1502 XO Toro | Cigar Review

Wrapper: Undisclosed
Binder: Undisclosed
Filler: Undisclosed
Size: 6 x 50 “Toro – Box Pressed”
Body: Medium/Full
Price: $17.75

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It’s good to be back after 2 weeks of having the pandemic flu that is racing through Wisconsin.

I made a decision to rescind my position about posting after-review rock anecdotes. Many readers have told me how much they enjoy them. But I’ve found it a little irritating, that while complimenting me about the stories, they manage to tell me they enjoy the stories more than my reviews. Gee. Thanks. LOL. Give the public what they want.

I’ve written hundreds of stories. There is nothing left to mine. So what I am planning to do, as I have done with this review, is amend an older story. Details have been remembered that were not so at the time of the original posting. So I believe I can freshen up the stories by adding things I remember that the story triggered. This is better than just copying and pasting an old story. I hope that both my long time readers and new readers enjoy the de-canonized rock n roll stories.

One last note….I am working on a big project that involves J.C. Newman Cigar Company. Julius Ceaser Newman was my grandfather’s best friend. Both from Hungary. Both settled in Cleveland. And, of course, both Jewish.
Julius was older than my grandfather but I remember in the 1950’s, that whenever my gramps visited from Cleveland, Julius came too. I loved my grandpa very much but I looked forward to seeing Julius just as much. He was a gentle and kind man and between the two of them, they spoiled me rotten; to my parents’ dismay.

After Julius’s death, my gramps was inconsolable. My grandfather outlived Julius by 20 years. And he never stopped talking about his best friend that whole time.

I would take long walks with the both of them and they let me hold a cigar in my mouth so I could feel like a big kid. I was sworn to silence about this. Although, now and then, my grandfather let me take a few puffs from his cigar and the Katman was born.

I’ve become pen pals with Bobby, Drew, and Eric Newman. They kindly sent me two books. The first is only one of only100 left in existence. Mint condition. It is Julius Ceaser Newman’s autobiography named “Smoke Dreams.” It is a first edition published in 1957. See below.

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The other book is an autobiography of the sons’ father; Stanford J. Newman…called “Cigar Family.” Both books are full of wonderful photos and information on this American cigar dynasty. See below.

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I am working on a very big magazine article that may have to be published in two or three installments. It’s been great therapy and I already have 43 pages of outline written. At the rate I’m going, it is going to a minimum of 15,000 words. And I hope to shed some light on this amazing family that most cigar smokers are not aware of.

Today we take a look at the 1502 XO Toro.
At the time of this cigar review, I could not find another single review. My benefactor of this gift cigar must have gotten the cigar early because I got it before the release date. As 1502 is a New Breed style blender, I’m sure that the stick is ready to go.

BACKGROUND:
Factory: Plasencia Cigars S.A., Nicaragua
Debuted at the 2015 IPCPR trade show but not released until March, 2016. This was 1502 boxes of 10 that went to handpicked stores. The balance of cigars will be released in April or May. Other sizes are to come later.

I’ve had my cigar for a few weeks, so my benefactor somehow got a hold of these sticks prior to the official release.
This is the first limited production cigar in the 1502 line.
The only thing that Enrique Sánchez Icaza will say about the leaf stats is the blend contains 18 year old tobacco. He also said there is some Nicaraguan tobacco in there as well.

According to Cigar Federation web site:
“Debuting at the 2015 IPCPR, the first year 1502 XO cigar is here! Each year the vitola is planned to change, with the first iteration being a 6×50 Box-Press Toro. There are only going to be 1502 boxes of 10 made each year and each box will be numbered, with each cigar also being numbered inside its respective box.

“Enrique has not disclosed much about the tobaccos used in this cigar, except that the binder and filler have been aged for 18 years.”

Each cigar shows a serial number. Mine is #005288. As the first release contained 15,020 cigars, mine was made in the first third stage of production.

From Global Premium Cigars web site:
“I have always strived for perfection in my life. Perfection cannot always be rushed. The 1502 XO achieves the perfect balance of flavor and strength, attained, in large part, by the use of well-aged, rare 18 year old tobacco. Let the 1502 XO, our masterpiece, help you relax and enjoy the wonders of what life has to offer.”
(Enrique Sánchez Icaza)

DESCRIPTION:
This is one beautiful cigar. A crisp box press with sharp corners. Almost perfectly square. A solid cigar but with just the right amount of give when squeezed.
I can only assume that the cap is a triple but it is so flawlessly constructed, it is impossible to count. It is a little off kilter but no matter.
Seams are nearly invisible. The very oily wrapper’s color is that of a dark chocolate candy bar.
I can only see a few small veins.
The foot is partially closed.
The cigar band is stunning. A gold background with black and red lettering. Very classy.

