La Aurora Bristol Especiales (Aged)

(Size: 6 3/8″ x 48  —  Time: 1hr 15mins)

Last November I made a trip up to London in order to take part in a very good friend’s stag day – starting with an autumn international rugby match at Twickenham followed by a night in Reading (now, that was an interesting experience). I’d travelled up a day early so that I could attend a Classic Spectacular at the Royal Albert Hall, as such, I was at a bit of a loss as to what I could do before everyone else turned up. My decision was to have an early morning smoke in Sautters, just opposite the Connaught Hotel (which I was unfortunately not staying in…)

On the day I smoked the only enjoyable HdM Epicure No2 that I’ve yet to have. Whilst I was there, however, they were having a bit of a clear out of some old non-Cuban stock ahead of becoming an all-Cuban store. As the lucky person to be sat in the shop as they were looking through the stock, I had the opportunity for first-dibs (so to speak). If only I’d grasped it with both hands… As it was, I picked up a couple of old La Aurora Bristol Especiales. I’d tried a young LA Rothschild not long before the trip, so thought they were worth a punt. A little bit of estimation followed, which placed the age of the cigars as somewhere around fifteen years old. So, how had the cigar fared with age?

Appearance /15

What can be said about the Bristol Especiale’s appearance? Well, the first thing you notice is that the cellophane the cigar comes wrapped in is almost opaque, so long has the tobacco had to stain the sleeve. The deep, sepia appearance of the cellophane is a mere side show, however; so long had this cigar been kept in the humidor at Sautters that the band itself had become discoloured – where there was once white, there was a deep brown. The wrapper itself was fairly smooth, with just a couple of small veins, and was nice and velvety to the touch. The foot appeared to be reasonably well packed and the cap had been nicely applied. 13

Smoking Characteristics /25

The pre-light draw was absolutely perfect which would continue throughout the entire duration of the smoke. The cigar lit easily, and started a good even burn, which again continued throughout, with only minor deviations (nothing requiring a touch up). The ash was fairly solid in colour, and reasonably solid for the most part. The aroma seemed to be slightly non-descript. 23

Flavours /25

Pre-light flavours were largely the warm and sweet spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg – which were very reminiscent of a Danish pastry. On lighting the cigar, these flavours continued, with a distinctively sweet note on the tip of the tongue. After about ten minutes, there developed slightly minerally undernotes. Soon after, a set of subtle flavours very similar to those you might find in a red wine started to join the party… The mineral notes become slightly more tannic, almost coating the inside of the mouth, and other flavours were slightly smoky (what, smoky, I don’t believe you!) with lots of fruit. The fruit was largely of the tart variety – lots of cherry and gooseberries, the sort of stuff which, if you believe the wine-reviewers, you find in wine… This was largely the flavours throughout the cigar until the finale when the nutmeg started to come back to the fore and there was a creamy pepperness, much like a steak sauce. Overall, the flavours were very nice, though quite mild. 23

Overall Impression /35

Overall I have to say that this was a remarkably pleasant cigar to smoke. Light in body, and mild-to-medium in flavour, it was an easy going cigar that was just the right thing for a Monday evening. One of my friends had the second of the two examples I picked up in Sautters, and his thoughts largely mirrored my own, which also displays a fair degree of consistency in construction. Not a blockbuster by any means, but very pleasant, and very satisfying. 32

Grand total… 91/100

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La Aurora: Aurora Rothschild (NC)

(Size: 4″ x 50  —  Time: 50mins)

La Aurora are the Dominican Republic’s oldest cigar brand – far outdating the Cuban relocation brands. Founded in 1903, the company is now a major player on the island, even owning banks! Their cigars are still the company’s passion though. A couple of the La Aurora brands will be available on the UK market in the not too distant future (the Aurora and Preferidos lines), and I was lucky enough to get a sneek peak (Preferidos Platinum review to come in the next couple of weeks).

The La Aurora Aurora Rothschild is a wonderfully proportioned cigar – many may say its too short, but it looks great at 4″ in length and 50RG. When they are released in the UK they should be very reasonably priced, so I was interested to find out if this is going to be a good value cigar, or just a cheap cigar?

