Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A. Fuente Don Carlos Lancero

A. Fuente Don Carlos Lancero
7 1/2x41 "Phantom"


There isn't a whole lot of information out there about the Don Carlos Lancero (or "Phantom" as the Fuentes call their lanceros). The fact of the matter is, the Don Carlos Lance is one of those cigars that the Fuentes seem to produce intermittently, to hand out at events, as part of special humidor releases, and occasionally to sell at Casa Fuente in Las Vegas. Regardless, the consensus seems to be that these are just the regular Don Carlos blend, adapted to the lancero vitola. Carlito has said that the lancero is the "best cigar [he] makes", meaning the vitola in general across the several lines it is available in. As for the blend, again not a whole lot of information, other than Dominican tobacco, with a Cameroon wrapper. Cameroon tends to be a kind of ugly wrapper, but the Don Carlos line seems to get some of the better Cameroon the Fuentes source, so that probably won't be an issue here. Other than that, they tend to be secretive about actual blend information.

The Don Carlos Lancero comes wrapped in a cedar sleeve with a black band on the foot, a combination usually denoting a sungrown wrapper, which is not the case here. Removing the cedar sleeve reveals a really consistently colored, milk chocolate brown wrapper, with tight seams, and very small veins. The head features a flag tailed triple cap, which does not appear to have any of the excess glue that sometimes comes with Fuente cigars. The band is the new black bottomed design, used on current production Hemingways, Don Carlos, and Sungrown cigars. The cigar is fairly firm to the touch, pretty tightly packed. The aroma off the body of the cigar is a really distinct nutmeg and sweet cedar (cedar from the piece of wood it was wrapped in, no doubt). The foot offers a creamy coffee and nutmeg combination. Clipping the cap opens a snug draw that offers sweet cinnamon and raisin flavors, along with a little milky coffee.

Lit at 4:21pm

Right away the DC Lancero bombards the palate with a combination of toasted almonds and dessert spices (cinnamon and nutmeg especially, specifically). The draw that felt firm is indeed firm, but is producing massive amounts of smoke. The small ring gauge only takes a brief second to toast up evenly, and that prevents any scorching from taking place, leaving the flavor at the start untainted. The finish brings a tangy, sour cedar, but no heat. The ash holds firm for over an inch, a miracle at 40 ring gauge, and is tight, flakeless.


As the DC Lancero burns down further, the draw opens up a bit, and the flavors get a little darker with a dark coffee joining the roasted nuts and spices. The technical performance here is outstanding. Between the length which the ash hold firm, the razor sharp burn line, and the amount of smoke being produced... just flawless. The complex combination of flavors helps too... The ash holds for well over an inch the second time it falls as well. It is a shame these are hard to find, and pricey when you do.


Anyone who knows me knows I am a lover of Arturo Fuente cigars, and one thing they do well is use Cameroon wrappers. Well, in the lancero vitola, the Don Carlos blend, which uses the Cameroon wrapper famously well, really shines, and I think that the ratio of filler and binder being so large to the filler is what causes this. The flavors present are nothing unusual for Fuente cigars, but in this size they are really concentrated, and powerful. Anyone who says they cannot pick out specific flavors, I challenge you to (well first find one and then) smoke one of these, and tell me you don't taste, specifically, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and roasted nuts here. I tend to speak highly of balance in cigars, and this too is an exemplary example of that very trait. No one flavor of characteristic is overwhelming here. Nothing is subtle about it, that is for sure (except maybe the strength, which is nearly non-existent, body is medium at most, and there is no nicotine present), but all of the bold, complex flavors here work in harmony with one another.

Getting close to the final third a little heat becomes apparent through the nose, and an oily leather joins the array of flavors on the draw. The coffee flavor that developed during the second third becomes more predominant, and the sweet spices and cedar fall off a bit. The roasted nut flavor continues to play a major role though, something that I attribute to that gorgeous Cameroon wrapper.


With about 3/4 of an inch left, it is time to let this one go out, though I regret doing so. The Don Carlos lancero really shines. One of those cigars where everything comes together to turn a melody into a symphony of flavor and just downright pleasant smoking. Ended at 6:18pm, so almost two hours. If you find yourself in Las Vegas at Casa Fuente, or at one of the few big events the Fuentes host every year, and these are present, do yourself a big favor and get one, or a few, or if you can swing a box (which seem to be boxes of 37, a strange number), don't hesitate. Just make sure that when you light one, you have time, and the right setting, to really enjoy it, and pay attention to all of the little nuances and treasures it has to offer.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Padron 45th Natural

"The Little Hammer"


