Wrapper: Kentucky and Virginian Fire Cured
Binder: Nicaraguan (Proprietary)
Filler: Honduran-(Proprietary), Nicaraguan-(Proprietary)
Size: 6 x 52 “Just a Friend”
Price: $8.50 – OR – $70 for a bundle of 10.
I am concerned. The big A List reviewers have not reviewed this cigar which was released in December, 2013. And of course, the A List reviewers always get pre-release sticks a couple months earlier than the release date.
Why haven’t they reviewed this cigar? Did Drew tell them to wait a couple months? In order to get the full benefit of the blend? That’s my guess. I’ve smoked a couple and I believe the cigar is ready for analysis.
There is a ton of info on this cigar describing the processes to blend it. Based on this, I decided to write a straight ahead review; no funny stories, no witticisms. Just a good review. The DE people put a lot of effort into this blend and I believe I owe them their due by taking it seriously.
I’ve smoked two of them prior to this review. Here is the problem. The moment that the cello is removed, the earthy, fire cured aroma begins to dissipate. I experienced that with the AJ Fernandez Spectre which uses a fire cured pipe tobacco, Latakia. It appears the longer you wait, the mellower the “in your face” fire cured flavors gets.
I reviewed the Spectre the same day I got it out of enthusiasm. A couple weeks later, I noted on that same review, that the cigar had mellowed quite a bit. Almost changing the blend.
The press release from Drew Estate says that the cigar spent 2-1/2 years in development. And that it wasn’t manufactured in DE’s factory, but the JDN factory. No reason is given. Only that it is a joint venture between the two companies.
Everyone and his brother will be reviewing this cigar; all of them telling you the intricate manner in which it was blended, cured, and produced. I will do an abbreviated version.
The leaf is derived from a proprietary seed called KY190. A burley based seed. In April, 2013, Cigar Aficionado said the seed is called KY171.
The cigar gets its flavor by being cured in barns that burn hickory, maple and oak at very low temperatures. The temperatures are carefully monitored and are re-adjusted during the curing process.
From J. Drew:
“The blend contains both Kentucky and Virginia fire-cured tobaccos, and a special leaf from an undisclosed country, where according to Drew Estate, “they don’t speak English, Italian or Spanish.”
Is Drew talking about the wrapper or part of the binder or filler? I don’t know.
There is absolutely no info on why most of the cigars are split in half in terms of a lighter wrapper on the bottom half and a much darker wrapper on the top half. I am totally spit balling here but could it be that one is the Virginia fire cured and the other is the Kentucky fire cured? To take it even further, some of my sticks have no change of color at all.
The cigar comes in three sizes: Chunky 4 x 46, Fat Molly 5 x 56, and Just a Friend 6 x 52. The cigars only come in bundles of 10.
DE seems to say in his press release that this stick is the first to use a fire cured tobacco but I believe that Sam Leccia’s Black is also fire cured. I’m sure the processes are not exactly the same. And probably not what DE meant.
For a cigar hot off the presses, it is reasonably priced at $7.00. But try to find any online. Impossible.
Apparently, I am reviewing this cigar at my own peril. I’ve only had my bundle for a week.
One thing that struck me as strange is the construction. Both prior smokes had burn issues that required several touch ups.
Cigar Aficionado says that DE went back to the drawing board during processing to fix burn issues that were common to the cigar. Did they fix it? So far, not in my bundle.
The wrapper is extremely mottled on a dual colored wrapper. The bottom 4” is a light coffee bean color. The 2” at top are a dark maduro color.
There is a certain rustic look to the stick. Some seams are tight; others are loose and visible. Veins are plentiful. The two wrappers have a very different feel from each other. The bottom wrapper is smooth with a slight sandy feel. The top wrapper feels very toothy. It appears to have a triple cap but it is done so flawlessly, I can’t be sure.
I clip the cap and find aromas of strong BBQ. And a very syrupy maple aroma. The peat described in the PR is very definitive.
I can also smell spice, ginger and cocoa.
Time to light up.
The burn issues begin with a wavy foot. I correct it.
There is a little bit of magic about this cigar. I smoked one last night to ascertain whether I would review it this morning, on a fresh palate. The flavor profile made some profound changes just past the halfway point. More on that later.
The smokiness is extremely powerful. Much more so than the Latakia in the AJ Spectre.
The sweetness and cocoa are perfect offsets for this potent element.
