Even the blending experts don’t always agree on how much of a cigar’s flavor comes from the wrapper leaf – learn why, plus we pay forward a cool trick you can try to test your favorite cigar to see how much its flavor comes from the wrapper leaf.
IPCPR 2015: New Cigars & Big Cigar News from the Big Easy
New Cigars for 2015
Among cigar makers and sellers, it’s just called, “the Show.”
There are many cigar biz trade shows throughout the calendar year, but there is only one Show…the annual International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailer (IPCPR) trade show, and it just wrapped three days ago in New Orleans. Ironic, considering the city just implemented a smoking ban; but it is the Big Easy, so as with all things N’awlins, I’m sure the fuzz were looking the other way rather than writing up citations.
At the Show, the cigar universe aligns – and almost every single cigar company showcases their newest smokes, of which there are many. There were 329 vendors at this year’s convention, ranging from #1 Wholesale Inc. to Zippo…and with all of them in town to sell cigars and accessories to smoke shop owners, it means we now have a feast of new (and delicious) cigars and smoking-related products to look forward to giving the taste-test.
First, a couple of themes from the Show:
- Limited Editions are still hot. So are Anniversaries. Have an anniversary? Do a limited edition cigar. So don’t be surprised when you see that some of my must-smokes have a very short lifespan.
- Connecticut wrapper has been rediscovered. Not that it went anywhere, but many cigar makers are reintroducing it on their blends to cast a wider net of potential customers. That, or the big strength game is played out. I’m not sure which.
With 300+ booths, it’d be damn near impossible to deliver the details on every single smoke that bowed at IPCPR – but I’m going to show you the new cigars we Advisors are most excited about trying.
One big deal at IPCPR is Drew Estate making the Undercrown a smoke everyone can enjoy: they’re thinking light, unveiling Undercrown Shade. Willy Herrera has tinkered with the original components a bit, then taken the San Andres wrapper off and replaced it with an Ecuadorian Connecticut shade – taking these new cigars in a more medium-bodied direction that smoke super smooth. This version uses a binder from Sumatra over long fillers from the Dominican and Nicaragua. He says it took more than a year to develop; we say it’s destined to be one of the most in-demand in their lineup, available in the same 6 sizes as the original.
And be on the lookout for…
The new Herrera Estelí Norteño Edicion Limitada…available in just one size (a 7×48 Prensado); it’s thick with extensively aged Nicaraguan tobaccos. A spicy Honduran binder comes into play, along with a rich Mexican San Andrés maduro wrapper. Let the mouthwatering commence.
Few of us will be lucky enough to visit the Perdomo factory in Nicaragua during our lifetimes; so Nick is bringing the factory to you in his new cigars called the Perdomo Factory Tour Blend. Like his most recent regular-production releases (Perdomo Double Aged and the 20th Anniversary), this cigar highlights what magic Tabacalera Perdomo can do with Nicaraguan tobacco under three wrapper varietals: Connecticut, Sun Grown and Maduro. The Ecuadorian Connecticut is milder, with Jalapa binder and Esteli fillers. The Factory Tour Blend Sun Grown and Maduro editions share the same (punchier) blend, but each is finished with select wrapper tobaccos sourced from the Jalapa Valley and rolled in 4 beefed-up traditional sizes.
It could be one of the most anticipated releases at this summer’s show…a lighter, milder Padrón. It’s still chock full of their hallowed Nicaraguan fillers, but now it’s finished in a Connecticut-seed wrapper. No box pressing, either; Padrón Dámaso is round (and in cellophane, FTW), a drastic manufacturing move that may just tilt the Earth off its axis. Hey – this is Padrón. They don’t do anything new, ever…so to go so far outside of their wheelhouse, it’s a big deal. The smoke is named for Jose O. Padrón’s grandfather, Dámaso, who was the first in the family to arrive in Cuba (by way of the Canary Islands) in the late 1800s and who got the clan started in tobacco growing. End result here is a line of new cigars that are meant to serve as a heritage piece, and something milder for you if the standard Padrón is too heavy a hitter for your liking.
It’s the Montecristo cigar brand that got the big push this year at the Altadis booth. Making our “new cigars we must try” list is Montecristo White Vintage Connecticut, doubling down on the complex and creamy with a vintage 2008 Connecticut Shade wrapper that’s grown exclusively on the company’s farms for this cigar. The blend is richer than you’d expect from a Monte, packed with Dominican, Nicaraguan and Peruvian long fillers and rolled to 3 sizes – including the must-have #2.
And be on the lookout for…
Montecristo Espada gets a new addition called Estoque: it’s a dark, full-bodied smoke that’s jammed with rare, vintage all-Nicaraguan tobaccos and a high priming Cuban seed wrapper. One size and one size only, only 5,000 boxes (finished in black leather, FYI) are being made.
