Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dona Flor Mata Fina (robusto)


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Who would have thought that a 92 rating in Cigar Aficionado would cause so much problem for a cigar. In December of 2007, Cigar Aficionado gave the Dona Flor Selecao robusto a 92 rating. Since then, demand for Dona Flor cigars has gone up and so has tempers between two companies vying for U.S. business. One company, Menendez Amerino & Cia. Ltda sent out letters to cigar retailers claiming ownership of the Dona Flor brand as well as other Brazilian cigar brands (Alonso Menendez and Aquarius). Shortly after, another company, Brazil Cigars & Tobacco did the same thing. Both companies used to do business with one another with Menendez Amerino & Cia in charge of manufacturing and Brazil Cigars & Tobacco doing the distributing.


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Brazil Cigars & Tobacco accuses Menendez Amerino & Cia of rushing production of the now popular Dona Flor cigars and sending them inferior product that was not sellable. They sent the cigars back which created hostility between the two companies. After a while, Menendez Amerino stopped shipping them cigars forcing Brazil Cigars & Tobacco to hire another Brazilian factory to make the cigars. They say that the tobacco and blending is the same but with better quality control. Brazil Cigars & Tobacco claims that they are the only authorized USA distributor and owner of US trademarks for Dona Flor.


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For their part, Menendez Amerino claims that Brazil Cigars violated contract agreements made four years ago in Miami. The violations include delayed payments, using the brands against company policy, holding unapproved events, ignoring mandated interest payments and not registering all the brands under Menendez Amerino. They then terminated their business relationship. The export director for Menendez Amerino, Gerald C. Scotto says that a lawsuit is pending.


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This battle should be interesting as both companies will be displaying their products at the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association trade show (formerly the RTDA) in July. Brazil Cigars says that their cigars will have serial numbers on it to distinguish themselves from Menendez Amerino. So far Brazil Cigars has not disclosed which factory or who oversees their production. Menendez Amerino on the other hand creates their product under the supervison of roller Felix Menendez (brother of Benjamin Menendez of General Cigar Co.) and Arturo Torano (cousin of Carlos Torano of Torano Cigars).


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Sorry for the long introduction. Now for my review.


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It is very difficult to find Dona Flor cigars. I was able to find them on-line from Nick's Cigar World who mis-spells them "Dona Flora". I purchased the Mata Fina wrapped robusto for $24.75 for five cigars. The dimensions of the robusto is 5" by 52 ring gauge. The wrapper is a dark brown maduro which is oily and toothy. It looks smoother than it actually feels. There is some roughness to the touch and a few noticeable medium sized veins. I did spot a "blemish" in the wrapper near the cap and what looked to be a slight lifting of the wrapper along a seam but this did not prove to be problematic in the end.


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The cigar smelled very aromatic. The wrapper smelled like compost and the foot like sweet tobacco. The cigar felt like it was semi-packed with a soft spot near the foot. Cutting and lighting the cigar was very easy and it generated a good deal of smoke. The draw was free and clear and had a nice pull to it.


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The initial flavors were dark coffee, charred wood and dark chocolate notes along with nuts. The first few puffs were mostly woody flavors followed by tobacco and vanilla extract. The body is in the medium range. The flavors were mostly sharp but not harsh. There wasn't a lot of sweetness or spiciness to make it more interesting. Cedar, coffee, tobacco, vanilla and sometimes nuts dominated the first third.


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The cigar burns well with an even and thin burn line forming a white compact ash that holds on very well. However, it also burned faster than I would have preferred. The resting smoke was heavy and I wondered if the cigar was not as packed as I first thought.


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The second third tasted of nuts and coffee. The body is still in the medium range but the finish was still a bit hollow. There is now some minor bitter notes which really needs some sweetness to balance out the flavors. I also noticed that the cigar was starting to get a little warm and so I had to slow down a little. The flavors are still nice. I'm now getting a richer tobacco flavor, roasted nuts, vanilla and a little bit of leather. The finish draws longer and still tastes of coffee. The sweet spot of this cigar comes at about the mid-point. You start getting really nice flavor transitions. There is an interesting exotic nutty flavor up front followed by rich tobacco. I can usually describe "tobacco" with other flavors but this cigar actually tastes like honest to goodness tobacco! The sweet spot flavors continue to fluctuate from nuts to leather and nuts to coffee. Trust me, it's fabulous.


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The last third shows rich leather and a much longer finish. The strength is definitely medium and the flavors very sharp but still not crossing the threshold into harsh. It's also still surprisingly nutty. So far this cigar is a very pleasant smoke but I'm still a little disappointed by it's lack of sweetness. Others may find it lacking in spiciness. The cigar does start to get bitter in the middle of the last third probably due to it smoking so fast and hot. I finally had to stop with two inches remaining.


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Overall, it's not a bad smoke. I probably won't buy a whole box of these cigars but I would buy a few sticks to keep in my humidor for variety of different regional puros. It should be interesting to see who wins the battle for the rights to sell Dona Flor in the US. At some point I'm sure a new brand will be created by the loser to compete in the Brazilian puro market. If their product is as good as they say it is, they should be able to garner another high rating from Cigar Aficionado or most importantly the approval of cigar smokers every where.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dona Flor Cigars can be bought at
www.gvginternational.com or www.thecigarstore.com