Toro, 6" x 52 ring gauge / approx. $7.50 MSPR, purchased from Leaf & Ale in Knoxville, TN
Los Blancos has been in the business in the USA since 1998, but they have roots in Cuba and ties with the Plascencia family. Somehow, though, they had evaded my notice the entire time I have been smoking. I heard good things about their latest line--NINE--so I picked up one recently when I was in Knoxville. Apparently this stogie took nine blends before they arrived at the one they liked enough to release and that is how it got its name. It employs the use of Nicaraguan leaf for all elements, including a wrapper from Jalapa that was aged for 3 years. This cigar was my first experience with any Los Blancos product.
Out of the cellophane, this was a nice, classy-looking stick. Black and silver bands offset nicely against the cinnamon-colored wrapper. The leaf was oily and toothy with a few medium-to-large veins. I got a good whiff of earth from the cigar just holding it while writing this. When I held it up to my nose, the earth intensified and I got a little cocoa powder, too. I got stronger chocolate aromas on the foot. After cutting, the draw was excellent; I got prelight flavors of natural tobacco and a little pepper spice--it had a taste not too unlike the Corojo-wrapped cigars from Illusiones--not exactly the same, but it reminded me of that.
I used a soft flame to toast and light the NINE and despite being ligero-heavy it lit fairly easily. During the first few minutes I got natural tobacco, earth and cedar flavors through the mouth and I found the retrohale to be extremely spicy. Right from the start this seemed like it was destined to be full-bodied and full-strength. For me, the flavor really stated to pick up and get interesting about halfway through the first third--the cedar toned down a bit and I got a nice mix of earth and cocoa powder with just a touch of natural tobacco sweetness. The ash hel on for over an inch and the burn line was almost perfectly straight to this point.
In the second third I kept noticing some vegetal, musty notes that were not really "bad" but were not a flavor I was fond of. In places it almost seemed like bell pepper, something I do not enjoy on its own. Construction was superb, though--great draw and just one minor touch-up required.
In the final third the NINE had even more of those vegetal, herbal flavors with a little earth underneath. This was surprising to me as I cannot remember the last time I have had a Nicaraguan puro, reportedly heavy on the ligero leaf, with this particular flavor profile. At the end of the day, I just had to conclude that the NINE just was not meant for me. Again, it was not "bad" but just did not do much for me with the type of flavor profile that I typically enjoy. It ended up weighing in on the lighter end of the full-bodied range, had fantastic construction, and a decent amount of complexity. If it hits your palate in the right way, I can see how it would be considered a fantastic cigar.
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