Robusto, 5" x 50 ring gauge / $16.50 (purchased at Burns)
Tatuaje's Pete Johnson loves wine, but has not been a fan of the "Vintage" tag as it has been applied to cigars and I understand his feelings--seriously, does anyone really believe there is still some great amount of unused wrapper leaf from 1990 or 1992 still hanging around waiting to be used? If there were, does it make sense that those cigars using this leaf would remain at the same price point year after year? If 1990 Vintage leaf were still being used, storage costs would be mounting up and I would argue that the price of those sticks would increase with each year's batch. In the wine world, vintage means all product comes from the same year, so Pete wanted to make the same statement with this experimental cigar: L'esprit de la Verite (the Spirit of Truth). All the tobacco used in these cigars is Habano Criollo, grown on Don Pepin Garcia's farm in Nicaragua in 2008. Pete judges that these should age well, so I stretched my budget to purchase 3 sticks: one to review now, the second will stand for review in 2 to 3 months (my local shop manager thought they would benefit from that little amount of extra time, but I couldn't wait that long to smoke the first one), and the third will finish the review cycle in a year or so. I wish I could do more (a 2 year review stick, a 3 year review stick, etc.) but at $16+ for a robusto and $20+ for a churchill, I find it hard for my budget to handle "The Truth."
The wrapper of L'esprit was oily and somewhat pungent--I got a strong hay and barnyard aroma from it just as it lay on my desk while I wrote the first paragraph of this review. The color was very even, with a tight, immaculate roll and fairly small veins. On the foot I got more barnyard notes but also a more vegetal, compost note The prelight draw was very easy and featured mostly earthy flavors with a bit of cedar as well. I sat down to spark up this first L'esprit with some unsweetened iced tea, probably my favorite summertime cigar-accompanying beverage. "Why?" you may ask. That is a fair question and one that will be answered in an article coming soon.
I opted for the soft flame of my Xikar EX Lighter to give this expensive cigar a respectful, slow light. Once fully lit, I finally put it in my mouth and took a puff--leather, earth and cedar all rish in, although not particularly in that order. The finish allowed a bit of pepper spice to emerge. The retrohale was very peppery. The first third of L'esprit was rather subtle and nuanced, with plenty of cedar and earth, but lots of other interesting notes interjecting themselves from time-to-time--leather, roasted nuts, just a touch of dried fruit. There was a little harsh edge in my throat from time-to-time, but then it would disappear in smooth creaminess. So far, this struck me as a medium-bodied smoke with a high level of character and complexity.
That edginess fell away completely in the second third and the smoke became universally creamy and luxurious. Nuanced hints of flavor were all over the place--coffee, tea, autumn spice. Despite my initial misgivings about such a high-price-point cigar, I was starting to become a believer.
The last third opened with nothing more than the flavor of natural tobacco--but a natural tobacco so smooth and flavorful that it pretty well re-defined what "natural tobacco" is supposed to taste like. It remained a medium-bodied smoke throughout, but I believe that only helped to uncover the subtleties of flavor hidden throughout. I have to admit that when purchasing 3 of these, I felt very nervous...what if I didn't like it? That's $50 down the drain! After smoking the first of them, though, I will admit that this cigar was worth every penny. You would pay the same price (or perhaps more) for a similar-sized Davidoff, and while that experience may be superb, this was even better. It is easy to say I now have a new favorite medium-bodied cigar--I just wish I could afford to smoke them more often! I wish I could afford a whole box! This may just be the best cigar released this year--it's that good!
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