Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano
Size: 5 x 50 Robusto
Today we take a look at the 601 Gold from Erik Espinosa.
Factory: Erik Espinosa’s La Zona Nicaragua
Six new lines of the 601 brand saw their debut at the 2016 IPCPR trade show:
601 Gold, 601 Black, 601 Silver, 601 Yellow, 601 Sky, and 601 Orange. A total shake up of the brand.
SIZES AND PRICES:
5 x 50 $5.26
6 x 52 $5.79
6 x 60 $6.31
A solid stick…no hard or soft spots. Doesn’t feel under filled or over filled.
The wrapper has a nice toothy chocolate brown color. In the right light, it is very oily and shiny. You would have seen that in my photos but the cat wouldn’t leave me alone.
Absolutely impossible to tell if it has a triple cap as the seams are invisible.
After smoking, and loving, the main core of the brand; like the Blue and the Red blends…it is odd seeing this gold cigar band.
AROMAS AND COLD DRAW NOTES:
From the shaft, I can smell honey, floral notes, black pepper, caramel, chocolate, cedar, cinnamon, and creaminess.
From the clipped cap and the foot, I can smell hickory smoked meat, potent black pepper, caramel, floral notes, chocolate, cedar, cinnamon, and black cherry.
The cold draw presents flavors of smoked meat, cinnamon, black pepper, caramel, chocolate, coffee, black cherry, salted nuts, and malts.
Out of the gate, I taste black pepper, malts, chocolate, creaminess, cedar, black licorice, and salted caramel.
I’m a huge fan of the original blends. I do believe that when Espinosa and Ortega devised these blends, they got a lot of help from Pepin Garcia. He bowed out ages ago.
So this new line is all Espinosa.
Strength finds the starting line at medium/full.
The draw is spot on. Large plumes of smoke encircle my pin sized head but it is an unusually warm day for Wisconsin this time of year. Normally, we’d be blasted by snow and subarctic weather, we are getting high 50’s and mid 60’s temps. Hence, my windows are wide open allowing a cool breeze to tease my mostly naked body as I write this review. (Yeah, I sneaked that one in to put an image in your head you will never be able to get rid of.)
Creaminess, malts, salted caramel, cinnamon, and cherries come to the top of the flavor pile.
Flavors aren’t as intense as either the 601 Red or Blue. Surprisingly, the originals must have lost their luster as the prices are very reasonable. Once, in the $8 price range, they can be had for $5-$6. Even lower on Cbid.
But the 601 Gold doesn’t have that special spark the other two blends have. It’s not bad and maybe as I get a little further into the process, I will be surprised. Hope so.
The Gold seems to have a completely different attack than the Habano and the Maduro. It is a kinder, gentler blend. Whereas the Blue and Red have serious attacks to your palate from the launch of the experience, the Gold has a limitless supply of creaminess, malts, and sweetness.
Transitions occur in a minimalist portrait compared to the Blue and Red. There is no complexity yet. The finish is medium long.
Smoke time is 20 minutes. Much quicker than I expected.
Strength moves backwards and settles into a standard medium body profile.
I’m curious about the other 5 new 601 blends. I’ve seen nothing written about them.
Releasing a slew of new blends at the same time always worries me about the quality of said cigars. It seems more a PR thing than showing the brand its props. The La Bomba became a big disappointment after Garcia stopped blending it.
And what happened to Eddie Ortega? For a while, he was exceedingly prolific…and then he seemed to have disappeared.
The 601 Gold goes out. I light it up and get a whole new blast of flavors. The black pepper is all Pepin Garcia style. A pepper bomb.
The remaining flavors are vivid but small.
As I near the halfway point, the most I can say about the Gold is that it’s just OK. It is, after all, only a $5 stick. But if you keep your eyes peeled, there are always specials on the 601 Blue and you can snag them for $4. I will take that deal anytime, anywhere.
The malts have dissipated to near extinction. Creaminess and cinnamon rule the day.
There is no zing, no energy, no oomph, and no liveliness going on.
I hope the other new blends were taken more seriously.
I reach the halfway point after a smoke time of 35 minutes. The first third must have been under filled to burn so quickly. Now, things are slowing down.
