2019 CA Report: The Connecticut Cigar Resurgence
Cigars with Connecticut Wrappers Are Making a Full-Flavored Comeback
It all began earlier this year in the offices of CigarAdvisor.com. A casual discussion on the best Connecticut cigars led to the realization that during the past several years there were a number of new cigar releases that had either U.S. Connecticut Shade or Ecuadorian-grown Connecticut seed wrappers. In an era when a lot of cigar smokers have left behind their traditionally milder Connecticut wrapper cigars we thought it was bit unusual. Yet, we noticed something else: the main difference was, these so-called “Connecticuts” were heartier in flavor, body, and in some cases, more complex than the familiar Connecticut fare.
The two most popular varieties of Connecticut Shade wrapper leaf are grown in the United States and Ecuador. The U.S. variety has been grown in Connecticut since the mid-1600s. Grown under a wide swath of translucent cloth (called a tapado) to filter out the harsh rays of the sun, the resulting wrapper is very light tan in color, slightly veiny, silky to the touch, and offers a sweet aroma.
The Ecuadorian Connecticut seed variety is usually a shade or two darker than the U.S. Connecticut wrapper. This is one way to tell them apart. Due to Ecuador’s constant cloud cover, which filters out the sun’s rays naturally, the tobacco doesn’t have to been grown under a tapado. The resulting wrapper is a leaf that’s often thinner, cleaner in appearance due to its finer veins, has a very smooth texture, and offers a sweet, yet slightly sharper aroma.
Although Connecticut wrapper is also grown in Honduras, in recent years, some growers have had success growing Connecticut shade tobacco seeds in Nicaragua. Cigar smokers will probably begin seeing more cigars with Nicaraguan Connecticut Shade in the months and years ahead.
In today’s premium cigar market, there continues to be a wide variety of cigars with Connecticut wrappers, with most of the full-flavored Connecticuts having arrived in the past three years. Since there are also a number of Connecticut cigars that have been on the market prior to 2016, for this report, we chose 16 outstanding cigars that cover a 10 year time span. This year alone has already seen at least four noteworthy releases included in the timeline. Although many readers will wonder why we left out their favorites – they inevitably do, and we get it – we felt these blends, even though they all fall into the medium, medium-plus range, best represented the current and newer breed of full-flavored Connecticut cigars.
Released in 2009, one of, if not, the first Connecticut cigar with cojones was the Camacho Connecticut. It was re-branded in 2013 when Camacho announced that it would be included among Camacho’s “The Bold Standard” lines. Still popular today for its robust flavor and dense, buttery smoke, the blend consists of Honduran long fillers finished with an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper. The smoke is mostly earthy and cedary with additional notes of citrus, pepper, and sweet tobacco, making it a far cry from the average, mellow Connecticut in its day. Camacho also makes this cigar in a box-pressed version that’s well worth looking at.
Released in 2013 as the Nat Sherman Sterling line, this selection was folded into one of the Nat Sherman Timeless Collection series when the company re-branded its lines in 2018. The Timeless Sterling selection is known for its rich flavor, silky-smooth body, and well balanced strength and aroma. Although it uses Dominican fillers and a Connecticut wrapper – the recipe for many milder Dominican-made Connecticuts – the Timeless uses extra-long-aged fillers. Combined with its shorter length and wider ring, the combination offers rich flavors of cedar, roasted nuts, sweet spices, and white pepper, with the pepper even more pronounced in the last act.
Although Ernesto Perez-Carrillo has a penchant for Ecuador-grown Sumatra wrapper, his EPC New Wave line is released in 2014 with Ecuadorian Connecticut wrappers. Priced affordably, the New Wave Reserva Robusto uses higher-priming wrapper leaves, giving this line an almost maduro-like appearance. Notes of anise, roasted nuts, and pepper segue to sweet spice, tangy citrus, and earthier flavors in the latter stages. For a more “traditional” Connecticut Robusto, check out the New Wave Connecticut Brillante, which is more mellow in character due to its mid-priming Connecticut wrapper leaves.
