Quite a few cigar shops have “house blends” or “exclusives” made by big companies specially for them. Some others actually have taken the next step of investing in a brand and a blend they can carry themselves and sell to other shops. Sindicato Cigars seems to be an extension of these ideas. Take a few dozen cigar shop owners, pool some resources, get the former executive from one of the largest cigar companies in American to run it for you, and produce a line of distinct blends...and try not to upset the manufactures who you normally buy from in the process, because now you are competing with them. I don’t really have any insight into what manufacturers feel about this venture because I haven’t had the opportunity to ask, but I’m sure there are some who are less than happy about yet another competitor.
I decided to start at the shallow end of the pool. And by shallow end, I mean cheap. Casa Bella is a Dominican-made bundle-level stick with a MSRP between $1.65 and $2.10 per stick. It has Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers, an Indonesian binder and an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper. Their sell sheet says it will “deliver a smooth, flavorful mild to medium bodied smoke.”
Next up I’ll look at Affinity, a cigar that Abe says “will be enjoyed most by those who enjoy a mild cigar but are looking for some flavor and body.” It uses Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers again, a Nicaraguan binder, and an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper. It will retail for between $6 and $7.50. The sample I smoked was the Belicoso. The wrapper leaf was a beauty, with no visible flaws. The cigar was a bit lumpy, but that was the shape created by the bunch and binder underneath the wrapper. The wrapper had a sweet hay aroma, while the foot was sweet and earthy smelling. Giving it a pre-light test, I found the draw easy and the flavor a mix of grass, earth and cedar.
Hex is said to be Abe’s favorite of this initial release, and is supposed to be a “refined medium to full-bodied cigar.” It is made in Condega, Nicaragua, using Nicaraguan filler and binder, along with a “Select Dark Ecuadorian” Habano wrapper leaf. MSRP on this line is between $7 and $9 per stick. Looking at the spec sheet, I see that they have put these in what I would call a very, very narrow segment of the market with ring gauges of only 52 and 54 spread among the 5 sizes. It’s possible they just found the size that works for this blend or maybe they are planning to expand to smaller (because a lot of us like those) and bigger (sadly, yes, the big ring gauge sticks will sell) ring gauges after they can gauge how these sell.
I think the Sindicato brand has started off with some serious potential. While I wasn't bowled over by any of the blends, you do have to remember that they were pre-release and have to be judged on that basis. All do have some unique aspects to them and may benefit from some resting and aging time, and possibly a few minor tweaks. It occurs to me that the first order of business in bring out these new lines might not have been to cater to the hard-core cigar enthusiast, but to produce something that a wider audience could enjoy, and maybe that's just what we have here...something that can be a step up in terms of flavor, body and artisanal quality from the best-selling cigars in the country. I look forward to seeing where this experiment goes.