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2019 CA Report: The Essential Cigar Advisor Guide to Gran Habano Cigars
CIGAR ADVISOR’S ESSENTIAL GRAN HABANO CIGARS TASTING & BUYING GUIDE
Editors/Reviewers: Jared Gulick, Gary Korb, John Pullo
The Gran Habano Cigars Back Story
Four generations after the Rico family began growing black tobacco in the 1920s, Gran Habano was making boutique cigars – long before boutique cigar companies were even in vogue. Headed today by George Rico and his father, Guillermo, who took over the business from his father in 1946, the success of Gran Habano Cigars has been built on attention to detail and a strong reliance on strict quality control.
Based in Danli, Honduras, the home of their factory since 1998, the brand officially debuted in 2003 to the premium cigar marketplace with three blends that have formed the core of their distinguished reputation: The Connecticut #1, Habano #3, and the Corojo #5, all of which haven’t skipped a beat in terms of their quality and popularity among cigar smokers of every experience.
Like most successful entrepreneurs, George Rico didn’t stop there. In addition to Gran Habano’s core lines, they’ve also created some of the most intriguing blends. Among them are the La Conquista, Black Dahlia, and Blue in Green, plus limited edition cigars like the Corojo No.5 Maduro and Gran Reserva No.5 2010, all of which and more reside in this Tasting Guide.
With business offices in Miami, Florida, Gran Habano continues to be a family affair. George’s wife, Natasha, handles the company’s catalogs, social media, advertising, and public relations, while George & Guillermo continue to set the quality bar high with every leaf they select and every cigar they roll.
“Honesty and passion is what compels us to make great cigars with a sense of originality, which is the signature of our company,” says George. “We look to the future with optimism and a great sense of appreciation for those who have come to know us and our brand.”
For this Advisor Tasting Guide, we’ve sampled through the ten cigars in the Gran Habano lineup (all made in Honduras) currently available at Famous Smoke Shop. We examine those core lines (#1, #3 and #5), then move on to their premiere smokes, including La Conquista and Blue in Green; we’ve finished with Gran Habano’s two most economical bundle selections. And while our reviews are subjective, we hope to give you the basic profiles you can expect from each smoke and help you determine if it’s the right Gran Habano cigar for you.
If you’ve already smoked one (or more), tell us in a comment below – along with what it is you like about these cigars.
Gran Habano Connecticut #1 Cigar Review
Size: Robusto (5” x 52)
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut
Construction: The Connecticut wrapper is noticeably dark, like honey; the cigar is well rolled, and firmly packed.
Pre-light flavor: Hay, leather and slightly sweet.
Toasting & Light: Cedar and toast – and still sweet.
Base flavors: Coffee, wood and sweet.
Retrohale: Has a bit of spice.
Aroma: Roasted nuts.
Burn & Ash Quality: Burn is mostly straight, leaving behind a grey ash.
Balance of flavors: Once the burn is established, this Connecticut is on cruise control.
Summary: The Gran Habano Connecticut earned its “humidor staple” title years ago; but if you think there’s nothing to relearn about a classic, the next couple of lines here will change your mind.
First, this Connecticut thing…I’ve often felt this wrapper (both genuine Shade and Ecuador) has a dry taste. The Gran Habano #1 has shown me otherwise, quickly making its way into creamy territory with a kind of pastry-sweet quality that outpaces every other flavor in the profile. It’s very light, very enjoyable. And not at all bland.
Coffee is noticeable throughout the first half of the smoke, along with a woody flavor that takes on an almost floral vibe. Nothing is overpowering, however.
The creamy sweetness trails off by the last third, but the smoke stays pretty thick, laced with coffee and cedar. And in these later puffs, the finish is darker, spicier…like charred wood. Drop this quick smoker with an inch to go and you’ll feel good about what you got out of it.
The surprise here is how genuinely sweet this Gran Habano Connecticut is; and though it’s not a specimen of complexity, it beats the pants off other Connecticuts in the flavor department.
If you’re like me, and on the hunt for a morning “snack smoke” in the $5 range to go with your coffee – Gran Habano Connecticut is a hell of a value. – John Pullo
Gran Habano Habano #3 Cigar Review
Size: Rothschild (4½” x 50)
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano
Filler: Nicaraguan, Mexican, Costa Rican
Construction: Well-packed. Wrapper was even in color and slightly oily; a bit veiny, finished with a triple seam cap.
Draw: Perfect. Just the right amount of pull.
Pre-light flavor: Slight saltiness, earthy, woody.
Toasting & Light: This sample was perfectly humidified. The foot took easily to flame, resulting in an even light across the foot. Early flavors were earthy, toasty, and cedary.
Base flavors: Earth, cedar, coffee grounds, a faint note of orange zest.
