Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Herf 22 – Surprise 2.0

March 1st, 2009 - Shoreline, WA

In attendance were Fernand, John L., Pat, Joe, Tom, John O., John D., Peter, Bruce, and Patrick. As usual, we gathered to enjoy a good cigar and give our opinion on it by holding a 'group tasting' following dinner.

We started off the evening at Jersey’s in Shoreline. Everyone enjoyed the food and the service was notably quite fast, given the size of our group. Then we headed over to John’s for our second consecutive blind taste test this year.

Our selections for this Herf were two competing robustos, one plainly labeled 'A' and the other labeled 'B'. Only John, the official Cohiba Club tobacconist knew what sticks bore these secret bands. Soon the willing taste-testers would be smoking a Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Legend “Challenger” (Robusto) marked 'A' and a Vegas Cubanas Robusto by Don Pepin Garcia, marked 'B'.

The Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Legend Challenger recently received an 89 from Cigar Insider in their Nov, 2008 issue.

Made by General Cigar, the Hoyo’s Havana seed Connecticut wrapper was medium in color and showed it’s veins well. The texture was smooth, almost velvety, and the roll quality was firm and uniform along the entire length.

The Vegas Cubanas was also very pleasing in its appearance, with construction representing what you’d expect from Pepin’s Nicaraguan torcedores. While photographing these cigars, I was struck by the similarity in wrapper color & texture with the only significant difference being the amount and size of vein visible (more so on the Hoyo).

Following CA's 4-part rating system (Appearance & Construction, Flavor, Smoking Characteristics, and Overall Impression) we began the tasting session. Most of the guys chose to smoke both the A and B cigars, resulting in a good sampling of opinions on which to base our comparison.

These cigars both drew ok, for the most part. A couple of the guys smoking the Hoyo de Monterrey found the draw a little too tight, while a couple smoking the Vegas Cubanas found it’s draw almost to the point of drawing too freely, though the group as a whole still found fewer complaints about it's burn and draw. In fact, they would later award more points to the Vegas Cubanas for Appearance and Construction: a whopping 93% of the points possible, compared to the 80% that the Excalibur Legend Challenger received for it’s build quality.

The flavors were described by the tasters for the Hoyo were peppery, right off the bat! Then mellowing to an earthy character. Comments for the Vegas Cubanas were along the lines of smooth, woody, and with a easy cedar finish. They scored a little closer in the Flavor category; with the Vegas Cubanas earning 88% of the points possible, while the Hoyo received 84% of the points possible; not a dramatic difference there.

The Vegas Cubana produced an umistakably smoother smoke than the stronger Hoyo de Monterrey. The ash quality was comparable between the two, with little difference noted. Those smoking the Hoyo had more complaints about it's substandard burn and draw. It was the Vegas Cubanas that earned a pretty significant points advantage with regard to Smoking Characteristics, surpassing the Hoyo; 88% to 80% of the points possible.

The final category, ‘Overall’ again went to the Vegas Cubanas, 89% to 83% of the points possible, which also won out in the end when all was totalled.

After averaging our scores, The Cohiba Club's official rating for the Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Legend Challenger is 82. A very good cigar.

Here's the points breakdown for the Excalibur Legend:
I. Appearance & Construction: 12 pts (80% of the points possible)
II. Flavor: 21 pts (84% of the points possible)
III. Smoking Characteristics: 20 pts (80% of the points possible)
IV. Overall Impression: 29 pts (83% of the points possible)

After averaging our scores, The Cohiba Club's official rating for the Vegas Cubanas Robusto is 89. An excellent cigar, and in this case, clearly preferred over the rival by General Cigar.

Here's the points breakdown for the Vegas Cubanas:
I. Appearance & Construction: 14 pts (93% of the points possible)
II. Flavor: 22 pts (88% of the points possible)
III. Smoking Characteristics: 22 pts (88% of the points possible)
IV. Overall Impression: 31 pts (89% of the points possible)

Upon closer examination of the scoring data, it’s interesting to break it down according to how each cigar faired in each category and what aspects of each were favored (or not) by our group. For example, would flavor be the driving consideration or could smoking characteristics play a compelling roll?

Ultimately, it did come down to those two factors: the smoothness of the Pepin product contrasted by the performance problems of the Hoyo de Monterrey as the deciding attributes that gave the Vegas Cubanas the win in the end. There’s no denying that this group's majority does not lean toward full-bodied cigars, however, it's also clear there was more than just preferences-of-palate in play here.

Thanks to JnJ Cigars in Shoreline for giving us such a good deal on these robustos and coordinating the blind tasting for us. All the guys commented that it was a very fun experience and we are most grateful to have learned a little more about the truly honest evaluation process that comes only from tasting blind.

Click on the above images to enlarge.

© 2009 The Cohiba Club - All rights reserved.

1 comment:

JnJ Cigars said...

It was great times Fernand! from John O!