The salted caramel comes and goes. It is supplanted by generic sweetness.
The cinnamon is a stalwart warrior. Never letting up.
Construction, generally, has been good. No tune ups required on the burn line.
When you think of the 601 line, you think of punch and power and a basketful of intense flavors, transitions, and complexity.
The whole transition thing is missing from the 601 Gold. Zero complexity. It’s like the little engine that could. You know it wants to do better but it just can’t make it up that steep mountain.
My review cigar has had plenty of humidor time. So no excuses on that front.
The rheostat on this blend continues to rise and fall with each small section of the stick.
With a splash of time, the blend kicks in. I now see the little engine has made it to the top…bolder flavors, transitions begin, complexity finally unmasks itself, and the finish becomes very long.
I don’t know what it is about certain blends. Great blends explode from the start and just build and layer with no end in sight.
Other blends see the first half as an experiment in poor blending before reaching the second half where the mission statement is made whole.
Malts have returned. The spiciness is blasting away. The caramel is more distinct. Black cherries, raw cashews, cinnamon, black licorice, a tad bit of cocoa, honey, baking spices, cedar, and a nice touch of sourdough bread all jump out at me.
Now I’m enjoying the 601 Gold.
The flavor profile has attained adequate intensity. That “It” factor has kicked in. The finish is deliciously long.
There are now some very subtle flavors that my palate recognizes but I can’t quite place them yet.
Smoke time is 50 minutes.
If the 601 Gold’s consistency was better, this would be a great blend. But the on again, off again flavor profile found this reviewer disappointed throughout the first two thirds of the cigar.
The saltiness of the caramel becomes very strong. More like a very salty pretzel now.
I was unable to find a single store selling the other 5 blends. And no reviews.
Did I miss something about their release?
The press release states that right after the 2016 IPCPR trade show, these blends were on their way to retailers. That was 6 months ago. And the only new blend I could find was the Gold at JR.
I really wanted to be blown away by this new 601 blend. Unfortunately, my impression is lukewarm.
Espinosa has a lot of talent. I don’t understand rolling out a whole new line and the first one I try not being outstanding. Of course, I haven’t tried the other 5 blends…but I would like to when they become available.
I do hope they are better than the 601 Gold.
The last section of the blend is bipolar. Bursting with flavor one moment…then blah the next.
The Gold could have used some help from Espinosa’s old friend Pepin Garcia.
Final smoke time is one hour 10 minutes.
And now for something completely different:
I thought I’d go back to the story that I published a long time ago about how I became a member of the English progressive band, Curved Air in 1974.
“Would you like to come to Europe with us this summer?” asked Skip and Debbie?
“Huh?” I replied with exact articulation.
“We are going to buy one way tickets and go. We thought that we would form a trio of you, me and Travis and head for Greece. And live off of our music. Whatcha’ think?”
My head spun. What a nutty idea. But I was 23 and naive. I had a steady girlfriend, 3 years younger than me, and she had a 2 year old daughter. I called her and told her of my plans. And then asked if she wanted to come with me? She said yes. Oh God. In retrospect, that was a huge mistake. If they weren’t with me, I wouldn’t have felt the need to come home after I was fired from Curved Air and left England broke. But I loved her; so my decision made no sense for my career.
We left America and landed in Amsterdam with our one way tickets. And not enough cash on us to turn around and fly back. It was make it or break it time.
We figured we’d be motivated if were stuck and penniless. A really stupid plan.
After 6 weeks in Europe, we were broke. We figured the dough we brought with us would last for months. Man, were we wrong.
With what little dough we had left, we decided that if we were to be poor, and on the streets, better we were in a country that spoke English. So we took the ferry from Calais, France to Dover, England….everyone puking the whole way. The English Channel is one of the roughest waterways in the world.
After a few weeks of spinning our wheels and checking “Melody Maker’s” musician Want Ads every day, we were really, really broke. The girls found gigs as maids in a hotel. So we were able, at least, to eat. We lived in a 200 year old dungeon flat on the west side of London.