Appearance /15

I’ve already touched upon what I believe to be the Rothschild‘s beautiful proportions, and the wrapper’s not too shabby either. It had a couple of veins on, but maintained a nice lustre. The band also looks good – managing to be classy by understated (something which is rare on a cigar from outside of Cuba, in my experience). 13

Smoking Characteristics /25

This cigar took a little bit of lighting to get going, though the blame should largely lie upon my lighter, which died upon me. A swift run to the shop over the road from the pub, and I had a cheap bic lighter (which wasn’t quite up to competing with the wind…) In fact, the poor light probably worked in its favour, as it was able to demonstrate what a great burner it was – within minutes it had evened itself up beautifully, and stayed even from top to bottom. Aside from the great burn… the draw was excellent, absolutely spot on; and it produced good volumes of smoke, which were pleasantly aromatic according to those on the next table. Unfortunately, while quite attractive, the ash was quite flaky and broke easily when tapped (wasn’t sure how far to push it). 23

Flavour /25

On lighting, the first flavours which come straight at you are predominantly honey-like – sweet, but with herbal undertones. Around the end of the first third, some mineral-ness came in, which I can’t say was especially pleasant, but nothing too drastic. Soon, though, this went and a herbally leather formed the foundation until part way into the final third. Following a brief flavour which was rather like a weak cafe latte, the flavours became less pleasant (hints of licquorice even). That said, this cigar never got hot or bitter. 22

Overall Impression /35

Given what I understand the price is likely to be, this will be a phenomenally priced cigar. Despite that, it’s not without its failings – mainly a fairly mediocre second quarter (yes, I know I usually talk thirds), a less pleasant finish, and a lack of that something extra which marks out a great cigar. On the plus side, it didn’t become harsh at all and the construction seemed to be excellent, with a great draw being a solid pro in my book. 31

Grand total… 89/100

Oliva Serie V Churchill (NC)

(Size: 7″ x 52  —  Time: 2hrs 20mins)

Oliva is part of that group of brands based out of Nicaragua, developed by Sam Leccia, which include Nub and Cain. The Oliva range lacks the eye-catching marketing ploys of the ‘sweet-spot’ Nub and ‘straight ligero‘ Cain, what it does have though, is a strong following off the back of generally excellent products. Always well regarded by Cigar Aficionado magazine (I won’t become embroiled in the advert to score ration debate…) and spoken of highly by BOTLs, I was looking forward to this Oliva Serie V Churchill. It’s not really a Churchill, in my opinion, as it’s slightly too long, and way too thick. But, for the sake of argument, I shall classify it as such.

Appearance /15

One of Oliva’s strong points – their cigars, almost without fail, look good enough to eat! The Serie V Churchill has a wonderful, dark, oily wrapper with a wonderful lustre to it. Whilst there were no veins to speak of, the seams were fairly obvious, though that is largely due to the build up of dark, rich oils near the joins. The triple-cap was expertly applied. The only minor issue was that despite being great to the touch along the body, the foot seemed just a tad underfilled. 14

Smoking Characteristics /25

The pre-light aroma is really chocolatey and rich. Lighting this cigar was a little hassle, taking a couple of attempts to get it going properly. As the cigar progressed, the ash which formed seemed weak, and was fairly ugly in appearance – grey, flakey, mottled and with a lot of coning. The burn itself was passable during the first half, but after half-way it became quite poor. Whilst it burned fairly evenly throughout, it kept needing to be re-lit throughout the second half. After more than two hours, I finally gave up after it went out three times in as many minutes. There was probably another ten or fifteen minutes left (and the stated time at the top reflects this). 19

Flavour /25

Straight off the bat this Serie V Churchill with a big six over long-on: bang! Pepper and cedar. Wow, a powerful and dominating start (I prayed to [insert your favourite deity] that it wouldn’t carry on like this – I’d be out for the count in a matter of minutes). It certainly made you realise you were in for an event… The power quickly eased off, thankfully, though the pepper and cedar hung around, this time with some flavours which were slightly herbal (perhaps asparagus like?). Around the one-third mark, these flavours start to subside a bit, and in place of asparagus there is just a hint of fennel, which accents the main flavour – ‘green’ coffee, with undernotes of chocolate. This develops further just after the halfway stage (as the lighting issues begin): fennel becomes a little more grassy, and there’s plenty of citrus flavours with chocolate on the back end of the draw. 22