Burn & Ash Quality: Excellent. The cigar burned evenly with no issues along the way, revealing a firm ash that was mostly grey in color.
Balance of flavors: Excellent.
Summary: Very creamy and medium-bodied all the way. Mostly very earthy and woody with a slight undercurrent of coffee. Better for someone looking for something not too sweet. Did not turn bitter in the last act, but was much earthier.
Suffice it to say. . . I’ve probably smoked more of the Corojo #5 than the Habano #3, but this Tasting Guide has given me a whole new appreciation for this blend. The smoke was rich in flavor, well-balanced, and offered a good mix of flavors in a medium-bodied smoke that just about any cigar smoker at any level could appreciate. – Gary Korb
Gran Habano Corojo #5 Cigar Review
Size: Gran Robusto (6” x 54)
Strength: Medium (listed Full)
Wrapper: Nicaragua Corojo
Filler: Nicaragua and Costa Rica
Construction: Brown with a fine tooth, elevated veins, and well-rolled.
Pre-light flavor: Sweetened tea.
Toasting & Light: Buttery, creamy, and earthy.
Base flavors: Earth, leather, faint spices, grains, and a dash of salt.
Retrohale: Somewhat spicy but smooth.
Aroma: Sweet and salty.
Burn & Ash Quality: Salt and pepper ash, burns straight.
Balance of flavors: It’s a good mix, but not as sweet as you’d expect from a Corojo wrapper.
Summary: Right up front, Gran Habano #5 Corojo’s nuances pop in and evaporate just as quickly. Pullo calls these “drive-by” flavors, but to me, it’s kind of like watching a compelling movie when you need to take a leak. There’s no right time to walk away – you might miss something. There’s good and bad with this, of course. You can’t just absently smoke it. You’ll lose part of the experience. If you are paying attention, however, this smoke gets interesting quickly.
Within the first inch, I found creamy notes of butter, earth, leather, and whispers of salt that would come and go seemingly at random. Retrohaling was surprisingly muted. Not too strong, nice and smooth – not at all what I expected from a predominantly Nicaraguan core.
As I smoked further, some of the pre-light tea flavors would chime in for a little while on the finish. And at the mid-section, I noticed that it really wasn’t as strong as it’s billed to be. I’d say medium-bodied at best, and if you don’t retro, you could even argue that it was a bit on the mellow side. By the last act, the cigar smoothed out, and the flavors were finally staying put. Sneeze, and you might miss something, but if you’re into cigars that keep the changes coming, this is as complex as they get. Definitely worth experiencing. – Jared Gulick
Gran Habano Corojo #5 Maduro Cigar Review
Size: Robusto (5″ x 52)
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Maduro
Filler: Nicaragua, Costa Rica
[Ed. Note: this image depicts bands and packaging prior to a 2015 update. Gran Habano Corojo #5 Maduro’s current look is below.]
Construction: Excellent. Wrapper is oily with an almost black onyx color, and the rolling is seamless with a well-fashioned triple seam cap. The cigar also features a secondary band that reads: “Limitado 2011.”
Draw: Just right.
Pre-light flavor: A bit musty and leathery.
Toasting & Light: Easy. The initial flavors offer medium-bodied notes of sweet spice, espresso, cedar and leather.
Base flavors: Leather, sweet spice, cedar, espresso.
Burn & Ash Quality: Excellent with a hardy volume of smoke. No relights or touch-ups needed. The cigar reveals a firm, light gray ash, with black stippling. However, when ashed, what remains on the cigar is almost entirely white.
Balance of flavors: Perfect. Flavors were well-defined and consistent.
Summary: I’ve been raving about the Gran Habano Corojo #5 from the company’s main line for years, but this 2011 Maduro takes the blend to a whole new place. The cigar offers the same great balance as the original #5, but with more sweetness and an appealing note of espresso. The smoke is very rich, mostly medium-to-full in body, and carries a mostly sweet n’ spicy flavor profile. It’s also extremely smooth and consistent in both flavor and strength down to the nub – and boy, did I nub this one.
Suffice it to say. . . Having smoked a lot of Gran Habano over the years, I’d have to place the Corojo No.5 Maduro as one of the best blends in the company’s stable. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s one of those cigars you really should smoke to fully appreciate. This Robusto is not only a must-smoke for fans of the brand, but the flavor of the Nicaraguan Maduro wrapper is absolutely stunning. You don’t often get to smoke wrappers of this quality, so take the extra time to savor it. – Gary
Gran Habano Gran Reserva #5 2010 Cigar Review
Size: Imperiale (6” x 60)
Strength: Medium plus (listed Full)
Wrapper: Nicaragua Corojo Jalapa
Binder: Nicaragua Jalapa Habano 2005
Filler: Nicaragua Jalapa Habano 2005 and Esteli Habano Ligero 2003
Construction: Silky and a little veiny. Consistent reddish-brown hue. Firmly rolled.
