CA Review Panel: Alec Bradley Black Market Esteli Cigar Review (Video)
By the Cigar Advisor Staff
Alec Bradley Black Market Estelí Cigars
Estelí is the mecca of Nicaraguan cigars, and Alec Bradley Black Market Estelí cigars take the original Black Market selection to a new level of intensity by adding the rich, spicy flavor of tobaccos grown in Estelí’s famously fertile soil. Although no specifics are given for the tobaccos used in the blend, it imparts similarities to its earlier namesake while delivering an entirely unique smoking experience. Watch our video, and read our notes below to learn more about it.
Alec Bradley Black Market Esteli Toro
Country of Origin/Factory: Nicaragua
Size: 6″ x 52
Binder: Nicaraguan & Honduran
Gary Korb’s Tasting Notes…
Construction and Overall Appearance: Gorgeous. Wrapper is entirely even in color with a well-applied cap.
Draw (airflow): Very good.
Cold draw: Earthy with some sweetness.
First few puffs: Earthy with some light pepper on the finish.
Base flavors: Earth, sweet spice, cedar, cocoa.
Aroma: A malty beer-like sweetness
Burn / Ash Quality: This cigar issued a large volume of thick smoke all the way through, yet it burned very slowly with a barely visible carbon line. The ash was firm and mostly white with black striping.
Balance of flavors: Excellent.
Summary: The first inch was a wake-up call to the palate with lots of earth and peppery spice. Shortly after, the pepper fades and the cigar reveals a pleasant sweetness. By the end of this section the smoke is earthy, sweet, and woody with a suggestion of dry cocoa. Moving into the second act, it was consistent with the first, but by now the flavors had coalesced into a very hearty, well-rounded smoke that was mostly earthy and sweet, with a woody note that was more like oak, rather than the usual cedar. For the finale, the flavors continued to be earthy, sweet and very well-balanced with much more depth.
I was expecting a more complex cigar, but I found the Black Market Estelí Toro an excellent smoke for its modest, yet well-defined set of flavors, the thick, creamy smoke, its smoothness, slower than cold molasses-like burn, and sweeping consistency. Moreover, even in the final inches, the smoke never turned bitter. Fans of the original Black Market will like this zestier follow-up, as well as cigar smokers who also enjoy the Alec Bradley Nica Puro and Sanctum cigars.
John Pullo’s Tasting Notes…
Construction and Overall Appearance: Lots of fine detail on this wrapper leaf – not tooth, but channels. Smooth with nice color, similar to chestnuts; there’s a sheen, but the Black Market Esteli isn’t overly oily – more like leathery.
Draw: Moderate resistance in all samples.
Pre-light flavor: Tea, fresh/“green” vegetation, light earth that’s mineral-ish and sweet.
Toasting & Light: First puffs and the smoke is somewhat creamy.
Base flavors: Leather, wood, pepper and citrus.
Aroma: A strong wood note, mixed with a sweet spice.
Burn / Ash Quality: Sharp burn, thin line – ash holds extremely well.
Balance of flavors: Not overly complex, the wood and pepper sensations drive the bus here.
Summary: There’s not a ton of blend info on the Black Market Esteli, but knowing there’s a mix of Nicaraguan and Honduran tobaccos, there is – at least – a vague expectation of spicy, full flavors. And Alec Bradley delivers: it’s not a dark and peppery bite, but more of a brighter, spicy sizzle.
Flavor-wise, leather and sweet tobacco are the clear winners here; pepper and spice alternate with citrus, then they just mix all together at the end of the first third…and all together, it makes for some interesting tastes. A faint hit of cocoa is tacked on, but those sensations are gone pretty quickly; the sweetness is more in the tangy citrus department.
As I mentioned in our Black Market Esteli video, the flavors are lush, but not quite creamy; the smoke is thick, but not quite billowy. The smoke feels a little salty, offering up dry flavors. Before long, the taste buds in the back get a kick and your mouth wants to start watering. I felt a long finish on the tip of the tongue, just a generally full and heavy body – as opposed to those individual flavors being what lingers.