The Padron Family Reserve series was originally conceived of and produced as a cigar to be smoked at Padron hosted dinners, and special events that members of the Padron family attended. This is actually how the Padron Family Reserve 44th came to be, and was originally distributed. Eventually, I think the family realized how special the cigar was that they had created, and decided that they had to share it with the public, so the 44th was born, and sold in Humidors containing the cigar, and eventually also in boxes. Annually since then, the Padrons have released another size in this line commemorating another year in the industry. These cigars have gotten some serious praise, being named in the Top 5 cigars of the year by the Lifestyle magazine, and being among the top cigars of the year on a lot of the big blogs. Today we are looking at the 45th, released in late 2009, in a box pressed (as all Padron cigars are) toro, in two different wrappers (again as the Padrons do), a Natural and a Maduro. The tobaccos used in this Nicaraguan puro are said to have been aged 10 years before being rolled, which is a pretty impressive length of time.

The 45th Natural features a caramel brown colored wrapper, with a very small, fine vein structure, and a few wrinkles here and there (as is typical of the Padron box press for whatever reason). The seams are tight, nearly invisible, and the pack is dense and firm. Frankly the only complaint I have about the appearance or construction of this cigar is the same complaint I have about all Padrons... the single cap. Why on earth they would make such a flawless looking (and expensive cigar) without giving it at least a double cap (though I would prefer even more, a triple cap please), is beyond me. But they do it that way, and it works I guess. The aroma from the body of the cigar is a tangy cedar and earthiness, while the foot offers the addition of a sweet creamy coffee with that tangy cedar. The cold draw offers a concentrated blast of Nicaraguan tobacco... dark, bitter coffee and cocoa, and dirty earthiness, and on top of that a musty, musky, old leather (that truly aged tobacco flavor). The draw is not as free as many Padrons, but this thing is jam packed with tobacco... and it isn't problematically tight at all. As expected the cutting of the cap was precarious, given its singularity, but the resulting mess should hold.

Lit at 1:22pm.

The cigar opens with a big blast of pepper heat across the tongue, accompanying a core of chewy, oily leather, and a touch of cedar. I mean a serious layer of spiciness. It just coats the tongue, and lays there. After about 1/4 inch this heat dials back a few notches, and becomes a long, low finish. I can't help but make note of the fact that the ambient smoke in the air smells strongly of raisins. I know that sounds like BS, but I assure it is not. The flavor profile at this point, now that it has calmed down from the light, consists of a stiff black coffee, that mingles in and out with some bitter dark chocolate, followed by a really oily, musty leather, and finally a finish that combines that low and slow pepper heat, with a sweet wooden (cedar I think) note. Really great complexity, and definition of flavor.


The burn line, as is my luck with box pressed cigars, is a little uneven, favoring one side more than the other. A quick touch up fixes this, but also causes the ash to fall for the first time (no problem, held solid for over an inch). Getting a little further in, into the second third, the retrohale takes on a sweet, milk chocolate aroma/flavor, and the flavors across the palate become noticeably sweeter. At a recent seminar I attended that included tasting this cigar, the speaker noted that he felt the natural wrapped version was actually sweeter than the maduro. I'm not sure I agree with this, but there is definitely more sweetness than I expected from a version of this cigar that lacks the natural sugar the maduro process produces.


By the halfway mark, the burn line is completely sorted out, razor sharp. The ash holds solid for a little over an inch at a time. The flavor continues to just be a really well defined series of bold coffee, chocolate, and pepper/wood finish. To mix things up, right around the time it burned to the first band, I poured a small dram of Highland Park 12 year old Scotch, to see how the two work together, and was pleasantly surprised. Well, not surprised so much, as I had a sneaking suspicion the two would be great together, but pleased for sure. The Scotch has a bit more body than many Highlanders, and certainly more than the Speysiders I drink so much of, with a bit more peat and smoke, and earthy character to it, that really hold up well to, and compliments the earthy character in the Padron. Unfortunately there seems to be a bit much glue applied to this smaller, first band, and removing it takes a little wrapper with it. I am kind of surprised how thin the wrapper seems to be, something I hadn't noticed until now, almost like Shade grown tobacco, rather than the hearty sungrown stuff it seemed to be. Not a problem though, and no smoke is leaking or anything as a result of the small tear.


