My first introduction to the Carmelo line of cigars was at last year’s IPCPR. Our schedule wasn’t quite as busy at 2008’s trade show and I found my self loitering at the Cigarmony booth talking with Mark Neff, the shop’s owner and his assistant, Craig “The Boy Wonder.” At one point in the conversation Craig asked me if I had seen or tried the Carmelo yet. I said I hadn’t. He told me that I really should track them down, and try the one with the Blue label. He really enjoyed the one he smoked. A little later I made my way over to the booth and picked up a sample.
Earlier this year, I went looking for something different to smoke. I found my sample Carmelo Blue hiding in a small enclave of IPCPR 2008 smokes and lit it up. My experience with it was a good one, and I decided to buy a few more and give it a proper review. As luck would have it, a couple of shops in the area had them in stock.
The Carmelo Blue is a Nicaraguan puro produced by Honduras Caribbean Tobacco and comes in eight vitolas, ranging in size from a churchill down to petite corona called the Carmelito. (Including one of my favorites, the lancero.) The robusto I’m smoking for this review is lightly box-pressed, and from the picture on their website, it appears at least a few other sizes are as well.
But before we set the Carmelo Blue ablaze, I thought I’d share a fun tidbit I discovered by accident while doing my homework for this review. This isn’t the first cigar to carry the Carmelo name. A line of smokes by the same name was manufactured by the Enrique Henriquez cigar factory in Tampa, Florida from 1919 until 1930. Though from what I can tell, the connection stops with the name. Now it’s time for the fire.
Size: 5 x 52
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano
Smoking Time: 1 1/2 hours
Price: MSRP $6.40
It could be the name, but every time I look at the band, I think candy bar. It probably helps the lightly box-pressed shape of the Carmelo makes it vaguely similar to those milk chocolate treats as well.
The wrapper leaf had few small veins, and aside from some water spots on a couple sticks, it was free of imperfections or damage.
The cigars were uniformly firm to the touch, and a little more tightly packed than most box-pressed sticks I’ve encountered. The cigars had a rich compost aroma, and a provided a slightly sweet cocoa flavor in the cold taste.
It was all going so well until fire entered the equation. While the Carmelo Blue didn’t commit the cardinal sin of being plugged, it did transgress in other ways. Every stick smoked for this review required at least one relight. The best of the bunch (the one featured in the tower of burn) needed a flame assist only once, but the worst offender needed a butane special delivery three times. Six if you count touch-ups to correct a seriously crooked burn line.
But it’s not all bad news. As I said, the draw was just a tad on the tight side of perfect, and the ash was solid enough to grow a column nearly two inches long in one case. Provided you didn’t need to tap it off to relight, the Carmelo Blue might do well in a long ash competition.
The first inch of the cigar offered up creamy cocoa, coffee and caramel flavors, but it wasn’t long before cedar appeared, and rose to dominance in the profile. By the end of the first third, the primary flavor set was creamy cedar with an orange sweetness and a touch of pepper in the finish.
The creamy orange sweetness and cedar continued to be the prominent flavor combination for the majority of the second third. Toward the end, the orange flavor disappeared along with most of the sweetness, leaving cocoa to accompany the cedar.
Early on in the final third, I started to notice a little bit of graham joining the smooth cocoa and cedar combination. But other than that, the flavor profile remained pretty consistent until the end.
I paid a a few bucks more per stick than MSRP, which is probably due in part to state taxes, but still found the pricing reasonable.
Though the cigar was a bit of a nuisance to keep burning properly in some cases, the rich medium-bodied flavors were rewarding enough to keep me puffing. And with regard to the less than stellar burn, it would be unfair not to mention what a tough month this has been for cigars in my area. I’ve seen the hygrometer on my wall dip as low as 40% and then jump up to nearly 80% during some of our recent downpours. Sometimes in as little as 24 hours. Our bi-polar humidity doesn’t excuse these issues, but it may magnify them, due to the incredibly absorbent nature of tobacco.
If I sound like an apologist for the cigar, it’s probably because I really did enjoy smoking the Carmelo Blue, and plan to buy more the next time I’m in a shop that carries them. I recommend trying it out if you have the opportunity. Just keep the lighter handy, this cigar may cost you some butane, but it’s worth it.
Liked It: Yes
Buy It Again: Yes
Recommend It: Yes
Tower of Burn
Here for your viewing pleasure is my trademark Tower of Burn.