Overall Impression /35

It’s hard to be too positive about a cigar when you have such an issue in the second half with keeping the damn thing alight… That’s not to detract, however, from the generally interesting and fairly balanced flavour profile. The start aside (which was like being struck with a small house), it had strong flavours, and a solidly medium ‘body’. Then, there is the joy you derive from just looking at this cigar… Overall not bad at all – get one that stays alight and you’ll likely have an enjoyable two-and-a-half hours. 31

Grand total… 86/100

Enjoying a cigar at the Barbican in Plymouth: Myself and Ellison

Me smoking an "Oliva Serie V Churchill"

Ellison smoking a "Carbon Copy P Churchill"

Alonso Menendez No10 (NC)

(Size: 6 1/2″ x 42  —  Time: 1hr 25mins)

There was a brief break in the clouds yesterday, so I decided to take a late opportunity for a cigar by the water (I say that as I look out at clear blue skies…) I grabbed an Alonso Menendez No10, the brand’s Lonsdale offering, and made my way to the pub. Grabbing a pint of Tinners Ale (very nice by the way), I sat down and lit up my first Brazilian puro:

Appearance /15

The No10 has a fairly agricultural looking maduro wrapper. There are a few veins around the place, some rough seams and a cap which isn’t all that neatly applied. However, the pig-tail on the cap is a nice little touch, and the wonderous lustre of the oily wrapper more than compensates for it’s general unsightliness. The oil makes it great to feel, and it is firm to the touch, but not hard. 12

Smoking Characteristics /25

In a word? Perfect. This cigar lit perfectly first time; burned as evenly as any cigar I’ve smoked, with a really crisp burn line (all the way from the head to the nub); and had one of the best and most consistent draws I’ve experienced. The ash was fairly light and pretty solid. There really was not a single thing wrong with this cigars construction – even the aroma of the smoke was pretty pleasant. 25

Flavours /25

Early draws were full of smooth, milk chocolate flavours. Soon there was a creamy nuttiness which joined in. After around ten minutes, the flavour of note became fennel. It was very mild, with a clean, fresh and aniseedy flavour. Then citrus came through, with orange and lime flavours at the back end of the draw. Soon after, a little bit of chocolate came back, but the orange remained, providing the cigar equivalent of a Terry’s Chocolate Orange… A sip of the Tinners Ale, I noted, really brought out the citrus after-taste. Around the half-way stage, a herbiness started to dominate the flavours, but there was still just an element of chocolate at the back of the draw. Then the fennel returned, this time slightly stronger, but still palatable – not my favourite of flavours, but I won’t hold it against the cigar… As the cigar neared its close, some ‘green’ cocoa started to become noticeable, along with a good earthiness. Finally, hints of herbaceous flavours and a touch of pepperiness brought it to a close. 22

Overall Impression /35

I thought that the Alonso Menendez No10 is an astonishing cigar for the price (around £3 in the UK – where you can find them). It lasts the best part of one and a half hours, and it is smooth throughout (if not especially flavourful); then there’s the absolutely faultless construction. The flavours were fine and smooth, but always very mild, which suited this cigars light body very well. My friend Ellison, who I gave one today was also a fan of this cigar, citing its smooth characteristics. For all its significant good though, there was just a little something missing – the ‘x-factor’ if you will (NOT a reference to the shoddy, embarassing, cheap TV programme). It’s not exciting enough to get top marks, but good enough to keep it in the 90s overall. 32

Grand total… 91/100

La Invicta Petit Corona (NC)

(Size: 5″ x 42 — Time: 45mins)

La Invicta is what can only really be described as a budget cigar – at least as far as the UK is concerned. I picked up this for less than four quid, which is pretty impressive given it is a long-filler and the ‘premium’ you often pay in B&M stores. (Paying for the free coffee perhaps?) Anyway, this is the first La Invicta I had tried, and I’ll be honest and say that I chose it for price alone. I was a little strapped for cash on the day of the purchase, so had to make a sacrifice somewhere (the Monte A would have to wait for another day…)

So, they’re cheap. Yes. But how does the line stack up? I plumped for the Petit Corona – arguably one of the great vitolas of the cigar world – to find out.

