Being born, raised, and spending my first 26 years in the mountains of East Tennessee, I once had ways of coping with cold weather. However, I’ve spent the past twelve years in Florida and I find myself very put-out by the cold this week. Tonight is forecast to be the coldest in a very long time in these parts, and it’s just too friggin’ cold to be out – even for a cigar. Normally, our winters are fairly mild and even on the coldest nights my garage provides a suitable respite. But…19°F? That should never happen. Not here. I feel like Al Gore owes me a personal apology. I would prefer to run out to a nice, toasty cigar shop for a smoke – I am near Tampa after all, with any number of great shops within an hour or so. Problem is, most of them are on the far end of that 60 minute range, which makes for a late night preceding an early morning during the week. Workable, I suppose, but not optimal. The only shops that are in the immediate area close early. So, it looks as if I’ll just sit here, indoors, and vent to you fine folks tonight. But next time, I must be prepared. Fire pit off the patio? Heater in the garage? Put on every shred of clothing I own until I look like the kid from A Christmas Story? There’s little chance of ever actually smoking indoors while maintaining any marital harmony whatsoever. My wife is favorable to cigars, and will even partake herself on rare occasions – but smoke residue in the house ain’t happening. It’s probably not feasible to move even further south, either. I assume some of you, especially in the northern climes, are finding yourself cigarless tonight also…what do you do? Do you just (horror of horrors) abstain? Do you have a segregated area to smoke in? Igloo? Tepee? What’s your plan for the rest of the winter?
We’re going back! Two members of the Cigarmy went to the Dominican Republic earlier this year for the Fuente/Newman families’ gathering to showcase CFCF (Cigar Family Charitable Foundation). It was a simply amazing trip, and we had an absolute blast. I just got the email today that there will be another assembling in March of 2012 – with 2012 being the Fuentes’ 100th anniversary in the cigar business. Some portion of us are returning. If you don’t know, the CFCF is a boon to the local people in the Bonao region of the Dominican Republic – providing clean water, medical care, and education to people who previously had none. You can find more information about it HERE. I checked into the foundation before we went down the first time, and I have to say I am overwhelmingly impressed – not just with the work they do, but the aboveboard approach to how it is managed. All administrative costs to run the foundation are covered by the Fuente and Newman families, which means 100% of your donation goes directly to benefit the children and families involved with the foundation. I can’t emphasize enough how great a thing it is that they do. It is a remarkable organization.
If you’d like to see the pictures of our first trip, you can find them HERE, or by clicking “Pictures” in the menu bar at the top of the screen, and navigating appropriately.
…so I find myself just hanging around the house this fine Florida Sunday afternoon, and thought it was about time to do another review. I went to the humidor and pulled out a cigar I have tried several times and with which I seem to have developed a strong love/hate relationship. I selected the CAO OSA Sol, in robusto (5X50, and marketed as the “Lot 50”). I have tried each of the three vitolas this line is currently offered in, and to my palate, the Lot 50 has been the more flavorful of the three. It’s also the only size OSA I had on hand, so that made the choice rather obvious :). This is the first release from CAO after the change in ownership to General Cigar. According to General, the cigar features the Olancho San Agustin (OSA) wrapper, grown in “one of the most fertile and rich valleys in Honduras.” The binder is Connecticut, and the filler is a blend of Nicaraguan and Honduran tobaccos. In Tampa, it retails for about $3.75 per stick by the box, and $5.50 for singles.
Pre-light, both the foot and wrapper produce a mild woodsy aroma, slightly sweet but not overtly so. The draw is firm but unencumbered, and produces more of the sweet wood and leather noted in the scent. In terms of appearance it is a beautiful cigar. The wrapper leaf shows a few slender veins, and is dry to the touch – although very pliable and supple. I don’t detect any uneven spots along the stick; the bunch seems uniform throughout, with possibly a slightly dense area about 1/2″ from the foot. The feel and draw leads me to believe the cigar is quite well constructed.
Upon initial light, the most remarkable thing is the copious amounts of smoke that this cigar is generating. The first blast of flavor is very spicy on the back of my palate and throat. It is more felt than tasted; I would stop short of calling it peppery in taste, but it produces the distinct feeling of pepper on the palate. The retrohale is aggressively spicy in this respect, but I find that often within the first few minutes of many cigars. As I progress through this first inch of the smoke, the flavors almost make it over the hump into some citrus or cedar…but not quite. There is a slight perceived bitterness, which could honestly be produced by the dryness of the smoke. Within the first five minutes of lighting, I was reaching for my ice water to relieve that dry feeling. This dryness continues throughout much of the cigar.
