Of all the cigars being introduced at this past RTDA, the San Cristobal may have been the cigar I was most looking forward to trying. And try as I might, I had no luck in securing a sample. So when these guys went on sale in a nearby cigar shop I beat feet over to pick a few up for a review.
So what’s the deal with the San Cristobal anyway? Well here’s the scoop. Ashton has owned the “San Cristobal” name since the 1980’s and it wasn’t until they partnered with the now omnipresent Don Pepin Garcia that they were able to produce a cigar they felt worthy of the long-held name. The end result of the partnership is a dark, triple-capped Nicaraguan puro that’s available in six sizes and in boxes of 22.
Of course the question is, does it live up to the hype and, more importantly, my expectations? Let’s take a look.
Size: 6.625 x 46
Smoking Time: 1 1/2 hours
Pigtail or flower? You make the call.
What makes the Guajiro size unique, and part of the reason I selected it, is the pigtail cap. But on closer inspection, it I found it looks less like a pigtail and more like a stubby ponytail or maybe a little brown flower. But as this is the first part of the cigar to disappear, I didn’t spend a lot of time debating it with myself. Another factor in my selection was the smaller ring gauge. Big, fat cigars have been all the rage for a while, so a skinny churchill (borderline lonsdale) was a nice change of pace.
In the course of discussion of the appearance of the cigar, we can’t overlook the band. With a giant red parrot spreading its wings over a couple of golden coins over top of an antiqued map, it looks like it was designed to poke out of the pocket of a Hawaiian shirt at a Jimmy Buffett concert. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As luck would have it, I enjoy both Hawaiian shirts and Jimmy Buffett tunes.
Good looking band, bad looking pinky ring.
The cigar wrapper itself is dark, oily and a bit rugged looking, sporting prominent veins on the surface and even more just under the wrapper. I also found the cigar to be fairly firm, but with a bit more give than I expected. The feel was consistent throughout the cigar. And I didn’t notice any obvious flaws in the wrapper anywhere.
After clipping the pig-tail cap with my flamboyantly-red Xikar I took a cold taste. I detected oily earthiness and, surprisingly some salt in my cold draw.
The San Cristobal has an attractive, but not spectacular burn. The ash was nice and white, but slightly flaky. The burn line was nice and thin, but at times was lopsided enough to require a touch-up. The draw was consistently good, but got a little tight toward the end of the cigar. So over all, a fairly good burn, but nothing to get excited about.
A bit flaky, a bit uneven
Well, maybe I spoke too soon. In both cigars I smoked for this review, I did get a noticeable tar buildup in the head around a third of the way through, give or take. In each case I wiped the tar away from the head and it didn’t return. Though it didn’t seem to have too much of a negative impact on the flavor, it was a little disappointing.
While the cigar’s burn may have been nothing particularly noteworthy, the flavor profile certainly was. By the end of the first third, I had the feeling like I had smoked an entire cigar-worth of flavors already! My notes for this section are easily twice the size of those for most my other cigar reviews. But I’ll try to keep it reasonably brief.
In the first third, the flavor made transitions between creamy leather, dry wood and spice over and over again. Along the way I detected a bit of salt, coffee and some earthiness. The palate was similar in the second third, but with a small pocket of sweet almond at the beginning, a bit of nougat and sweet chocolate further along. By the beginning of the final third, cinnamon started to appear, and the leather flavor became fuller and a bit spicier. The cigar really seemed to come into its own in the final third.
If this sounds a little confusing or overwhelming, you’re lucky, I’ve really condensed the experience! This flavor profile was both complex, subtle and continually on the move.
Considering the price tag on the VSG and the ESG, I’m happy to see the price tag for this cigar well under $15. I think ten and change is a pretty good deal.
I’m pretty sure I liked the cigar. Sounds like a pretty non-committal verdict, huh? Well, the problem is I spent so much time taking notes I didn’t feel like I got a chance to really enjoy it. But when I reviewed the flavor notes for this review, I kept being reminded of things I enjoyed. I loved the end of the light, sweet almond flavor of first third and the beginning of the second. And I found the final third to be the best part of the cigar, with fuller, spicier flavors.
On the other hand, I was disappointed by the tarry buildup. It affected the flavor more in the first cigar than the second, but it wasn’t bad enough to ruin either experience. I didn’t have a chance to smoke it for this review, but I also have a Clasico (5 x 50) that I plan to smoke for comparison. I’m curious to see if it has the same problem with tar. Additionally, it’ll be fun to just smoke this cigar without taking notes!
Liked It: Yes
Buy It Again: Yes
Recommend It: Yes
The Cigar in Action
The tower of burn, back by popular demand!