Appearance /15

The wrapper of this cigar is a fairly light shade of Colorado Claro, though not quite Connecticut. It’s not the smoothest you’ll find, and there are a few little veins. Firm, but slightly spongy to the touch. Overall though, there’s little to fault for the price. 13

Smoking Characteristics /25

On lighting, which wasn’t much of an issue, the draw was reasonable and the smoke a little too meagre. The smoke started building quite quickly, however, so I won’t hold this against it too much. Unfortunately the draw gradually tightened up throughout the cigar, and towards the nub became too much so. The burn, however, was even throughout and the ash was light and attractive. 21

Flavours /25

At the start of the La Invicta PC the flavours were approachable, welcoming indeed, with honeyed toast being the early leader. By around the one-third mark, it had changed to leather, which gradually developed a ‘greener’ profile throughout the middle third. Despite my steady pace, the cigar became quite hot towards the end and, as a result, a little harsh. 20

Overall Impression /35

What can you say? By UK standards, this is a cheap cigar. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if a full half of the price is taxes of one description or another (leaving little over two quid between the retailer, distributor and manufacturer). The problem is, I believe it tastes like a cheap cigar. Towards the end, the harshness became quite offensive, and much of the greenery was not particularly pleasant. The beginning was a false start perhaps, as it wasn’t too bad at all. On the plus side, it burned straight and true… Still, you live and learn. 29

Grand total… 83/100

Kristoff Maduro Robusto (NC)

Major League Robustos(Size: 5 1/2″ x 54  —  Time: 1hr 15mins)

The Kristoff Maduro Robusto is a remarkably attractive cigar. A pig-tail at the head and a shaggy foot. I did wonder as I looked at this cigar, with its dark and sheeny maduro wrapper, if it was one of those cigars which might be a case of style over substance – marketing over blending if you will… I sat down in the early evening, a glass of lime and tonic for company, and set about finding out if that was the case.

Appearance /15

As already mentioned, the Maduro Robusto has a dark and sheeny maduro wrapper. It’s nice, and smooth, though there are just a few too many little veiny parts. My concern with the wrapper, which was to be borne out, was that it appeared to be a little flakey (despite the sheen), on account of it being remarkably thin and delicate (even for a wrapper). The pig-tail was rustic and the shaggy foot just added to the impression that this had been cobbled together in a farmyard barn! That’s no bad thing, it’s a remarkably stylish looking cigar, finished off with a nicely understated double band. To the touch this was perfect, just the right amount of give. 13

Smoking Characteristics /25

Pre-light, the aromas were typical of a maduro – chocolate with hints of coffee. Then I lit the cigar and thought I was in deep trouble. Within a few draws the burn was way off straight – one side had barely started glowing and the other was like a runaway train. I needn’t have worried however, as within a couple of minutes it had evened up nicely. And that is how it stayed for the duration. Coupled with a perfect draw and an ideal amount of smoke it’s looking set for a good score. Indeed, even the ash was strong, solid and bright; it didn’t need to be knocked off until half-way – and that was my nerve that gave way, not the ash. The aroma too was pretty good – sweet almost. It may appear as though the Maduro Robusto is in-line for a near perfect score, however… A heinous crime was about to be committed. That wonderful looking wrapper is remarkably delicate (as most wrappers are), but this is just a little too fragile. Part way through my evening smoke, a patch of wrapper just dropped off. How peculiar – it was ideally humidified (this wasn’t a ‘bursting’ moment), what had caused it? I don’t know, and won’t surmise. All I’ll say is that it was a big black mark against otherwise very good construction. 22

