Espinosa 601 Black Limited Edition 2021 | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: 6 x 52 Toro
Strength: Medium/Full
Price: $10.00

I want to thank Tom K. for the sticks.

Before I proceed with quoting, I am long overdue in showing that I am thankful and humbled by the folks at Halfwheel. While no big or small cigar industry website approves of my reviews, nor my writing style, I’ve been quoting Halfwheel for a very long time. At any point in time, they could have unleashed the dogs of hell on me and insist I no longer quote them.

I say this because I have a couple friends that are reviewers (OK. Not every single reviewer hates me) have told me horror stories about industry reviewers that weren’t very nice about being quoted. Neither of my friends took credit for the info or quote and gave full credit to the source…still, the dogs were unleashed on them.

So, thank you Halfwheel. You guys are true mensch’s. I’ve also quoted Cigar Dojo and they are just as magnanimous. As far as the way both rate cigars, these outfits have a never ending supply of cigar brands/blends…whether they bought them with their expense account, or the cigars were gifted to them by the manufacturers…they are often thought of as being too rough on cigars that many people enjoy.

These guys put up with me and consider me harmless even if they do not approve of me as an outlier. Well, maybe they do…but they have serious connections, and to be honest, they can’t be seen approving of me. I get it. I am not offended. In fact, one big dog even converses with me in a very friendly way. I am appreciative…really.

If I had the access that they do to so many sticks, I might be rougher on blends as well. I just can’t imagine having that kind of supply intake. They have impeccable palates and I trust both sites for their integrity. It’s just that their palates far exceed mine from sheer volume. Why? Because this is what they do for a living. I shall now continue…

From (5-26-2021):
“After being shown off as part of Espinosa’s La Zona Palooza event in November 2020, the 601 Black is officially coming back, though this time as an annual limited edition that is scheduled to add a new vitola each year, much like the company’s Warhead project.

“As reported by halfwheel in October 2020, the 601 Black returns with a blend of an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper over a Nicaraguan binder and filler. Hector Alfonso Sr., the company’s director of operations, told halfwheel that the blend is not as mild as the company’s Crema line, as it offers a more flavorful profile than typical Connecticut-wrapped cigars.

“While it was shown off at La Zona Palooza as a 6 x 52, the vitola for the release has changed to a 6 x 50 toro, which is being made at the La Zona Cigar Factory in Estelí, Nicaragua. Production numbers have not yet been finalized, but the 601 Black Toro will come in 10-count boxes with individual cigars having an MSRP of $10.

“A small number of those 6 x 52 toros also made it to retailers after La Zona Palooza in November, a total estimated to be less than 50 packs of five cigars.

“Now the company has confirmed that it will be officially releasing the 601 Black at the upcoming 2021 PCA Convention & Trade Show, which happens July 10-13 in Las Vegas, with shipping happening as the show is underway. While the cigar was initially slated for a January 2021 release, delays pushed the release date back to spring and now to the summer of 2021.

“The 601 Black dates back over a decade to EO Brands, the company jointly owned by Erik Espinosa and Eddie Ortega. It was discontinued in 2010, though the blend re-emerged under the name Evil Clown early in 2012 as a store exclusive for West Coast Cigars in San Jose, Calif.

“In 2016, Espinosa Premium Cigars overhauled the 601 brand, adding a number of new lines and bringing back the 601 Black, though production was very limited and done largely to get the cigar onto the market amidst the looming FDA regulation of the premium cigar industry. While some of those cigars can still be found, the 601 Black has not been in regular production since 2016 according to Alfonso.”

This is not what I would call a pretty stick. It has the lumpy and bumpy blues. But the tobacco feels evenly distributed and I feel no hard or soft spots. Seams are tight and nearly invisible. There is a lot of variety to the veinage…some long that have the look of the Martian canals…and others that barely rise above the surface of the cigar. The slightly oily wrapper is the color of Bambi. In brighter light, it has an apricot/orange peel look. I need to don my reading glasses to assess the triple cap. It is expertly applied and looks like an extension of the overall stick’s wrapper. Lastly, I don’t feel any heft to the cigar.

The aromas are typical of an Ecuadorian Connie wrapper. Tidbits of cream, lemon, milk chocolate, white pepper, raspberries, cedar, and sweet butter.
The cold draw doesn’t draw. I need my PerfecDraw draw adjustment tool to clear the blockage. The clog starts at the cap and ends just past the cigar band location. It is now like the Holland Tunnel, minus the traffic.

