Alec Bradley Black Market Estelí | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Nicaraguan
Binder: Nicaraguan, Honduran
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: 6 x 52 Toro
Strength: Medium/Full
Price: $8.50 MSRP

Photo courtesy of Cigar Aficionado:

Today we take a look at the Alec Bradley Black Market Estelí.
Humidor time: 4 months

Factory: Plasencia Cigars S.A.
Regular production
Released: October, 2017
Boxes of 22.
“During the 2017 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, Alec Bradley showed off a brand new version of its popular Black Market blend that “truly represents what the city of Esteli is all about,” according to the company. Named Black Market Estelí, the five vitola, regular production line comes packaged in 22-count boxes that are produced at Plasencia Cigars S.A., which is, coincidentally, located in Estelí, Nicaragua.

“In terms of the blend, the name of the cigar might lead you to believe that it was rolled exclusively with Nicaraguan tobacco, but it is not. In fact, while the majority of the tobacco in the blend is Nicaraguan—and yes, quite a bit of it hails from the Estelí region of the country—the company has incorporated a double binder for this release: one from Nicaragua and one from Honduras. For comparison, the original Black Market blend incorporates a Nicaraguan wrapper covering a Sumatra binder as well as filler tobaccos from Honduras and Panama.”

Robusto: 5 x 52 $7.55 ($6.81 online)
Toro: 6 x 52 $8.50 ($7.64 online)
Churchill: 7 x 50 $8.75 ($7.86 online)
Torpedo: 6.5 x 52 $8.75 ($7.86 online)
Gordo: 6 x 60 $9.20 ($8.27 online)

The Alec Bradley Black Market Estelí is an ordinary looking cigar. Nothing stands out other than an oily and shiny wrapper whose hues are that of a rusty brunette. There are a couple hard spots but at this point no idea of its impact. The cigar is finished with a double cap.
The cigar is covered with a massive billboard hiding a normal size cigar band underneath.

From the shaft, I can smell floral notes, chocolate, strong cedar notes, pistachios, notes of heavy cream, black pepper, malt, generic sweetness, and earth, wind and leather.

From the clipped cap and the foot, I can smell bold notes of hot fudge, strong nasal hair singeing red pepper, malt, pistachios, vanilla cookies, and from the foot; a familiar aroma of hot out of the oven brownies.

The cold draw presents flavors of malt, black pepper, hot fudge, cappuccino, assorted salted nuts, cedar, malts, creaminess, vanilla, and cloves.

The draw surprises me as those hard spots do not interfere with air flow. No need to ream it with my PerfecDraw cigar poker tool.

We got hit with summer flu here in SE Wisconsin. So naturally, this fakakta virus snagged Charlotte and I and we endured a few days of misery. Thankfully, it only lasted 72 hours but it put a real crimp in my ability to enjoy a cigar.

Solid draw with oodles of smoke pouring into the atmosphere with overtones of 1967 Pittsburgh.

Immediate flavors of black pepper, various malts, creaminess, black coffee, and dark chocolate. This is becoming a real spice bomb as my ear hair bursts into flames.
Strength starts at a potent medium/full.

I’m digging this pony right from the get go. Flavors are on the verge of seeing some decent complexity and a nice array of transitions begin.
The blend quickly becomes a Fudgsicle. A Snickers bar full of nuts and caramel.

I haven’t smoked the original Black Market in some time because I don’t think it as a shining example of what Alec Bradley can do. The Alec Bradley Black Market Estelí has the pizazz that the original did not have. Complexity arrives shortly after lighting up and I find that the blend travels into the land of all things balanced and smooth. There are no sharp edges to this cigar blend. Shaved cleanly and effortlessly into an appealing appropriation of stone cold “I could put this into my rotation easily.”

I am experiencing some burn issues but are remedied without fanfare.

There is a very earthy component that dances lithely on the palate. The chocolate base of this blend works perfectly by extruding the earthiness to the forefront. Sort of like hot cocoa with marshmallows made from clumps of dirt.