Toward the final puffs of the first inch, and into the second, the flavors do progress into the citrus family I mention above, but the wood remains. It flirts with the citrus, but doesn’t commit. The spice has subdued by this point, but is still present. Had these flavors come through stronger, I might have compared them to other sticks I have had that include a bit of Brazilian tobacco – I always get a clear perception of citrus whenever that is the case. I would place this in the same family of flavors, but not prominent in this case. There is also a noticeable presence of a somewhat off-putting “ashy” flavor as well. During this time, the burn became a little cockeyed, but stayed reasonable with only a couple of minor touchups. It continued to produce a great deal of smoke. This smoke production and the accompanying rate of burn dictated a very slow cadence. It pays to widely space your puffs with this cigar. It never even pretended to go out, even with only occasional draws.
The third inch of smoking has confirmed the earlier hunch about construction. I find no fault there at all. It has burned exceedingly well, and never wavered in the easy draw mentioned earlier. By this point, the flavor and spice has mellowed a good bit, with the woodsiness and citrus finally coming into their own. In fact, by the final stretch, the spice has all but abated. The ashy taste has definitely become more pronounced, however, signaling the end of the cigar.
As I mentioned at the outset, I have developed a love/hate relationship with this blend. I have had each of the sizes, and probably about 7-8 of the blend total now. To be honest, had I judged solely on the first example I smoked I would probably have been willing to purchase a box of them. After subsequent smoking, however, I don’t think I would. The cigar itself is a solid smoke, just not for me to keep around in large quantities. The construction has been outstanding for each of the sticks I have smoked, and the burn has been exceptional in most cases. The flavors, however, just haven’t been my cup of tea. Some have been great, straying further into the citrus and cedar, while others have been ashy and bitter in comparison. This inconsistency has been a drawback for me. I certainly would not hesitate to buy a few more and keep them around for the occasional diversion. In fact, I will probably do just that and sample them as time progresses. But, I don’t foresee purchasing a box of them any time soon. I would absolutely recommend trying them…but I would not recommend investing in a box without going through several first.
Well folks, it’s time to gather around the proverbial fire – or literal, as the case may be – and talk about a cigar. This week, we’re looking at the Torano Master series, specifically the robusto (5X50). It comes from the Torano family, and according to their website the blend is a collaboration between Charlie Torano, the current head of the company, and Felipe Sosa, “master” cigar roller (hence the series name, and the presence of Felipe’s image on some of the packaging). The blend is a concoction of Ecuadoran Habano wrapper, Nicaraguan (Esteli) binder, and Nicaraguan (Esteli & Jalapa) filler. The Master series is intended to only be available at brick and mortar tobacconists.
The initial once-over for this stick reveals a very silky wrapper – not oily to the point of producing a sheen on its surface, but very smooth to the touch. There are some veins in the leaf, but they are sparse and unobtrusive. The aroma at the unlit foot is faintly reminiscent of hay with just a little spice – it produces a bit of a tickle in the nose rather than an identifiable odor. A quick sniff of the wrapper gives the same impression, but still very slight. The cap of the cigar telegraphs every bump of the tobacco underneath, but proves pliable enough to handle clipping without tearing during the cut. The draw is firm but free, and very sweet to the palate – imagine figs and hay. The construction is solid throughout the stick, with neither void nor highly dense areas to speak of.
The initial light surprises me with an explosion of cedar flavor. It is very powerful and quite recognizable, in fact. I know some folks who are turned off to cedar flavors in their cigars. I happen to really enjoy it, as long as it doesn’t stray too far into bitterness. There is a fine line between cedar, cream, and spice versus harshness, astringency, and bitterness. I can say that in the Master, at least in this one, that is not the case. There is just enough creaminess to temper the cedar. Being one of those folks who strongly associates flavors and aromas with memories, I am instantly transported back a decade or more to a time when I did some hobby work on cedar lining for some humidors. The cigar produced an aroma not unlike the seared cedar dust that filled the air when sanding the wood for that project. There is also a noticeable tickle in the nose; a very slight burn but not uncomfortable. I would, however, recommend drawing in a little air alongside the smoke if you intend to retrohale this stick in the early minutes. By the one-inch mark, both the cedar and spice has subdued, although the cedar is still very prominent. The spice has begun to present more of a pepper flavor and less of a feeling by this time. The burn is very good, and has evened out perfectly, with the ash hanging on to about an inch or so before falling. Its appearance is somewhat flaky, but internally it seems to be quite sound.