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AROMAS AND COLD DRAW NOTES:
From the shaft, I can smell barnyard, bittersweet dark chocolate fudge brownies, red hot pepper that makes me sneeze twice in succession, espresso, dried fruit, some kind of berry, and cedar.
From the clipped cap and the foot, I smell big floral notes, dark chocolate, spice, orange citrus, cedar, coffee, fruit, and a very strong dose of wood.
The cold draw presents flavors of sweetness, dark chocolate, spice, cedar, raspberry, and citrus.

FIRST THIRD:
I hate defiling this work of art. Such a beautiful cigar…as it should be for $18.
As I only have one stick, I know not if troubles await me in the burn process. I always have burn issues with box pressed sticks.
Here goes…

I use a single torch flame to burn the exterior of the wrapper with pin point accuracy to toast the foot. Thereby allowing the burn to go inwards instead of torching the whole foot and just crossing my fingers. After getting the exterior going, I put the cigar down to rest and allow it to cool hopefully ensuring an even burn line. This method gives me more control of the burn.
So far, so good.

My palate is heightened after such a long break without a cigar.
First flavors up are: Milk chocolate, creaminess, low level spiciness, strong cedar, and malt. Lots of malt.

The char line is behaving nicely. Of course, I’m keeping an eagle eye on it.

I think it’s pretty cool that my cigar was made in the first third of the run as opposed to the latter part…as the number on the cigar band testifies to.

The char line needs its first minor touch up. I used to be of the opinion that box pressed cigars were cool, Daddy-O. But I have better luck with the char line on a round cigar.

The red pepper ratchets up. It is now singeing the hair in my ears. I no longer have nose hair as my testosterone level, at my age, has dropped to that of a 6 year old girl. A 6 year old girl with a moustache.

Taking my time with the cigar. Only a few puffs every minute or two. I want to savor this $18 cigar. But at this point, it behaves like any $8-$10 cigar. Good, but nothing special.

I’m getting some interesting flavors now: Cherries Jubilee on vanilla ice cream. I know that’s pretty wild but it unlocked a memory chip in my brain. My folks went out to eat every Friday when I was young. Three of the four eat outs, we went to a chain restaurant but once a month, we went to a classy joint. Red leather booths accented with black leather, dimly lit, all male waiters, etc. You even got a relish tray which was always my favorite part. But I always regretted chomping down on that green onion in the tray.

After dinner, my pop always treated us to cherries jubilee. I do believe that some sort of liqueur was used but the alcohol was burned away by the flame. I can still taste those delectable cherries coating the rich vanilla ice cream.
So, short story long…that is exactly what the cigar presents at the moment.

The chocolate takes on several flavors. There is dark bittersweet. There is the fudge you put on ice cream. And Oreos.

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A significant sophistication kicks in. Complexity, only 1” in, elicits delicious flavors and character.
Here they are at the 1” burned point: Chocolate, red pepper, creaminess, cherries jubilee, vanilla, cedar, slight smokiness, roasted nuts, coffee, a touch of toffee, and lots of malt= Biscuit Malt, Cara Vienna Malt, Chocolate Rye Malt, Chocolate Wheat Malt, Coffee Malt, and Smoked Malt. (See Malt Chart).
Strength has been medium body.

The cigar smoke output is heavy.
The creaminess surges. In fact, all of the flavors surge at this point…1-1/2” burned.
But I can’t help but think while smoking the 1502 XO Toro, does the character reflect the price point? No. It doesn’t. I don’t care if they got a hold of 18 year old tobacco. I’ve smoked plenty of well-aged cigars that don’t come close to this price.

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SECOND THIRD:
Smoke time is 30 minutes.
Strength is edging towards medium/full.
I’m finding that the constant touch ups to the burn line is becoming aggravating. An $18 cigar should have a pristine, razor sharp char line.

10third

The 1502 XO Toro is an interesting cigar but it needs some oomph. I did find another review and the writer only found a handful of flavors.
And as I near the halfway point, the large array of flavors begins to dissipate.

You can take a gander at “The Katman’s Best 210 Boutique Brands/Blends in the $6-$11.00+ Range” and find every single cigar as good, or better, than the 1502 XO Toro…and for a lot less dough.

I had high hopes for this blend. It sounded perfect on paper. I’m going to find out that this cigar blend will shine in the last third.

Of course, at best, this cigar only has a couple of months age on it. Being one of the first rolled helps, naturally. And I’ve had it for a few weeks. But maybe this is an Old School type of blend that needs a lot of humidor time. I think this is why there are only a couple reviews up and running. The lucky reviewers who are supplied cigars by Global Premium Cigars have the opportunity to give the cigar a run for its money; testing its viability for review and discovering it ain’t ready.
I reach the halfway point at around 45 minutes.