Getting down towards the nub, the strength and body starts to kick up, and I am starting to feel it in my gut, despite having eaten a decent lunch before lighting up. There are no two ways about it, this ten year old tobacco still has balls, or rather has me by the balls. The flavor has started to fall off a little bit with about an inch and a half left, turning towards a sort of muted leather, and not much else. Symptoms of it being time to let this one go gracefully in the ashtray. Ended at 3:18pm, so just shy of two hours of smoking enjoyment from this one. I think balance is the key here. There weren't a ton of different flavors present, but the handful that were presented themselves in such a way that they were bold, defined, and balanced. They played together well, and in the end made this a fantastic cigar.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Rocky Patel Fifty

6 1/2 x 52 Toro


Anyone who knows me knows that I talk a lot of trash. I probably also talk a lot of trash about Rocky Patel. What I cannot, no matter what, deny is his success. The guy is a beast in the industry. He makes a million cigars, sells a million cigars, and makes millions in revenue. No matter what I think or say, people dig Rocky Patel. I recently had the pleasure of attending the CA Big Smoke in Las Vegas, and a lunch hosted by Rocky Patel and family was a part of that trip. As a part of that lunch, we were given a gorgeous box containing four cigars from the Rocky Patel co. world, including this newest cigar, the FIFTY, which is being produced to commemorate Mr. Patel's fiftieth birthday (where the 15th and Decade were made to commemorate years in the industry... no, Rocky has not been in the cigar biz since he was a neonate). According to the info received there, the cigar is made up of Nicaraguan filler, Nicaraguan binder, contained within an Ecuador Habano Oscuro wrapper, all made at Rocky's newest facility, in Nicaragua.

It really is a great looking cigar. The wrapper has a great oil sheen, a dark reddish chocolate brown color, and almost no visible veins. The cigar has a fairly extreme box press to it ("Nimish sat on the mold"). The bands are complex pieces of orange, gold, and silver artwork. It is a fairly firm cigar when squeezed, with no soft spots whatsoever, though just a tiny bit of give to it here and there. The cold aroma from the body of the cigar is just a touch of coffee and wood, while to foot has a touch of burned cedar (that specifically pungent tang), along with some black coffee. The cold draw... WOW. I would almost swear this cigar was in some way infused. It has such a strong milk chocolate flavor to it. It might have just a touch of ammonia to it as well unfortunately. There is something chemical underneath. Hopefully that is just a hint that will fade once lit. The draw itself is a touch firmer than I usually think of Rocky Patel cigars as being. He claims that literally every single cigar they make is draw tested, where most factories only draw test cigars randomly... Who knows, but if true, that is an impressive claim.


Lit at 4:28pm.

The Rocky Patel Fifty lights up easily, and produces a ton of smoke right off the bat, though the burn line almost instantly goes wonky on the underside of the cigar. I kind of attribute this to the box press, which in my experience tends to cause funny burn lines more often than not. Nothing that has any negative effect on smoking experience though. The flavor profile is right away a medium to full bodied, rich, and dark animal. There is a milk chocolate sweetness with a mildly floral perfume to it that dominates, with some wet burnt wood not far behind, and a pretty heavily peppered finish that lingers for a few minutes across the palate.


Interestingly, by about the one inch mark, all of the spice has faded away, and what is left is a sort of syrupy thick, bittersweet, wet, dark wood flavor. The burn line moves very slowly though, which is a plus for anyone who pays MSRP for these cigars ($21.00 for the Toro...). I'm kind of disappointed that things fell off so quickly from a start that was so intense and bold. Hopefully it comes back.

The ash is a little flakey, and falls for the first time at around an inch and a bit. The flavor profile by the two inch range has turned to what I associate with cigars that are just downright too wet from rolling. It is a bitterness that I associate with my job (in a pharmaceutical compounding lab, where I often get tiny particles of substances like quinine in my mouth, which for those who are unaware, is palate-ruiningly bitter) actually. It is not that great bitterness you get from coffee, it is not a coffee flavor... it is a wet, green flavor, and it has taken over this cigar that started with such great promise. It is a damned shame, but for science, I smoke on!


I am happy to report that the intensity of the bitterness fades past the halfway mark, and things take a turn towards dark coffee and that same old burnt, wet wood. So the transitional complexity comes just from the arrival and departure of a horrible bitterness, but at least it includes a departure. At this point, flavors are just what I think of a solid, core Nicaraguan tobacco flavors. Earthy, dirty, and dark. The hot finish has made a return of sorts... in a slow, mellow heat that lingers after each draw.

And things really don't change again, at all, through the end. This cigar was a bit of a roller coaster, and unfortunately, I can't report that it was one of the great thrill rides of my cigar smoking experience... it was more like jumping off the top of the highest point of a roller coaster with no bungee cord or anything to pull you back up. It started wonderfully, big, strong, concentrated, bold flavors, complexity and exciting... and then it quickly turned into a soft, bitter, muddy mess, and stayed that way for an hour and a half.


Ended at 6:10pm, and honestly, for $21.00 I will be passing on these in the future. I still have another single in the humidor that will smoke at some time in the future, just to make sure this wasn't some fluke. I feel like I gave this cigar a fair shot, especially since I will admit that I am no Rocky Patel fan... It just did not deliver what it promises. In the future when I want to spend more than twenty dollars on a box pressed Nicaraguan toro, there is a cigar with a hammer on the band that will be getting my hard earned dollars.