Esteban Carreras Unforgiven | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: 6 x 52 Toro Grande
Strength: Medium
Price: $9.20 (A buck less online)

Today we take a look at the Esteban Carreras Unforgiven.
I bought samples from a local B&M.
I only found two written reviews…from Halfwheel (86) and Cigar Coop (92). Both reviewed this cigar roughly 2-3 months after release. I am reviewing this cigar with only a month naked humi time.

Regular production.
Factory: Tabacalera Carreras
Released July 2019
According to (9-24-2019):
“Like he’s done in recent years, Craig Cunningham of Esteban Carreras approached the 2019 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show with a game plan: release one new line and don’t say anything about it prior to the doors opening.

“For the new Unforgiven line, Cunningham got into the world of barrel aging, specifically both the tobacco and the finished cigars. In putting the new cigar together, he acquired and shaved down a number of barrels that previously held Flor de Cana 18, a Nicaraguan rum, saying that by the time he finished prepping them, the majority—but not all—of the rum aroma and flavor is gone, though not completely. However, what he really wanted was the age of the barrels and the spirits within them, feeling it would give the cigars the effects he desired. He also noted that it’s one of the most robust, full-flavored cigars he had released.

“In addition, it is also offered it the company’s first 70 ring gauge, one of the five vitolas that Cunningham selected for the Unforgiven line.

“As for the blend, on paper it would lend credence to Cunningham’s claim that it’s one of the most robust, full-flavored cigars he has released to date, with an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper covering a Nicaraguan binder and filler.”

The tobacco leaves are aged in the 18-year-old barrels. As soon as the cigar is rolled, the cigars are aged in the barrels.
(No mention of how long they cigars have been aged).

Boolit: 4.75 x 46 $5.50
President’s Own: 6 x 46 $7.50
Toro Grande: 6 x 52 $9.20
Sesenta: 6 x 60 $10.21
Wrecking Ball: 6 x 70 $10.21

This is a well-constructed cigar. Solid without hard or soft spots. A nice oily sheen coats the sausage uniformly. The color with some light on it changes the paper bag brown wrapper into a variation of mottled hues that change every where I look. There is a cedar sleeve that is an I.Q. test. In order to remove it, natural instincts be damned…the secondary cigar band must be removed first and then the sleeve and footer ribbon just slide off.

The triple cap is perfect. The main cigar band is very busy. Staring at it for more than a minute has put me in a trance and a small voice tells me to assassinate the new Malaysian Prime Minister. But my inner soul tells me it’s a ruse and that, instead, I must hunt down Katinka Ingabogovinanana.

First up is a fruity pear aroma that I find delightful, like waking up in the morning and finding my Depends is clean. The balance of the aromas is faint but struggling: creaminess, black pepper, milk chocolate, malt, cedar, barnyard, and fresh baked bread.
The cigar is plugged big time. I grab my PerfecDraw draw adjustment tool and go to work. Normally, one finds the plug at the cigar band level. I ream to that point but find the resistance is not up to snuff; so in I go again using the entire length of the shaft to plunge deep into the chocolate orifice and….uh…wait, I got carried away. It does take the second poke to clear the plug and now find I’m home free.

The cold draw presents flavors of tart/sweetness, black pepper, creaminess, malt, chocolate, black cherries, and Cheerios.

The PR says that these 18-year-old barrels had their innards scraped away prior to the cigars being aged in them. Yet, there is no info about this that makes much sense. In the last 5 years or so, there are a lot of cigar blends that have taken on the ‘Barrel Aged’ term used in the cigar’s name. So, it no longer has much meaning.

How long was the Nicaraguan rum stored in these barrels? 1 year? 17 years? They don’t say. Were they out back and waiting to be turned into BBQ chips? And exactly how long did the dried leaves and the rolled cigars spend in those barrels? They don’t say. Was it a year? Or 3 days? Clearly, they don’t want to say.

Light ‘er up…
A grouping of flavors is immediately exhibited from the first puffs: A sweet tangy element, black pepper, cream, black cherries, cedar, and chocolate.

I smoked my first one just a few days ago and it was much sweeter than this one today. How odd…maybe this stick got caught in an air pocket in the barrel.

I can taste the liquor. Sweet rum. But not like those cheap ass flavored cigars. By all accounts, this is natural flavoring…not cancer-causing chemicals.
Strength is a low-key medium.

The burn is spot on. Nice clean sharpness to this flirtatious kitty kat.
Complexity kicks in with only an inch burned. Nice. Didn’t expect this.

