I noticed that in the offseason, both Fanposts and Chiefs news was so rare that many of us were starving just waiting for the next little nugget to get us through our day. This is the complete opposite during the season. There are so many discussions going on around AP right now and news is more plentiful than criminals at a political convention. It’s a miracle that none of us has gone insane from the overload! So my gift to you AP is a contribution to your individual sanity in the form of a distraction from Chiefs-related controversies. I give you your Week 2 Gameday Cigar: The Oliva Cain Maduro Robusto.
The Cigar: This one is a new one to me. I am familiar with the Oliva line of cigars. They are one of the best and most consistent products out there. Their V series and O series cigars regularly receive high marks from Cigar Aficionado magazine. I stumbled across this one at my cigar shop and was more than willing to try an Oliva line cigar with a Maduro wrapper. Just a quick clarification; many cigar companies/families have multiple lines of cigars. I may refer to this particular cigar as an Oliva cigar even though it has "Cain" clearly marked on its label.
The cigar is 6 inches long with a 50 ring gauge. It contains Nicaraguan filler and wrapper and a nice dark Mexican maduro wrapper. Upon some further research, I found that it is a triple fermented cigar that contains 82% ligero. I was anticipating a very nice spicy smoke. There was one thing that I did not like about the cigar before lighting: the label is on the end of the cigar!! Putting a label on the end of the cigar protects the end from fraying in boxes where the cigars are not individually wrapped in cellophane. The down side to this is that you must remove the label before smoking. You usually leave the label on until your cigar is close to burning the label off. There are two reasons for this: 1) it allows your friends to see where that wonderful cigar smell is coming from (brand recognition of your favorite cigars will help to ensure that the company stays in business) and 2) the heat from the burning cigar will loosen the glue on the band, allowing you to remove the band without risking tearing the wrapper leaf. Four out of five cigar bands will come off easily pre-smoke anyway, but it’s that one out of five where part of the wrapper rips off that is a real disappointment. So you can see that putting the band on the end of the cigar forces you to remove it pre-smoke and risk tearing the wrapper. This all comes down to personal preference. For people who buy a lot of cigars online, this guarantees them boxes of cigars without damaged ends. If you are buying from a cigar shop, you are probably not going to purchase a cigar with a damaged end anyway (at least not at full price!).
The Review: Although there are many cigar review sites out there, this review is entirely my own and reflects the flavors that I experienced during my smoke. I used a bullet cut on this cigar. A bullet cut is when you use a sharpened ring, about the diameter of a bullet, to punch a hole through the cigar tip and typically a few millimeters into the cigar. This removes a part of the wrapper and some of the filler leaf. I find that I get a more even burn on large ring gauge cigars with a bullet cut vs. a guillotine cut. Both cuts would have worked fine on this cigar; I am only trying to expose you to as much variety as possible.
A few seconds after lighting the cigar, there was a loud pop. The end of the cigar had split open down to the binder and the wrapper began curling back. BAD SIGN! This means that the cigar was dry. I immediately checked my humidor settings, it was at 85% (a little wet, you want it at 70% and 70 degrees). This means that it’s likely it was dry when I bought it. The humidor at my cigar shop is great. However, this is a new cigar and it might have dried slightly in transit and did not have an appropriate amount of time to recover in a humidor before purchasing. The dryness was reflected in the taste of the cigar as well. If you have ever smelled the smoke from a burning leaf pile in the fall, then you will recognize this taste and smell. There is a distinct note of it in the smoke, combined with the regular cigar flavors.
Besides being dry, the flavor was very encouraging. The smoke was thin, wispy, and bitter with a flavor profile consisting of toasted nuts and a sweeter almost cocoa like finish. Overall, the initial third of the smoke wasn’t quite as strong as I had prepared myself for, but was fairly pleasant nonetheless. The ash on the cigar was thick and dense, and clung to the cigar for several inches. A thick dense ash that stays on the cigar is a sign of quality tobacco. The color of the ash was a little bit darker than I am used to for a ligero cigar. This might explain some of the relative mildness. The color of the ash represents the chemistry of the soil where the tobacco grew. The whiter the ash is, the higher the lithium content of the soil.
The middle third of the cigar was a constant battle and it was difficult to concentrate on the flavor profile. The wrapper was flaking off in sheets and the draw suddenly became very tight. The cigar also began burning unevenly and began to bulge slightly near the end. I came to the conclusion that, not only was the cigar dry, but it was plugged as well!! A cigar is plugged when the draw becomes tighter than, well, it just becomes hard to smoke (I want to keep PG). You get no smoke and, depending on the length of the cigar, are forced to throw it away. There are a couple techniques that you can use to try to salvage your cigar. First, I would try rolling the cigar between your thumb and forefinger to try to loosen up the tobacco leaves inside the cigar. Try to work it out evenly and see if the draw improves. Another solution is to use a guillotine cut on the end of the cigar and cut off a good half inch. I have found that many plugs form near the tip of the cigar and if you just cut past them, the cigar is fine. If you can’t cut the cigar, then you have to discard it. Plugged cigars are a sign that the cigar really is handmade and they are unavoidable. In my experience, about one out of every fifteen to twenty cigars I buy is plugged. That comes out to about one per box. It’s just something that you have to accept about hand rolled cigars. People make mistakes.
Rolling this cigar worked out the plug, but it destroyed the dry wrapper. I ended up just ripping off the maduro wrapper and smoking the binder and filler. It occurred to me that the wrapper may have been the only defective part because the binder looked perfect; there were no splits or cracks at all. Once I removed the wrapper, all the dry notes from the cigar disappeared, the draw dramatically improved, and the smoke became very pleasant. The flavor profile became sweeter almost caramel like with bitter nuttiness, almost dark chocolate like in its profile. Without the wrapper it ended up being an enjoyable cigar.
Overall, because of the wrapper, I give this cigar 6 ARROWHEADS out of 10. I will definitely want to try this again because it had so much potential but really poor delivery.
I am going to skip the tips this week because I included a lot of extra knowledge about cigars in the review. I hope that you enjoyed this little distraction. You can all go back to your regularly scheduled debates.
The Week 3 Gameday Cigar: Monticristo 75th Anniversario 1935