Cigar Ratings & Reviews

CA Review Panel: Aganorsa Leaf Famous 80th Anniversary Cigar Review (Video)

The Aganorsa Leaf Famous 80th Anniversary Cigar Back Story

Founded in 1939, Famous Smoke Shop turned 80 this year, and when you reach a milestone like that, your friends and colleagues want to do something extra special for you. In Famous’s case, it’s making cigars blended exclusively for them. Following the Romeo y Julieta House of Capulet 80th Anniversary, Aganorsa Leaf Cigars has followed suit with their own tribute cigar.

In 1998, Eduardo Fernandez went to Nicaragua with a mission – to grow tobacco that would capture the essence of the great, pre-revolutionary Cuban cigars. So, Fernandez went right to the source – Cuba – where he assembled a world-class team of agronomists who worked at the highest levels of Cubatobaco. He began by cultivating tobacco for other manufacturers with a crop they called “Aganorsa Leaf,” which later became the company’s namesake. With a combination of time, high-scoring cigar reviews, and ever-increasing popularity, demand grew for a cigar brand of their own, and today they’ve become one of the industry’s most formidable boutique cigar makers.

Using these extraordinary Nicaraguan estate-grown tobaccos, they created the Aganorsa Leaf Famous 80th Anniversary cigar. Only 2,500 cigars were rolled for this selection, and in one very unique size, too, a 6″ x 52 “Toro Marblehead.” For the blend, Aganorsa used proprietary filler and binder tobaccos draped in a lustrous Mexican San Andres maduro wrapper. The cigars are finished with a tapered head, then box-pressed and donned with Aganorsa Leaf’s company band, plus a second “Famous Smoke Shop 80th Anniversary” band below in gold.

Aganorsa Leaf Famous 80th Anniversary Cigar Review

Country of Origin/Factory: Nicaragua / TABSA S.A
Size: 6″ x 52, box-pressed Toro Marblehead
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Mexican San Andres
Binder& Filler: Proprietary Nicaraguan Aganorsa

Jared Gulick’s Tasting Notes…

Construction: Dark and oily with a light box press, some dark splotches, and well-hidden seams.
Draw: Great.
Pre-light flavor: Molasses and a raisin-like note.
Toasting & Light: Nutty with buttery spices and pepper.
Base flavors: Pepper, spice, savory butter, and a light sweetness.
Retrohale: Heavy on the pepper.
Aroma: Spicy with a slight cinnamon sweetness.
Burn & Ash Quality: Coin-stacked sturdy ash and a straight burn.
Balance of flavors: Leans toward savory and spicy but there is sweetness, especially toward the end.

Summary: If you’ve caught any of our Facebook Live shows, my gravitation toward Aganorsa Leaf isn’t exactly top-secret, so it’s obvious that I was pretty frikkin’ excited when I heard that they were blending one of the 80th anniversary lines for Famous Smoke Shop. Truth be told, I’ve already purchased a box, but instead of waxing poetic about a cigar that I already love, you’d be better served if I offered some pointed pros and cons regarding this 80th Anniversary blend.

There are a couple of things to unpack before I get started. First, it’s lightly box-pressed, allowing the cigar to smoke a little cooler, which is a good thing for flavor. Cigars that smoke too hot almost always disappoint, and any advantage you can use to prevent that from occurring is a bonus. Secondly, Aganorsa incorporated a rounded taper to the cigar’s head, so it still fares well with a V-cut, or a punch, if either is your cup of tea.

Aganorsa 80th hits hard up front and takes a good inch or so to completely settle down. I think for some, especially those who prefer flavor over fire, this might be off-putting. If you’re willing to take on the strength at the door, you’ll be handsomely rewarded shortly after. After throttling down, there’s a measure of savory, buttery flavors laced with intermittent shots of spices and pepper, as well as a slight sweetness – Corojo maybe? – that lingers in the background. This tug of war didn’t let up until about midway through, and it made for an exhilarating ride.

