Cigar Buying Guides

2018 CA Report: Top 10 Underrated Connecticut Shade Cigars

Okay, I’ll tell you right off the bat why I think the 10 cigars I am about to share with you are underrated (in my most humble of opinions). First off, these are truly top quality cigars, all made in excellent cigar manufacturing facilities. But the main reason I have referred to them as underrated is because there are many full-bodied cigar lovers who simply will not give a lighter Connecticut Shade stick the time of day. But, newsflash for everyone reading: NOT ALL Connecticut Shade cigars are mellow and thin on flavor. In fact, the cigars on my list, while they may not be dark, Maduro, ligero-laden beasts, these sticks all have profiles that boast a hell of a lot of nice, rich tobacco flavor.

Listen, I can’t smoke big-ash flavor bombs all the time, especially early in the day. Sometimes I need to back off from the heavy artillery and give my palate a rest. I think that the following choices deliver complexity, taste and quality, and are definitely worth firing up and judging for yourself. And, I thought it was important to note that in a previous article I wrote about Connecticut Shade cigars, somebody gave me a hard time for not featuring sticks that are wrapped with leaf actually grown in the Connecticut River Valley, as opposed to Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade (which all 10 cigars in this article feature). Well, there’s really only one remaining farm in Connecticut that grows the light-shade wrapper under the tents, which means there’s just not a lot of availability. And because of that, the Connecticut-grown leaf is more expensive than Ecuador's, which is available to blenders in much greater abundance.

What’s interesting to note…the shade wrapper that’s grown in the Connecticut River Valley here in the U.S. is called “shade,” because it's grown under the cover of mesh tents (they were once made of actual cheesecloth, but now created from a more durable man-made fiber). The tents act as a sunlight filter, which gives the tobacco its lighter color. Now, the Connecticut leaf from Ecuador is grown by using Connecticut seeds, but because of the natural cloud cover in the Central American growing region, no shade tents need to be used.

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So here’s a little bit about these shade-wrapped beauties that you should think about giving a try…

 

CLE Connecticut

60 x 6; Medium Body
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut    Inside: Honduras

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While we all know that Christian Eiroa makes great cigars, he’s been long known for very full-bodied and oftentimes strong Honduran grown goodness. So, enter, the CLE Connecticut, while Honduran inside, this beautiful specimen features a silky light-shade wrapper. This actually starts with a hit of pepper but then smooths out to a creamy smoke with woody notes and citrus. Lots of flavor going on right here.

 

My Father Connecticut

Toro/6 ½ x 54; Mellow-Medium Body
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut   Inside: Nicaragua

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Don Pepin is another one of those masters who is renowned for blending Nicaraguan beast-mode bombers. So, he goes and fools us all and wraps some aged Nic leaf with a supple Connecticut outer, and trust me when I say that the flavor is all-there with notes of earth, dark wood and a hint of chocolate. Beautifully constructed with a Cuban-style triple-seam cap.

 

Perdomo 20th Anniversary Connecticut

Epicure/6 x 56; Medium Body
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut    Inside: Nicaragua

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Perdomo has seriously become one of the top players in the cigar industry, and the 20th Anniversary line is as premium as it gets. While the Maduro and the Sun Grown are raved about, it’s the Connecticut that is truly underrated here. It’s not even remotely mellow - bursting with rich, complex flavors like cream, spice, cedar, coffee, and almonds. You can truly smoke this one ANY time of day. I paired it with a belt of Knob Creek bourbon and my taste buds actually sent me a thank you email.

 

Iron Horse Connecticut

Toro/6 x 50; Medium Body
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut    Inside: Nicaragua

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AJ Fernandez has become a certified rock star in the world of cigar making, and it’s fortunate for us that he has blended several new smokes exclusive to Famous Smoke Shop, like this all-new Iron Horse. Again, I have to say, DON’T let that lighter wrapper fool you because this one is brimming with earthiness, pepper and spice, with a slightly sweet creaminess on the palate. Gotta put this on the to-do list.