Know what I miss living in Milwaukee? No jazz station. No blues station. This sure ain’t Chicago. Not even the local NPR channel plays American roots music on the weekend. That’s weak.

Leaking into the flavor profile are notes of licorice, graham cracker and a hint of cinnamon.
I’m betting that the Alec Bradley Black Market Estelí needed every bit of the four months of humi time I’ve given it. Most Alec Bradley blends find themselves in the same boat. Patience is needed.

Smoke time is 30 minutes.
The Alec Bradley Black Market Estelí is a very decent cigar. Not a barn burner but a very consistent delivery system of pleasing flavors and balance.

This stick steals the thunder of more expensive boutique blends. It starts off tantalizing my palate and continues on a path of increased interest in maintaining my attention. Not a snoozy cigar.

Nuttiness rises to the surface in an array of smoky almonds and peanuts. The vanilla and chocolate usurps the barely noticeable sweetness and uses its mystical powers to remind me of a tin roof sundae.

Did this ever happen to you? You are 13 and your dad takes you to 31 Flavors to bring home sundaes to the rest of the family. But you get gawd awful stomach cramps and discover the ice cream shoppe doesn’t have a public bathroom. You run outside. It’s dark. There is an adjacent car wash with a bathroom. It’s locked. So you can’t take it anymore and drop trou. But you forget to lean into it and instead of taking a dump on the concrete; you deposit your fecal gondola right into your own underwear about 2 feet below your ass. But you don’t know this because it’s dark. Then you pull your pants up and are met with a horrifying epiphany of what you’ve just done. On the way home, your dad asks “What is that smell?” Me neither.

The heavy influence of chocolate, malt, spiciness, creaminess, and espresso is the ride that took my last E ticket.

Alec Bradley did a good job of providing this blend a nice thoroughfare of consistency and flavor notes without ever becoming boring.
The complexity is ready to jump from Triple A to the big leagues.

I can finally identify the minor sweetness factor. It has a syrupy molasses element along with notes of Boston baked beans. Sweet with a touch of tart.
The tin roof sundae is in full swing. Peanuts increase in volume.

This is a leisurely smoke. Life has slowed down a bit. A calmative aura encapsulates my puny brain turning it into a receptacle of popping endorphins and a quarter of an erection.

Black pepper makes a huge surge. Now we’re talking. It forces the blend into accepting its first sweet spot. A nice journey from sniffing its arse for aromas to a naturally evolving level of enjoyment.
Strength hits full.

There is a long list of double digit priced cigars that don’t meet the standards of this blend. As most reviewers don’t mention humidor time, it’s impossible to aptly judge their assessments as aging is paramount in understanding the blender’s intent. I didn’t wait four months on purpose. I just didn’t expect this cigar to be so good.

CCR is playing. If you live long enough, you find that almost every cover band you have ever played in had to play one song that is expected by the audience…No, not “Tie a Yellow Ribbon.” “Proud Mary.” It always allowed me to take a short nap til the song was over. But what always roused the crowd was a good version of “Born on the Bayou.”

The Alec Bradley Black Market Estelí is delicious. Just remember dear readers; Patience.

Smoke time is one hour 10 minutes.
I’ve only had a couple minor burn line issues and that was early on. Since then, the cigar has impressed this old fart with its construction. Nicely done, Alan Rubin.

The high level of chocolate is just head turning. Add to that various malts and heavy creaminess and the cigar attains a solid body that hasn’t let me down yet.
Spiciness is squarely on the money for my taste.
Floral notes appear for the first time with fresh mint overtones. Green notes of fresh parsley complete the floral display.

I glanced at a few reviews and it seems we are all on the same page. Rare, but encouraging, as it shows the blend to be consistent.

I’m very pleasantly surprised by the Alec Bradley Black Market Estelí. Next time I see some daily special for this stick, I might just go all in.

While the blend is nearly a Nic puro, I believe the Honduran accent broadens the usual suspects of flavor components giving the blend a nice texture that allows for a variation on a theme. I believe without the Honduran influence, this blend may have been nothing special.