This first act was an interestingly odd combination because, simultaneously, the cigar is both smooth and turbulent. Some would call it complexity, but my experience went beyond that; straddling the line between identity crisis and sublimity. Whatever it is, it works. When you eat a great meal at your favorite restaurant, you don’t sit and think about everything that went into making it great; you just sit back, satisfied, with a full belly. Check, please.

As I made my way into the second half of the cigar, it seemed to get gradually smoother, while the retrohale remained sharp and fiery. It kept this pace for the next inch and a half, and as I made my way to the nub, it took a final turn by way of a sweeter raisin-ish nuance that I noted on the pre-light draw.

So, for whom is Aganorsa 80th blended? Far and away, these are meant for experienced smokers with a more robust palate. I’ve smoked nearly a box of them already over the course of a month and a half (including the pre-release), and the only conspicuous inconsistency is they seem to get better with age. This cigar being blended for our 80th anniversary has me wondering though, how much greater will they be on our 90th? I can’t wait to find out.

John Pullo’s Tasting Notes…

Construction: Neatly box-pressed, with just the tiniest bit of give; wrapper is well-stretched, has an even maduro color and shimmers with a fair amount of oils – very lightly raised tooth, too.
Draw: On this sample, a bit tight.
Pre-light flavor: Sweeeeet – has a wonderful tobacco flavor, along with nuts and dried fruit.
Toasting & Light: A bit of spice, coffee and raisin.
Base flavors: Wood, coffee and spice.
Retrohale: Very pleasant – woody and floral, with a shot of cool spice up in the nose – but not overly bitey.
Aroma: A faint scent of toasted grains, very enjoyable.
Burn & Ash Quality: The fine tooth of the wrapper becomes obvious in the mostly light grey ash; very fine carbon line, and the ash stacks nicely – but doesn’t hang for a ton of time.
Balance of flavors: Complex, to a point – you’re more likely to notice the intensity of flavor as opposed to the strength.

Summary: That hum you hear is the growing buzz that’s surrounding Aganorsa cigars, and it’s why we asked them to produce this special limited edition smoke for Famous’ 80th Anniversary. And now that it’s here, we get to grade TABSA’s work – and see how closely they hit our blending note wish list.

The second in the Famous Smoke Shop 80th Anniversary series is another box press, though more sharply formed than the Romeo we tested out last time. Also of note: I rarely get excited about the pre-light flavor of a cigar…but this was one of those times, with a rich, sweet tobacco flavor.

The Aganorsa Famous 80th starts medium, with a buttery feel to the smoke – and almost immediately, goes ahead and paints a stripe of ginger spice across the palate. That raw, spicy tingle lasts, too. There is excellent smoke production from the cigar I smoked in the video; though of the three or four I’ve had, only one particular sample was a little less than forthcoming with the draw.

It’s not long before the smoke takes on a salty, savory taste; but the big change for me happens at about the halfway mark, where a wicked-tasty coffee bean note comes on really strong. Any of the lingering sweetness fades out too, as strong notes of cedar wood and meatiness set in with a hearty dash of pepper. A bit of sweetness returns to finish up the smoke, if you stick with it long enough to nub it.

In our review, I called this a connoisseur’s cigar. Not just because it’s a special, boutique smoke, but because people who pair their cigars with food or drinks are going to find that the flavors in the cigar are intensely reactive to what you’re eating or drinking when you smoke it. For instance: as a morning cigar, I noticed less of the sweetness; as a post-meal smoke, the sweet notes are much more apparent.

And that’s the surprising part about the Aganorsa Famous Smoke Shop 80th – for a “connoisseur’s cigar,” it’s also very budget-friendly – which means you don’t have to be a high-falutin’ cigar pro to be able to enjoy it. You just have to be a little quick on the draw, as it’s in such limited supply.

