What do you get when two manufacturers work together on a cigar? If you said “a collaboration”, you’d be right, but with this joint effort from Agio Cigars and the musically-inclined Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, the term we’re looking for is “Dueto”. As in the Balmoral Serie Signaturas Dueto. As you have probably guessed, Dueto is Spanish for duet, which is a fun way to think of a collaboration- two people singing a song. Accordingly, there are two names on the main band, Ernesto’s and Boris Wintermans from Agio, as well as a drum, cymbals, and musical notes worked into the design of the cigar’s two bands. (The design of the bands reminds me of the musical intro to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom with the “Anything Goes” performance, but I digress.)
When we talked to Boris Wintermans at IPCPR, he described the Dueto as a combination of two different blending philosophies in one cigar: the refined, smooth, Mata Norte-driven profile Agio is known for, and the “elegant robustness” of the EP Carrillo blends. It’s also a good way for the company to try something completely new and perhaps outside their comfort zone with the safety of a seasoned veteran as their guide.
The Dueto also marks the beginning of a commitment from Agio to continue collaborative exploration in the future. The cigar is the first release in the Serie Signaturas line, a line which was created specifically for collaboration blends. For additional details, check out the full Agio interview here. (Dueto discussion starts at 5:30.)
Size: 6 x 52
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Jalapa
Binder: Nicaraguan Esteli
Filler: Stalk-cut Brazilian Mata Norte, Nicaragua
Price: MSRP $10.50 (Samples provided by Agio)
The Pre Light
The Dueto certainly looks the part of a cigar you would expect to find in a “Signature” series, with the ornate, bright red double bands. Up close, the wrapper is dark, a little oily, and has a nice reddish tint to it. There were a good number of veins in the wrapper, but they were mostly on the finer side, size-wise. Each of the cigars I smoked for this review had a few minor soft spots, but on the whole they seemed pretty firm. In the cold draw I tasted molasses, chocolate, and a bit of pepper.
The First Third
The cigar opens with rich sweet notes of raisins, earth, nuts, and of course, pepper. As the things progressed, I also picked up notes of dried fruit, chocolate, caramel and molasses. There were no construction or burn problems at this stage- the burn line was even, the draw was easy, and the volume of smoke was perfect.
The Second Third
The second third has a lot in common with the first, in terms of flavor. Creamy earth, cocoa, pepper, nuts, and dried fruit sweetness were the major elements. Pepper stepped up a bit at this point, and the floral notes in the retrohale could not be ignored, and there was also a growth in sweet almond around the halfway point. The main thing that changed from the first third was the burn performance. The draw was still good, and things didn’t get too far out of hand, but burn line was irregular for much of the third, in some (but not all) cases requiring a touch up.
The Final Third
In the final third, the burn generally got back on track. And as you might expect, the pepper element continued to grow here, but so did the nuttiness, coffee and floral notes. I tasted a prune like sweetness here that I didn’t noticed before as well. Earthy cocoa was more of a background player at this point, but all the flavors lingered nicely.
The Balmoral Serie Signaturas Dueto is definitely my favorite cigar bearing the Balmoral name. As anyone who talked to me during the trade show may remember, its one of the cigars I mentioned when asked what I’d had that was good during the show. It’s not surprising in any case, I’ve been a big fan of many of Ernesto Perez-Carrillo’s other blends, and I’ve also enjoyed the Balmoral Anejo XO offerings from Agio. It would have been more surprising if I didn’t like it. It’s definitely a departure for Agio, and I think this blend will have appeal to fans of Nicaraguan tobacco blends, even those that weren’t fans of the original Anejo XO. I’m looking forward to future offerings in the Serie Signaturas line, but this will be a tough act to follow. Until then, I will be happy to burn more Duetos.