The construction on this cigar is remarkable heading into the second inch of smoking. It is a no fuss – no muss kind of stick. Within the second inch, the cedar flavor is still dominant, although calmer than the initial light. It does transition to a sweeter version of itself by the end of this section, however. Toward the end of this period, and into the third inch, I pick up a little nuttiness in the mix which is very pleasing. There are also some “darker” flavors that weave themselves in and out of the smoke – notes of leather, raisins, and some of the fig noted earlier. The burn here wandered ever so slightly, but a quick touchup corrected that with no issue. I should mention this was not a serious problem; routine maintenance, really. I just happened to notice because it was the first time I had even thought about tinkering with the cigar. The sidestream smoke has an aroma very different from the flavor produced in the mouth – it is considerably darker, more leathery than the flavor produced.
In the final stretch of the cigar, the strength jumped a notch or two. I would still place this firmly in the “medium” range, but it was noticeably stronger toward the end. It was never overpowering nor harsh in any way, which scores big points with me personally. The smoke did become slightly astringent at one point, but a short purge cleared that entirely. Once that astringency began to creep back in a few minutes later, I knew the cigar was signalling its end. The finish is lingering and sweet, almost woodsy in nature. In my years of smoking cigars, I’ve never been a particularly dedicated devotee of Torano products, but for no other reason than my tastes tend to flit about from maker to maker with few exceptions and I never settled into a groove with a Torano blend (at 250lb, I don’t know that anything I ever do could be called “flitting,” however). This cigar may just change that. It is certainly my favorite product to date from the Torano family, and one of the better sticks I’ve tried in recent months. I do chalk this up to my appreciation for this flavor profile, however. At box prices of ~$4.75 per stick for the robustos in the Tampa area, it is definitely boxworthy for me. I will likely be picking up more of these in the near future, and would highly recommend them to anyone – with the caveat the if you do not enjoy cedar in your smoke, you probably won’t enjoy it as much as I did. If, however, you’re a fan of woodsy flavors leaning sharply into the cedar camp, you will most definitely like this stick.
For our review this week, we’re smoking the San Lotano Oval, by A.J. Fernandez. My local B&M just got these in, and since the Oval has been such a huge hit for AJF, I thought I’d give it a try and see what all the hubbub is about. It is available in 6 vitolas, and I selected the robusto (5.5″ X 54 ring) for the review. In the Tampa area, the robusto retails for $8.50-8.75 for singles. According to the company website, the Oval has a Habano 2000 wrapper, aged a minimum of 4 years, Nicaraguan binder, and an “AJ Fernandez Secret Filler” composed of both Nicaraguan and Honduran tobaccos. It comes in a unique ovoid cross-section, which to me looks like a semi-square press. Think of a cigar that has been square pressed along one axis, rather than two.
Upon removing the cellophane, my specimen is very solid; there are no voids or overly dense areas to be found. The wrapper feels and appears very oily and smooth. Mine appears to have been jumbled around a little bit during transit, as there are a couple of dings on the cigar, one of which has left a small (1/8″) tear in the wrapper leaf. Hopefully, the binder will hold true and not allow extra air into the stick that might interfere with the smoking. Before lighting, the foot gives a pleasing scent of hay and maybe a slight hint of cedar, while the wrapper provides the faint aroma of a tobacco barn. Mild, but pleasant. The prelight draw delivers very little in terms of flavor, but the near perfect construction is evident in what I’ll call a “Goldilocks draw.” Not too loose, not too tight. Just right.
It’s a cool day here in Florida (63°), which lends itself to getting pure, clean flavor from a cigar. The Oval takes the light very well, and toasts evenly with little effort. The initial puffs produce a slightly vegetal, woody spice. The spice here is slightly cedarlike, and produces a noticeable but tolerable tingle in the nose upon retrohale. There are some “bright” notes of citrus as well – more a lemon/lime sensation, rather than the sweetness of orange or tangerine. Not an explicit flavor, just something that brings these flavors to mind. The smoke in this early portion of the cigar is quite mouthwatering, which I understand to mean the pH is lower than that present in the mouth. The burn in the first inch has a slight wander, but not too bad. The hole in the wrapper mentioned above is thusfar a nonissue, and produces no problem with the draw or light.
