A couple weeks ago, I published a press release from Cuenca Cigars concerning their newly released “Cuenca 5 Anniversary” (check that out to discover why the “th” is missing). Thanks to Ana Cuenca, I had the chance to try this new cigar. Cuenca Cigars is a retailer in Hollywood, Florida. They are a traditional brick and mortar tobacconist, and have an original line of cigars that was released several years ago and produced by Tabacalera Fernandez (probably better known to many of you as A.J. Fernandez). This partnership continues with the new 5 Anniversary as well – which really piqued my interest as I am a big fan of some other AJF-made cigars (notably the Emilio AF1 & AF2, and the San Lotano lines). The 5 Anniversary is made up of a special selection of Nicaraguan filler tobacco, a Nicaraguan binder, and a “Select Habano Oscuro” wrapper. It comes in one vitola – a 7″ X 54 ring box-pressed torpedo. It will initially be released in a batch of 500 boxes, “available in 20 different cigar stores in the Continental U.S. and Europe. By mid 2013, the whole line will be available in 50 U.S. and European stores.” It retails at the Cuenca website in boxes of 10 cigars for $85.
So, moving on to the review…..the first thing I’m struck by when I removed the 5 Anniversary from its cellophane is the wrapper. It is a nice, even chocolate-brown color – but what I actually noticed first was the feel. It is very supple; not oily in the sense that there is a sheen to it, but quite smooth to the touch. From all appearances, it is expertly crafted. The pressing is sharper near the foot, with a slight fade as you move backward near the head of the cigar. There are moderate veins, which are visible but restrained from the press. The aroma from the wrapper is somewhat faint, but that from the foot is very bold – hay, raisins, and figs all come to mind. This is quite appealing to me. I literally had a salivary reaction to the aroma from the foot of this cigar. It’s not uncommon to hear someone say a cigar is “mouth-watering.” It is rare (for me anyway) to have one literally cause that physiological reaction.
I clipped about a quarter-inch from the head of both 5 Anniversary’s I smoked for this review, which gave me about a 3/8″ opening. This seems to be optimal, providing a near-perfect draw for me. Some mild resistance, but completely free. The prelight draw was surprisingly sweet – even with the aroma from the foot. The sweetness is reminiscent of plums, but a bit “brighter” to use pipe tobacco terminology. In my strangely convoluted way of thinking, it has the flavor quality of plum, and the pitch of cherries. In any event, it’s very pleasant…but I’m too anxious to fire it up to dwell any more on it. Cigars are for smoking, right?
The 5 Anniversary took to fire like it wanted to be alight. In the time I normally dedicate just to getting an even toast across the foot, it was already prepped for puffing. The initial puffs are bold and spicy, with a “behind the scenes” sweetness. By “behind the scenes,” I mean only that its presence is felt, but definitely playing second fiddle to the spice. As I’ve mentioned on many occasions, I am often put off or overwhelmed by too much spice; in particular, Nicaraguan powerhouses have a tendency to do that to me. The 5 Anniversary, however, is quite well behaved. The spiciness is audacious enough that you know you’re smoking a cigar, but with just enough finesse to remain a quite comfortable smoke. The spice here is more akin to tropical cooking spices than that which might be found in pepper. I’m writing this review while smoking the second sample, and have to admit to loving this cigar. It is really hitting home with me in that balance between spicy/sweet/toasty flavors – and the construction has turned out to be a dead-on as was apparent when looking them over before lighting.
Progressing into the second inch of smoking, the 5 Anniversary has mellowed a bit. The strength at this point is on the fuller end of the medium range to me. The flavors continue to be fantastically entertaining. I find the balance in strength to flavor just as impressive as the range of flavors themselves. I think the Cuencas’ did their homework when bringing AJF and others into the process of creating the blend. If you took the time to read the press release, you know that they brought some of their patrons into the mix by having them act as testers for the blend. They have invested the time into working with customers to develop their own personal palates and tastes in cigars, and are now reaping the benefit of having them contribute to making a better cigar. I love this idea. Who better to help design a product you sell than your customers?
In the final portion of the 5 Anniversary, the strength has picked up a bit. It is definitely full-bodied at this point, but very manageable and never overbearing. I’m still loving the toasty quality of the flavors. The sweetness, coupled with a toasty charred-oak flavor, has presented itself front and center, and the spice has moved a little rearward in terms of boldness. As has been the case throughout both the cigars I’ve smoked for this review, I’m really – REALLY – impressed. Oftentimes, a cigar shop that wants to release a housebrand or line of cigars with their name on it will make the mistake of simply finding a manufacturer with an availability of inexpensive tobacco, throw together a decent (at best) blend, and go with it. Clearly, this isn’t the case for this cigar. The tobacco is obviously of good quality, the blending is well thought-out, and the construction is impeccable. For my tastes, the 5 Anniversary is an absolute winner, and falls dead-center into my wheelhouse of preferred flavor (to quote the great Dale Roush). If you have the chance, I wouldn’t hesitate in the least to recommend giving it a try. For my money, this is entirely worthy of a box purchase. In fact, this has turned out to be one of my very favorite cigars from the past 12 months. I have never been to the Cuenca store on any of my trips to South Florida, but I foresee a stop the next time I’m down…