After seeing how much fun Walt has been having with blind tastings, I decided it was time to try my hand at it. And for my guinea pigs I recruited the local members of the Stogie Review Fan Forum as well as the regulars at Ole Stogie and Son in Lawrenceville.
As Walt has mentioned in previous blind tastings, the goal is to get honest feedback of dedicated cigar smokers. To eliminate any possible biases for or against a brand name or flashy packaging we remove all bands and tell them absolutely nothing about the cigars before hand. To make it even more interesting, I gave some of the participants an Redemption cigar weeks earlier to try out (though none received the robusto featured in this blind tasting). I was curious to see if anyone would be able to identify it based on past experience. Nobody did. Let’s see what they thought.
Manufacturer: El Titan De Bronze
Size: 5 x 50
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sun Grown Habano
Price: $5.00 – $6.00
Walt summed up the background of the El Titan De Bronze nicely in his review of this cigar earlier this year. Here’s what he had to say:
The El Titan de Bronze Redemption is a creation of Pablo Romay, a veteran blender with 25 years experience under his belt. The cigars are produced for El Titan De Bronze Cigar Manufacturing Company in Miami, Florida. The factory is located on the corner of 8th and 11th streets (Calle Ocho) and shares the area with the famed La Gloria Cubana and El Rey de los Habanos Factories.
Until recently the El Titan de Bronze cigars were created with local sales in mind. With the recent directional change, the company will now be focusing on making their cigars available across the country. The Redemption line is slated to be available at this years IPCPR trade show in Las Vegas.
As was the case with all aspects of the blind tasting feedback (which you will soon see), the notes on the pre-light inspection were pretty varied. Most reviewers made note of the veins in the cigar, but also that the cigar was uniformly firm. About half found their cigars had some wrapper cracks and the same number found that their cigars seemed pretty dry.
Without wanting to sound like an apologist for these cigars, I think it’s fair to note that these cigars spent a little extra time in transit. The humidity had been pretty low, so this may have contributed to some of the sticks being a bit on the dry side. I did keep these cigars in a 65% or higher humidity for around a week, but I suspect that might not have been enough. For future tastings, I plan to allow the cigars to rest for a longer period, to reduce the chance that error on my part might skew the results.
Another interesting aspect ot the pre-light inspection was the aroma the reviewers detected. These scents included hummus, earth, musty hay, and, my favorite, “a wood campfire on a cold moonlit night”. Those that took at cold taste generally thought the draw was great but weren’t able to detect much flavor. One reviewer mentioned some light wood, and another a bit of pepper.
The initial lighting process was generally described positively with only a few reviewers noting any difficulty getting the cigar going. As the first third progressed four people noted that the burn line became uneven, though most also mentioned that the burn issues self corrected. In one extreme case, the wrapper leaf started to unravel, and ultimately the cigar was abandoned before reaching the second third.
The general consensus seems to be that the Redemption was pretty mild in terms of body and/or power in this third. (It wasn’t always clear in the notes to which they were referring.) Some saw this mildness as a pleasant positive while others found they were looking for a little more out of the cigar.
In the flavor department, the notes were a little more sparse. Many preferred to focus on the body and whether or not they liked what they were tasting, as opposed to trying to identify what they were tasting. And that makes sense, as that’s probably how 99% of cigar smokers evaluate their experience. Is it too full, too light or just right and do I like what I’m tasting?
The flavors that were noted in this third included spicy corojo (though another reviewer specifically mentioned a lack of spice), bitter coffee, creamy earth and nuts. Several reviewers also noted that these flavors seemed very dry.
One aspect of the second third seemed to be the same across the board: the burn worsened. Cigars without burn issue in the first third started to become uneven, and those that were already a little uneven generally became more so. Well, with one exception. One review noted that his cigar was still burning evenly.
Many of the reviewers still pegged the body in the mild range, but the notes started to indicate people were noticing an increase of body. Two reviewers actually found the cigar to be a little “harsh” in this third, though no one indicated they thought it was a full bodied cigar.
Perhaps it was because the reviewers had some additional time to sit and think about their cigar, but there seemed to be more notations on flavor in this third than the previous. One reviewer found the taste had become less dry, while another found it was more so. We had the same back and forth over the “smoothness” of the cigar as well. The complete list of noted flavors include: floral and herbal wood, tar, dusty earth, Cameroon tobacco, spice and pepper, wood, creaminess, and nuts.
It looks as though the second third was the golden period of flavor notes for this tasting. Across the board, few notations were made about the flavor of the final third. I have to assume that the previous list applies in this third as well. Two of the reviewers found that the taste of this third was noticeably better than the previous and one said it was more complex.
Only one of the reviewers noted that this cigar might be be full bodied (medium to full, actually). The rest still consider this to be a medium bodied cigar at best. As I recall from speaking with people after they were finished, a few people actually considered it a mild cigar throughout.
The cigars continued to burn generally uneven, but a few showed some improvement. The draw was universally given the thumbs up, in both this and the previous thirds. In fact, that may have been the only point of complete agreement. There were no plugged cigars.
In the final section of the blind tasting form, it asks the tasters to speculate on the retail price of the cigar. Slightly better than half of those responded were close. Two guess in the $3-$5 range and four said it was probably priced somewhere in the $5 – $7 range. The remaining four reviewers may have been making a statement of worth when they voted for them to be priced somewhere between $1 and $3.
Though it may sound like there was a lot of negative feedback on this cigar (and there was, particularly regarding burn and construction), only three people said they’d never smoke the cigar again. Four said they might light one up while working or driving, and one guy said he thought the smoke was excellent and would be smoking at the cigar shop.
One thing was clear by the end of this blind tasting event. Almost everyone wanted to do another tasting sometime soon. What made this tasting especially fun was seeing the reaction of people who had enjoyed the Redemption in the past when they realized what cigar they had just given poor marks. To quote one surprised reviewer, “my jaw hit the floor.” It simply made the night, and inspired a flurry of ideas as to what to blind taste next. So the El Titan De Bronze may not have been very well received by the reviewers, but the event was definitely a success.
I’m not sure if it was for my benefit, or if it was a result of the rambunctiousness of the crowd, but I found several gems buried in the reviewers’ notations. Here are a few of the best:
“This is one smooth mutha f*cka”
“Taste & aroma are not conducive to my personal preferences.”
“Reminiscent of a wood campfire on a cold moonlit night at 30 degrees.”
The Reviewers Speak!
I asked all the people tasting the El Titan De Bronze Redemption to weigh in on camera, and give us a summary of their experience after they finished the cigar. This part of the event was optional, as some folks are a little camera shy. But I am pleased that five (half of the participants) were willing to say a word or two. And one felt the need to get on camera a second time when the identity of the cigar was revealed.