Montecristo releases the Montecristo White Vintage, a monumental cigar in just about every way for its impeccable construction and immense flavor. Released after the Montecristo White selection, which boasts an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, the Vintage uses a U.S. Connecticut Shade leaf from a rare 2008 harvest. Dominican, Nicaraguan and spicy Peruvian filler lie at the core, giving it a more complex profile. For this classic No.2 shape, the smoke is ultra-creamy and starts out with a mix of cedar and light pepper. The smoke rounds out nicely revealing graham cracker, the occasional citrusy note, and sweet spice. Culminating in a mostly sweet and cedary character, the smoke is decidedly more full-flavored in the last act.
Drew Estate releases the Drew Estate Undercrown Shade cigar collection to abundant applause. These were also the first cigars blended by Willy Herrera that were not part of the Herrera Estelí brand. Working with the original team that created the Undercrown line, Shade goes where few Connecticuts have gone before. With base notes of cedar, oak, cream, nuts, citrus, and honey, the Undercrown Shade Gran Toro reveals a lush and creamy smoke that delivers a much richer flavor and complexity. It pairs beautifully with coffee in the morning, and performs equally well in the evening with a vintage Pinot Noir or a fine Bourbon.
One year after Nick Melillo hangs-out his Foundation Cigar Co. shingle, he introduces the Charter Oak Connecticut selection. Crafted by the gifted hands of AJ Fernandez, the Rothschild boasts an elegant appearance and complex flavor profile that defies its mere $5.00 price tag (at press time). Plus, it received an “Outstanding” 93 rating score in the December 2018 issue of Aficionado. Well-balanced and creamy, the lush draw on this cigar offers rich, woody notes of cedar and oak, a hint of vanilla, nuttiness, sweet spices, enough pepper to hold your attention, and inviting floral notes. As Connecticuts go, the Charter Oak selection is not only one of the best examples, it’s one of the best values.
Christian Luis Eiroa releases his CLE Chele line. There’s something about this particular Connecticut in the box-pressed Corona shape that gives it exceptional balance, flavor, and comfort in the mouth. Moreover, the filler and binder are Nicaraguan, a brief departure from Christian’s Honduran tobacco blends. Another interesting feature is the use of tissue paper overwrap rather than cello which, according to Christian, cuts costs and saves trees. Following an impressively complex cold draw with its mix of graham cracker and dried fruit, once lit the Chele offers a well-rounded serving of breadiness, figs, and sweet spices with a trace of white pepper on a savory finish.
Better known for his full-bodied blends like the 601 cigar series, Erik Espinosa debuts the Espinosa Crema selection featuring a lighter Nicaraguan core blend deftly rolled in a buttery Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper. Like its name, this line was designed to be especially creamy, like a creamy cappuccino, and the No.4 is a great example. Pepper and woody flavors lead-off, segueing to a mostly creamy, woody, and sweet-spicy smoke with a solid medium body. Those looking for more ZING will find that the No.4’s power lies in its peppery retrohale. The cigar remains creamy throughout with a little chariness entering in the final inches.
Robert Holt, founder of Southern Draw Cigars, unveils his most cordial magnum opus, Rose of Sharon, and dedicates it to his wife and business partner, Sharon. Working exclusively with AJ Fernandez, most of their blends have lived in the medium-full to full spectrum. Yet, using an attractive Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper, the Rose of Sharon, particularly in the Toro, eases off the spice revealing a smooth, rich-tasting cigar that builds to a hearty, medium-plus body. Flavor highlights include notes of graham cracker, caramel, roasted nuts, sweet spice and a modicum of pepper for a beautiful, well-balanced smoke that’s mellow enough for the morning and robust enough to be enjoyed after dinner.
Steven Anthony Bailey, who represents the 5th generation of his Virginia tobacco-growing family presents his Cornelius & Anthony Aerial selection. Made at El Titan de Bronze in Miami, the Aerial Corona Gorda is another fine example of how 5½” x 46 dimensions can offer a remarkable array of flavors. Rolled in a spotless Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper, the Nicaraguan core is bound in an undisclosed U.S.-grown wrapper (my educated guess is Virginia). Coming off its peppery start, the full-flavored smoke is velvety smooth, rounding out to a medium-plus mix of pepper and spice that underscore flavors of coffee, cedar, leather, some tanginess, and a maple-like aroma.
