Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cigar Review: Foreplay by S&S Cigars

Toro, 5.75” x 52 ring gauge / approx. $7.50
Earlier this year, I got an email from a friend I’ve never met (sounds like the subject for a song). I met GC Puffs through the inter-webs, specifically his blog and Twitter. He started working for Havana Smoke Shoppe in Mississippi a while back and now he was helping start a new cigar company with some of the others in the business. S&S Cigars would be “based in Miami” and owned by Brad and Bill Stephens. The goal was to make a great cigar at a great price and GC was brought in as “Brand Advisor.” After some time they decided on their first release, named “Foreplay,” using Nicaraguan fillers and binder, along with a “Sun Grown Habano” wrapper leaf (country not specified anywhere that I could find). At this point they are available at Havana Smoke Shoppe, but they are also available to other B&Ms. The original press release on S&S was back in May, read it here. The cigars actually hit shelves in October (read about that from GC himself here) and I received a few samples for this review. I got 2 Toros and 2 Double Toros (60 ring gauge). I smoked one of each size before smoking this Toro for the review.

I hate it, but this is an instance where I have to start off with something negative. The band is for Foreplay is not a complete design disaster, but the color choices do nothing good. The red that forms the background of most of the band looks weak when screened to the filagree design, the print registration seems to be off in a few places, causing halos around some graphic elements, and the name of the cigar is rendered in a dark blue on a black ground so as to be practically unreadable. “So what?” the wise guy in the back yells. “I don’t smoke the band!” least I hope it’s true...paper tastes terrible, especially when it has a high foil content. There have been some great cigars that have gone through the gauntlet of not having a particularly memorable or attractive band, coming out on the other side as a popular smoke simply because they’re great. And I would wager there are just as many (if not more) great smokes that die an unceremonious premature death because nobody gives them a second look in a very crowded humidor. Bottom line: good marketing of a product means making that product stand out to people even when a company rep is nowhere in sight. I want to make sure I draw a distinction between the design and the effect in this case, too. The design really isn’t bad; it’s the colors and execution (printing) that are problematic here. It’s possible a solid fix is just a few mouse-clicks and a reprint away.

Now to focus on the part you do smoke. The wrapper was a medium brown color with a bit of lighter mottling, especially around the veins. It was smooth and oily under my fingers, with just a slight oily sheen to the eye. It got earth and wood, along with a touch of cinnamon, when I gave the wrapper a good sniff, and a manure-y earthiness from the foot. I put my traditional Xikar Xi straight cut on the cigar and got a good draw that had notes of dry earth and cocoa powder with just a bit of sweetness.

Once lit I got flavors of earth and cedar up front, along with more minor hints of creamy coffee and semi-sweet chocolate. Although noted in a couple places to have a peppery beginning, I failed to get any real pepper on my samples except when I retrohaled. That provided a nice, medium amount of heat. The spice died down fairly quick on the nose, but some heat did develop on the palate toward the end of the first third. Mostly, though, the flavors muted a bit and I got a vague earthy/cedary flavor.

As I puffed my way through the second third, I picked up more sweet notes in the form of an almost molasses flavor. It was a nice counterpoint to the earth and cedar. Construction was excellent; the draw was perfect, the burn line was very even and the ash was never flaky.

In the final third, the S&S Foreplay displayed more Nicaraguan earthiness than anything else. There were some notes of black coffee and a mild sweetness that all played together well. The body was medium and strength was about the same. I would call this a good cigar, but it didn’t knock my socks off. I enjoyed it, but it just seemed to be missing something in the way of big or distinctive flavors most of the way.

Body: Medium
Strength: Medium
Complexity: Moderate

Prelight: 1.5/2
Construction: 2/2
Flavor: 3.5/5
Value: 1/1

Total: 8/10

1 comment:

  1. Why is it when I hear the term Foreplay I think of Lady of the Stick?