Gary Korb’s Tasting Notes…

Construction: Excellent. Wrapper has a nice glossiness, even in hue throughout, and topped with a four-seam cap.
Draw: Very good.
Pre-light flavor: Leathery and lightly salty.
Toasting & Light: Excellent. Foot took quickly and evenly to flame. Initial puffs show some nuttiness and a hint of salt, followed by a smack of black pepper.
Base flavors: Earth, light salt & pepper, cedar, sweet spice.
Retrohale: Tangy with some light pepper.
Aroma: Sharp.
Burn & Ash Quality: Very good. Burn was even, revealing a firm grey ash and a thin carbon line.
Balance of flavors: Perfect.

Summary: Following an initial shot of light salt, some nuttiness, and a healthy serving of black pepper, the cigar wasted little time rounding-out, while leaving a trail of pepper on a long and creamy finish. The smoke continued to round-out throughout the first act, settling in to a very smooth, creamy cigar with some additional woody notes and sweet spices.

By the time I got to the midsection, the cigar was playing at full-volume; plenty of dense smoke with all the flavors harmonizing, while the finish remained long and spicy, like the remnant spice of a cinnamon candy.

This cigar has some mucho savory kick to it, which might make it better suited for enjoying in the afternoon and evening hours. It would probably pair well with just about any fine whiskey or liqueur, even a Cabernet or Port, but I was quite satisfied with this cigar over coffee.

As the cigar came around the clubhouse turn, the flavors transitioned to a slightly sweeter profile. It was also at this juncture that the cigar revealed an additional note of hickory riding shotgun to the sweetness, while the spice continued to languish on the palate. In the final stretch, the smoke remained smooth, full-bodied, and kept just about all of its flavors intact. Quite impressive.

Suffice it to say. . . the Aganorsa Leaf Famous 80th Anniversary is elegant, refined, and loaded with flavor, making it an ideal selection for the avid enthusiast. This cigar will also do right by newer cigar smokers seeking something very unique, and with more depth and complexity.

Tommy Zman’s Tasting Notes…

Construction: On the slightly toothy side.
Draw: Smooth with lots of smoke.
Pre-light flavor: Earthy.
First Few Puffs: Earthy, woody.
Base flavors: Cedar, coffee bean, butter, sweet dark fruit.
Aroma: Sweet woody aroma.
Burn & Ash Quality: Nice burn and solid ash.
Balance of flavors: Well-balanced complexity.

Summary: You would expect that a limited edition, anniversary cigar of only 250 boxes would be an ultra-special premium smoke… well, this Famous 80th Anniversary cigar is all that and more. It’s a beautifully made Belicoso that basically looks like a Toro with a slightly rounded tapered head. It’s a damned nice looking cigar with a double-band presentation. The San Andres outer wrapper is a dark brown maduro that has a slight bit of toothiness with an oily sheen. The construction is excellent as this stick is solid and packed with excellent tobacco.

Complex?… indeed. The first puffs bring a little spiciness to the palate and a distinct cedary sweetness that I thought lingered throughout the entire smoke. A third the way in is when things start to change as a buttery taste enters and there’s even a touch of a cinnamon sweetness. But it’s the halfway point where this freight train of flavor starts to open up. I started getting sweet dark fruit on the taste buds along with a taste of coffee beans. When I said it was complex, I meant it was complex.

The other thing that happened at the halfway point was that the draw opened up as well as a lot of thick creamy smoke filled my mouth and surrounded my head. And the aroma gives off a pleasant woodiness as I found myself trying to smell the smoke coming off the foot. The retrohale at this point was a doozy and that sweetness I described in the beginning intensified it greatly.

If you’re not overly familiar with Aganorsa, I believe you will be as they are making some seriously delicious cigars and scoring a lot of high ratings. Their Nicaraguan farms are producing amazing crops of tobacco and every one of their offerings just has so much damned flavor. But remember, we’re talking only 250 boxes here, so you’d better move your ash and get some for yourself.