Once again with feeling…the cold draw presents flavors of milk chocolate, raspberries, cream, lemon peel, cedar, white pepper, and a touch of cinnamon. Huh. Almost the same as the aroma list.

A nice mild start. An array of simple flavors is displayed in the form of vanilla, creamy, black pepper, cedar, lemon, and milk chocolate.
In a whiplash moment, strength goes from mild to medium. I know what’s coming.

The creaminess and the lemon are the strongest flavors. The blend is on the sweet side with not much savory happening. I take that back. The tobacco has a separate flavor in itself that makes up for any missing charred meat sticks. So, there is a balance…but I’ve just started. Long ways to go.

As I start the review, Pandora is playing The Eagles…not a good omen.

The char line is behaving nicely.
Complexity is minimal. But there is a very pleasant finish of butter, cream, and lemon on my lips.

Naturally, as I finish the above statement, the cigar gets a kick in the ass and the cigar struggles to break through its cocoon and find more depth of field.

I’ve always liked the 601 line. My fave is the Red Habano version.

Coconut shows up providing the necessary ingredients for a creamy lemony pie with coconut shavings.

The lack of heft is allowing the cigar to burn a little quicker than I would like.

With more than an inch burned, the blend’s profile begins to dig its heels in. Strength remains at medium.

The draw becomes a real pain. I grab my PerfecDraw and ream the whole thing. I pull out what looks like a giant frond of kelp. This fixes the issue. It burns and draws perfectly now.

The status of complexity is OK, but not impressive.
And now the char line is going all Waco on me.

My humor for this review will be a struggle as I had a rough night and have been up since midnight. My brain is hanging on by its tendrils. I asked my doc for all the meds that killed Michael Jackson…the doc hung up on me. I did try it once during a combo colonoscopy/endoscopy and boy, did I like it. Yeah, baby. But then I became a motor mouth and the anesthesiologist had enough and knocked me out.

Earth, Wind, & Fire. Man, I love that band…timeless music.

Progress of the character and depth of the blend has halted in its tracks.
Maybe the tree trunk I pulled out with my PD tool was where all the flavor emanated from.

Someone posted on FB a chance to visit the No Treble website to hear McCartney’s entire bass line on “Dear Prudence.” Just the bass line…the other instruments were deleted. I was surprised as I listened to Sir Paul playing very inconsistently. He’d be on the 1 and then he would play behind the beat. As a fellow bassist, I could tell this was not done intentionally. It was actually a bit sloppy. Go figure.

The first third disappeared in less than 20 minutes. Too fast.
The raspberries are prominent now…along with some milk chocolate and creaminess.

I thought this was supposed to be an amped up version of the original 601 Black. The strength remains at medium. I thought, by now, I’d be screaming how strong it is.

I am depending on the flavors to be interesting as the complexity is stuck in stasis.

The burn line is nicht gut. This will be the second time I’ve had to put torch to foot.
And once again, I stick my foot in my open maw. Flavors surge along with its depth.

The 601 Black is very pleasant but not ground shaking. I scroll back up to see the price. Oy. $10.00? Naw. This ain’t no ten-dollar stick.

I do some googling and find that this cigar can be had for as little as $7.25. This price is much more appropriate.

My biggest complaint is its lack of consistency. One moment it is soaring and the next, it is lying there like my first wife on our honeymoon. We were both 21. She screwed like a bunny before we married. And then cut me off on that honeymoon. I told her she better seek counseling or its over. The shrink admitted her to a mental hospital for 7 months and diagnosed with manic depression. Great start to life. The marriage lasted a year.

The parameter of flavors is very narrow. No tidbits to rave about. Same ol’, same ol’.
I believe that my wife, the psychologist, would claim this cigar is schizo.

Maybe the stick needs extensive humi time. But based upon my experience, I’d say it is doling out everything its got. I do not believe there will be a major makeover months from now.

The stick is still at medium strength. It needs a serious slapping around.
Transitions are missing. A sip of water does not cause a flood of flavors to explode.
I had higher hopes for the 601 Black.

The berry flavor disappears. The lemon citrus makes its exit. The spiciness is behind the 8 ball.

Thankfully, nicotine kicks in so that I can suffer in accordance with the rules of my Bar Mitzvah.

The burn slows down. The first third must have been underfilled.

Savory rears its head. I taste yeasty bread, butter, and cinnamon.
Graham cracker makes its first appearance.

Back in the day, when I was in elementary school, we were given a break and fed graham crackers and a small milk carton. Without the milk, the children would have choked to death on the dryness of the cracker.