The sweetness is much tamer than my first stick. In fact, it was nearly treacly over sweet. Not this one. It is not overwhelming like my first. It meshes nicely with the limited flavor output.

As I sit and listen to Pandora, I wonder if a day will come when every other song played won’t be Fleetwood Mac. Nicks always sounds like a chipmunk to me.

I definitely like the character of my second Unforgiven. Balance moves in quickly and sets up shop. The fruitiness from the rum is 50/50 pear and apple. And here comes the caramel which suits the rum or the apple influence.

For those who refuse to smoke a flavored or infused cigar, I hear ya. Between 2000-2003, I smoked a lot of Acid. Then burnout…I no longer smoke the devil’s weed…(the other devil’s weed).

This is a very tasty stick. It is smooth as glass. The black pepper is a tad stronger than I prefer but hoping it calms the fuck down soon.
Clearly, word of mouth did not help sales on this cigar. Only two written reviews in a year. And online stores are selling them cheap if you look around. That’s too bad. Since so many smokers light up a new buy too soon, that treacly sweetness probably turned them off and then word spread.

This is why I was surprised by Halfwheel and Coop that not more was mentioned about the heavy sweetness I tasted in my first stick. Now, I get it. A month or a few months, and it mellows out and does not turn the cigar into a rum gelato cigar.

The influence of the pear element is a nice addition to the leaf stats. Great for a morning cigar. Maybe even a dessert cigar…but I would not, I repeat…would not be very good if you are imbibing in bourbon or any spirit. This will fuck up the appeal of the cigar blend. And the flavors will be muddled.

The stick is packed perfectly for a nice leisurely smoke.
The complexity is on the light side while maintaining its integrity by not becoming a boring event. I’m sure a few more months of naked humidor time will fix this.
I’m basically reviewing the blender’s intent. And I like it.

Was 86 too low a score by Halfwheel? Absolutely not. I repeat this all the time…every palate is different. Is 92 too high? Nope. (If I see another advertisement or someone’s comment spelling the word palate with ‘pallet’’ or ‘palette,’ I’m going to scream. Some smart manufacturer will eventually figure this out and put out a cigar box that looks like a wood pallet. Or a box that looks like an artist’s board in which to mix paints. You heard it here first.

“You say good-bye, I say hello. You say high, I say low.”

First sip of water and a small flavor explosion. Transitions begin. Elements that were very subtle jump to the forefront for a few moments: sweet rum, tree fruit, and caramel.

Now, is there anything savory about this blend? Sure. The tobacco, even infused, has a nice balance that inserts notes of steak sauce, smoked wood, and a touch of butter sautéed Portabella mushrooms.

At this juncture, the cigar is winning against the horse next to it on the track. It is very pleasant, but not intrusive and overwhelming. A perfect stick for those who smoke only mild cigars but should be smoking medium strength sticks.

The black pepper has been put in its place. It swims the breaststroke in perfect timing with the other influences.
The nice chocolate engagement has now disappeared completely. But this does give a boost to the creaminess and caramel.
The rum sweetness maintains a background presence that titillates the pallet….palette…fuck it.

The complexity makes a quantum leap at the halfway point. Yet, the strength remains the same. The payout is that nicotine enters the picture.

Obviously, the influence of the rum barrels will either turn some smokers off and appeal to others. I like it. That fruity sweetness hangs in the background giving the cigar its own identity…nothing like most barrel aged cigars I’ve smoked.

Nothing linear about this baby. Like a shark, it must constantly move forward. In fact, I even had to flick a small remora fish off the cigar when I started.

My second sip of water and that pear-osity is back in force. Delightful. Still mild but my palette…pallet…fuck it.

I’ve had to listen to 3 Fleetwood Mac songs since I complained earlier. Mother fucker…gotta change it to the Allman Brothers channel. Done. Avoided an aneurysm.

As I approach the last third, the cigar is singing to me. “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies. Years ago, a band I played in got a request from an audience member. None of us knew the song but we launched into it anyway. Naturally, the crowd went bonkers and everyone hit the dance floor…sigh.

As this is an $8 cigar, or less online, it’s pretty good. Remember when an $8 price tag made you angry? Go to boutique alley for all the new ‘limited edition” cigars flooding the market and all you see are sticks from $15-$18. Fuck. That’s close enough for jazz to spend a few extra bucks and get a guaranteed great cigar from Casdagli. You know, in the 5 years I’ve been reviewing Jeremy’s cigars, I’ve never once gotten a comment or email telling me they don’t like it. You can’t not like a Casdagli.