I called the phone number in Melody Maker for a roadie gig, but it was also the phone number for a bassist wanted gig. I was dying for any job.
The voice on the other end suggested that I try out for the band and if I didn’t make it, I could look at the roadie gig. So an audition was set.
There was trepidation from my friends. We had come as a group…sort of. Prior to leaving for Europe, Travis got drunk and wrapped his bike around a tree, a block from our house one late night, and splattered his leg into a million pieces. He spent months in a VA hospital and our plans got all fucked up. But the tickets were paid for and we decided not to scrap the plan.
I had 5£ left on me. I spent half of it getting to the audition in St. John’s Wood. The home of Miles Copeland III. It was a block away from Abbey Road (EMI) Studio. (Stewart Copeland lived a couple doors down in a flat. And we would sit on the stoop and watch tourists trying to get that famous Beatles’ crosswalk photo….but it was a busy street and English drivers made it a point to run down tourists.)
I was ushered downstairs to the practice room. It was encased in glass and I saw the band playing with another bassist. As I entered the lounge, my heart sank. There had to be at least 20 other bassists waiting their turn. As I sat and listened to the same songs being played over and over again to test the bass players, I played my own versions in my head. Time dragged on unmercifully.
I could hear the whispers of the other bassists as they discussed who was sitting, and waiting, with us. Apparently, players of note had arrived and the other players felt it was becoming a waste of time. So did I. So I got up, grabbed my bass, and left.
I got as far as halfway down the driveway when Stewart Copeland came after me.
“Hey douche bag! Where do you think you’re going?”
I told him I didn’t do cattle call auditions. He insulted me again and grabbed my arm and pulled me back downstairs. He told me: “Sit down and shut the fuck up.”
My turn finally arrived.
With the words, “You know, we’ve been playing the same shit all day. Why don’t you give us something to play?” The color and blood drained from my body.
So I tied my balls to the hitching post and played something in jazz fusion style…really funky. They joined in and we went to town.
At the time, every bassist in England sounded like Chris Squire of Yes. Very technical, but no soul. I on the other hand, had been playing like the players on the CTI label in America. Funky and jazzy. Very Stanley Clarke-ish, Ron Carter, James Jamerson, and others.
They went nuts over me. We kept playing and I played my ass off in the time allotted.
When we were done, I was introduced to everyone. The keyboard player was Darryl Way. A very famous violinist with the group Curved Air.
I had no idea who that band was. That’s because, while Curved Air, was huge in Europe, they had bombed in America. They sounded like a cross between “Jefferson Airplane” and “It’s a Beautiful Day.” Both bands had chick singers and were considered progressive rock.
But this was not Curved Air. Curved Air had folded two years earlier. Miles grabbed Darryl from Darryl’s own band, “Wolf,” and said he’d build a great band around him. The band was formed and a singer was the last member needed. We became “Stark Naked and the Car Thieves.” We played out a couple times for a pittance in small clubs.
One day, Darryl comes to rehearsal and says we have to put the band on hold for a couple of months because Curved Air had a record deal that had to be completed with Decca… so they figured the easiest approach was to do a live album. Go on tour as Curved Air with the original members, record a couple of gigs and voila! An album.
“Kohn. You’re going to be the bassist.”
Rehearsals began in Covent Garden (London’s vegetable warehouse section) where a very cool rehearsal studio existed. The band knew the music. I didn’t. And it was complicated. All the players had serious classical backgrounds. The violinist and keys player are now world famous composers of symphonies and operas.
So most of the rehearsal time was spent drinking tea and eating biscuits.
So before the first gig, we had two weeks of nearly non-existent rehearsal. And the recording of the album was planned to be done at the first two gigs. I was sweating bullets.
I thought we were doing club gigs until we drove up to the Round House in London. It seated thousands and we headlined.
I remember freaking out because since I didn’t know the songs very well, I had cheat sheets on a music stand. A music stand at the Round House would look very unprofessional for a rock n roll band.
And then I remember, “Ladies and Gentlemen….For the first time in 2 years…The original CURVED AIR!!!!
“1-2-3-4,” screamed Darryl.
To be continued….
Categories: CIGAR REVIEWS