Pre-light flavor: A touch of honey and wood.
Toasting & Light: Earth and toast.
Base flavors: Coffee, graham cracker, cedar, earth, pepper, and sweetness.
Retrohale: Somewhat creamy, with a little bit of pepper; it gets stronger as it burns.
Aroma: Savory and slightly meaty.
Burn & Ash Quality: Burns mostly straight with a striped ash that’s both light and darker grey.
Balance of flavors: Perfect.
Summary: How about some coffee? Graham crackers? Maybe a little cedar? Within the first few puffs, Gran Reserve #5 2010 has them all on display and then some. Truth be told, it’s delicious from the starting line and it just keeps getting better.
In my opinion, the best strong cigars are the ones that smoke smooth, and this blend epitomizes that notion. My suspicion is that more TLC went into the crafting of this blend because of how specific Gran Habano was about the tobaccos. See all that Jalapa listed above? That’s what’s making it so sweet. And with a burst of edge from Ligero in the fillers, we’re left with one of the most balanced and delicious Honduran handmades you’ll find.
As you smoke it, you’ll likely notice that it settles in fast…about two inches inward. From there, it just takes you on a relaxing ride, like an autumn Sunday drive. I’d stretch as far to say that this could be enjoyed by a newer smoker. It certainly feels tame enough. The big box of flavors on deck also means that smokers who’ve been around the block a few times will appreciate it, too. If you only add one Gran Habano to your humidor, I’d argue in favor of this one any day. – Jared
Gran Habano Blue in Green Cigar Review
Size: Robusto (5” x 52)
Wrapper: U.S. Connecticut Shade
Construction: Consistently golden-brown wrapper; beautifully crafted, with four turns to the cap.
Pre-light flavor: Pepper and earth.
Toasting & Light: Cedar, wood, earth, and a pinch of salt and sweetness.
Base flavors: Earth, grass, salt, wood, nuts, and citrus.
Retrohale: Savory and nutty, with some notes of damp earth.
Burn & Ash Quality: Dusty-white, gravity-defying ash. Burns straight.
Balance of flavors: Excellent.
Summary: We learned this cigar is named for George Rico’s favorite Miles Davis song when we did a review of this cigar nine months ago for a Cigar Advisor Panel Review of Blue in Green. This time, I’m smoking the Robusto instead of the Churchill.
Blue in Green starts quite grassy and earthy. About halfway in, it goes through its biggest evolution. There, the cigar introduced salt, nuts, and a sweet, creamy, and citrusy finish. Salty and sweet always play off each other well. Think salting the rim of a margarita glass. As I headed toward the finale, the grassier nuances returned, making it a solid, three-act show.
What I love about Blue in Green is that it gives you the best of both worlds. First, the mellow Connecticut smoothness, and second, the headstrong flavors of a Nicaraguan core. If you’re jonesing for a Connecticut that isn’t just a hat on a hat, this cigar will give you more for your money. – Jared
Gran Habano S.T.K. Black Dahlia Cigar Review
Size: Robusto (5″ x 52)
Wrapper: Shade-grown Nicaraguan Corojo
Binder: Habano and Nicaraguan
Filler: Habano, Nicaraguan Cubita, Colombian, Costa Rican
Construction: Solidly built. Expertly-fashioned triple cap. Wrapper has a nice oily sheen, even in color throughout and seamlessly rolled.
Draw: Just right.
Pre-light flavor: Dry earth and raisins.
Toasting & Light: Fairly easy. Initial flavors offered sweet tobacco, a note of violet.
Base flavors: Sweet spice, cedar, roasted nuts, (coffee).
Burn & Ash Quality: Even as it gets. Smoke is smooth, dense, and no burn issues or relights required.
Balance of flavors: Perfect.
Summary: This cigar started off beautifully with a sweet flavor and a rare note of violets in the first several puffs, plus a thin slice of peppery spice. The cigar rounded-out fairly quickly offering a mostly sweet n’ spicy, medium-plus smoke underscored by notes of roasted nuts, cedar, and a trace of coffee. Some darker, earthier flavors entered during the last act, but the cigar retained most of its sweet spice and cedar notes, and never turned bitter at the nub.
Suffice it to say. . . The Gran Habano Black Dahlia Robusto was extremely enjoyable and consistent all the way through. It’s a full-flavored cigar reserved for more experienced cigar smokers with more developed palates; mostly due to the fact that this vitola is blended with tobaccos from three countries. I also feel this blend would be most desirable in the evening, and should pair well with a fine single malt, bourbon, or tawny port. – Gary
Gran Habano La Conquista Cigar Review
Size: Robusto (5” x 52)
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo
Filler: Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia
Construction: Once the cedar sleeve is removed, you’ll see a nicely rolled Robusto that feels extra thick. The satiny, walnut-colored Corojo wrapper shows a bit of tooth, and is well-stretched and firmly packed.