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The raspberry element comes and goes.
The malts rule the roost now. Followed by creaminess, chocolate, coffee, cedar, nuts, raisins, and a touch of shortbread.
The 1502 XO Toro seems to be morphing.

That berry flavor is becoming an important component. It gives off a sweet and tart flavor that is welcome in this confused flavor profile.
I can’t believe that this is all there is to an $18 cigar. It just has to be Old School requiring at least 6 months of humidor time.
Strength hits a steady medium/full body now.

The char line is a crime to humanity:
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The cigar band is removed leaving sharp creases from the box press.
My palate is so clean and fresh, from not smoking a cigar in over two weeks, that I believe it is the reason I taste so many variations on a theme from the 1502 XO Toro; compared to other reviews.

No matter what I do, the char line refuses to behave. Who knows how much damage constant torching the foot affects the subtleties and nuances that this cigar may have produced.
The balance is way off. The finish is very short…except for the berries and the malts.

I really miss the red pepper. There is no discernible spiciness at all. I’m a spice junkie and for me, it makes or breaks a cigar. Of course, the old Cuban cigar makers think that the process to make a cigar spicy is heresy. But that is what the American palate likes.

In the photo below, you can see how the cap is dismantling from the cigar:
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To say I am underwhelmed is an understatement.

LAST THIRD:
Smoke time is an hour.
Strength remains at medium/full.

Now I feel very badly for the reader that sent me this expensive stick. I had pinned my hopes on coming back with a spectacular cigar to review.

If they flavors don’t explode in this final third, you will see that reflected in my rating of the 1502 XO Toro.
Sure enough, flavors are now a bucking bronco.

The red pepper returns and gives the blend the zest it so sorely needs.
The list of early flavors returns intact.
The strength pushes into full body territory.

The balance coalesces. The finish is long and chewy. I can feel and taste all those flavors on my teeth. And the complexity is where it should have been much earlier in the cigar experience.
Because I missed writing so much over these two weeks, I plan to review another cigar tomorrow that buddy, Eric Anderson, sent me. Fingers crossed.
I take a couple of huge puffs and the pepper hits me like cold symptoms: runny nose and watery eyes.

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And then disaster. The flavor profile lays there like my first wife on our honeymoon. A flounder.
The 1502 XO Toro becomes a bit harsh. And hot.

15third

I really did want the 1502 XO Toro to be a stunning experience. I am really disappointed in its performance.
Construction is that of a cheap cigar. Same goes for the burn line.
Flavors are inconsistent.
Sorry Global Premium Cigars. I wanted to make you proud but your product let me down.

RATING: 83

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And now for something completely different:
It was around 1983 and I was still under the mentorship of Hall of Fame drummer, Hal Blaine.

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Hal got me sessions all over L.A. And this day, it was a national Chevy TV commercial. It wasn’t until 1991, that Chevy started using Bob Seger’s tune “Like a Rock.” And it was used for nearly 10 years. But this session was 1983. The pre-Bob Seger period.
Hal bypassed the red tape and got me my union card for my first gig. I was only to be paid scale until Hal stepped in and talked to the man in charge.

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You don’t get residuals when you are a newbie. If you are a musician that the client really wants, they negotiate and you get a flat fee for the recording and some sort of royalty each time the commercial is aired.

My musician cousin, and reed playing legend, Fred Selden, became a millionaire doing TV commercials and TV shows. In his younger days, he would do three sessions per day and those royalty checks kept on coming in during the summer reruns. He split his time doing TV, movies, recording albums, and commercials. He told me he got around $600 per show. Back in the day, TV show seasons were around 18-20 shows. That means a total of around $12,000. And he got another $400 for each rerun. Another $4800. So for around 80 hours of work, he got $210 per hour. And this was in the 1980’s!

Fred Selden

I think I got $268 for the one session. When called back for another Chevy session, Hal fixed it so I got around $500 for the session and royalties. I literally lived on those royalties for a year. That’s as much as Chevy would budge on the duration of royalties. Even though they used the same music for a couple of years.

Here is the reason I chose this topic….During the second session, a very well-known studio reed player was drunk. And doing coke.

Musicians at this level of power and prestige don’t put up with any shit. And 90% of the time, the first take was the only take. A little rehearsal and everyone was ready to go. Most times, they didn’t even rehearse. They were all brilliant sight readers and all they needed was a piece of sheet music put in front of them and it was a done deal.

