Over the last several moths I have been toying with the idea of doing some sort of blind tasting. Being the video heavy site that we are, I knew this was going to be a tough task to implement over skype with Brian, Jerry and myself. The next best thing was to go ahead and do it locally with the guys from my favorite cigar shop.
A few months ago I had the pleasure of meeting Jose Blanco from La Aurora Cigars. I went to a La Aurora event at the Top Shelf Cigars store here in PA and had a chance to talk cigars for some time with Jose. During our talks we discussed the idea of a tasting and he liked the idea.
A few more weeks went by and I had a package forwarded to me from the Miami office. The next step was to head over to my local shop and speak with the owner to work out recording a blind tasting in his private club. Without hesitation he allowed me to use his space and his customers as guinea pigs.
Last week marked the first of many, hopefully, blind tastings. I got together with five of the regulars and handed them an un-banded cigar and a questionnaire. After the first cigar was turned to ash we moved on to a second.
When the tasting came to and end everyone was surprised to learn what they smoked. A good time was had by all and I hope that you guys enjoy watching the recording as much as I did creating it. The only thing edited out of the video was dead air and the rare off topic discussion.
Cigar Key: 001
Brand: La Aurora 1494 – Connecticut
Ring Gauge: 50
Filler: Nicaraguan, Peruvian, Dominican
Origin: Dominican Republic
Price: Roughly $7.00
Around 1:00 PM on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I had the guys from Kensington Tobacconist seated and ready to get into their first Stogie Review Blind Tasting. I handed out a few questionnaires as well as the first cigar of the afternoon and before I could hit record on the camcorder the guys were already jumping into the review.
We started off just like I would with any review and began looking over the construction of our cigars. The Connecticut wrappers were all mildly veiny and possessed a slight oily sheen. The wrapper was also consistent in color from head to foot and put off an earthy aroma. The same earthy aroma was described at the exposed foot of the cigar.
After spending a moment to allow everyone to open their cigars, the opinions started to deviate a little across the board in regards to pre light flavor. Some felt that the cigar had a woody flavor on the cold draw while other noted things like sweetness, citrus, and earth. While there were variations in the flavor department to start, everyone agreed that the draw was smooth and did not have too much, or too little, resistance for anyone’s liking.
The next step in the process was to toast and light our cigars. By now I had learned that packing a spare lighter and cutter, or two, for the next tasting would not be a bad idea. After we got things situated everyone had their cigars lit and we were on our way to creating a pile of ash. The first thing to tackle was the general consensus of the body of the smoke. The majority felt that the body was light while one person called it medium to start. The single answer that deviated from the rest made total sense in my mind. I also felt that the body was medium to start and that everyone was going to interpret the smoke a little differently.
Using the term “strength” in regards to nicotine was a little foreign to most of the guys. After following the term “strength” with “in regards to nicotine” the guys caught on fairly quickly and we all began using the word to describe the same aspect of the smoke. Everyone was in agreement that the cigar contained little to no nicotine kick in the first third.
The finish was described using a couple of different ways which included slightly spicy and quick on the palate, mild lingering texture, earthy and nutty, and fruity. Just like the description of body, I expected there to be some variation between answers.
Unlike the finish, everyone was in agreement that the predominant flavor of the cigar was wood. This flavor stayed consistent throughout the first third. Everyone was also in agreement that the burning characteristics of the cigar were solid and that the construction was pleasing.
As the guys worked further into their cigars, they more or less were saying more of the same for the second third. The body was picking up slightly as was the strength in relationship to nicotine. The finish was just as varying among the notes now as it was in the first third.
The flavors were beginning to develop in the second third and everyone felt that the smoke was a little more enjoyable at this point. The primary wood flavor remained but was being paired with spice, pepper, and leather.
The ash was fairly dark in color while being firm and compacted. The burn line had a slight waviness for some and for others was spot on. The room aroma was not offensive, which says a lot as the smoke was really beginning to hang in the air from so many cigars burning.
As the cigars were winding down to an end, the guys experienced a sudden shift in the cigar which put a damper on the enjoyment on the smoke. As if a switch was thrown, the cigars began producing a heavy and lingering aroma that was not very enjoyable.
The body picked up a little on the way and most felt that it was mild to medium and that the strength, in terms of nicotine, was getting heavier. The finish was described by some as bitter and by others as heavy and uninviting.
In the flavor department, the guys notes indicated that they felt that wood remained the primary flavor. Behind the woody flavor were notes of earth, leather, spice, and a lingering pepper flavor. When I asked if they felt the cigar had depth and character, all felt that the smoke possessed those qualities.
After an hour of smoking, the general consensus was that it was a good cigar that would be good to give to someone new to cigars. The body wouldn’t overwhelm and the flavors would keep it interesting, even for those who have been smoking for some time.