If you haven’t tried the Alec Bradley Black Market Estelí, it’s about time you do.
Final smoke time is one hour 40 minutes.


And now for something completely different:

Skip and I were to meet in Florence, Italy. Skip’s wife was of Scandinavian descent so they visited relatives while we did our own thing. The tricky goal was to find each other in Florence a week later.

We landed in Amsterdam as our first port of entry and we stowed our amps and speaker cabs at the train station. And then my girlfriend and I grabbed a train to Florence and did some sightseeing in Italy.

One week later, we ran into Skip and his wife while walking through an open market in Florence.
The first words out of his mouth were a panicky: “Do you have the gear?”
I reminded him that he was supposed to pick it up in Amsterdam and bring it with him to Florence.
He said it wasn’t there.

Fortunately, I never let my Gibson EBO bass out of my sight. But the speaker cab was custom made for the trip. We actually used our baggage allowance for equipment and our clothes were all carry on.
I began to freak out.

He told me he looked everywhere but the gear was gone.
After 10 minutes of cursing, we came up with a plan. He and I would hop a train using our Eurail passes and head back to Amsterdam.
The girls would wait in Florence.

The trip was miserable. The train was packed and no seats were available so we sat in the aisle of the train on these little wooden fold outs. You could barely rest one cheek on them. And every time, you could nod off, some asshole would bang into you as he traversed the walkway in the train car.

It took 8 hours to get to our destination. We had to change trains in Germany and no one was on it. We were ecstatic. And then the conductor asked us if we were really planning to go to East Germany? Yep. The Cold War was in full force.
Shit! We jumped off the train and found the right one.

We ended up sleeping in the space between the trains. Skip had a terrible head cold and was downright gloomy. At one point, I saw Skip leaning against the wall of the train car with his knees up and his arms outstretched holding his bowed head. Dripping from his nostrils was a 2 foot long string of mucous. Yuck. We were left alone by other riders.

Upon arriving in Amsterdam, we headed straight for the storage area. And there it was. Our gear was sitting in the middle of a storage room.
Skip began flapping his arms and spittle spewed from his mouth. He couldn’t speak.

We deduced that someone who worked there “borrowed” our stuff and then put it back.
We had a couple a couple hours to kill until the train back to Florence. So we sat at an outdoor café and ate.

The ride back was even worse.

Skip showed me that he had his hash pipe with a bit of hash in it so we found a place between cars and smoked some. I then told him to toss it. We were going through too many borders and it was dangerous. We had just seen the movie, “Midnight Express” about Turkish prison for druggies. And I didn’t fancy myself being the bitch of some brutal prison guard.
Skip ignored me as he usually did.

We had found two seats in a cabin. Filled with students.
And then it happened. A coterie of German police with machine guns stormed into our cabin and yelled, “Hashish! Hashish!”
They went straight for Skip.
They spoke no English and motioned him with the barrel of their guns for him to get his ruck sack.

Skip took it down from the storage above and opened it.
Skip kept a three ring binder as his journal. In the binder was one of those zippered pencil holders. The plastic was a milky opaque but I could see the hash pipe clearly.
The cop motioned for Skip to open it. And I swear this is the truth…Skip calmly opened the compartment with the pipe in it and just removed it and put it in his back pocket.
Now my hands were flapping in the wind. German prison for sure. A dream come true for a Jew.

Somehow, the cop didn’t see what Skip did. He was standing 6” away from Skip and he didn’t see the subterfuge.
An instant later, the cops left. Without us in tow.
A baby Jesus miracle had happened.

I grabbed the pipe out of Skip’s back pocket and opened the train window and threw it away.
“Hey!!” Skip went Medieval on me.

We didn’t say a word to each other the rest of the trip back to Florence.
When we got there, I found a head shop and bought Skip a new pipe. All was well again. And then the trek began of dragging our equipment throughout Europe getting gigs whenever we could.

After a month, we were broke and headed to England because if we were to become pan handlers, at least everyone spoke English.
Two weeks later, I passed the audition and became a member of British progressive band, Curved Air.


