB Post EmbargoPrior to the last U.S. election, it looked like restrictions on Cuban cigar imports might be relaxing a little. Some restrictions have in fact been loosened a bit, but it’s too early to celebrate the “Post Embargo” era just yet, at least with regard to cigars.

Nevertheless, the embargo has always loomed large in the minds of American cigar smokers. We don’t like being told what to do, what to buy, what to eat, or what to smoke. Like it or not, we tend to err on the side of liberty, even when it facilitates imprudence. Make that warning label a little bigger, California. Nobody gives a shit.

So most of us have, at one time or another, thumbed our noses at the government and sampled that “forbidden fruit.” Some of it is amazing, and irreproducible with non-Cuban tobacco. But some of it is also pedestrian, badly rolled, and easily counterfeited. The end of the embargo does not mean that Habanos will automatically assume the throne in the U.S. market. Strong cigar companies like Alec Bradley will survive, and I expect they will thrive against the competition. This will be good for everyone.

In any case, Alec Bradley is not waiting for the government’s next move. The Post Embargo era began for AB with this blend of Honduran and Nicaraguan leaves wrapped in a Honduran Criollo 98 wrapper from the Trojes region. (I’m not sure if any other cigar makers are using wrapper from Trojes. It seems to be synonymous with Alec Bradley.)

Three sizes are in production:

  • Robusto – 5 x 52
  • Toro – 6 1/2 x 54
  • Gordo – 6 x 60

AB Post Embargo 2

Construction Notes

The wrapper on the Post Embargo robusto is dry but smooth, with a workmanlike cap to match. The cigar is box pressed, sits nicely in the hand, and draws very well. The burn is a little uneven at times, but not to the point of distraction. The ash is solid, though slightly flaky.

Overall construction: Very Good.

Tasting Notes

The Post Embargo starts up with a tannic bite and a handful of cocoa powder on the nose. If I didn’t know what cigar this was, I might have guessed it was an old Pepín blend.  Earth dominates the palate and the aftertaste, along with some white pepper that dies down after an inch or so. Meanwhile, the tannins go marching on. Pucker up.

Midway into the cigar, cedar and light kitchen spices make an appearance, combining with the tannins to create a somewhat citric profile. Cocoa continues to play in the nasal passages. There is an unexpected sweetness just inside the last third, a pocket of sugar that comes from nowhere. The earth becomes fairly heavy toward the finish line, overpowering the sweetness and complexity. The flavors dirty a bit at the end as the cigar bows out and calls it a night.

Conclusion

Alec Bradley’s Post Embargo robusto is a sophisticated medium-bodied cigar that reminds me a lot of the classic Nicaraguan blends that Pepín Garcia made about ten years ago. Mouth watering tannins combined with loads of cocoa, sweetness, and earth.  At first sight, 8 bucks might seem overpriced — admittedly,  it’s not the best looking stick on the shelf — but I think it’s well worth it.

The Post Embargo celebration may be a bit premature when it comes to open competition with Habanos, but when the embargo is actually lifted — and I think it’s only a matter of time — the AB Post Embargo shows that the blending creativity and quality control of American cigar manufacturers will stand up well against the respected Cuban tradition.

AB Post Embargo 3

Final Score: 90

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Alec Bradley Family Blend D3 Robusto

Alec Bradley’s Family Blend stumbled into the spotlight in 2010 when it found a place on Cigar Aficionado’s Top 25 cigars of 2009. It was originally made in only one size — the VR1 Robusto — but in 2010 Alec Bradley announced the “birth of quadruplets,” and the line was expanded to a family of five in all. More recently a 6 x 60 was adopted, yet another indication of the childhood obesity problem in this country.

The Family Blend was created for the fathers of the company’s three principal executives, but a very attractive price point quickly made this family affair of great public interest. The stubby D3 earned 93 points and was labeled a “Best Buy” for 2010 by Cigar Aficionado. Any more accolades from CA might and a man might get suspicious.

Speaking of suspicious, I think AB could possibly learn something from Illusione’s Dion Giolito about how to name cigars. The names for the Family Blend vitolas are codes referring to “names and dates that are significant to certain family members.” That’s just dandy, but codes are not exactly consumer-friendly. I can barely remember my PIN when I go to the store, so I’m not going to remember if MX23 or BX2 is the toro or the double corona. Illusione cigars suffer from the same nomenclature problem, but Giolito has added a phrase to the number as a crutch for the mnemonically challenged. Granted, the phrase is as arcane as the code, but I can remember that “Necessary and Sufficient” is the churchill. But I can’t remember if it’s the 88 or 888 or 8/2 or whatever.

Anyway, here are the codes. You can either commit them to memory or write them down and keep them in your wallet.

  • D3 – 4 1/2 x 58
  • VR1 – 5 1/2 x 50
  • BX2 – 6 x 54
  • M23 – 7 x 50
  • T11 – 6 1/8 x 52 (Torpedo)
  • GS27 – 6 x 60

Construction Notes

The D3 is a short and plump robusto with a dark and slightly rustic wrapper from Trojes, Honduras. AB seems to have the Trojes market cornered, which so far has turned out to be a very good thing for them. (The binder is Indonesian, and leaves from Honduras and Nicaragua comprise the filler.) The roll on this cigar is solid and the draw is excellent. The torcedors at Raices Cubanas in Danli are on a par with Pepin’s rollers in Esteli, as the cap on this cigar attests. The pig tail is discreet and the cap is perfectly triple or quadruple wound. (I fell down on the job with the pics for this one. I’m blaming the summer heat.)