What hurt this cigar the most was the sudden change in the final third. Up until then the guys were enjoying it very much. When the change took place, you could see the change in expression and the enjoyment come to a halt.
When asking the guys what they would feel comfortable paying for this cigar, the average price range came out to $4.00 to $6.00 per single. All but one person stated that they would be likely to purchase this cigar in the future. The one person that said they would not purchase later stated that it was too mild for his tastes.
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Cigar Key: 002
Brand: La Aurora 1494 – Cameroon
Ring Gauge: 50
Filler: Nicaraguan, Peruvian, Dominican
Origin: Dominican Republic
Price: Roughly $7.00
After the back breaking work of smoking and talking cigars, the guys grabbed a drink and were ready to move onto the next and final cigar of the afternoon. Before handing out the next cigar I explained to the guys that the Cameroon wrapper on this stick was very fragile. While removing the bands the night before, four cigars were damaged and had to have some minor repairs (nothing a dap of pectin couldn’t fix). As it turned out, we were a couple of guys short and the damaged cigars never saw action.
Once everyone had a cigar in hand, they quickly began giving them a looking over. The cigar was thought to be mildly veiny with a light oily sheen and consistent color throughout. When handled the cigar felt firm and well made.
After clipping, the cigar had a good draw with some slight resistance. On the cold draw, flavors of wood were noted as well as a starchy, like the glue on a stamp, taste on the cap. The aroma on the wrapper, as well as the exposed foot, were also noted as being woody.
After a quick and painless toasting and lighting session, all cigars were evenly lit and producing a good volume of smoke. The body starts off in the medium range with a creamy finish. The strength, in regards to nicotine, is very light.
The flavors from the start were noted as rich and interesting. The guys really gave the impression of this cigar being full flavored right from the get-go. Some of the descriptions used included woody, nutty, and mildly spicy.
All cigars were noted as feeling good in the hand. It provided a nice weight and firmness which gave the impression that it would hold up to a bit of rough handling. The ash ranged from light gray to medium gray and were compacted. The burn line was thin and even while producing an abundance of smoke with each and every puff.
After about thirty minutes of filming, we reached the second third of cigar number two. The body picked up slightly but remained firmly planted in the medium range. The finish was noted as creamy and easy on the palate while the strength remained mild.
The flavors were wowing these guys and they felt that they were very inviting. The smoke was very complex yet easy to follow which was making for a very enjoyable smoke. The main focus remained on the woody flavor from the first third. Some of the more subtle flavors included leather, spice, and cognac.
The burning characteristics of the cigar remained pleasant. As the cigar burned shorter it remained cool, as did the smoke on the palate. Out of the six cigars being smoked, only one began to get a little soft and spongy at the head.
As the guys wound down to the final third, about fifty minutes had elapsed. The body picked up a little more and was described as a good medium. The finish was becoming more creamy as the cigar burned shorter and the strength picked up just a touch from the previous third.
Just as the finish became more enjoyable as the cigar grew shorter, the flavors did the same. The primary focus remained on the woody flavor but the more subtle flavors were becoming much more complex. When asked if the smoke had a lot of character, the answer was a resounding yes.
The single cigar that became spongy along the way developed a small crack towards the head. It appeared as though the crack was in the top wrap and did not go through the underlying layer. All other cigars remained firm and cool to the touch.
Of the two cigars smoked, this one was clearly the favorite. The bitter turn in aroma of the first cigar was still fresh in their mind, which I’m sure was a one of the deciding factors in their choice of this cigar being the favorite.
The guys were very happy with the complexity of the smoke and felt that this would be an excellent mid day smoke while lounging around reading a book. When asked what they would be comfortable paying for this cigar, the average price came out to be between $6.00 and $8.00.
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After smoking both cigars, the guys were eager to learn what they just smoked. Up until this point the only information they were given was that they were Robusto sized cigars with Connecticut (Cigar 001) and Cameroon (Cigar 002) wrappers.
When they learned that the cigars came from the La Aurora 1495 Connoisseur Selection and had the exact same binder and filler they were shocked. Up until this point they knew that the wrapper played a large role in flavor distribution but had no idea it had as much of an impact as it did. They called it a learning experience that they certainly would keep in mind when they made future cigar selections.
I want to thank all of the guys from Kensington Tobacconist that participated in this tasting, as well as Kurt for allowing me the use of his private lounge. I had a blast hosting it and hope everyone that has read the article and watched the video enjoyed it as well.
If anyone has any suggestions as to how I could make this more pleasing to watch/read please speak up.
