Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Herf 47 – Full House

August 7th, 2011 – Seattle, WA

In attendance were Fernand, Robert, Joe, John L., Patrick (in AZ via Skype), Pat, Bruce, John D., Peter, Eric, and Chris. As usual, we gathered to enjoy a recently recommended cigar and give our opinion on it by holding a 'group-tasting' following dinner.

herf-47_026_800Wow, what a turnout! We haven’t had a crew this large in quite some time; perhaps a testament to the mastery that our host John has over his backyard smoker, the ‘Smoke Vault’. As he’s done before, he once again served up the most mouth-watering smoked chicken you can find in Seattle. At one point, one of the birds actually squirted across his kitchen as John cut into it! With loads of complimentary side-dishes and plenty of ales to wash it all down, it was one meal that’s hard to forget.

herf-47_067_600Our selection for this herf was the Toraño Single Region Serie Jalapa Churchill. Though it’s made in Honduras by Toraño Family Cigar Co., the contents of this 7x50 beast are all-Nicaraguan, from the Jalapa Valley to be exact (hence the name). The current Cigar Aficionado rating for it is 92 (Feb, 2010).

From the Manufacturer’s website:

“One Region, One Farm, One Fine Cigar. Single Region - Serie Jalapa features a blend of tobacco from the El Estero Farm in Jalapa, Nicaragua. This small farm which is located in the northern most growing province of Nicaragua is irrigated by a natural stream which has run through the property for centuries. The mineral rich water from this stream together with the soil which is a mix of sand and red clay, have enabled this farm to grow some of the finest and most aromatic tobacco in the world.

The tobacco is rich and flavourful, yet smooth and elegant and features a very distinctive sweetness - characteristics which are consistent with tobacco grown in Jalapa. Enjoy this rich, layered smoke which imparts a truly luscious flavor. “

herf-47_068_600Following CA's 4-part rating system (Appearance & Construction, Flavor, Smoking Characteristics, and Overall Impression) our ten tasters, plus @PHXCigarGuy via Skype (pictured right) gathered out on John’s back patio enjoying the pleasant evening and the camaraderie that came along with it.

Initially, the Churchill appeared to be very well-made. The long parejo shape looked true and uniform with fine veins. The wrapper color was nice too. Some of the guys referred to their cigar’s coloring as ‘two-tone’, having a wrapper and cap of dark and light colors. The closer we looked the more flaws we found; tiny holes, tears, and cracks. We couldn’t help but suspect that the wrapper was more delicate than usual, perhaps causing it to be abnormally fragile.

herf-47_028_800Most everyone agreed that the draw was perfect right off the bat – a great start to a cigar that we had looked forward to trying. It didn’t take long, however, for many of us to notice burn discrepancies. For the most part, smoke output was pretty good, but the number of relights required became ridiculous – nine for one of us, seven for another, and five or six for a few more guys. The ash wasn’t the most stable we’d seen, but ok for most of us. In addition to the burn problem, about half of them displayed splitting or unraveling.

herf-47_073_600The flavor started out with a slight sweetness and hints of mild spices (“like cinnamon” said one taster in Seattle, as well as our man in Phoenix) before turning to straw or mild wood through the first-third. A couple guys noted a bread-like or ‘doughy’ character in there somewhere. Eventually, a few of the guys would later describe their samples as monotonous, bland, and lacking complexity. The best we could take away from the second-third was that the cigar was ‘consistent’. The final third resulted simply in increased strength for some of our tasters, but a bitter, charred ending for a few others.

After throwing out the highest and lowest (a ‘90’ and a ‘67’) then averaging the remaining scores, The Cohiba Club's official rating for the Toraño Single Region Serie Jalapa Churchill is 81, which sounds unusually low these days, but is still considered a ‘very good’ cigar according to this rating system.

Here's the points breakdown:
I. Appearance & Construction: 12 pts (80% of the points possible)
II. Flavor: 21 pts (84% of the points possible)
III. Smoking Characteristics: 19 pts (76% of the points possible)
IV. Overall Impression: 29 pts (83% of the points possible)

We had high hopes for this cigar going in, but it did not live up to our expectations, nor our quality standards. In the final evaluation, nine of our eleven tasters rated this cigar below 85; not exactly a glowing endorsement. Nevertheless, each of us should decide for ourselves. So with that in mind, go out and get one of your own. See if you agree with us.

We’ll see you at the next herf, October 2nd.

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