A seam near the foot begins to unravel. I could use my PerfecRepair Glue, but I settle for just letting it burn off.

Now I have a crack emanating from the cap. Great.
Humidity has been low in Milwaukee, so I was able to dry box this cigar for two days.

I’m at the halfway point. Small cracks appear as the cigar seems to want to disrobe.
The 601 Black is linear in its slovenly attack.

Yesterday, my daughter sent me a current photo of Butch Patrick wearing our “Whatever Happened to Eddie?” tee shirt. And he is holding up the single.

The cigar is disassembling. I grab my PerfecRepair Glue. If I don’t fix it, it’s all over.
This stuff performs miracles.

And the cigar goes out.
The cigar is fighting me.

But flavors improve. The missing complexity resumes in quick step time.
The only thing consistent about the cigar is its parabolic wavy signature.
But the cigar has improved. Maybe it is just a matter of more humidor time.

The reappearance of its creaminess, lemon zest, and milk chocolate keeps me keeping on.

While the wrapper initially was mildly impressive, the lightness of its weight signaled that the innards are insufficient.

“Light My Fire.” I saw The Doors a couple times in the late 60’s. That was a trip. I’ve seen some live concerts on AXSTV that included guitarist, Robby Krieger. He seems to be a delusional dork. His guitar playing was sloppy and embarrassing.

A sip of water and flavors shine more than they have since I lit up.
I don’t know if its improvement is temporary, or it is finding the blender’s intent.
Yep. Temporary. A shame.

It’s taken an hour to get here.

Oh lord…The Way Back Machine is taking me back. “Get Together” by The Youngbloods is playing. It became the theme song for Haight Ashbury.
My dad took me to San Francisco when I was 17…1967. He gave me the rental car and I headed straight to the eco center of the Hippie movement. The place was full of junkies and homeless folks. I bought a couple black light posters and my first cigarette roller.

The cigar’s construction is a mess.

Strength has moved into medium/full territory. The nicotine jumps in with both feet.

A year ago, I bought a fiver of the 601 Red. It seemed completely different than what I remembered at its release. Seemed like they went cheap on the tobacco. Plus, the cigar was as light as a toothpick.

CCR is now playing. Saw them several times. They played their hits like they were a jukebox. No improvement on the arrangements. No woodshedding. Just straight-ahead single versions.

If you’ve had a different experience with this cigar, I’d like to hear from you.

Van the Man. No need to explain further.

Is this a $10 cigar? Nope. Is it a $7 stick? Yeah. But I’ve had inexpensive cigars that were much better.
The wrapper is barely holding the guts together.

Generally, I keep my humidors at 65%-67%. I get the best out of a cigar in that humidity range.

Instead of big improvements, the blend is performing seppuku.
It is dying a painful death.

I’ve dug out an old rock story for the end of this review. I hope this redeems my review.

There is 1-1/4” left. I see no reason to continue.


And now for something completely different:

Another old chestnut for Awang, my newest follower who is from Malaysia…but now his best friend, Aafaaq is on board. I’m now up to 58 followers…I’m on a roll.

We were in Amsterdam looking for hash because the Paradiso Club was closed on Mondays. Damn! The band’s American lyricist… (A very nice older lady of 40..ha-ha) told us where her connection was. She gave us a map. Yes, she traveled with the band. Her name was Norma. She died an untimely death from cancer. Sweet woman. And my only other Jewish comrade in London.

Stewart Copeland and I took off on our journey. The city is peppered with canals in which are used for both travel but are also lined with thousands of house boats.

You could always tell where to buy weed because the houseboat had it growing on its roof. A not very subtle advertising gimmick. But you didn’t know its quality; so, you took your chances. And even though we were all on the management payroll and “rock stars,” we were still relatively poor. Magical management accounting ledgers.

The map got us hopelessly lost. And we started knocking on doors of houseboats asking for directions. One boat invited us in, and we were shocked at what we saw.

An American man, garbed like a feudal king, was sitting on an honest to God regal throne. Gathered at his feet, were half a dozen young boys in their underwear. The décor was an homage to Liberace. He kindly gave us the right directions (as we would find out) and then we did a Three Stooges shtick of trying to get out the door.

We got to the right boat. I impressed on Stew that he should knock instead of just announcing we were there. But nobody told Stew anything. And Stew was a big guy; so, he had a false sense of power. We were young.

The door opened, a fist was thrown into Stew’s face, and he crumpled like a cheap suit. I charged the big, burly man and cold cocked him with one punch to the neck. I can’t claim to be smart when I was young.