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10 replies

  1. Hi, this is Michael from Bowie, Maryland writing.

    I’m writing on the topic of aging cigars. May I ask how you manage your supply and how you recommend we readers do? Do you have several humidors and your know, like, this batch was added in January, this in February, etc? Do you make a note on the bands or keep a log of when you receive them? How many cigars do you have on hand at any given time?

    Along the same lines I suppose you recommend removing all cigars from their cellophane if one is going to store them for awhile?

    Thanks for any info you care to share.

  2. Man, I’m a sucker for this joke: “Did this ever happen to you?…Me neither.” I don’t know why, but I always laugh out loud at the punchline. Keep ’em coming, Katman.

  3. Hey Michael,
    I have two humidors. One is where I keep cigars I plan to review. The other is my stash.
    I get cigars from readers on occasion and I usually get notes telling me ages of the sticks they send.
    When I buy cigars, I just remember. No notes. Just a mind like a steel sieve.
    The truth is I’m the only reviewer who no longer works for a living. I am 68 and retired. My wife is 67 and retired. So I no longer have discretionary cash to buy cigars like I did when I brought home a paycheck. Social Security is very unforgiving.

    As far as storage, I never stick a cigar in a humidor with its cello on. That’s because of my limited supply of my babies. If you have a big collection and plan on storing the cigars for a year or more; leave the cellos on. A lot of blends, especially catalog brands and lots of boutique brands have definitive expiration dates. I’ve been sent cigars by readers that had their stash sitting in their humidor, naked, for over a year and in almost each and every case, the cigar is D.O.A.

  4. Hey Eric,
    I don’t know where that came from. It just started happening in the last couple of months.
    It’s the first thing I’ve written consistently that cracks me up too.
    Did you ever find yourself secretly jerking off in your dad’s pool while the step sister had her friends over to sunbathe? Only to discover the neighbor boys were sitting on the block wall staring the whole time?
    Me neither.

  5. No, but it happened to a friend of mine, though…

  6. If it gets to be too much to keep track of, you can always buy blank cigar rings and write down the box date or when you bought them. I’ve done that for various singles I plan on letting age for a bit.

  7. Hope you were well for the big 4th of July festivus?
    The poop story happened to a truck driver I once knew. He had an extra set of clothes he kept in an overnight bag behind the jump seat. Problem was, he hadn’t needed it for several years. When He changed into the clean clothes, he discovered he’d put a few pounds on.
    He couldn’t snap the pants and the shirt was so small, he could only get 1 button buttoned.
    When he showed up to make his delivery, he was tormented mercilessly for wearing a halter top. Pictures used to exist, hmmmm.
    Thanks for the laughs and I’ll have to give this one a go. I never cared for the original and have avoided it til now.

  8. Hello Katman,
    Totally agree with your statement regarding “definitive expiration dates”. To be honest, catalog brands and boutiques make up more than half the market! So what brands out there can you really age for more than a year? I store my sticks naked as well and given a timeframe of 2 months or more it’s a wrap! Flavors diminished. Live along the mid Atlantic, my humidors parameters are good, but I was baffled for some time, I thought it was just me. I don’t age, just proper rest, it’s just mind boggling is all. Thank you for your reviews. You are about thee only one that states this important factor of rest and cellos when reviewing. Makes a huge difference.

    Christopher Murphy
    Baltimore, MD

  9. Hello Katman,
    Totally agree with your statement regarding “definitive expiration dates”. Especially boutiques. Catalog brands and boutiques make up a huge percentage of the market! So what brands out there are good for aging? Not that I age, just mind boggling. I also store my sticks naked, and given a timeframe 2 month or more, the flavors diminish! Live along the mid Atlantic and my humidors parameters are good, but for awhile I thought it was just me. I discovered that most sticks, if smoked more than 3 months rest it’s a wrap. Best smoked in that timeframe. Just my opinion though. Thank you for your reviews. You are thee only one that stresses the importance of time rested and cellos. Makes a huge difference.

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