The strength ups its ante. This is good. The stick has some punch now.
Ever have someone punch you in the nuts…collapse to the ground and lay in your own vomit for 20 minutes?
Me neither.

Smooth is the new keyword for this cigar blend. Flavors have morphed completely. A perfect balance. Nuances and subtleties dancing like cat dander floating in the air.

You probably all know this but if you like the Allman Brothers, you will love Gov’t Mule.

I got a nice gig from an old friend. Playing bass. Known this guy for 40 years and a superb drummer that got in on the cutting edge of electronics back in the day. He has even invented some of his own software that has made him popular with at least 100 big name bands that go on the road…or in the studio. He has always gotten gigs doing sound scapes for museums. A new exhibit shows up in town and he gets commissioned to provide interactive music. He has some of that for a new contract that needs bass. He sent me his own designed recording studio software and he emails me the music. I plug direct and its exhilarating experimentation I can do at my own speed…relatively.

The cigar is very complex as it heads toward the cliff with the rest of the lemmings. It remains super smooth. I predict the stick will go out with a smile.

I don’t understand why other writing reviewers decided not to touch this cigar.
I would certainly like to have a box of these love snausages. Is your dog finally getting enough cheese?

I’m at peace. The cigar is like taking three Ambien with a hemlock chaser.
The finish has been dead on from the start. The flavor lingers in the mouth.
Strength remained at medium the entire time. Perfect for those that don’t care for potent blends.
It is a regular production cigar so you can buy it online or at your local cigar lounge.
And I’m spent…


And now for something completely different:
Band: The Attitude. Time: The early 1980’s.

The band went through a power struggle between Mike and Rick. Mike felt he had more to offer. And the two constantly butted heads. The band was about to split. It didn’t even need a minute to be discussed. The drummer and I went with Rick and the band became a three piece without a keyboard player who told dumb jokes between songs.
And really couldn’t sing that well.

We did two music videos. Here is: ”Condo Bondage” Mike orchestrated this one and sang lead.
And then compare it to our remake of “Hound Dog” in which Rick sang lead. And that was Little Richard playing piano on the recording, not Mike.

We were about to play at the world-famous Troubadour club in West Hollywood. Every group in the 1960’s-1980’s played there. It was in the same class as the Whisky a Go Go, the Roxy, the Rainbow, the Golden Bear, and the Hollywood Palladium. It was an icon.

It was not “pay to play” as it is today. But our sole income from the gig was selling tickets at the door and the tickets the band sold to friends.

It was 1981. The band was called The Attitude. We were a great band. Ahead of our time, unfortunately.

Before the breakup, we were a four-piece band made up of four good looking guys with an enigmatic, handsome singer along the lines of Bryan Ferry meets Keith Richards. Weird, I know. But he was the leader and was a great singer and a great guitarist.

We had recorded a single that was a cover of “Hound Dog.” In the studio next to us, Little Richard was doing some recording and we talked him into playing on the record. He obliged. You can watch the music video here: Hound Dog. Remember, this was during the birth of MTV. The video is on the primitive side but enjoyable.

The band had a lot of followers. And we sold hundreds of tickets and it was SRO. It was our first gig and even though I had played in Curved Air (A big stadium band) in England prior to this, I was nervous.

We did a little sketch in one of the songs…don’t ask me the name of the tune, it was nearly 40 years ago.
I wore a Jimmy Carter mask and wore a prisoner’s ball and chain on my ankle. With my face covered, I became very animated and drove the crowd nuts with my antics; all the while playing my bass.
At the end of the song, I ripped the ball and chain off and threw it into the audience. It hit a waitress’s tray full of drinks and she toppled over, hit her head on the floor, and got knocked out.

The band had no idea this had happened and we finished the song and were about to start the next one.
The crowd was drunk, coked up; high on weed, and people started yelling “Who threw that?” The idiots didn’t see me? How could that be? I kept my mouth shut.

We ignored the brouhaha going on in the audience as the waitress was helped up. We blasted into our next song. Avoid, avoid, avoid. Deny. Deny. Deny.

We only played one set. That’s how it worked. Back then there were 3 or 4 bands in a night. And we gave it our all. The crowd, and management at the club, went nuts over us.

Meanwhile, I was having a near heart attack from the extreme physicality from my performance. I was totally drenched in sweat. I was beginning to hyperventilate.

BAM! The set was over. The crowd insisted on an encore, but management would not allow it. The crowd booed for 15 minutes as our roadies took down our equipment. I wandered into the audience to greet friends and there she was….my ex-wife.