18 thoughts on “La Aurora 1495 Connecticut and Cameroon (Blind Tasting)”
I love all the random thoughts coming from the guys…
BRIAN!!! You should set one of these up here!!
as for suggestions on making it better.. might be nicer if you could get the camera in with the guys, kind of feels like i’m a bar tender watching other people have fun.
Really an excellent concept! I knew that the wrapper was important to the taste, but I really learned how important it is.
It was very relaxed and informational, kind of the feeling I got when you did your outdoor review.
Definitely something you should do again if you get the opportunity!
I really enjoyed this and appreciate your always trying something new. I liked seeing all of the different reactions as you got them thinking about the different aspects of the cigar — kind of a “man in the street” review. I definitely would like to see more of these.
This is Great! When you see the guys again, make sure to tell them that we appreciate it! I definitely wanna see this kind of thing again.
Like Rich, I enjoyed the comment and impressions from the guys. Very informative.
Thanks to you and the guys for letting us be that little fly on the wall.
The concept of the video i think is a great idea. I would love to see more of this. I dont want to sound like a dick, but i dont think the majority of those guys really new much of anything about cigars despite how long a couple of them said they had been smoking. it was kind of funny listening to the guy on the far left and the big guy in the middle talk. so much of the cigar facts they said were inaccurate yet they thought they knew exactly what they were talking about. the only one that seemed at all educated about cigars was the guy in the back right. he hardly spoke at all, but when he did it made me laugh aloud because he would have to correct them on what they thought they knew. once again im sorry if i sound like a snob, but i think these kind of videos could be a lot more informative and fun if the reviewers knew what they were talking about.
I thought of that and was planning on moving the camera during filming. I was going to move and pan the camera to focus on the individual rather than the crowd.
In the end I just had the guys sit closer to one another and filmed the way I did. The idea was to make talking more comfortable to them. I think talking from behind the camera would have been a bit awkward. Leaving it stationary and standing in front of the camera with them created a situation where they seemed to forget about it and talked freely.
I appreciate the comment, however i don’t think you see this video in the way that it was intended. At no point in time did anyone ever claim to be anything more than a cigar smoker.
These guys were asked to participate because they were willing to learn and help out the viewers of Stogie Review. They represent the average cigar smoker. Most of them read Cigar Aficionado to educate themselves as well as talk to one another about cigars.
These guys don’t review cigars in their spare time, nor do they scour the internet looking to educate themselves further about cigars. The fact of the matter is, people like myself, Brian, and Jerry are a rare breed. Perhaps a bit abnormal in the fact that we invest as much time as we do into cigars. In the end, I was happy with the way the guys performed and look forward to doing another tasting with them.
This tasting, as well as all future tasting are going to be focused on the average guy giving an open and honest opinion on the cigar at hand. To me, having them describe why they did or did not like the cigar is the important part. I’ll be happy to get more in depth with them about different aspects of cigars, but that is all secondary.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to comment.
Ill let them know on Friday when I see them next.
Jim, Rocky, Rich, Mudboy
I’m glad you enjoyed the recording. It was alot of fun to do and very interesting to see them look at a cigar in a way that was new to them.
GREAT job Walt. The thing I really enjoy about smoking cigars is sitting around a B&M and just talking cigars. This was a great video. I felt like I was in the B&M with the guys, sitting back enjoying a cigar and dicussing the hobby.
The only thing I would change would be being able to participate.
Hmm….maybe we should find a cigar that 10 of us all have on hand and hasnt been reviewed on the site. You email us the worksheet you used. Then we fill it out and send it back to you. Then you post the results on the site. I would even be willing to send some cigars out if I have them in my humi. I think it would be cool.
Anyway…great job again Walt. Very cool.
I am an idiot. I forgot about the whole “Blind” part of the excersize.
Just two minor issues:
1) Both videos have a typo at the very beginning where it reads “Bling Tasting…” rather than “Blind Tasting”.
2) It seems you forgot to edit the beginning of the first video where you slip up and start over the intro.
Don’t mean to nitpick, just thought I would point it out since it is uncharacteristic of your videos.
Thanks for the great work, I enjoyed these two videos thoroughly and would love to see more of them. Much of what I have discovered about the joys of cigar smoking is thanks to the efforts of Stogie Review 🙂
Thanks for catching those typos, I didn;t catch them during editing of when I watched the clips after uploading.
I did catch the restart of the first video, by the time i saw it the ~400mb file was already uploaded and I figured I’d let it go until I had time to fix and re-upload.
I’ve got cigars lined up for the second tasting, just need to finalize the schedule.
I finally got a chance to watch the vids. I enjoyed the banter between the smokers. I also like the concept behind the whole thing. As others have said, it was basically like hanging out at the B&M, BS’ing with the guys.
And echoing Jon’s comment. Sure, send us some unbanded somes. I’m sure Ed and I would be happy to participate and record the conversation! 😉