Into the second inch of the Oval, the spice has mellowed considerably. I have a cup of plain, black coffee as accompaniment today, and the pairing is actually very complementary. The flavors play together quite well. The burn has continued to have a small bit of scalloping around the edges, but I am impressed with how adept the cigar is at self-correcting. There are now some nice, darker flavors of cocoa or espresso. These are very clean, however, in that they dissipate quickly from the palate.
In the 2″-3″ portion of the cigar, the taste has gotten a more creamy feel in the mouth, with little of the spice that was prevalent earlier. The coffee remains, and even a more tea-like flavor as well. Most cigars will respond well to a slow cadence, and the Oval is no exception. Slowly smoking this cigar will reward you with wonderful bursts of flavor – cocoa, coffee, nuts, mild cedar can all be picked out. I was not especially careful with the ash, but it impressively held on to about 2.5″. The texture of the ash itself is also noteworthy – it has a very fine, dimpled grain to it. Toward the end of this phase of the smoke, and into the final stretch, the tingle I experience in Nicaraguan tobacco returned. However, it was never harsh nor acrid. It was well balanced with the other tobaccos and remained flavorful and comfortable, presumably held in check by the addition of Honduran tobaccos in the filler. The sheen from the oils in the wrapper is remarkable at this point, and appears to almost be fleeing the heat of the ember. The cigar produces copious amounts of smoke in this section, as well. That’s not as important to me as it is to some folks, but it was very pronounced here. The coffee flavors remain dominant and up front throughout. It is worth mentioning that I never had to relight this cigar, nor even touch it up. Every time even a mild variance occurred, it quickly corrected itself and I was on my happy way. Within the final few puffs, it did become slightly astringent, but this dissipated with a slight purge.
The San Lotano Oval is indeed a big hit for AJ Fernandez, and after smoking this one I can see why. It was a great cigar all around. The flavors were bold and pleasurable, and while they varied throughout the smoke, the profile was very consistent and harmonious. The burn and construction were flawless and provided a worry free smoking experience. It is bold enough that you know you’re smoking a cigar, but approachable enough for even the neophyte cigar smoker. While not inexpensive, the pricing is definitely in line with the experience provided – I have certainly paid the same for much lesser cigars. Overall, I am very impressed with the San Lotano Oval, and would highly recommend it to anyone. According to my rating system-in-progress below, it scores a 92. A great cigar.
Flavor (1st third): 9 Flavor (2nd third): 9 Flavor (3rd third): 9 Burn: 10 Prelight aroma/draw: 9 Draw: 9 Construction: 10 Value: 8.5
For this week’s review, we’re going to have a look at the La Flor Dominicana Air Bender. The selected vitola for the review is the Poderoso, roughly a corona at 5-1/2″ and a 42 ring. The Air Bender is produced in the Dominican Republic in seven different sizes, with an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper and Dominican Filler/Binder. In the Tampa area, it retails for about $6 per single, and about $5.50 per stick by the box. I have previously enjoyed this blend in LFD’s Chisel vitola, and thought I would give the Poderoso a try since I believe the corona to be one of the very best sizes to judge a blend.
The first thing I notice when removing this cigar from its cellophane is its outstanding construction. It is tightly wrapped, with a beautifully applied cap that displays no visible wrinkles, tears, or defects of any kind. In fact, it is incredibly smooth. The pack feels uniform throughout the cigar, with no noticeably dense areas nor voids of any kind. Before lighting, the scent of the wrapper and foot are similar, and remind me of what I call “dark” flavors of figs or even oatmeal. The unlit draw delivers very traditional tobacco or hay flavors, and is comfortable and open. The cigar toasts easily and takes to fire readily and evenly.
During the first inch of this stick, I took the time to examine the wrapper more closely. There were a number of moderately sized veins, and some tooth to the leaf. The “teeth,” or nodules, were very lowlying, however; almost seen as much as felt. This early, I found the smoke to be somewhat drying, causing me to reach for a drink frequently. I initially opted to enjoy the Air Bender with coffee, but quickly abandoned that idea and switched to a simple glass of ice water. The coffee was not interfering with the cigar – quite the opposite. The cigar overpowered the coffee. Rather than deal with wishy-washy coffee, and to escape the alkalinity of the smoke, I just went ahead and made the switch to water. The prominent flavors at this point remained similar to the prelight perceptions, especially with the oats. There is also a pleasant but noticeable nutty aftertaste, akin to almonds.
