When I think of Costa Rica cigars, my mind travels back in time to the mid 90’s when a young upstart named Tony Borhani teamed up with Don Douglas to create one of my all-time favorite smokes, Bahia Gold. I could go on all day about that cigar, but I digress. Today’s assignment is to sample Vegas De Santiago’s flagship blend, Secretos del Maestro. Will it be another iconic cigar out of Costa Rica? Let’s smoke it and find out, shall we?
On paper, things are sounding pretty good.
Filler: Nicaraguan and Costa Rica
Size: Robusto 5×50 (was actually only 4 7/8)
Price: $3.40 to $2.80 each depending on quantity
The cigar’s appearance is inviting. A silky, Colorado-claro leaf with a hint of sheen and no heavy veins, covers a perfectly symetrical cylinder of tobacco, firm throughout it’s length, finished with a flawless cap. I was taken aback by the near absence of aroma from the wrapper. There was just a light, indistinguishable waft of floral essence. The foot was decidedly more interesting with a bigger dose of the same floral, wet grass and white raisins. The only negative not eon the appearance is the band. This may seem petty, but as a retailers for more than 28 years, I know how much packaging can make or break a brand. What you want to avoid is a shiny gold foil with a black swirly font in small print that is nearly impossible to read. Whoops! This looked like low-end private label band on a premium cigar, or like a pair of granny panties on a Victoria’s Secret model. Aesthetically out of place and annoyingly in the way, but ultimately, a minor obstacle to your pleasure.
The cigar cut without issue, the pre-light draw was spot-on with a raisin and milk chocolate note (think Raisinettes) and upon lighting, despite the short length, produced cool billows of smoke, redolent of raisin, dry earth and hazelnut (not that artificial coffee creamer, sweet garbage but actual hazelnut!). There was a caramelized sugar sweetness that I was really enjoying at this point.
Entering into the second third, the ash dropped and then profile changed slightly. A soft, distant dusting of allspice and sweet cedar gently nudged the nuttiness out of the way and joined the ever-persistant white raisin. I would have liked some build in both body and depth at this point, but the cigar remained at the lower end of medium.
In the final third, the cigar was quite a bit warmer, not unusual in this vitola. The earth came more to the front, the cedar changed from sweet to wet. In fact, the sweetness level dropped off considerably while a little black pepper creeped in. I had to touch up the burn a little at one point, but the ash held firm until the end.
The samples of this that I smoked were remarkably consistent. The entubar rolling technique is used in manufacturing which certainly contributes to the overall excellence of construction, but the consistency carried through all aspects of my samples. I liked, but not loved the flavor of this cigar. They were obviously made with a lot of care and expertise. When I factor in price, I’ve got to score these pretty high. While not the body, strength or flavor profile that I prefer, I still can’t help but like it. If they were around, I’d probably find myself occasionally saying “What the hell, I could do a lot worse!”.