Flavour /25

In the early going it was a little hard to pin-point exactly what the cigar was giving me . Was the Maduro Robusto going to fulfil my style over substance prediction? They were greenish flavours, which I hadn’t expected. Soon enough, however, the flavours started to become more defined with a greenish cocoa bean coming to mind – there were still the ‘green’ flavours, but they were married with a slightly chocolatey sweetness. Soon afterwards, the sweetness subsided (slightly) and was balanced by the slight bitterness of a coffee-like profile joining the fray. As the cigar reached half-way, some leather notes joined the party, increasing the depth of the flavours. In fact, when taken all together, the flavours were a little reminiscent of lobster… I know crab is the usual maduro ‘flavour’, but this was a little sweeter. As the cigar moved towards the end, the grassy and herbaceous flavours took the lead; alongside these remained a wonderful chocolate and coffee ‘finish’ to each draw. Overall, this was a very pleasant cigar, it developed throughout and was always smooth. My only criticism would be that the changes were a little too subtle from one-third to the next, and as such, the Maduro Robusto lacked a little bit of excitement. 22


Overall Impression /35

The Kristoff Maduro Robusto is a remarkable cigar. Before you even start you have certain pre-conceptions: ‘this is a novelty item’ and ‘this is going to be typical maduro – chocolatey with crab’ were the two which I waded in with. Both were proven to be wrong. Firstly, regardless of how this cigar looks, it tasted nice and balanced, and it’s construction (wrapper aside) was stunning! Secondly, I was given a nice surprise to find out that there are people out there who can blend a cigar with the depth (and slight sweetness) you expect from a maduro, but with other complementary flavours. This was smooth and light-to-medium bodied, with solidly medium flavours. Very nice, I’ll try to find some more… 32

Grand total… 89/100

El Rey del Mundo Cafe au Lait (NC)

(Size: 4 1/2″ x 35  —  Time: 25mins)

As  haven’t made notes on my last couple of cigars, here’s one from the archives for you…

To get us started with this reminiscing… do you know just how bleeding cold it is outside at nine o’clock of an evening in February… In the face of such perilous dangers I took precautions by taking the airs whilst resembling Scott of the Antarctic. Grabbing the smallest stick I could find, I headed out for a little smoke. That stick happened to be an ERdM (NC) Cafe Au Lait. Anyway, here are my thoughts from that arctic night…

Appearance /15

This little Honduran bad boy had a reasonably dark wrapper. The wrapper was smooth, with little by way of veins. However, it laked a nice sheen and was ever so slightly flakey. Indeed, when removing the band as I approached the end of the smoke, it snagged (quite innocuously I thought) on the end and a very small piece of wrapper just crumbled off… 12

Smoking Characteristics /25

Pre-light, the aromas were reminscent of a nice spring garden… Given that it was so cold, and so bleedin’ windy, I was not expecting the cigar to behave itself all that well. I need not have worried, it was a true gent. It lit first time, evenly. The cigar burned magnificently throughout the length of the stick. The ash was equally as impressive: a strong, grey ash was the proof of smoking. Most impressive was the beautiful, concentric rings all the way down the length of the ash (see below). The draw was also nigh on perfect. The way this cigar smoked was almost faultless. 25

Flavour /25

On lighting, the Cafe au Lait was quite light (arguably slightly floral). As we moved towards the quarter-mark, the flavours started to develop and round towards more leathery notes. It continued to be smooth and mellow through the middle third – however, it did seem to lose its way, lacking a certain something during this period. As the cigar approached the final third it developed some slightly woody and even citrusy notes before swiftly hitting that hard to identify cigar quality… it’s an almost Scotch like pepperiness. This approachable pepperiness then mingled with a creaminess as the cigar drew to a close – this final twist had qualities which were akin to Granny’s very alcoholic brandy sauce. Overall, the flavours were mild, but they did develop through the cigar. 19

Overall Impression /35

Honduras… I’m not sure that I had delved into the Honduran jungles until this cigar, and its somewhere that I’m not averse to returning to. The ERdM Cafe Au Lait was a mild and light smoke. Whilst it provided a developing profile, it never really got out of second gear. There was nothing offensive about this cigar and some strong positives – the construction particularly, which was almost perfect. It’s a short, 25-30 minute smoke which is ideal when it’s a little nippy (though still slightly too long when it was as Baltic outside as it was on this occassion…). I was drinking Caffrey’s with this, but it’s a cigar which could probably stand up to a slightly stronger drink. Either way, if you get the chance to try one, give it a go. 28

Grand total… 84/100