From the one- to two-inch mark, the cigar seemed to produce considerably more smoke than earlier. The drying effect of the smoke on the palate persisted, but was not problematic. The ice water kept that in check. A bit of peppery flavor crept in at this point. I would more quickly associate this flavor with white rather than black pepper – similar taste without the bite. It was very pleasant to me, one who appreciates a bit of it but will often shy away from reputed “spice bombs,” because I do retrohale a fair amount and don’t enjoy too much burn in the nose. The pepper here is entirely enjoyable, however. I have to note the burn at this point. It has been absolutely impeccable. I did have to perform one minor touchup, but overall it shows the quality of the bunch and roll to be top notch. What impressed me most was the level field of ash when I did dunk the end. No penciling or tunneling at all. The ember was laser-level.
After two inches, and onward into the final portion of the smoke, I did detect some spice through the nose to accompany the pepper noted earlier. Still, the burn was moderate and definitely worthwhile when the pleasant, warming flavors and near perfect construction are taken into consideration. By this point, I began to notice a couple of new flavors presenting front and center. Pure, basic tobacco taste, which I find quite agreeable and satisfying came through boldly but certainly not in a harsh way. There was also a welcome return from the notes of leather I noticed earlier before and at first light. In the final stretch, the burn on retrohale disappeared entirely, although the flavor of pepper remained. In the last few puffs from the cigar, the taste remained basically unchanged, although a bit of cedar was noticeable. I did have to perform one more slight touchup to the wrapper, but I am still overwhelmingly impressed with the burn on this stick.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed this cigar. The flavors are bold and pleasing, yet never brash. The construction, at least on this one, was absolutely faultless. This flawless build is very attractive to me. It affords the smoker the opportunity to simply enjoy the cigar without having to worry or fret about it. One can focus on the more important aspects of relaxing and taking pleasure in the smoke. The Air Bender holds a special niche in that it has enough body and flavor to appeal to those wizened old denizens of dark, smoky cigar shops without being too imposing to the neophyte just breaking into the pastime. If you haven’t already, I would definitely recommend you give it a try. At the per stick box price of $5.50, I also think it is a great value.
As I mentioned a couple of reviews ago, I’m still working out the whole numerical rating system, and I’m not a big fan of attempting to assign objective values to something so subjective as taste. Nonetheless, for whatever it may be worth, I am doing so below. Hopefully, this system will take shape into something usable as time goes by and I iron out the details. For now, I’ll just average out the following ratings, with construction and flavor being weighted double. That would leave the Air Bender comfortably sitting on a “90.”Flavor (1st third): 9 Flavor (2nd third): 8.5 Flavor (3rd third): 9 Burn: 9 Prelight aroma/draw: 8.5 Draw: 9 Construction: 10 Value: 8.5 .
Well, it’s that time of week again. Time for a review! This week, we’re taking a look at the Sungrown version of the Arturo Fuente 858. The 858 takes its name in honor of Arturo himself, who was instrumental in developing the blend. In fact, Carlito Fuente has said it was his grandfather’s personal blend. When he (Arturo) died at the age of 85, the family brought the 858 to market under the name “858” as a palindrome and reminder of their patriarch. The cigar is 6″ long, a 47 ring, and comes in 5 different wrapper offerings. The “standard” lines are the natural (Cameroon) and maduro (Connecticut Broadleaf). I would also include the claro (Connecticut/candela) as standard production as well, although it is less common on retailer shelves. I would imagine this cigar is readily available, just not quite as appealing to the current market, which probably drives somewhat lower production numbers (pure speculation on my part). The remaining two wrappers are far more difficult to come by – the SG Rosado (cedar wrap/red band on the foot), and the Sungrown (cedar wrap/black band on the foot/Ecuadorian Sungrown wrapper). Production has seemed erratic for these final two offerings in previous years, but happily I have seen considerably more locally in Tampa this past year than ever before. The filler and binder are Dominican, and wrappers as noted above. You can find the standard production sticks for $4-5, and the Sungrown for about $7, depending on your local market. Of course, there are plenty of folks out there who mark them up considerably more than that.