Pre-light flavor: Earth, hay and subtle citrus sweetness.
Toasting & Light: Sweet, along with wood and creamy pepper.
Base flavors: Wood, cream and citrus; the finish transitions from leather to earth.
Retrohale: Floral and cedar, with an earthy finish.
Aroma: Salty-sweet, like cashews or pretzels.
Burn & Ash Quality: Straight burn forms clean stacks of tight ash – and they hold really well.
Balance of flavors: A relay race of flavors; there’s more taste than strength.
Summary: With La Conquista, Gran Habano promised a “more refined experience” – I happen to think the Ricos are being a little modest here. La Conquista smokes as advertised, with a share of spice and a leathery finish…but they didn’t tell you the whole story.
Generally, La Conquista is a very well-made cigar; I only had to ash it twice. It pours a ton of velvety smoke off both ends – so thick you can chew it.
Then, the taste…there are a number of individual flavors you can pick out of the profile, and they appear in relay race fashion: after an inch, the wood/pepper combo hands the baton to spice and earth…once they’ve run their lap, the handoff goes to citrus zest and cedar. The retrohale was a standout, having its own earthy finish – I’ve rarely experienced that.
La Conquista smokes with a lush feel overall; the strength barely gets to medium, but the flavors – or more specifically, how intense they are – are noticeably higher up the scale. Even if you don’t have a sophisticated set of taste buds, you’ll easily get your money’s worth from this boutique. – John
Gran Habano GH2 Habano Cigar Review
Size: Robusto (5” x 50)
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano
Construction: Leathery Habano wrapper has consistent color, except for a water mark or two. Finished in a single cap, rolled with no soft spots.
Draw: A snug draw limits the air flow, but smoke is in plentiful supply.
Pre-light flavor: Buttery sweet and salty on the lips, leather/meaty on the draw.
Toasting & Light: Salty and a hint of chocolate.
Base flavors: Salt, earth and leather, with a slight spice on the finish.
Retrohale: Hefty spice.
Burn & Ash Quality: White and dark gray ash holds well at the end of a mostly straight burn.
Balance of flavors: A consistent, single-minded profile throughout.
Summary: Six months ago I declared, “Start browsing the bundles,” because that’s where you’ll find an honest-smoking cigar for short money – like this GH2 Habano. No, it’s not the prettiest looking of the bunch…but it is a very affordable smoke, and you’ll only get it at Famous.
I don’t need to get into the blend details, as the GH2 Habano doesn’t have a sexy story to tell. But for a budget burn, there’s a good amount of flavor here – and all of it earth, salt and leather. The only real changeups are in the amount of spice that lingers on your taste buds…the longer you’re at it, the more it builds – and the longer that spice hangs around. Starts out medium, ends up almost-full by the time you put it down.
Surprises: Also none.
I’m being candid when I say the GH2 Habano is a straight-up budget smoke. But the fact that it burns straight and true, has more than one identifiable flavor, and it all comes at a price that’s hard to beat – makes this Gran Habano an unsung hero of your humidor’s bottom drawer. So if you feel your hard day’s yardwork – or your friendly neighborhood cigar mooch – is worth more than the mixed-filler smokes in the 20-under-20 bundles, take these Gran Habanos for a strikingly small amount of money and don’t look back. – John
Gran Habano GH2 Connecticut Cigar Review
Size: Robusto (5” x 50)
Strength: Medium-Full (listed Full)
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut Shade
Construction: Golden brown and smooth with a few prominent veins and a great cap.
Pre-light flavor: Cracker-like with a salted butter appeal.
Toasting & Light: Flowery and slightly bitter.
Base flavors: Floral, earth, leather, and wood.
Retrohale: Some extra spice.
Burn & Ash Quality: Easily knocked off, but not flaky, and the cigar burns straight.
Balance of flavors: Sits on the earthy end and not as balanced as I’d prefer.
Summary: Look, I’ll cut right to the chase. It’s obvious that these aren’t gonna be award winners, but the point is…they’re not meant to be. And that’s okay. GH2 is decidedly one-dimensional, but it’s as smooth and effortless a smoke as they come. And though it’s not getting any points on my end for unbelievable flavor or complexity, it makes up for it in being budget friendly. I hesitate to say cheap, because that suggests it’s poorly constructed, and it’s not. If we’re honest, we all at times just want a cigar that burns – simply for the sake of burning it. And if this stick were like driving, it would be like throwing the car in neutral on a long downhill stretch. It’ll get you there, and it’ll save you money doing it. Sometimes…that’s all you need. – Jared