 

Aging Room Solera Shade

Fantastico/5 ½ x 54; Medium Body
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut    Inside: Dominican Republic

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The Solera line created by Rafael Nodal is another monster hit with smokers, as the Sun Grown and the Maduro are often talked about on social media. And yet, it is the severely underrated Connecticut Solera Shade that has me coming back for more. Inside it boasts fuller-flavored Dominican tobaccos, but adding that smooth and shiny lighter-colored leaf gives it a creamy sweetness that is undeniably delectable. Wonderful notes of toasted nuts, coffee and cedar make this an inviting addition to your rotation.

 

San Lotano Requiem Connecticut

Toro/6 x 52; Mellow-Medium Body
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut    Inside: Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Honduras

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Well, it’s AJ Fernandez again, another one of the tobacco masters where BOLD is his middle name. And while the regular Requiem is indeed wickedly bold, the Connecticut wrapped version is on the medium side, but every damned ounce of well-aged tobacco flavor is there. While it’s creamy, nutty, woody and buttery smooth, it’s got that patented spicy AJ kick that ramps the profile upwards! Super tasty and very worth a try.

 

Fratello Oro

Toro/ 6 1/4 x 54; Mellow-Medium Body
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut    Inside: Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Cameroon

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The Fratello lines of cigars are making waves and getting noticed, simply because they are delicious, high-quality sticks. The wrapper on the Oro is oily and silky and just begs you to pull it from the box and start smoking. This is a very smooth and creamy cigar sporting tasty notes of slightly sweet dried fruits, toasty nuts, and a pronounced complex cedar kick. While this will be new to a lot of our readers, it’s not going to stay underrated for long.

 

RoMa Craft Intemperance EC XVIII

Industry/5 ½ x 54 Belicoso; Medium Body
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut     Inside: Nicaragua, Dominican Republic

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My buddy Skip Martin at RoMa Craft loves Texas BBQ and VERY full-bodied premium aged cigars. So, again, like the other full-flavor masters named above, Skip pulled a fast one and wrapped a gorgeous Ecuadorian grown leaf around a full Nicaraguan blend, and a simply fantastic medium-bodied cigar was born into the RoMa Craft fold. While this Intemperance has an earthy and spicy bold inner core, the naturally sweet Connecticut outer leaf adds a luscious creaminess, giving it an almost dessert-like quality. Pair this with a sherry cask Scotch or a good Tawny Port and you might not just move for a real long while.

 

Crowned Heads Luminosa

Toro/6 ½ x 52; Mellow-Medium Body
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut     Inside: Undisclosed

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The boutique cigar makers at Crowned Heads have been doing it right for a while now, and the Luminosa, meaning: full of light – is a delicious new step for the company. In conjunction with Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Jr.'s Tabacalera La Alianza S.A., the cigar features an undisclosed filler and binder – how delightfully mysterious – and they come right out and say that with its attractive Connecticut Shade outer leaf, this cigar is the perfect match for your morning coffee. Well don’t just sit there – pour yourself a cup and start smoking.

 

Macanudo Inspirado White

Toro/6 ½ x 50; Medium Body
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut     Inside: Nicaragua, Mexican San Andres

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Ok, ok… There are definitely those of you who are scoffing at the name of Macanudo. But let me assure you that the offerings in the Inspirado line are not mellow, and the White is no exception. This a complex and well-built cigar, with the inner full blend aged for four years, and the proprietary outer Ecuadorian grown Connecticut leaf aged for six. Honest, the quality is there and so is the flavor, with notes of creaminess and spiciness, along with roasted nuts and toast. This sure as hell ain’t your grand-pappy’s Macanudo and it definitely deserves a try.

 

So, there you have it, my thoughts on the underrated Connecticut shade wrapped sticks of the cigar world. How about posting a comment below with your thoughts and suggestions!

Tommy Zman Zarzecki

Editor-at-Large

Tommy Zman, is an obsessive enjoyer of life’s leafy pleasures. Growing up in the bowels of northern New Jersey, parented by an eccentric Polish father and a neurotic Italian mother, what else could this man possibly be other than a humorist? ZMan’s a real throwback to a time when men were kings of the castle and smoking a cigar in public didn’t label you an outcast and a pariah. He’s an old–school down to earth guy - but when it comes to p.c. tyranny and nanny-state legislature, he’ll draw his sword and swing for the fences. Tommy gathered a faithful following as a longtime feature writer at Cigar Magazine, and his testosterone laden FaceBook community, CROMAG NATION™ is truly the last great bastion for Men’s Men.

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