Today’s example comes from the most recent release, which arrived at my local B&M in late summer. So, it has been resting comfortably at 65% in my humidor for several weeks. When removing it from the cellophane and cedar wrap, I noticed an almost uncharacteristic even brown color to the wrapper. These often have a mottled look, with some small degree of graying in the coloration. This one, however, is uniformly brown throughout the cigar. Perhaps due to this uniformity, or the typical quality of construction I’ve come to expect from Fuente, the seams of the wrapper leaf virtually disappear. The thin veins are more easily visible than the spiral of the roll. The wrapper leaf is mildly oily – not enough to leave a residue on my fingers, but enough to give the wrapper a soft, smooth feel. Prelight, the aroma of the wrapper is noticeably influenced by its time in the cedar sleeve. The foot, however, produces a more traditional, typical tobacco scent. The cold draw is reminiscent of hay, and a bit toasty.
Upon applying my torch, a small crescent on one side of the foot was atypically resistant to lighting. This self corrected within a couple of minutes, though, and presented no problem. The toastiness I found in the prelight draw is front and center, offset with a slight cedar flavor which I again attribute to the cedar wrap these ship in. Although still very much present, these flavors do quickly subside within the first half-inch, and are enhanced by a creamy sweetness – not something you might associate with the sweet notes often found in a maduro, just an indefinable, but welcome changeup from the initial cedar.
By the 1″ mark, and through to 2″, the cigar continues to develop nicely, and has the normal straight burn I now judge other cigars by. The flavor has taken a more citrus-like note, with an occasional waft of what reminds me of allspice – not what you might find in your spice rack, but more akin to the smoke from an honest-to-goodness allspice fueled fire used to prepare jerked pork. By 2″ and beyond, I find many of the same flavor “remembrances” as in the earlier portion of the cigar, with maybe a slight increase in the prominence of the citrus note. One thing worth a mention here, is the consistency of the even burn. As in most examples of the Fuentes’ offerings, the burn in this cigar remains strikingly true, and has yet to require even a single touchup. This, coupled with the dependable draw I find in most Fuente cigars, makes me appreciate their products even more. Having to fumble around and take care of construction issues always turns me off to a cigar, even when the flavors are pleasant. Coming into the final stretch of the cigar, I find the strength a little more bold than found in the early smoking. However, it remains very clean to the palate, never harsh nor acrid. Overall, I place this cigar very near dead center in terms of strength. Not so mild as to fail in delivering great taste, but not so heavy as to give anyone headspins or cold sweats. By the final minutes of the smoke, the flavor has progressed into a delicious presence of mildly sweet tobacco goodness, which lingers slightly on the palate. In fact, this is one of my favorite parts of this smoke. It reminds me of visits to tobacco barns as a kid, with its somewhat musty sweetness of curing tobacco.
What really stands out for me in this smoke is the unwavering quality of construction and dedication to blending I find in the Fuente team, as well as this particular blend, which is a step outside the box I find many blenders in today. Personally, I find the cigar market one of extremes lately – there seems to be a great demand for towering spice bombs that can border on nasal napalm or wishy-washy sticks with the most interesting flavor noted as that of cardboard packing boxes. The 858 is a comfort smoke for me, especially in this wrapper. It is simply enjoyable. I never have the distractions of inconsistency or poor build. The construction is always dead-on, the strength as “medium” as might be humanly possible for my tastes, and the flavors are both pleasing and interesting. All these things make for a fantastic cigar that facilitates conversation and contemplation, two of the greatest aspects of our hobby. It is no secret amongst the Cigarmy that this is one of my favorite Fuente sticks, and in fact, one of my favorite of all cigars. So, I think just this once I’ll forego the numeric rating system (which I haven’t finalized anyway), and just let the written review stand alone – and thus avoid admitting how biased I truly am about this stick. All I can say is if you can find them, by all means give them a try.
Almost on whimsy alone, I decided to kick this blog off with a review of a cigar with which I have absolutely no previous experience. I’ve heard the J. Fuego 777 mentioned occasionally on a couple of podcasts, but none of my local tobacconists carry the line. I happened onto a good deal on the coronas (5.5 X 46) in the series, and decided to give them a try. The Fuego family has been in the tobacco business for well over a century, growing, blending, and rolling for others. But, it was not until 2006 that “”Tabacos S.A.” was launched, and produced cigars under the family banner. According to their website, the 777 maduro is “A bold Nicaraguan puro with all the richness of the “Corojo” seed, and the full bodied spiciness of a maduro “Criollo” wrapper. The components are:Wrapper: Nicaraguan Criollo Binder: Nicaraguan Corojo Filler: 2/3 Nicaraguan Corojo and 1/3 Nicaraguan Criollo
So, let’s get right to it, shall we? The wrapper on this stick is incredibly dark, almost an oscuro. It also seems to be very thin, and telegraphs every aspect of the binder below. Mine is undamaged, but has a very dainty, delicate feel to it. A number of veins are present in the wrapper, but none are significant in size. Overall, the visible construction is near impeccable. It is well capped, tightly wrapped, and I don’t feel any voids or dense areas whatsoever.
