Sunday, August 10, 2008

La Aroma de Cuba (corona)

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If you have read the latest news on Cigar Aficionado's website, then you are aware that Ashton is coming out with a new La Aroma de Cuba cigar which will be made in Nicaragua instead of Honduras. This new cigar will be yet another collaboration with Don "Pepin" Garcia. The new La Aroma de Cuba will have a Cuban-seed Ecuadorian wrapper grown by the Oliva Tobacco Co., along with a filler and binder from Nicaragua. It will have strength and flavor but not as full bodied as the San Cristobal, according to the article. Here is a picture of the new cigars:




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The cigars that I smoked for this review were the original La Aroma's from Santa Rosa de Copan in Honduras. These cigars were introduced in 2002 after a three year blend development period, according to Perelman's Pocket Cyclopedia of Cigars. The original cigars have a dark Cuban-seed Honduran wrapper, a Honduran binder and a filler blend of Cuban-seed Honduran and Nicaraguan tobaccos. The corona size that I smoked is 5 and 1/2 by 44 ring gauge.

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The original La Aroma cigars are budget friendly, with all vitolas priced under $5 a stick. The new cigars, however, will be priced at around $6.50 to $8 a cigar, thanks to Mr. Pepin's help. For me, this is good and bad news because while the orginal version tasted great, it did have some construction issues. One of the cigars I recently smoked seemed underpacked and it had a hole in the wrapper. I also experienced problems with the burn, where the cigar needed to be re-lit and the burn line going un-even towards the end of the cigar. These and other flaws in construction would surely be improved under Don Pepin's capable hands. As far as the flavor goes, I was really satisfied with what I got for only $3.75 a (corona) cigar. I personally could put up with a little burn issues and a slightly underpacked cigar as long as I was satisfied with the flavor. In today's tough economy I question Ashton's move towards making this brand a more premium priced smoke. Do they feel like their new bargain priced "Benchmade" line will make up for all the sales they may potentially lose with the new higher priced La Aroma's? Who knows? Maybe "Don Pepin" cigars are recession proof. But that remains to be seen. Sorry for the rant. Now on with the review...

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The original La Aroma de Cuba cigars are actually very much full of aroma. You smell rich soil coming off the wrapper and a nice spicy and fruity aroma coming from the foot. The cigar is a deep reddish brown color with a visible toothy appearance. It feels like a fine sandpaper and you can feel the bumps under your fingertips. It has a slight box press and looks really attractive with it's beautiful vintage Cuban-style band. I chose to punch this corona and got a nice slightly resisted but free draw. The taste of the pre-light draw was like a yummy gingerbread.

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The cigar lit up easily with my torch lighter and my immediate impressions of the flavor was that it started off being very rich and full. I tasted a nice rich dark mocha with a touch of spice. Eventually the cigar developed a nice nutty flavor along with a touch of molassas sweetness left in the mouth. The ash of the cigar was a little flaky but it held on until I chose to tap it off every inch or so. The burn line was even up until the last third were it started to go astray. The burn zone, if I was to compare it mascara, would be more like Courtney Love than Christie Brinkley, but not quite Tammy Faye. The strength and body of the cigar is in the medium range, but the flavor is full.

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Eventually, I also tasted cinnamon and some pencil lead. I don't know if women "draw" on the cigars as forcefully as men do, but I noticed that if I take three puffs of this cigar I tasted a nuts, but on two I tasted pencil lead. Just an observation. The second third of this cigar was when I experienced some burning issues. I had to re-light the cigar a couple of times because it went out. These were normal rest periods and not like I left to change my daughter's diaper or something and came back to a cold cigar. The flavors were pretty smooth but you do get some burn to the back of the throat from the spice. Water really helped with that. The flavors of the second third eventually developed a richer leather flavor along with a more creamy nut flavor which was really nice. It also developed more spiciness and became more tangy. Another bad construction issue was that the cigar was starting to get really soft and squishy which was not good. The final third of the cigar stayed pretty consistent, and if it wasn't for the cigar getting soft, I probably would have nubbed it.

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In conclusion, I would highly recommend that people try this corona. For the low price of this cigar, you get tons of great flavor. You could almost forgive it's construction flaws, because the taste is so rich and yummy. I'm sure these cigars will be readily available until they are finally replaced by the new and pricier Nicaraguan version. But just in case, I think I'm going to stock up on some if and when I see them at my local tobacco shop. You all may want to do the same.

Update (7/16/08): I just found out from Cigar Aficionado's website that Ashton will not be discontinuing the original La Aroma de Cuba. The new blend was created as an addition to this brand. This is good news indeed.

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