I was married briefly when I was 21. She was nuts and I divorced her. And here she was. Standing in front of me. I hadn’t seen her in 10 years.

She was a nurse and saw the condition I was in. She took me by the hand and led me out to the back of the club and sat me down on the curb. She found a clean cloth and doused it in water. She placed it on the back of my neck as my head slumped forward. Neither of us spoke. I couldn’t. People kept coming out back to congratulate me and I could barely talk. It took a full half hour before I was able to stand.

We went to an after-gig party and she came with me. We spent the night together. And then dated for about a year until her crazy genes showed up again and I moved on.

The band went on to do very well in all the L.A. clubs.
We all did too much drugs back then. The 1980’s was the heyday of cocaine use. Everyone was doing it. I don’t think I knew anyone that didn’t.
We had released the 45 single of “Hound Dog.” And we had a lot of tunes from the recording studio.
We had a manager. A Frenchman, Philippe Moganne, who was a big shot in France due to his photography. He was also Iggy Pop’s first manager. And continued to be heavily involved in the L.A. punk scene.

He put out a CD called “The Godfathers of L.A. Punk” a few years ago and included “Hound Dog.” It didn’t exactly meet the criteria of punk.
Moganne was our manager and he did things for us. He was no role model as he did more drugs than anyone I knew.

He distributed our single and the cassette recordings to all of his contacts and scored with some production company looking for a band to do the soundtrack for a movie and play in a bar scene.

The production people came in a large throng and sat up in the balcony at Gazzari’s. In those days, some clubs only allowed a band 20 minutes. That way they could put 6-7 bands on in one night.

Rick was so nervous he made himself ill. He also did a bit too much of the marching powder. Of course, the band did some too but not from a dump truck like Rick.
We go on stage and Rick counts us in for our first song.

Then disaster hit.
He lost his balance in the middle of the song and fell into Reek Havok’s enormous drum set…sending drums and equipment flying all over the stage.
We helped him up. Reek was not happy.

We set the drums back up. And just as we were ready to play our second song, we watched the production group get up and leave. Never heard a word back from them.
Man, we were pissed off at Rick.

But it was Hollywood. We really never knew what chances we really had for being in the movie. We only got feedback from Moganne and he couldn’t be trusted. We played out a lot. And Rick never did that stunt again. He learned his lesson the hard way.

And as always happens with bands, dissension in the ranks started after a year together. Rick was the true leader of the band, but he started it with our keys player, Mike Anthony. Rick sang “Hound Dog” and Mike sang “Condo Bondage.” Mike’s vocals were never stellar. While Rick’s was. He was the true center of the band.

Things got very uncomfortable. Mike approached me and wanted to break off with Rick and start his own band. I tried not to laugh.
There was no way. Rick had the X Factor. His writing was/is brilliant, and he had showmanship. His vision for the band was way ahead of its time which eventually killed the band. We were recording totally unique rock music. Rick wrote everything. I just added my bass lines and made the occasional comments and suggestions.
Mike was floored that I wouldn’t go with him.

So now we were a trio. No keys. We still sounded like a big band. We had the perfect mix of two players that complemented each other so we had our own wall of sound.

We continued to play out with the same frequency that we had with Mike on keys.
And then I broke up the band. I had an opportunity to buy a recording studio and I went with it. This was the situation that propelled me into the Eddie Munster project.

We worked constantly. 3-4 sessions per day. Sometimes more.
I learned a lot about producing from Rick. Without being under his tutelage, I would never have been so successful.

During my ownership of the studio, I produced thousands of acts. And I got plenty of bass work. Bands would come in looking for a bassist asking if I knew one. I raised my hand. But I couldn’t produce and play at the same time.

So, the bands laid down their tracks and I would come back to the studio late at night and sit in the booth by myself. I did my own engineering and would run the board and play the bass lines. Perfect way to play outstanding bass.

As I sink into the arena of less time ahead of me, I find myself looking back at some of the wonderful bands I played in…and fondly at the people I played with. Sure, it was never easy and often a struggle to keep bands together because of dissident personalities…but the bottom line is regardless of how successful or unsuccessful any of my bands were, I remained a lifelong bassist. Music is everything.


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2 replies

  1. Phil I gotta say u r an inspiration about living life fully. I’d like to think I’ve done the same and really appreciate u giving us an insight into the ur life in music. Keep doing you brother!

  2. Thank you, Marc…
    I believe it is illegal to do myself in Wisconsin…sort of like dating myself.
    Appreciate the kind words..

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