A few weeks ago I was exchanging emails with Jim Cronin of Top Shelf Cigars. You may recognize the name from previous reviews which include the Top Shelf Signature Select Blue, Black, and Red Labels. Before speaking with Jim I was having trouble tracking down information on a small boutique manufacturer. With a failed email attempt to the company, I tried getting information from one of the few retailers which I knew carried the line.
During our email exchange, Jim and I spoke about potentially doing a blind tasting down in his shop. Thinking that it would add a new dimension to the tastings, I setup a time and made the ride down to the shop a few weeks later.
Cigar Key: #007
Brand: La Aurora 1495
Ring Gauge: 50
Filler: Nicaraguan, Peruvian, Dominican
Origin: Dominican Republic
Price: Aprox. $6.00 before state taxes
After setting up my camera in the corner and passing out questionnaires, pens, and cigars, I gave the guys a brief rundown on how we were going to get things started. A few seconds later the cellophane was flying and the guys were inspecting their unbanded cigars.
Of the ten questionnaires collected, each and every one of them classified this cigar as being veiny with a firm texture. Some of the guys felt as though the cigar felt heavy in comparison to others of this size. The sheen was reported as being slightly oily and varied slightly from stick to stick.
The aroma on the wrapper and at the exposed foot was earthy. After being cut, this same flavor came through on the cold draw with the addition of some spicy tones. The draw was reported as being good with very few complaints among the volunteers.
After the pre-light inspection was complete, we moved into lighting our cigars. Each cigar was easily lit and began burning even from the start. The body kicked off in the mild to medium range and gradually picked up throughout the first third. The finish was medium, it was fairly short and did not leave a dry or creamy sensation on the palate.
Across the board, this cigar was considered to have an earthy base flavor with subtle woody tones throughout. Theses flavors were said to be up-front and enjoyable but the smoke lacked depth. There was a desire for something more out of the smoke, at this point that deeper and richer collaboration of flavor was not present.
Most of the cigars exhibited a thin and even burn line while a few others were slightly wavy. The ash was light in color and held its shape almost perfectly as it grew in length. The draw was pleasant, as was the volume of smoke produced with each puff.
After roughly a half hour of smoking, everyone reached the second third of their cigars. Throughout this portion of the cigar the body increased slightly. It was now in the medium range. Some of the guys felt that it wasn’t full enough to do the blend justice while others enjoyed it right where it was. The finish went unchanged and left neither a creamy or dry sensation on the palate.
Just like the finish, the flavor profile of the cigar did not change either. The focus remained on an earthly flavor with woody tones in the background. Just as before, the guys felt that these flavors were too up-front and lacked the depth that they preferred in a cigar of this body. It wasn’t as though the flavors were not enjoyable, they simply felt that they were not memorable.
The burning characteristics of the cigar were impressive. The ash was light in color and held fairly onto the foot of the cigar. The burn rate seemed about average and produced a thin and even burn line. The draw was good and provided a steady supply of smoke.
After nearly an hour, everyone reached the final portion of their cigars. The body had a very slight progression up to this point but remained firmly planted in the medium range. The finish was beginning to turn towards the dry side of the scale while remaining short on the palate.
The base flavor was earthy while the flavors of wood were becoming a more refined sort of cedar flavor. While this change was reported as being a pleasant one, it was too little too late. The guys felt that for most of the smoke, the flavors were too consistent for their liking.
Just like the previous thirds, the burning characteristics of this cigar were top notch. The burn line remained thin and even while producing a mild room aroma that was not offensive. With twelve cigars being smoked in a relatively small space, there were no complaints of burning eyes or acrid aroma. The cigar remained cool on the fingers and palate throughout the smoke.
In the end this cigar recieved mixed reviews. Some of the group felt that this cigar was not for them in a sense that it was both too mild in body and flavor. Others enjoyed the straightforwardness of the flavor profile and found it to be a nice morning or early afternoon smoke.
When asked what they felt would pair well with this, the majority felt that a lager would be light enough to permit the cigar to shine through. The average price that the volunteers felt comfortable spending on this cigar was reported as being between $3.00 and $5.00.
Due to limited space at Top Shelf,
not all participants were able to fit within the camera frame.
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