Monday, October 17, 2011

Tatuaje Wolfman

7 1/2x52 Box Pressed Torpedo

Alright! That time of year is here again. No, not Halloween... Tatuaje Monster series time! The time of year when everyone gets their panties in a twist for a few weeks, worrying about scoring a box or three, and then in the end everyone chills the F out, and realizes there are plenty of sticks to go around... after all of the name calling and trash talking are said and done. This year the cigar is an ode to possibly my favorite of classic movie monsters, The Wolfman. The cigar is a rustic box pressed torpedo with a sort of ugly Sumatra wrapper, and a blend based on the Cojonu series, with an uncut foot (about a half inch of filler and binder protrude beyond the wrapper). It's a good looking stick, and as with previous years, it does a good job representing the monster it pays tribute to, with its shaggy hairy foot, and pointy fang head. While doing this review, I'm putting on the classic 1941 Universal pictures version of the tale, starring Lon Chaney, jr. and Claude Rains.

This particular stick is packaged in cellophane, and came from a 10 count boite-nature. It has a great looking brown and red band that suits the theme well. The pack feels a touch soft, at least in a few spots. The filler seems to be beautifully bunched, with the different tobaccos being clearly visible in the foot. The seams and cap are flawlessly applied, tightly, and evenly. The foot gives off a slightly spicy aroma of peanut, wood, and cinnamon, a combination that I have come to associate very closely with several cigars Pepin has made in the past. Took a decent but off the head with my scissors, and have a nice, free draw, offering similarly nutty dry flavors, with a bit of black pepper across the tongue. Very pleased with the draw, as box pressed torpedos tend to give me hell, but this is nice and open. Not getting much sweetness, which I was kind of looking for from the wrapper. It is nice and spicy on the lips however, which is pleasant.

Lit at 7:55pm.

The first two or so draws offer an interesting experience, burning only the binder and filler, something I always find interesting, since it gives you the chance to taste the addition of the wrapper. Without the wrapper, I certainly taste dry cedar, and some peanut, and pepper. Once the wrapper ignites though, there is a great oaky sweetness that brings a balance to things. Along with this is a little bit of milky chocolate, and a hint of bitterness. All of the flavors I have come to expect at various times from either a Cojonu or a Sumatra wrapped Brown Label... pretty impressive start here, and the transition from wrapperless to wrappered make for a cool touch of complexity in flavor right there at the beginning.

The ash holds for the first segment for a little past an inch, taking its place all over my shirt while drawing... Great. It was a good, banded light and dark gray in color, and somewhat flakey in texture (though no flakes fell off prematurely). Smoke production is ideal from this cigar, tons of thick, dense smoke on the draw, and almost none while idling in the ash tray between draws. The burn line is not particularly sharp, but these cigars only arrived today, and while they were packed with a Boveda, who knows what their trip was like(?), so the burn may be attributed to that. Hasn't needed a touch up or anything though, so not problematic, just a little erratic. Complexity continues to develop on the palate here, with the flavors remaining largely a dry cedar on the draw that moves into a sweet oak and smoked nut core, followed by a bit of bitterness, and a slow, smouldering heat on the finish. Digging it so far. I will say that even at this point, I am sort of surprised by how quickly it seems to be burning. Time wise, it is actually about right, but just watching the burn line as I draw, it seems to jump fairly quickly.

I think the strongest point that the Wolfman has going for it right now flavor wise is the sweet, earthy, oak, or maybe even maple that comes in after the draw. It really coats the palate, and makes for a wonderful balance between the dry woody character and the slight bitterness that follows. I'm only at the halfway mark right now, but I think it is fair to say that the Wolfman offers the most balance and complexity so early in its life (ie. just released) of the Monsters I have had the pleasure to smoke young. It also has enough body (albeit, only medium full at most) to suggest that it has the potential to really blossom with some down time, like... maybe by next Halloween it may evolve into a true gem, loved and praised (and sought after) like the Frank or Boris.

As the stick has progressed, it has only gotten sweeter. Not cloying, or artificial in its sweetness, but rather a thick, maple syrup, and earthiness that really coats the mouth, and contrasts beautifully as the peppery finish starts to burn its way down the back of the throat. The peppery finish is not a powerful, overwhelming one, but a smooth mellow spice that just simmers, with a fair amount of longevity after the draw. Really nice. Another cool element of the peppery finish is that it comes and goes. Not every draw is concluded with heat, just every once in a while.

Alright. I knew it was too good to be true. With about 2 and a half inches left, I just took a nice big draw... and BAM. What is that AWFUL taste? Yes ladies and gents, Tar. I got tar balled. A nice, brown, gooey, BP oil spill to the tongue. Now, I have found that wet cigars, with maybe too shallow a cut, and an already tapered head (torpedo) are more prone to this, so Hopefully it is just a symptom of my not cutting enough, and not letting these sticks rest adequately before lighting one. A small snip from the head (1/8 of an inch or so more) clears this up totally though, so it was fortunately a one time problem. It happens, let us move on. One good thing as a result of the extra cut... the draw has opened up even more. I hadn't really noticed, but it had tightened up as it had burned, but now it is wide open.

Through the last third things are starting to get a little less sweet, less syrupy, and more of a dark earth takes over. The bitterness also becomes more prominent, in a burnt coffee bean kind of way. Finally became too hot and soft at 9:54pm, so pretty much 2 hours exactly... Despite seeming to burn quickly, this isn't the case at all and it burns for a good long time. Really impressed with this cigar, especially right out of the box like this. I can only imagine how well these will progress with time and proper storage. This is going to be a hit, so get them while they are out there, and get them quickly! The shaggy foot also makes for a great little transition (or more appropriately... transformation!) right at the start. The flavors are bold, and there are lots of them, while the body, despite being based on the Cojonu blend, remains medium full even at the end. I know there is a lot of "hype" built up around these cigars, but they really do deliver.

