Friday, December 12, 2008

Herf #19 - Not Ready Yet

December 7th, 2008 - Shoreline, WA

In attendance were Fernand, Pat, Joe, and Tom. As usual, we had gathered to enjoy a good cigar and give our opinion on it by holding a 'group tasting' following dinner. This was a scaled-down herf, a little more informal than usual, after we decided to postpone our Snoqualmie Casino visit due to several of the members having travel conflicts. So we opted to settle for the low-key alternative of sitting under Fernand’s patio heater.

We ordered a big meat-zza from Pagliacci and washed it down with some of Joe’s excellent home brew, an IPA. Next we were off to Fernand's back patio where Pat provided hot buttered rums for us to sip. This was the perfect compliment to the patio heater for keeping us comfortable on a cool December evening in Seattle (and went well with the cigar too, of course).

Our selection for this Herf was the San Cristobal “Francisco”. This corona (distributed by Ashton) measures 5 1/2 inches long with a ring guage of44. It was Cigar of the Week back on October 20th, 2008 which received a 90 from Cigar Aficionado's expert tasting panel. They list for $7.25, but we got ours for about $6.50.

Following CA's 4-part rating system (Appearance & Construction, Flavor, Smoking Characteristics, and Overall Impression) we began the tasting.

The corona size seemed the perfect choice for a winter herf. Right off, we noticed how tightly packed it appeared to be for a relatively small cigar. The exterior attributes appeared very-well crafted. The dark Corojo wrapper was beautiful! Once cut, all agreed that each cigar’s draw was rather firm (tight).

The first puffs packed a punch, then calmed down. Flavors were leathery and woody. A very dark-roasted, often bitter coffee bean flavor was dominant with smoked wood backing it up. Unfortunately, this was about all it amounted to.

The cigars did burn wonderfully, but the smoke was a bit thin – no doubt a product of the tight draw. The ash wasn’t exactly the most stable we’ve seen either, falling repeatedly and catching us unawares.

The Francisco, as we experienced it, seems a little young. It’s fairly bitter, a little sour, almost metallic at times, and not really any sweetness to speak of. Perhaps, if the cigars were aged for some time, and these flavors mellowed and refined a bit, the richness would be able to shine through untainted.

After averaging our scores, The Cohiba Club's official rating for the San Cristobal ‘Francisco’ corona is 87. A good cigar… with potential.

Here's the points breakdown:
I. Appearance & Construction: 15 pts (100% of the points possible)
II. Flavor: 22 pts (88% of the points possible)
III. Smoking Characteristics: 20 pts (80% of the points possible)
IV. Overall Impression: 30 pts (86% of the points possible)

Incidentally, I had another Francisco, alone, a few days following this herf and experienced a very nice draw. The same flavors were present, however, thus reinforcing our group’s observations above. I’ll stand by my recommendation for additional aging.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Cigar Review - Ashton ESG Robusto

by club co-founder John

Another in our ongoing series of reviews of cigars given to us by the fine folks at Cigars Direct. Featured this time is the Ashton ESG (Estate Sun Grown) Robusto given to us in November 2008.

Vitola: Robusto
Origin: Dominican Republic
Length: 5.25
Ring Gauge: 52
Filler: Dom. Rep.
Binder: Dom. Rep.
Wrapper: Sun Grown Rosado from D.R.
Strength: Med.-Full
Price: $25.00

Produced by Tabacalera A.Fuente y Cia, it features a rich looking rosado wrapper and a nicely constructed robusto shape. Following Cigar Aficionado's 4-part rating system (Appearance & Construction, Flavor, Smoking Characteristics, and Overall Impression) I sat down to rate this cigar while enjoying a glass of Syrah Port and a cup of fresh coffee with my good friend Fernand on his back porch.

This cigar’s appearance got my attention right off the bat. It appeared well constructed, with a nice wrapper and a well-executed cap. I took off 2 points for minor blemishes and slight mottling of the wrapper near the foot.

It seemed firm throughout, in fact, I was a little worried that the draw would be too tight, but my concerns were soon allayed. I was very pleased with the roll (In general, I do prefer my cigars slightly tighter than some.)

The burn was also right on, with an easy light, a consistent burn throughout its length, producing plenty of smoke, and leaving a nice long and stable light grey ash.

The flavor was of a rich and creamy throughout. It started out a little sweet, wafting prune and molasses in the first third. Towards the second third, it eased into some leather and oak flavors, still very smooth, and finally ended by adding a little hint of pepper, but never too spicy or hot. In fact, the whole cigar was delicious, with subtle changes in flavor, and never overpowering. I’d say it was medium to full strength. The smoke itself was rich, plentiful, and silky, even towards the end. The flavors were complimented very nicely with the coffee and port.

This was one smooth and fine-flavored cigar. It was the kind of smoke that left me satisfied and without any lingering “taste bud hangover” half an hour later. My wife didn’t even voice the usual post cigar complaint when I climbed into bed…now if that’s not a good endorsement, I don’t know what is!

My rating for the Ashton ESG Robusto is 95.
Here's the points breakdown:
I. Appearance & Construction: 13 pts (87% of the points possible)
II. Flavor: 24 pts (96% of the points possible)
III. Smoking Characteristics: 24 pts (96% of the points possible)
IV. Overall Impression: 34 pts (97% of the points possible)

(click on images to enlarge)

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