Brand: Top Shelf Signature Select
Ring Gauge: 52
Country of Origin: Honduras
Price: Between $5.00 and $6.00
This cigar is a house blend made solely for Top Shelf Cigar Company, located in Skippack, Pennsylvania. The blending of this cigar was done by Aresnio Ramos, a Cuban leaf expert and master blender. The blend was selected for its consistency and complexity by store owner Jim Cronin (his signature happens to be on the band)
The filler of the Top Shelf Signature Select Black Label is made up of Criollo ‘98 tobacco from the Jalapa Valley with a single high priming Ligero leaf from Esteli, Nicaragua. The binder is ’98 Criollo tobacco from Esteli, Nicaragua and the wrapper is made up of a high priming ’99 Criollo leaf from the Jalapa Valley.
Once removed from the cellophane sleeve I began to look the cigar over. I found the wrapper to be the color of milk chocolate with thin veins and a dull oily sheen. During handling I found the texture of the cigar to be smooth. When pinched the tobacco felt firm with minimal spring.
The aroma at both the head and foot were fairly mild in terms of strength but had a richness to it that was very appealing. Once the head was opened up this richness came through with a pre light puff. The draw was a little firm but easily manageable.
After a quick toast and light I had my Top Shelf Signature Select – Black Label burning evenly and producing a generous amount of smoke. The body begins life in the medium range with a short and smooth finish. The base flavor is made up of sweet spice with a tart like aftertaste that I find appealing.
The ash is dark in color and firm with a lumpy appearance. After reaching an inch in length, it plopped down into the ashtray as I began picking it up. The resting smoke is light with a medium aroma that does not seem to be lingering in the room.
As I smoked my way deeper into the cigar, the body picked up ever so slightly but remained in the medium spectrum. The finish remained smooth and left me with a mild creamy sensation on the walls of my mouth and tongue.
On the Top Shelf Cigar website, there is a quote that “Jim places balance and complexity of flavor at the top of his criteria when selecting blends”. This quote really shows in this cigar. While there isn’t much going on in terms of flavors moving from one type to the next, there is a definite balance and complexity to the smoke.
The base flavor has only made one change, in that the sweet spice slowly steps back as a rich Criollo tobacco flavor moves into the picture. The tart like flavor remains in the background and compliments the core flavor well.
As my Signature Select burns down, the base flavor goes through another slow change. The rich Criollo Tobacco flavor slowly begins to step back, while remaining rich, and the sweet spice from earlier on moves forward once again. The tart like aftertaste remains and adds a level of complexity to the smoke.
The body slowly creeps up to the medium to full range while remaining smooth and easy on the palate. The texture of the smoke continues to leave a mild creamy texture on the walls of my mouth and tongue.
Just as before, the burn line is thin and even while the draw remains a little stiff and produces a generous volume of dense smoke. The smoke is easily passed though the sinuses and leaves the room filled with a medium aroma that does not seem offensive.
The ash remains dark in color while holding a firm and compacted shape. After an inch in length it is easily knocked off of the foot with a gentle tap against the ashtray.
Just like the Blue Label Signature Select, I think that this is a rich and enjoyable smoke. Being a house blend it isn’t something that is easily picked up at your local smoke shop, but I’m told these will become available at the wholesale level to smoke shops. The single size available is a little larger than I smoke on a regular basis and I was happy to learn that these were also going to be available as a Cuban Corona in the very near future.
If this cigar sounds like it would suite your taste, I would definitely give it a try.