"The way you walked was thorny, through no fault of your own, but as the rain enters the soil, the river enters the sea, so tears run to a predestined end. Your suffering is over, My son. Now you will find peace."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fuente Fuente OpusX The Lost City

6.75x48 "Toro"

During the production of Andy Garcia's 2005 film, The Lost City, about life in Havana before and around the time of the Revolution, there came a request to the Fuentes to allow the shooting of scenes to be set in a tobacco field on their vast farm, Chateau de la Fuente, home of the world famous Opus X wrapper leaf... Problem was, at the time shooting was to occur, the crop would have already been harvested, and there would be no plants to shoot among, thus destroying the beautiful mise-en-scène on which the entire sequence rests... Lucky for Mr. Garcia, he has been a friend of the Fuente family for a while, so they planted a special off season crop such that the plants would be the perfect size for the shooting date... Lucky for us, they harvested this crop, and aged it, and found it was pretty darn good, so they decided to roll some special Opus X cigars using this tobacco, and called it The Lost City line to commemorate this special off season growing and filming. As with all Fuente products the blend is pretty secretive, but it is obviously similar to the regular Opus X blend, but uses the off season crop grown for the film. Beyond that, I can find no details regarding the difference in blend. Due to the finite amount of tobacco harvested in that given year, this is obviously a limited production cigar, having now been released in the early winter of both 2009 and 2010 in quantities of several thousand boxes spread over seven vitolas. There seems to be disagreement regarding whether or not certain vitolas actually use the Lost City crop, or are simply double banded Opus X cigars in irregular vitolas (given that the Lancero and Love Affair are the sizes in question, and neither is a regular, large release Opus X vitola... The debate remains, though plenty of discussion and argument can be found on the subject on various Cigar forums).

The appearance of this cigar is nothing less than stunning. It features a variation on the infamous Forbidden band, black and coppery gold in color, with splashed red accents here and there, as well as a second band bearing the Lost City icon, as well as the line "Directed by Andy Garcia at Chateau do le Fuente, July 2004". The wrapper leaf itself is a dark, chocolate brown color, with less red than the normal Opus X Rosado wrapper. It also has a less sun-grown appearance, a slightly smoother texture than the regular Opus wrapper leaf. The pack seems great, with no soft spots, and a generally firm feel. It has only a few noticeable veins. The seams are tight and clean, and the triple cap is flawlessly applied. The body of the cigar has a powdery chocolate aroma to it, which reminds me very much of (yes, you can laugh) Cocoa Puffs cereal. The foot of the cigar gives a sweet woody character, with a touch of that same cocoa powder, and an overripe almost spoiled fruit aroma that I commonly find in good Dominican tobacco. The cap cuts very easily to reveal a lightly snug draw, and flavors of dry cedar, powdery cocoa, and leather, all very dry on the palate. There is also just a hint of spicy pepper on the tongue.

Lit at 2:40pm

Right away, after toasting and lighting, the flavor profile consists of a thick, oak wood flavor, that moves into some oily leather, and finishes with a long, slow, medium pepper that just gently smoulders at the back of the palate. The draw is a little tight, but not problematically so at this point. The burn looks good too, so far. Smoke production isn't anything to write home about, but it also isn't a problem or anything. The one thing I think every time I smoke one of these is how it feels like half the blend is regular Opus X, and the other half is a blend that delivers just a really thick, syrupy, dark, sweet oak wood flavor, which dominates. So far, that is holding true for this example. The ash through the first third is a brilliant, bright white color, almost completely solid, no breaks. It hold for well over an inch before falling as well.

Heading into the second third, the flavor profile has sort of thickened. The spicy pepper continues to make up the long, lingering finish, and the draw brings first a slightly tangy, bittersweet charred oak flavor. This is a departure from the "typical" Opus X profile, in that it has none of the cinnamon and fruit that I associate with the regular like. Instead this is a darker, both more bitter and sweeter cigar. The burn on this stick is perfect, almost razo sharp, and the ash is firm, again, holding over an inch at least each time it falls. The body and strength on this cigar are lighter than the regular Opus X. That isn't to say this is a mild cigar, it is full of flavor, and does have some strength to it, but it falls more in the medium-full area rather than the full on balls to the wall range you might expect. A bit over the halfway mark the draw suddenly opens up, and I am getting great mouthfuls of billowing, white smoke.

I think the strongest aspect of this cigar is the balance and way the sweetness plays off the bitterness, one after the other. The flavor profile is not overly complex, or subtle, but what it lacks on that front it makes up for in bold, defined character. A little past the band point some cinnamon joins the sweet oak flavor on the draw, which makes for a nice change to a profile that has otherwise been pretty much consistent.

Ended at 4:20pm for a total smoke time of an hour and 40 minutes, which for a toro is great, but I maybe was hoping for a longer burn given the price point on these cigars (actually, honestly, even if it burned for 24 hours straight and came with a bottle of Dom Perignon, it still might be a bit pricey). That might be a bit harsh actually, as the Lost City offers big flavors, in a well balanced package that definitely feels and tastes special, even if the blend isn't as complex or powerful as its regular production counterpart. For me these represent an interesting experiment in agriculture, and it is a success. For those looking for the high octane nicotine and spice punch combo of the Opus X, look elsewhere, Lost City is not for you. Lost City offers a smoother, darker, sweeter aspect of Chateau de la Fuente. What will really be interesting is to see how this particular vintage of tobacco ages over the next decade... Only time will tell.