I had to study my ass off to get to that level of musicianship. Thankfully, commercials were usually simple…but then now and again…the bass line was the heartbeat of the song. Hal would always sneak me the sheet music ahead of time so I could practice. Those years taking bass lessons from another Hall of Fame Side Person: Carol Kaye really came in handy.

I did have a leg up on this though. Having my recording studio for several years had prepped my properly for this. I played close to thousands of sessions in my own studio. Bands would come in missing a bassist and would ask me if I knew anyone? I raised my hand. Played them some samples, gave them my resume; and I was hired.

I would produce the session, guiding the musicians, singers, and my engineer; and then come back late at night and sit in a dimly lit booth and record my part while being all alone. I found out many years later that is how McCartney did his bass lines once they stopped touring and began composing the best songs in the world.

The next day, the band would come in to hear what I had done. I not only played the perfect bass line but did a rough mix. While the band had to get the recording part done quickly, to save money, I had all night to play around with my bass lines. There is something magical about a dimly lit studio in the middle of the night with just you and your bass and the recording equipment. It sometimes became a pain in the ass being player and engineer and producer at the same time, but I didn’t have to rush things and all musicians know that being relaxed gets the most out of a good player.

Back to Chevy. The reed player was playing tenor sax that day. And he kept screwing up and laughing. The conductor lost patience with this after a few bad takes. He brought the guy into the booth and we could see him reading the riot act to this drunken buffoon.

Apparently, this scared the guy sober. You don’t want to lose your place in line with the people who controlled the hiring. There were plenty of musicians that would give their left testicle for just one chance. Good musicians. It was all about who you knew.

I always sat next to Hal during the sessions and he had a million stories and jokes. He would tell them to me during one or two minute breaks and he knew what he was doing when he told them to me. I was like the bad little kid trying not to laugh out loud during class. It broke my concentration. Hal loved that I could barely keep it together because of some funny story he told.

One time, I got caught laughing and the conductor yelled at Hal. The conductor had gone through this a hundred times and knew it wasn’t my fault.

Sessions usually lasted four hours. That was the union minimum for pay regardless how short the session took. Then there was a sliding scale for time needed after the four hours.

95% of the musicians had other sessions booked one after another. So they packed up quickly and split.
Hal was around 55 back in 1983. And he was a millionaire many times over and doing three sessions per day had become too much for him. So one a day became his regimen.

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After the Chevy session, we went to Canter’s Deli in West L.A. Some of the best Jewish soul food on the planet. I almost always scored a chopped liver sandwich on rye with onion and tomato. Or a Reuben. Or matzoh ball soup with a side of knish.

Famous vaudevillian, Eddie Canter, opened the place back in 1931. And it was the place to go for good Jewish deli. It was always crowded and celebrities liked it.

Stuffed, Hal and I parted ways and went our way. I had a nice hour drive back to the studio. And I always had a doob to settle me down after the adrenaline rush of the high pressure recording work.

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Categories: CIGAR REVIEWS

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13 replies

  1. Phil, what an awesome story about your gramps and JC. When you get right down to it, we’re all mishpuchah.

    As Stephen Wright said: “It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it.”

    Can’t wait to see the results of your collaboration with the Newmans. Best of luck with the move and keep on keepin’ on.

  2. I am at least old enough to remember Eddie Cantor, and that it was spelled with an o, not an e. So why the hell does it say “CANTER’S” on the sign, three times?

    Is there an interesting story in this?

  3. Canter’s. You can still pull a decent Reuben out of the place and the very late night crowd is a lot of crazy fun, but kind of a shell of what it used to be. Hipsters who run the place now, only care so much. Their rugelach cookies are something special though.

  4. Cigar Coop reviewed this cigar and gave it a 93 and a Box Worthy rating. Go figure.

    • It’s only $18.00 per stick. Buy a box and see if you agree with Cigar Coop. LOL.
      Hang on a second. I just read his review. He mentions a total of FOUR flavors of which one is “natural tobacco” flavor. “..cedar, natural tobacco, cocoa powder, and red pepper.” And that’s it.
      Then go ahead and read the rest of the flavor profile and tell me this is the description of a cigar rated 93? It is anything but. Something ain’t right.

      • Cigar Coop never met a cigar he couldn’t give a 90 rating. Has as much credibility as Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

  5. Another overpriced cigar. …another disappointment. And the flavors sounded so tempting. The way of it these days. I’ve been disappointed by this so many times that I just keep going back to the tried and true. Which can get boring.
    They had a clearing out sale at half price of all the AJ Fernandez cigars at my local b&m so I bought about 75 % of them till my wallet screamed for me to stop. But they let me hold them and I ended up buying them over the course of about a month. Now I’m living off them until I can scrape up some more dough. Yet it’s not a bad thing.
    Love the stories but mostly I love the reviews.
    TR