¾” into the cigar, black pepper shows up. It builds slowly at first and then hits the bull’s eye, for my taste, quickly. Following that is a very smooth, buttery creaminess. All of this tamps down the potency of the smokiness.
The peat is now neck and neck with the fire cured flavor. This was my last cigar of the day last night. And even though my palate was fried, I could taste everything. That is very unusual. Normally, I grab a knock around cigar for my last, not a premium. And that is what convinced me the cigar is ready to write about.
A little more than an inch in, the cigar hits flavor bomb status. Here are the flavors in order: Smoky hickory, peat, maple, sweetness, cocoa, spice, and creaminess.
And the char line is behaving perfectly. The third cigar was the magic charm.
I applaud JD and his people for being so adventurous and still keep the price down so that everyone can afford them…even if they can’t find an online store that still has them in stock. I did find that http://www.cigarplace.biz still had some. Haven’t checked in several days.
No mention was ever made as to whether this is a limited run or a production cigar. Hopefully, it is a production stick. Why go through all the gyrations and then sell out in less than a week? I’m sure more are on the way.
The creaminess is making a surge. It is nearly as potent as the smokiness. It is here, prior to the beginning of the second third that the cigar really shines. The balance is perfect with a smoky v. flavor profile steadiness.
I recommend that you smoke this cigar on a clean palate. Every nuance is displayed properly.
The strength started out at classic medium but I can feel it making its move to a higher plain.
The char line continues to be perfect. I am so glad I picked this stick in particular. Since the problem with burn issues is at 66% based on my consumption, it would have been a poor review if it was out of control like last night and the day before.
The maple moves to the front causing me to salivate and desperately want some Belgian waffles.
There is no other way to describe this blend other than scrumptious. It is so flavorful, I want to eat it.
The cap is behaving admirably. Not a single piece of loose tobacco.
I am upon the halfway point. The cigar is very complex now as none of the flavors supersedes the other. The cigar is chewy with a very long finish. And here, it hits the medium/full strength.
I take swigs of water and the flavors washing against my taste buds brightens and emboldens the wonderful flavor profile.
This is a great first cigar of the day for me. But until I see them available in regular production, the other 7 sticks shall remain in recluse in my humidor waiting for that moment I need a fix.
The last third is almost here. And the flavor change I mentioned earlier happens. The flavors just explode with potency and benevolence. The spice returns in force. The smokiness, maple and oak blow the lid off.
The other flavors of creaminess, sweetness, and cocoa take a back seat. I am still curious about the 60/40 split of the wrappers. Was it availability? Was it for an abrupt flavor change? Not a clue.
And why does almost half of my stash have the top 40% of wrapper look exactly like the bottom 60%? I chose one that had a distinct coloring difference and as I move in on it, it appears to get a bit darker. I must be hallucinating.
I clip the cap a bit because I am a chomper. I chomp while I type and it ain’t purty.
The last third begins and I am just into the darker of the two wrappers. It seems like the cigar is richer. I have no idea if this is happening because of the wrapper or because it is the natural order of things as I burn the cigar down.
The cigar band comes off without a hitch. I notice in my photos that all the lettering is slightly raised.
I notice something very odd. The two photos I took at the beginning of the review showed sharp demarcation points of the two wrappers. When I remove the band covering that splice on this cigar, the split is at a 30° angle. I’m a structural engineer. I can see that stuff in my sleep after 35 years in construction management.
The boldness dissipates some. And the flavor profile of creaminess, cocoa, sweetness, spice, and earthiness return and supplant the potency of the smokiness.
There is nothing to dislike about this cigar. I’m guessing that the altruists amongst you who don’t like infused cigars might have a problem with this blend. Don’t. It is not fruity, herbal or floral like most of the ACID line.
This is nitpicking but an hour after I finished the cigar last night; I still tasted smoky hickory and maple.
Upon closer look, the splice line is intact. It was merely the way the cigar was wrapped that showed a seam at a 30° angle.
The cigar finishes out in the most magnificent manner. Brimming with flavor, complexity, balance and nuance, it is a real piece of blendsmanship.
A month has passed since I wrote this review. What a difference four weeks can make. The cigar boldly surpasses how great the blend profile was in late February. It starts off smooth as can be with a perfect balance from the get go. The hickory element has smoothed out too. It is right where it should be in the list of flavors…in the middle. The char line is perfect from the start. Not a single burn issue. This is a marvelous cigar. Now all you need is patience and ye shall be rewarded.
Categories: CIGAR REVIEWS