The second of Famous Smoke Shop’s 80th Anniversary cigars comes from one of today’s hottest boutiques – and we’ve really been looking forward to getting it between our fingers. Did it make the grade? To see our review, click now…
SWAG Connecticut Cigar Review: Video
Swag Connecticut Cigar Review: Cigar Advisor Review Panel
Rafael Nodal, President of Boutique Blends, finds inspiration in the most unique of places. The origin of Swag cigars has already been well-documented; but if you’ve never heard the story, all we need to tell you is that it involves Rafael’s son, Lil’ Wayne & the Grammys. Since then, his brands have garnered a reputation – and high ratings – for wringing incredible volumes of flavor from the Dominican tobaccos Nodal uses in his blends. He also has helped put to rest the notion that Dominican cigars are mild: even his more mellow cigars (if you can call them that) load up the palate with full body and flavor.
Swag, Rafael will tell you, is “not for everyone.” His brand’s current focus is on creating blends that are designed to surprise even the most discriminating palates with complexity, and for the cigar to leave its mark by way of its character. And that got us thinking, let’s do a Swag Connecticut cigar review and see what this new stick – released at the cigar industry’s IPCPR trade show – could do. Because we were curious: with his sterling reputation for beefy, full-bodied cigars at hand, was it possible that Rafael Nodal was able to refine the boldness of the Swag blend with this Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper? Take a gander and see for yourself, as the Advisor panelists smoke their way through this Swag Connecticut cigar review. Watch the video now, and be sure to see our included Swag Connecticut tasting notes underneath!
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Size: 6″x 54
Filler & Binder: Dominican
Gary’s Tasting Notes: Swag Connecticut Infamous
Construction and Overall Appearance: Excellent. Wrapper has an even color throughout; triple cap is well-applied, and the cigar is devoid of any soft spots.
Draw (airflow): Excellent.
Pre-light flavor (cold draw): Toasty, woody.
Toasting & Light: Excellent.
First few puffs: Peppery.
Retrohale: Smooth with a trace of black pepper on the finish.
Base flavors: earth, wood, nuts
Aroma: Sharp and fragrant. Gets right-up in the olfactory.
Burn / Ash Quality: Even with a modest carbon line.
Balance of flavors: Excellent.
- Tobaccos are well packed from wall-to-wall, which gives this cigar some nice weight and a good feel in the hand. Cap is well-made and clips-off in a perfect circle.
- Ash is firm, even, light-grey color, and has a very fine granular quality.
- Flavors continually change-up as the cigar burns from wood, to cream, to spice, nuts, and back.
The SWAG Connecticut is the “Connecticut” cigar for cigar smokers who are snooty about Connecticut wrapper blends. As I’ve said for years, never judge a cigar by its wrapper. Rafael Nodal and Boutique Blends have created a medium-full smoke with enough flavor to satisfy the most cynical full-bodied smoker.
Comparisons to Undercrown Shade, Camacho Connecticut, and Davidoff Winston Churchill would be in order here. In addition to the hearty Dominican filler & binder core, I’m going to surmise that the Ecuador wrappers come from high priming leaves, which is most likely why they have a lot more ZING, even though the color is closer to a typical Ecuadorian Connecticut. That also says a lot about how well this particular wrapper batch was cured and aged.
The smoke offers some impressive changes in character and flavor along the way that smokers of full-bodied cigars will appreciate. The cigar seems to “cool-off” every so often, before reaching back and smacking you with another round of flavor. Moreover, because this SWAG Connecticut has so much depth and fullness to it, I don’t think it’s for new cigar smokers, but I can see full-flavor fans getting a lot of enjoyment out of it. So, for those out there who have a bias against “Connecticut” blends, this Swag Connecticut cigar review proved to me it’s time they readjust their heads and open their minds.
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John’s Tasting Notes: Swag Connecticut Infamous
Construction and Overall Appearance: The Ecuador CT wrapper sure looks darker than average Connecticut, even others grown in Ecuador. But still did notice that it retained a fragile quality, with a few veins and bumps. Just a few minor color variations from tip to tip.
Draw: Nice – surprisingly easy given (a) how densely packed this thing is, and (b) that I used a v-cutter.
Pre-light flavor: tea, tobacco and earth
Toasting & Light: That Connecticut wrapper bitterness you’re used to is there.
Base flavors: Add to that Connecticut wrapper taste some tea, pepper, pepper, and more pepper. Spice and very dark roasted coffee here too. Earthy.
Aroma: very rich – I’d say it’s meaty, even.
Burn / Ash Quality: Decently tight ash, but more gray than white. Each section held on for quite a while.
Balance of flavors: Well done here.
Consistency: The pepper and spice are pretty consistent. Body was medium plus throughout, but those bitey flavors came walking across my tongue like they were wearing those shoes you’d put on to aerate your lawn.