Upon clipping, the prelight draw is very free, but surprisingly light in flavor. In fact, I would venture to say that the draw “feels” just about perfect. The aroma of the wrapper is reminiscent of a campfire, similar to charred wood or the smoke from a mixed hardwood fire. At the foot, however, is a pleasant hay or even barnyard smell – and I mean that in a favorable way. With these prominent scents, it is very surprising how little flavor comes through before lighting. The cigar toasts readily, and lights very evenly.
The initial flavor upon lighting comes through mildly as toasted oats, with a bit of burn if retrohaled. I have come to expect the burn, as it seems most Nicaraguan cigars have this effect on me. I am quite surprised that I notice very little in the way of sweet flavors that I typically pick up in maduro wraps. The sidestream smoke is noticeably astringent this early in the stick – not out of character with Nicaraguan tobacco, but not normally appreciated by others in the room. Definitely a cigar to be enjoyed outdoors.
By the time I approach the 1″ mark, the nasal burn has mostly dissipated, and the cigar can now comfortably be retrohaled. It also self-ashed at about the 3/4″ mark. I am still getting some of those early oat-ish flavors, but the profile has definitely sweetened somewhat. A flavor of comfortably broken-in leather has become prominent – think of the old, hand-me-down baseball glove you may have had as a kid – which I find it quite pleasant. I do have to mention that I am struggling to keep it lit by this time.
As the first two inches of the smoke near completion, I notice another conspicuous changeup in the flavors that are coming through. It has developed a bit of an earthy taste, almost of peat or malt. At this point, the burn has skewed a little more, and I have had to relight and touch up the cigar a few times now. The burnline has become erratic, and is scalloped in several places. This became a little more of a bother as I progressed into the next inch of the stick. The ash became more scaly and uneven as I got further into the smoke. The third inch also seemed to definitely strengthen at this time. Not uncomfortably so, but I do notice a slight tingle in the back of my throat – which generally indicates an increased presence of nicotine to me. I do have to say the taste never became harsh or ashy at any time. The flavors remained true and “unpolluted” throughout the cigar. This was impressive to me. Many times, this perceived increase in strength comes through as harshness to my palate. The aforementioned trouble with the burn has become more pronounced, however, and is actually somewhat bothersome.
In the final stretch, the cigar did come around and behave with the burn. The flavors became more subdued, with coffee taking a lead role. I also notice that the sidestream smoke seems less astringent – although it is entirely possible this was only perceived due to the fact it has been hanging under my nose for an hour at this point. I am quite surprised that the flavors actually seemed to be more mellow toward the end of the stick. That is rare in my experience.
Were it not for the struggle to keep this cigar lit, and the numerous touchups to avoid canoeing, it would have ranked much higher in my estimation. I felt like I was having to babysit it due to the near constant relights through the midsection of the smoke. The 777 is a bit of an enigma…even with these issues, I would still recommend giving it a try. It is possible I just had a wonky sample. I have four more, so I will update this review if the others are different. The flavors are very pleasant and enjoyable. I found it to be a step out of the ordinary as far as Nicaraguan cigars go. The flavor profile was a bit “darker” than I would normally experience with many other sticks from the area. I usually perceive some floral notes, even in the most potent Nicaraguan cigars. I got none of that here, but the oats, leather, and coffee flavors were prominent instead. As this is the first review for the site, and the final format is still to be determined, I’ll assign some numbers for those of you who like to see some metrics in your reviews. Keep in mind that these numbers are simply an attempt to objectify subjective taste. Personally, I prefer a written review – but I know some guys like to see some numbers…Flavor (overall) – 7.67 Flavor (1st third) – 8 Flavor (2nd third) – 8 Flavor (3rd third) – 7 Burn – 5 Prelight Aroma – 7.5 Draw – 9 Construction – 8.5 OVERALL RATING: 76