The Montecristo 80th Anniversary is another very limited edition smoke on the way, featuring a Dominican Pilotico tobacco that’s grown from “lost” seeds that were hand carried by Pepe Mendez out of Cuba. Full-bodied and spicy, only 3,000 boxes will be available; or, you can choose the 80-cigar limited edition Montecristo 80th Anniversary humidor – if the pockets are deep.
Pete Johnson is next in our lineup, because – as we found out recently – he is a fan of Henry Clay cigars. He partnered with Altadis to put his own spin on the heritage brand, and hitting shelves now is the Henry Clay Tattoo. Henry Clay (the guy) was an 1840’s Kentucky politician who was nicknamed “The Great Compromiser.”
While we don’t know Pete’s nickname, or if he has one, we do know that Johnson paired up with Altadis’s Grupo De Maestros to rework the original Henry Clay with an oily, 5-year old Dark Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, potent Dominican Piloto tobaccos and spicy Nicaraguan fillers. The end result is a big, beefy toro that will smoke full…but hurry – only 50,000 of these new cigars will be made available, in boxes of 20.
CAO Flathead was a monster hit when it premiered 2 years ago…but where the car guys got pinup girl posters in their cigar boxes, the motorcycle guys got – well, nuthin’. Until now: CAO Steel Horse is a spin-off of the Flathead, and I have to admit here that I cheated; I’ve already smoked it. But boy-o, let me tell you – Steel Horse is So. Damn. Good. Complex? Oh, yeah. It’s a 4-nation blend (Brazilian, Honduran, Nicaraguan and Dominican) wrapped in a proprietary Connecticut Habano Grueso leaf and smokes rich but medium-full. Two sizes are arriving now: the Bullneck (at 6.5 x 66) and the Apehanger (5.5 x 58) – you’ll want to take these new cigars for a spin, for sure.
And be on the lookout for…
CAO Pilón has been added to the CAO Classic Series, its name a nod to the traditional round-pile fermentation technique used in old Cuba. Labor intensive, this particular method ratchets up the flavor and brings out color in the leaves you may not be used to seeing. Medium in body, full in flavor – it’s well worth the extra trouble.
The original Leccia Luchador stuck its big boot in your chest and suplexed your taste buds; El Gringo now enters the ring with a Nicaraguan Oscuro wrapper, Nicaraguan Habano binder and blend of three powerful ligeros from Esteli, Jalapa and Pennsylvania. Be prepared, as El Gringo comes at you from the top rope with a fistful of pepper, spice and big Nicaraguan flavor. Four sizes are coming; these new cigars stand apart from the original Leccia line with red, white and blue wrestling mask on the bands. You are warned.
This year’s Macanudo Estate Reserve is about as limited as it can get. But first, some history…Macanudo was originally a Jamaican-made cigar, and much of the blend featured native tobaccos grown on small local farms. For this edition of the Estate Reserve, the blenders added a scrumptious, super-oily 10-year-old Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper from highest of primings to a proprietary Jamaican tobacco (and favorite of the locals) called Silver Tongue. The flavor is deep, the body is rich, the tobacco supply is scarce – so little Silver Tongue is grown and harvested that it has become the most expensive long-filler leaf in the world. And that means these new cigars will only be available until the super-limited release of 1,800 boxes per size is sold out.
The Cuban heritage legend’s blenders returned to their tobacco stock rooms over four years ago, with an eye on creating a limited edition Partagas; finally, the fruits of their labor has paid off, and just in time for their 170th anniversary. It’s called Partagas Aniversario, and the four-nation blend is even more interesting than we could have anticipated…sure, you have a healthy dose of ligero and viso leaves from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, but to make this smoke truly special the blenders included an exclusive leaf called “Nicaraguan Gurdian.” The binder is Connecticut Havano, the wrapper is an organic sun-grown Cameroon wrapper that’s been cultivated exclusively for General Cigar. In two words, “buttery rich.” That’s me, cutting in front of the line to grab this one.
￼￼The Decade marked 10 years in the cigar business; Rocky and friends followed up by releasing the Fifteenth Anniversary…now comes the Rocky Patel 20th Anniversary, a blend that’s been 4 years in the making. In true Rocky fashion, the 20th is undoubtedly robust: Nicaraguan fillers from Jalapa and Esteli are mated with a Honduran leaf from Jamastran, and all rolled together in a scrumptious bunch that’s capped by a Honduran-grown wrapper. And for good measure, it’s then box-pressed. Expect to see these new cigars in 5 sizes, this fall.
And be on the lookout for…
Tabaquero was developed for RP by Cuban tobacco master (and BURN house roller) Hamlet Paredes, utilizing a rich San Andres wrapper over fillers from Nicaragua, and binders from Brazil and Mexico. Rocky calls it “a fusion of Cuban craftsmanship and Nicaraguan ingenuity”; we call it interesting, with the heavy use of Mexican tobaccos.
Rocky Patel Special Reserve Sun Grown Maduro is an artisanal boutique of sorts, made in Esteli. As I love a sun grown wrapper, I love a broadleaf maduro just as well; put ‘em together, and this combination may rival the successful pairing of peanut butter and jelly.