I stepped over the slumped body and walked over to a big desk. On top was a chunk of hashish the size of a dinner plate and about 2” thick. I broke off a piece, put some Guilders down to pay for it and helped get Stew up.

The boat owner was still out cold. We ignored him and left. Fortunately, all of us were Americans so we chose to smoke our hash in a pipe instead of that stupid method all Europeans used; they got two rolling papers laid end to end; overlapping. They broke up one or two cigarettes and sprinkled the tobacco inside the rolling paper. They then heated and crumbled the hash; then sprinkled it on to the tobacco. A piece of match book was used and rolled into a tube and placed at one end of the unrolled concoction. The whole thing was then rolled into a long joint, with a cardboard mouthpiece.

Neither of us smoked cigarettes and that method gave us the spins. So, a pipe was the way to go. At parties, we offered our pipe to the Europeans, and they whined that smoking it that way got them too high. Pussies. We laughed and lit the pipe.

I got to go to a lot of cool parties now that I was someone…or so I thought. Every bloody wanker in England smoked cigarettes. Well…I didn’t. I would get dozens of offers of a fag during the length of a party til I wanted to hang myself…so I started carrying an unlit cigarette in my hand so, when I was offered, I would just hold up my hand and they went away.

The unconscious guy had a roommate and he showed up as we were leaving the boat. He apologized for his friend and offered us a ride in his dinghy back to our hotel. We said of course.

The boat was the same size as the one Tom Hanks used in the movie, “Splash.”

The canal was rough from all the tourist boats. We bobbed up and down and swished from side to side. We thought we were going to die.

We got back to the hotel totally seasick. We handed the hash to the other band members and Stew, and I retired to our rooms to lay down.

We hunted down cannabis, discovered an old perv, got into a fight, almost drowned in the canal, and made it back to civilization without being killed. Just a typical day of being on the road.


4 replies

  1. Minor pedantic potential correction that is breaking my feeble brain:

    “Stew knocked on the door. I impressed on Stew that he should knock instead of just announcing we were there.”

    I presume that should read:

    “Stew *opened* the door. ”

    Funny part about that story: I’m originally from Montreal. I don’t know if it’s still the same, but, thirty or so years ago, people there also mainly smoked their hash the “European” way (weed was the “cheap crap” when I was there. Hash is easier to smuggle, so all the good stuff was hash from Lebanon, Afghanistan, Morocco, etc). Now I, of course, have never partaken in any anything at all, but if I had, hypothetically, the tobacco would have given me a hell of a head rush from not smoking cigarettes.

    The only thing I smoke now are good cigars, and I sure don’t inhale those!

  2. Thank you, Phil…
    I fixed it.
    I’ve never smoked a cigarette so that cultural thing was a nightmare til we found a pipe shop.
    You are correct sir…transporting drugs to the British Isle must be cost efficient. Weed was bulky and hashish provided more bang for the buck. I don’t think I ever saw weed in England.
    But we always bought African weed at the Paradiso, as well as a mountain of hash, in Amsterdam to start the tour. The weed disappeared quickly but the hash would last a bit longer. Plus, fans were always giving it to us.

    I gotta get some sleep. Even when I check my own post, it might as well be a ferret doing it. Going on 3 months now. Loony bin here I come.
    Phil the Elder

  3. I just finished one and think you nailed it again. One of the things that has struck me about Eapinosa’s sticks is the lack of consistency and burn issues. I’ve smoked whole boxes of stuff he rolled for other brands and found issues with filling and the ability to keep burning. Things have changed a ton since he was rolling for folks like Moya Ruiz. The only consistently good sticks I’ve had from him lately are the Laranja and Laranja Escuro.

  4. Hey Mike,
    I have something to add…
    I agree with you 100%. The lad seems to be wandering in the desert with no direction known. His name has always been associated with quality…especially when he and Eddie Ortega were EO Cigars.
    As far as Moya Ruiz, I was their buddies…as long as I was giving their cigars stellar ratings…but they got cocky and instead of letting Yoda Espinosa guide them in their blends, they decided to cut him out and do it themselves after only a couple of releases. They were still allowed to use his facilities to produce their cigars, but Espinosa was no longer their mentor.
    Bad decision on the boys’ part.
    I started reviewing Moya Ruiz back in 2013 and have reviewed their drek til 2017. Once Espinosa was out of the picture, I think the Moya Ruiz boys failed miserably.
    Kids…whaddya’ going to do?
    I would love to see Espinosa and Ortega kiss and make up.
    Thanks buddy,

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