Epicure, 6” x 54 ring gauge / approx. $7.50
One of my favorite Perdomos was the ESV 91 Maduro; a couple years back I bought the remainder of the Corona sized sticks at an event at Burns in Chattanooga and have been judiciously spreading out their reduction to ashes since they just are not available anymore. Last summer, Perdomo’s National Director of Sales, Chris Harper, told me that all was not lost, that they were producing a new version of the Estate Select Vintage...the ESV 2002. Knowing how much I like Perdomo’s Maduro wrappers, he gave me an ESV02 Maduro at the Chattanooga Tweet-Up last year; I smoked it and meant to get around to reviewing it when it showed up at the shop, but then forgot about it...because it never did show up! I spotted this one on a trip to Knoxville when I stopped at the Old City Cigar Shop in downtown...and then a couple weeks later Burns finally got them in. The ESV02 is available, like most Perdomo offerings, in 3 wrapper varieties (Connecticut, Sungrown and Maduro, in this case) and 4 sizes (Churchill, Epicure (a Toro, really), Robusto, and Torpedo...all are 54 ring gauge with varying lengths). The Maduros are Nicaraguan puros, using fillers from the 2002 harvest year. I’ve had at least two of these before this review sample.
The band of the ESV 02 Maduro is a variation on what the company did for the ESV 91: in this case is has silver foil rather than gold, and the “2002” is not printed on the band like “1991” was printed on the old version. The wrapper had a classic Maduro look: just slightly darker than milk chocolate, with a bit of tooth and a few medium to medium-plus sized veins running down the length. The cigar was oily to the touch and had an aroma of leather with a bit of barnyard. On the foot, I got a whiff of chocolate and a more potent earthiness. The cold draw was excellent...come to think of it, it is exceedingly rare that I have found Perdomo cigars with draw issues. The cold flavor was earthy with a little cocoa powder and some cedar notes.
When lit the Perdomo ESV02 started off with flavors of semi-sweet, dark chocolate; black coffee; and earth on the palate. I noted more cocoa powder and black pepper on the nose. The rest of the first third became very earthy, with just touches of the chocolate and coffee flavors I got earlier on. There was a bit of anise note from time to time as well as a rich sweet, natural tobacco flavor.
As I got into the second third, the couple of larger veins in the wrapper contributed to a ragged burn line that had to be touched up a couple times. Other than that, construction was very good with a decently strong ash and fantastic draw. The flavor continued to be very earthy at its core, but started displaying some more of the coffee that I got at the beginning, as well as more woody flavors, too.
The ESV02 Maduro showed some additional complexity in the last third with the introduction of some raisin and more anise notes; earth and strong black coffee continued to dominate the majority of the time, though. I continued to have trouble with the burn line, adding fire several more times to keep it somewhat even, and the ash in the last half proved to be a bit flaky, ending up in my lap or on my magazine. I liked this cigar, but just can't help thinking that the large ring gauge size does not work to its advantage. As mentioned before, every vitola has a 54 ring gauge, which is larger than the 50ish I prefer to use for review purposes, and has the effect of dumbing down the blend to a certain degree. Sadly, it seems Perdomo has abandoned smaller ring gauge cigar, at least at this time. As I was smoking this review stick I noticed an advertisement for Grand Crus in 60 ring gauge and felt discouraged. In my mind, the majority of these big cigars are mostly suitable for newer smokers who have not developed a discerning palate yet; there are exceptions to that, of course, but that is just my opinion...take it for what you will. This cigar had a medium to full body and about the same amount of nicotine strength, making it fairly unsuitable for those newer smokers I just mentioned. Long time aficionados will likely enjoy this cigar, though. Judging from my love of the Corona sized ESV91, I think this cigar would be markedly better in a smaller ring gauge, even if it were just a true Robusto at 50.