The ash tends to flake a little but the burn was slow, a product of both the solid roll and the 58 ring gauge of the cigar.

Tasting Notes

The Family Blend D3 has a bright Nicaraguan taste similar to other cigars rolled at the Raices Cubanas factory, but it isn’t as robust as Illusione or Alec Bradley’s Tempus line. The flavor is woody with sweet cedary spice on the nose. There seem to be some other milder spices I can’t quite identify — nutmeg maybe — and a touch of pepper on the tongue. It’s medium bodied, but complex.

The flavor on the palate gets a little meatier in the second half and the aroma picks up sugary notes like caramel and cotton candy. The D3 has what I’d consider a Nicaraguan flavor profile, even though it is not Nicaraguan, and is much smoother and a bit sweeter than your typical Nicaraguan puro.

Conclusion

The Family Blend is yet another great line from Alec Bradley, and it’s nice to see them add a milder cigar to their portfolio. It has all of the sweet complexity that you’d expect from one of their Trojes blends, but it’s smooth and easy to smoke. The MSRP on the D3 is in the 5 to 6 dollar range, which is a good value in light of the cigar’s quality.

I’m not crazy about the ring gauge on this particular vitola, but my D3 experience was enough to fuel interest in other sizes. The cigars in this line run fat, unfortunately. I think I’ll have to try the relatively slim 50-ring robusto next. Which one is that? M23? BX2? Where is my decoder ring?

Final Score: 90

Alec Bradley Prensado Robusto

The Trojes revolution that started with the Tempus blend in 2008 is still going strong. Not long after the Tempus was released, Alec Bradley unleashed the Trojes-wrapped SCR (Select Cabinet Reserve) and about a year later the Prensado appeared on the shelves. Since then, leaf from this small Honduran village has almost become synonymous with Alec Bradley.

Las Trojes is a tiny border town about 40 miles east of Danli, the heart of cigar making operations in Honduras. The Jalapa valley is just across the border in Nicaragua, and Esteli is a few more miles down the road, or what passes for a road in this part of the country. This is solid tobacco country, and Alec Bradley seems pretty happy with it. They’ve gone so far as to trademark the name Trojes, so it seems certain that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of this fine leaf.

For the Prensado the blenders have chosen an aged 2006 Corojo wrapper from Trojes, a binder from Jalapa, and a Nicaraguan-Honduran filler combination. The cigar is pressed, which is nothing new for the company (remember the Trilogy?) but this fact is emphasized by the name — prensado means pressed in Spanish.

The cigar is made in the Raices Cubanas factory in Danli, where the Tempus is also made (along with many other cigars for various manufacturers.) Five sizes are in production:

Churchill – 7 x 48
Torpedo – 8 1/8 x 52
Gran Toro – 6 x 54
Corona Gorda – 5 5/8 x 46
Robusto – 5 x 50

Construction Notes

The Prensado Robusto is clearly pressed, but it’s not a severe press — a little more than box-pressed, but not a lot more. The wrapper is a dark colorado maduro with some inconspicuous veins. The head of the cigar is somewhat flat with classic Raices Cubanas finishing, including a smoothly executed triple cap. The draw is excellent and the burn is slow and mostly even. The ash is dirty gray, striated with black, and holds well.

Overall construction: Excellent.

Tasting Notes

The pungency of the pre-light tobacco comes through almost immediately as leather, and the smoke has a lengthy finish from the start. There is a peppery edge to it, which is supplemented by a sweet, nearly fruity accent. It is full-bodied, but smooth.  The combination of flavors here is impressively complex, which is unusual for the first inch of a cigar.

Flavors of cocoa or chocolate emerge after an inch or so into the cigar. The leather remains in the background while the pepper fades a bit. The fruity accent seems to evolve into a minty, cameroon-like flavor. Taken as a whole, the combination of flavors here is really interesting.

The Prensado sails into band territory balanced and smooth, but it still hasn’t completed its voyage. The cocoa takes on a caramel-like tone, over which is laced a touch of vanilla. The cigar gets a bit sharp at the very end, but this is after an hour long journey with some gorgeous vistas.

Conclusion

The Alec Bradley Prensado is a fantastic cigar with a rare combination of complexity, smoothness, and body.  What is even rarer is that it wastes no time in getting to work — from first puff to last there is something to savor here. We’ve all had the “sweet spot” experience, but the Prensado seem to be all sweet spot.  The combination of leather, cocoa, sweetness and spice is extremely well balanced, and the construction is just about perfect.

The robustos are in the 7 to 8 USD range, and I’d say they’re worth the expense. It isn’t often that I enjoy a cigar from beginning to end, so I feel like I definitely got my dollar’s worth out of this one. The only thing I didn’t like about the Prensado is how long it took me to discover it.

Final Score: 93

Other Reviews of Note

The Toasted Foot examines the Robusto

Barry checks out the Robusto for A Cigar Smoker’s Journal

CigarChoice gives the Gran Toro a thumbs up

The Stogie Guys are a little underwhelmed by the Robusto

Ed and Tom award the Torpedo the Stogie Review Seal of Approval™