Alan Rubin, maker of Alec Bradley cigars, seems to have hit full stride recently. His newer releases have each been impressive – well-executed and well-received. Alec Bradley Tempus, released last year, earned a sporty 94 rating while Alec Bradley Maxx remains strong, and newer, promising blends loom on the horizon such as the tasty Alec Bradley ‘SCR’ (set to be released later in 2009). But one of his biggest hits has been the Alec Bradley Harvest Selection ’97….a blend received so well that it’s going to be complemented by a new blend, Harvest Selection Habano: a fuller, heavier foil to the medium-bodied ‘97.
Enough dilly-dallying, let me get to the review. Alec Bradley Harvest Selection ’97 is a small-production, Honduran made gem made with vintage tobaccos including a pristine Nicaraguan-grown, Habano-seed wrapper. This wrapper leaf is gorgeous: smooth, even, chestnut-brown and loaded with natural oils. The filler blend is a savory 3-country blend of authentic, vintage long-fillers: Dominican Piloto Cubano (1997), Mexican ligero (1997), and Nicaraguan Criollo (1998). Each stick is dense, well packed and very well-constructed. After rolling, the final sticks are nestled away in heavy cedar chests for in the aging rooms.
The first few puffs are mellow and somewhat uneventful. But once the burn reaches full-force a ½” or so in, the flavor explodes like Ike Turner on a bender. It manages to remain smooth to the bone but begins to unload with rich, hearty nuances….complex and really meaty with notes of earth, pepper, cedar, leather and a twangy Cuban-esque tobacco core. After an inch or so, the flavor settles perfectly. The smoke becomes noticeably thick and creamy with a touch of sweetness added into the mix. Its balance of warm, natural flavors never wavers until the final puff. I’d guess that without the age on the filler tobaccos, Harvest Selection ’97 would be a powerhouse. But the age has done wonders in balancing the cigar while also maintaining maximum flavor in this smooth, medium-bodied smoke.
Harvest Selection ’97 is a complex, slow-burning stick with pure tobacco taste. But it gets extra credit for also having a reasonable price point.