Burn line is dead nuts, all throughout – this is a well-crafted smoke. The flavors are very evident: even though the pepper/spice mix faded away after just a little bit, it came back with a vengeance. And a thick and creamy smoke.
Let’s talk flavors: for a Connecticut, this one brings the whole family to the party. It’s complex, alright…nuts, wood, coffee, wood, nuts, spice and pepper take turns stomping across your taste buds. I’m just glad I ate something ahead of time, because those flavors are full.
An inch in: savory. The whole thing settles down with a leathery, meaty and char quality. But puff too hard or too often and that spice rears its head and bites you. At the very least, you’ll find it gets a little tangy if you lay off it and pace yourself slowly.
I love the aroma on this.
If I learned anything during our Swag Connecticut cigar review session, it’s this: don’t judge a book by its cover. This is the Connecticut you pick up and not realize how peppery it is – until it’s too late.
But knowing the beefy nature of the other Aging Room and Swag cigars, there is no mistaking the fact that this is Boutique Blends’ version of a Connecticut cigar; Rafael Nodal left his fingerprints all over the crime scene here. He’s just not going to do it the same way as everybody else. And if you’re the guy who says, “I don’t smoke Connecticut cigars” – this one is going to change your tune in a hurry.
Now – for all of the big deal I’m making about this being a pepper bomb – the Swag Connecticut smokes very smooth. That’s even in the face of the subtle bitterness inherent in the CT wrapper, which either is overshadowed by the blend, it marries in with the potent flavors and complements the all-Dominican filler blend or that taste just plain goes away; I’m not sure which.
Bottom line: it’s a straight-on good smoke, for sure. I see this as a flavorful treat.
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Jonathan’s Tasting Notes: Swag Connecticut Infamous
Construction: Flawless, and super packed. It was a heavy cigar!
Draw: With how packed it was, surprisingly easy.
First few puffs: As with anything Rafael Nodal makes, flavor hits from the very first puff.
Base flavors: Very prominent flavors throughout, but I’d have to say cocoa or espresso. It’s a rich cigar.
Aroma: Matching aroma, but with a sweet anisette aroma mixed in.
Burn/Ash: Burn was solid, but I will admit it cracked on me, as did the test cigars I smoked before the review (I’ll get into why later).
Balance of Flavor: Balance was on point as is everything made by Boutique Blends.
Consistency: From one cigar to the next, it’s extremely consistent.
It’s a dark Connecticut wrapper, much darker than I’m used to, and a little more rustic looking.
From start to finish the flavor was complex and bold, the construction was flawless, and the aroma was great. All around it was a perfectly balanced smoke that was far heavier than you may expect. This is what I call a sipping cigar, where you take your time and don’t blow through it. If you do, you’ll miss a lot of the smoke. Whatever size you usually smoke, take that average time and add 30 minutes. That’s how long this cigar should last you. Earth, coffee, cream, zest, some rich dried fruit and more are all present and appear in and out at different times throughout the smoke. Simply superb.
Positives: From start to finish, this is a winner.
Negatives: Before our Swag cigar review, the wrapper cracked on me; but it was my fault. I can only blame my smoking speed and the weather on each of these cigars cracking on me, and in no way was it due to how the cigar was constructed. Let me explain: My cigars are humidified properly, and the cigars rested before smoking as you should always do. My office environment hovers around 15% – 20% RH in the winter which is extremely low. As I smoke my humidified cigar, the wrapper dries out and contracts due to the low humidity while no humidity is lost in the core because it takes a long time for that moisture to reach the surface and evaporate. The core moisture swells the inside and applies pressure to the outside wrapper, causing the fragile wrapper to crack. This is cigars and science 101. The lesson here is to condition the cigar you want to smoke for the environment you’re going to be in when you smoke it. Try leaving the cigar out for a few hours where you’re going to smoke it (as long as it’s not too hot or cold), and you should be fine.
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Rafael Nodal (no, not the tennis player, for the thousandth time) is superb at creating cigar blends with distinct flavor profiles. Take for instance his Aging Room Maduro, because you’d swear you were smoking a freshly baked hunk of cinnamon laced pumpkin bread.
So for the new Swag Connecticut, Mr. N didn’t just whip up some run of the mill, tasteless, overly mild Connecticut wrapped stick. Oh no, it’s the furthest thing from it. This cigar is medium bodied but ranks high on the “full-flavor” scale.
Right off the bat we all got a smack of pepper on the taste buds but that quickly went away and I personally was overwhelmed (in a good way) with solid notes of citrus that laced my palate for a good long while. There’s also distinct notes of coffee and Jon Detore said it best that it’s kind of like having a robust espresso where they rub a piece of lemon peel around the cup. Yum, I say. Then I actually got hit with subtle notes of caramel and I was beyond convinced that this offering needs to become a regular in my humidor rotation.
I think this kind of blend will appeal to smokers of all types, including full bodied lovers who might want a nice smack of full flavor early on in the day. This is an extremely well made, expertly blended cigar and has moved high onto my recommendation list.
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