It’s that time again. And I’m not referring to that time of the week were I proudly display the tower of burn. I’m talking about time of the year when the big daddy of cigar media, Cigar Aficionado, crowns a new annual champion. It’s kind of a Miss Universe contest, except the winner is ritualistically burned and inhaled by the judges. It’s all at once disturbing and exciting. And clearly, I need to start putting a little less whiskey in my coffee.
Seriously, though, this selection selection of the top cigar of 2008 came a surprise to a lot of people. Most of the responses I saw on twitter and elsewhere could be summed up by the three questions, who? what? and really? (Or in some cases, silence.) I fell into the “really?” camp. At the recommendation of a local tobacconist, I grabbed a Casa Magna a month or so ago and lit it up. In the social atmosphere of the cigar shop, I could tell it was a decent stick, but not one that knocked my socks off. I definitely didn’t see a crown and a podium in its future. In fact, I didn’t really see a tower of burn in it’s future either. But now that the Casa Magna has made it’s tearful acceptance speech and promise to devote the next year to bring about world peace, I have to give it a second look.
The Casa Magna is the creation of two cigar legends, Manuel Quesada and Nestor Plascencia. The word is that it was introduced this year to replace the Joya de Nicaragua Antaño 1970. Beyond that, all I know about the cigar is that its rolled in Esteli, Nicaragua and that it is a Nicaraguan puro. But before we proceed with the review, I should mention that technically, the cigar I’m smoking isn’t the 2008 champ. The award went to the robusto vitola. It probably will surprise no one when I say that the robustos were already sold out at the shop I visited. To steal a phrase from every mob movie (and TV show) ever made, whaddaya gonna do? Let’s check it out.
Size: 6 1/4 x 54
Smoking Time: 2 1/2 hours
The Casa Magna is a very attractive cigar, it comes wrapped in a thick, textured, very detailed band that does catch the eyes. Under is an equally great looking mottled reddish wrapper leaf that is a little on the veiny side and shows the dark outlines of veins beneath the surface.
To the touch, the cigar is a little veiny, and just a bit softer side. One cigar actually had soft spot about an inch in from the foot.
The scent of the wrapper varied surprisingly between sticks. One stick was mostly compost, another was a combination of honey sweetness and compost, and the final stick had a incredibly pungent, funky B.O. smell. The cold taste varied as well. One stick drew a savory earth while another was a mixture of sweetness and spice.
The Casa Magnas burn was generally good, but not perfect. Well with one exception. One cigar committed a burn crime that’s hard to forgive. It tarred up. And even re-clipping the cigar didn’t completely fix the problem. (It helped for a while.) However, as only one of the four cigars sampled for this review had that problem, I’m willing to dismiss it as a dud.
As I was saying, the cigar performed well in this department. The burn line was never really straight for more than a few puffs, but good enough to require maybe one touch up. The draw was also good, if a little on the tight side and the ash was solid and nice looking.
One very impressive characteristic of the Casa Magna was its slow burn. I generally try to smoke my cigars slowly for reviews anyway, but this smoke just lasts and lasts.
This cigar is all about earthiness, but not overpoweringly so. The earth component is like base on which all the other flavors are layered. And the earth flavor itself seemed to subtly changing throughout the smoke. At times it was minerally (most notably the second third), other times it was a little savory and reminiscent of a gritty Fritos corn chip. And sometimes it was just earth.
In addition to earth I noted creaminess early on in the smoke, which was followed by some sweetness that tasted a bit like cherry in one cigar, and more like caramel in another. I also noted a little bit of wood and some pepper in the begging third.
The sweetness took on a slightly creamy almond flavor early on in the second third. Of course, the earth was still very much present, as was a bit of pepper which generally appeared in the finish.
There was a bit of coffee and the earth turned sweet in the final third. I had expected the pepper to turn it up a notch as the cigar headed into the final stretch, but that didn’t happen. There was a little bit of it there, but not quite as much as in some of the earlier thirds.
It’s unusual to find a stick of such obvious quality for such reasonable rates. Of course, this introduces a problem. Being named cigar of the year for 2008 immediately ups a cigar’s demand considerably. Combine the increased awareness and desirability of the stogie with a low price tag, and you have the materials you need for a sign reading “sold out”. Well, that is as soon as the next magazine comes out. (Internet-savvy consumers have already made their dent in the existing shop supply.) I predict that the Casa Magna has been “Serie V’ed”.
Earth is not one of my favorite flavor components in a cigar. In the past I’ve reviewed cigars with very prominent earthiness only to find that I didn’t care for them. The Casa Magna is different. The earth is blended well with the other flavors really works for me. And the complexity of the flavors kept me interested in the smoke. Because of that complexity, I was going to say that this is a cigar you should smoke only when you can sit and really enjoy the flavor. But having smoked one in a social setting and another while working one afternoon, I can say that this cigar is a good choice either way.
So I did like the cigar, but is this the best cigar of the year? I think you know my answer even before you ask the question. No way. I’m still sticking with the Tempus as my pick. Is it a good cigar? Yes. And it may be one of the best value buys of 2008.
Liked It: Yes
Buy It Again: Yes, if it’s still in stock!
Recommend It: Yes, it’s worth a shot
Tower of Burn
Here for your viewing pleasure is my trademark Tower of Burn.