Formerly known as Casa Fernandez Cigars, founder Eduardo Fernandez unveils this Ecuadorian Connecticut selection under the company’s new name, Aganorsa Leaf. As artisan cigar makers go, Aganorsa has earned a reputation among cigar smokers that’s virtually unshakeable. The blonde Ecuadorian-grown wrappers have a silky feel, and the rounded edges lie comfortably between the fingers. At the core is all that savory, mouthwatering Aganorsa-grown tobacco, and once lit, the Toro issues a creamy mélange of earthiness, oak, and sweet spices with a smack of light pepper on its long finish. For anyone who hasn’t discovered these artisan-crafted cigars, the Aganorsa Leaf Connecticut is an ideal gateway selection.
Inspired by the Miles Davis composition of the same name, George Rico releases the Gran Habano Blue In Green selection. With the Churchill reviewed earlier this year by CigarAdvisor.com, Blue In Green features a Nicaraguan long-filler core rolled in a sumptuous U.S. Connecticut Shade wrapper, which is protected by a cedar sleeve. The Robusto shown here offers similar characteristics as the Churchill, in that it offers a tangy citrus flavor augmented by notes of nutmeg, hazelnut and other sweet spices, some oakiness, and a sliver of white pepper. Perfectly balanced and mostly medium in body, the last third reveals more depth for a medium-plus smoke that does not disappoint.
In anticipation of H. Upmann Cigars’ 175th anniversary, Altadis U.S.A. called upon Tabacalera U.S.A.’s famed Grupo de Maestros to play the gig, and debuts the H. Upmann Connecticut by Grupo de Maestros cigars selection. Talk about the perfect anniversary cigars, each vitola is beautifully handcrafted with specially-selected fillers, dressed in flawless Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrappers, and topped with a unique maduro cap. The Toro is among the best examples, offering base notes of salted caramel, sweet spice, oaky vanilla, earth, and a sliver of white pepper on the finish. The smoke is medium-plus in body, ultra-creamy, and the flavors caramelize harmoniously, right down to the final inches. Suffice it to say, this cigar is a far cry from your Granddaddy’s H. Upmann.
Deciding it was time to give their beloved mascot some props, Camacho releases the Scorpion Connecticut and Scorpion Sun Grown cigars. Both were created to deliver extra-rich ﬂavor at an affordable price, and the Connecticut version is draped in a blonde Ecuadorian leaf with a Dominican-Nicaraguan core. The Robusto shape is markedly creamy, revealing a note of salt at first, then segues to consistent flavors of cedar, oak and sweet spices. The last act is earthier and not as sweet with a more generous amount of spice. The Scorpion Connecticut may not have the punch of the 2009 Camacho Connecticut, but we found it delivers a boatload of flavor.
In honor of Famous Smoke Shop’s 80th Anniversary in business, Altadis U.S.A.’s Romeo y Julieta issues an exclusive, limited edition of the Romeo House of Capulet in a handsome, box-pressed Toro shape with slightly rounded edges. Built with an unblemished Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper that conceals a Honduran-Nicaraguan core, the Capulet 80th was crafted to be medium-bodied and sold at a very reasonable price. The smoke issues a thick veil of creamy smoke brimming with well-balance flavors of salted nuts, graham cracker, toffee, oak, and some light earthiness. Even in the final inches the cigar retains its creamy and medium bodied profile. All-in-all, a creamy, nutty, and oaky cigar with just the right amount of sugar and spice.
Expected to reach retail cigar store shelves in May 2019, General Cigar Company will be releasing this Cohiba Connecticut Toro. Just looking at the binder and filler blend alone tells you this cigar is going to have plenty of complexity. The icing on the cake is the perfectly-aged U.S. Connecticut Shade wrapper. I was fortunate enough to smoke Cohiba’s pre-release sample of the Churchill and was pretty impressed. The smoke is dead-center medium in body and well-balanced with base notes of cream, cedar, and sweet spices on a long but dry finish. More to come on this one, but from what I surmised, this is one fine cigar to look out for.
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