Flor De Gonzalez
Found quite often flying under the radar is Flor De Gonzalez; you know them primarily for 90 Miles. While this trip in the FDG way-back machine doesn’t give us a chance to try their original cigar (called Flor De Gonzalez Gold Series…I think) as it tasted 20 years ago, it does afford you the chance to savor Gonzalez’s well-regarded wrapper tobacco – some of which was aged 8 years for this release. Christened as the FDG 20 Aniversario, expect an uncharacteristically mild-medium but uber-flavorful Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapped version, and a full/tasty-as-all-hell CT broadleaf maduro – just like the original wrapper choices on their first smokes.
Now, the catch: production on these new cigars is limited to 180,000 cigars…mathing it out, you’re looking at 1,500 boxes per size, per wrapper. So grab it when you can.
So ponder if you will, what would happen if Zino Davidoff went to Rio? Picture the old man at an all-night rave laced with cachaça, models, Red Bull…after all, Zino was a pretty open-minded guy. The result of this potent party stew is Davidoff Escurio, a new premium crafted with Brazilian tobacco. You saw what happened when Davidoff added Nicaraguan tobacco to their lineup of new cigars last year – so imagine how your taste buds will backflip over the chili-n’-chocolate mix of Escurio’s spicy Brazilian Cubra binder and sugary Mata Fina fillers. Dominican tobaccos round out the mix, and this new smoke is wrapped with dark, oily Habano Ecuador – in large ring gauges – and with Davidoff craftsmanship.
Camacho let their new Barrel Aged out of the barn a few weeks ago, and it’s a grand smoke – all the Advisors give it a “highly recommend.” But as for new cigars I’m looking forward to trying, it’s their 2015 Camacho Liberty Series. This year’s limited edition draws its inspiration from the Liberty Bell’s peals of freedom that “rang out from Independence Hall on July 8th, 1776”; it was the day that Philadelphians were summoned to hear the first reading of the newly-penned Declaration of Independence. All-Nicaraguan (a first for Liberty), it’s expected to smoke medium-full with equal parts salty, sweet and savory; production will be capped at 2,000 boxes.
Some other new cigars that you need to put on your smoke radar…
Boutique Blends/Aging Room’s Rafael Nodal has doubled down with two new big, burly smokes that we’re dying to get our hands on…first is a new La Boheme (the brand was introduced last year) called Encantador: brimming with full-bodied Dominican tobaccos – as is Rafael’s way – La Boheme Encantador is wrapped in a darker, higher priming Ecuadorian Habano leaf than the original. And yes, it will be limited in its production. Second is an Ecuadorian Connecticut-wrapped SWAG, where Nodal does a complete 180 on the usual so-full-it’s-in-yo’-face body and strength of his cigars…SWAG Connecticut smokes mild to medium, plumped up with smooth, well-aged Dominican tobaccos in a blend that is NOT to be overlooked.
Christian Eiroa is rolling out a new version of the CLE Plus. Still a Honduran puro, it’s supposed to be more complex – but less potent – than the previous Plus, part of which is due to a Colorado wrapper.
Crowned Heads has lifted the veil on La Imperiosa…it’s essentially the same components as what Jon Huber blended into the Las Calaveras Edición Limitada 2014. A revival of a Cuban brand name from the early 1900’s, these new cigars are made at Pepin’s My Father Cigars factory in Nicaragua.
You may remember Steve Saka from his days as the CEO of Drew Estate; after some time away from the business, Saka is back in the game with Sobremesa, the first release from his new Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust cigar company. The blend, in a nutshell: a twist of Pennsylvania tobacco inside “mostly” Nicaraguan fillers, a Mexican binder and an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper.
Murcielago has been reintroduced by Erik Espinosa. It was first released in 2009 when Erik was just a partner in its production; now, it’s all his – and Murcielago rides again using a Mexican San Andres wrapper over Nicaraguan filler tobaccos, in 3 sizes.
Alec Bradley Cigars has upped their wrapper game, giving the Nica Puro an overhaul – and a new Rosado wrapper. Nica Puro Rosado will roll out in 6 medium-bodied sizes that are all cloaked in a “golden rosado Colorado” wrapper over only Nicaraguan fillers from all 3 tobacco growing regions.
A.J. Fernandez has teamed up again with his father Ismael (they blended the New World together, last year), who used to work for Plasencia. This time, it’s a full-bodied barnburner named Enclave, which utilizes an Ecuadorian Habano Rosado wrapper, a smooth Cameroon binder, and select Nicaraguan and Piloto Cubano tobaccos. He calls his new cigars Enclave because of “the special brotherhood created by those who enjoy a great cigar,” and adding, “We invite you to join our ‘Enclave’ with this special cigar that we have patiently crafted to perfection.”
Thanks, AJ – it’s on my to-do list…