The burn is more than slow, it’s downright glacial…part of that is the draw. Still, some nice pops of those extra flavors keep it interesting – though this version of the Black Market does flatten out from time to time. This Alec Bradley makes its mark a few notches higher on the strength meter than your regular Black Market or Nica Puro, and there’s full, full body lurking under there…but as long as you treat it nice, Black Market Esteli treats you nice back.
Fred Lunt’s Tasting Notes…
Construction and Overall Appearance: Very solid and well packed.
Draw: A tad tight.
Pre-light flavor: Slightly salty, toasty, slight fruity sweetness, leather, and fresh wood.
Toasting & Light: Lightly sweet, slight herbal and touches of toast, mostly very woody and earthy.
Base flavors: Cocoa, oak and aged woods, earth, and black pepper.
Retrohale: STRONG- woof… lots of nicotine strength. After I caught my breath I gained a lot of chocolatey, earthy and aged oak notes with coffee and some black pepper.
Aroma: Sweet with notes of aged woods.
Burn / Ash Quality: Burn is perfect, 0 flaws and the ash solid and white.
Balance of flavors: Leans toward cool flavors of cocoa and woods with a slight peppery burn.
Consistency: Very consistent in make and flavors.
- Settles with a slight bite of black pepper and a muddled sweetness with aged woods and earth.
- 1 inch: Creamy, notes of earth, leather and coffee are backing things up nicely and a smoky wood flavor is very pleasant.
- Very smooth and rich.
- Transitioning- Sweetness takes slight raisin hint while aged wood and pepper become more prominent.
- 2/3: The smoke is rich and full- well rounded with notes of rich chocolate, earth, aged woods, and cream.
- 3/3: Nicely sweet with cocoa/chocolate, aged wood and some black pepper backing it up.
- Retrohale: Very woody, cedar and oak, shot of pepper, cocoa and coffee- not as intense as before.
Summary: Black Market Esteli is a small step up from the original Black Market regarding price, but a vastly different cigar when it comes down to flavor. As far as consistency goes, I smoked two of these full-bodied toros for this review and found both to be very similar in construction and flavor with minor variances. At the start, this cigar greeted me with a muddled honey-like sweetness, rich woods, and coffee with a varying amount of black pepper. I found the smoke production lacking, gave it a bite and it opened right up- the sweetness has a caramel-like after taste and the smoke is nicely creamy. Once things got settled at the first inch, I found an abundance of aged woods, earthy sweetness, toast, and a light saltiness.
Aside from a huge jump in intensity, the second third was much the same as the first. Around here I did my first retrohale and woof was it strong. I’m gobsmacked by nicotine strength and a gush of cocoa, earth, aged oak, coffee, and black pepper. Overall, the Black Market Esteli was a very sweet, creamy, and woody smoke; well rounded, full-bodied, and full-flavored but not complex.
Tommy “Zman” Zarzecki’s Tasting Notes…
Pre-Light: Earth & cocoa.
First Few Puffs: Cocoa sweetness.
Burn-Ash Quality: Solid, perfect, light gray.
Balance of Flavors: Excellent balance
Summary: Spoiler Alert: I love this cigar! Well, that’s it for the review… wait, since I happen to get paid for this, I guess I’ll get into a little more detail. I truly think that with this cigar and the Prensado Lost Art, Alec Bradley has raised the bar and taken their offerings to an even higher level.
Now, I’m digging this Black Market Esteli Toro for several reasons. While it’s on the full-bodied side, it’s not overly complex and sometimes that’s a good thing because you don’t have to identify a Thanksgiving cornucopia of flavors going on; you just have to sit back and enjoy the ride. Now, in this case that’s a good thing because there are a few key flavors and they are just delicious. This cigar has an overarching natural sweetness from start to finish as I get definite notes of cocoa, cedar, sweet spice and a slight black cherry flavor. A couple of the other guys got some pepper upfront but I really didn’t find that.
Another upside is the construction – I mean this thing is impeccably rolled as the ash grows firm and solid, which is always the sign of a well-made cigar. And the aroma is sweet and woody and so inviting.
So, let me be redundant if I may – I love this cigar! The consistency throughout the smoke is wonderful as you get great flavor upon every puff. Kudos to Alec Bradley for continuing to make top-of-the-line smokes.