I love the Olympics. I stay up all night watching the stuff. I don't care that I already know who won, due to the time delay and all, it's sports history and greatness at its best - I can't peel my eyes away from it. These athletes do some pretty amazing things. And, to think of the stage that they're performing at, one slip and a lifetime of training down the tubes. Did you see our US gymnasts? Wow! Could you imagine doing a flip on a 4" beam, I don't care how much training you have, doing that in front of the world is pretty friggin' amazing. Go ahead, call me a sissy, but I watched every minute of it - and I stood up and cheered when they took the Gold. Yeah!!!! U.S.A. !!! U.S.A. !!! U.S.A. !!! U.S.A. !!!
I'm a sucker for ESPN Classics as well. Call me up at 2am and I'm watching Ali v. Frasier, Jim Valvano and N.C. State, the Lou Gehrig story, Wilt Chamberlain and Dr. J, Broadway Joe and the Jets, Doug Flutie's Hail Mary, Michael Jordan in his first Slam Dunk contest, Walter Payton just running over people...these guys are legends. True legends. These sports legends are no different than cigar legends. Manufacturers that have devoted their lives to producing the finest, hand-made, premium products for connoisseurs like you and me. When we approached some of the cigar world's finest manufacturers with the honor to crown them Cigar Legends, we set the stage for them to shine. It takes a lifetime of devotion to the leaf to produce perfection, so we set the world stage, the Cigar Olympics per se, and gave them an opportunity to show off their best.
Manuel Quesada of MATASA (blue label)
Julio and Christian Eiora of Caribe/Camacho (white label)
Rolando Reyes, Sr. of Puros Indios (green label)
Nick Perdomo of Tabacalera Perdomo (red label)
Their challenge: roll the best 5.75 x 54 ring cigar on the planet. Produce a cigar that will stand the test of time, and be ready for the most critical judges in the world.
I'll take this opportunity to see if they can stand having Gonz as one of the judges, here it goes...
CI Legends BLUE Label by Manuel Quesada of MATASA
This cigar is gorgeous - a smooth, sun-grown wrapper. The girth on these beauties is going to give us the opportunity to taste every nuance and flavor this cigar has to offer. Snip and light, as quickly as possible, we've got a lot of judging to do. The first few draws provide a rich, slightly sweet flavor and aroma, lending itself to perhaps a sensation of a mild bodied smoke. The fantastic draw is immediately evident. The initial flavor is fairly narrow, with increasing complexity, but never varying much throughout the cigar. There's a quick finish that dissipates quickly, leaving the slightest little spice on the front half of your tongue. The sweetness disappears quickly, no chocolate, no nuts, just quality, solid, consistent cigar. A dark gray ash forms, holds, and flakes when its ready, a pleasant burn through and through. It almost seems like there's a lion of strength attempting to push its way out, but it never does. I could smoke this one any time of day, won't leave you light-headed, the perfect complement before a meal that won't trap your taste buds. If you're looking for oomph, look elsewhere, if you're looking for the highest quality mild-to-medium bodied cigar you've every smoked, do it, do it now.
CI Legends WHITE Label by Julio and Christian Eiora of Caribe/Camacho
The wrapper on this cigar is going to make you say "huh?" It has an unusual appearance. Listed as a Habano wrapper (most likely Habano-seed grown in Honduras) it has a dark, flat, vein-free texture with no oily sheen. A bit papery and brittle, I had some trouble with my "nipper" (as my friend Jay so appropriately calls his double-blade guillotine) and my carelessness peeled off a small piece of the wrapper. No harm done. Firm and solidly packed with tobaccy, I applied my fiery torch to get this party started. Hmm, strange yet somewhat familiar aroma. I haven't smoked many Cubans, but this aroma is deep and strong and reminiscent of ISOMs, something that's guaranteed to linger for awhile (hint - smoke this a solid 20 feet from the house.) Whoah! The first few puffs instantly grab my attention with a spicy, nicotine head-rush that I'm bound never to forget. That little bag of animal crackers I had for lunch ain't gonna do much for me now. The smoke is heavy with no bite, but a little pepper that's long on the finish, with a deep oaky flavor that lingers on the back of your palate. This one's goin' to take me a while, you can't exactly puff away tenaciously or you'll need to be pulled down from the ceiling fan cause you'll be flyin' high. Don't be afraid to put it down for awhile, it'll stay lit, trust me, whenever I was ready for another "hit", it was ready for me. Never a re-light needed.
One of the terrific qualities of this cigar is that it burns slow and steady yielding a dark-gray ash that seems to never flake off, but give yourself a few hours. After the 1st inch, the high intensity settles a bit. The heavy body lightens and the character smooths out. The spicy finish settles down while a firmly gripped, almost nutty flavor matures. (I'm sooo jones'n for a thick rib-eye steak and mashed potatoes right now.) The latter 1/2 of the cigar, wow, nearly an hour later, maintains a strength of body that'll make you feel like you've been riding the roller coaster at Six Flags. I'm so impressed with this cigar, and I guess I shouldn't be surprised, Caribe is known for its powerhouse Camacho blend yet also for its mild Baccarat as well. This one finds a suitable partner closer to Camacho - one that doesn't lack in machismo and bound to put a few extra hairs on your chest. Yowza!
So far so good. 2 blends on the opposite end of the flavor profile spectrum, neither lacking in style, quality, or character. I'm loving every minute of this, the opportunity of a lifetime. I recommend taking the plunge to judge for yourself. On with the scoring...
CI Legends GREEN Label by Rolando Reyes, Sr of Puros Indios
In a blind taste test, I can tell a Rolando Reyes cigar before even lighting it up. A cigar with a softer feel to it - almost squooshy between your forefinger and thumb. This Legends entry is different though. A smooth, somewhat toothy Connecticut wrapper grown in Ecuador plus an abundantly filled cigar doesn't strike me as a typical Rolando, Sr. cigar. One thing is for sure, Don Rolando's consistent quality quickly shines through. I'd smoke anything he makes, it's just not in his blood to make a bad cigar, I've never been disappointed, and to boot, his cigars cover the entire spectrum of quality smokes.
Ahh, lighting it up is a pleasure...a slightly sweet aroma and a super-easy draw doesn't imply a 54 ring cigar. A chalky white-ash speckled with black quickly forms, this cigar burn faster than the previous 2 and produces a large volume of thin smoke that quickly dissipates. Probably the mildest of all four Legends, there are no distinctive spicy notes and the disappearing, extremely crisp finish leaves nada to linger on any part of your tongue. A perfect morning golf course cigar (when you're out there at 6am trying to play 9 holes before getting into the office.) A slight cedary note jumps out about half-way through, but relax away the blues b/c this mellow cigar smokes just right, perfect ash, excellent burn, nothing to disappoint any of your senses, you'll smoke it down to your fingertips.
CI Legends RED Label by Nick Perdomo of Tabacalera Perdomo
Aesthetically, this cigar really stands out from the other 3. First, it's torpedo-shaped (perfectly formed right to the tippy-tip-tip.) Second, it's a maduro wrapper (Nicaraguan-grown maduro to be exact.) The cigar is tightly wound and solid to the touch - like rolling a stick of wood between your fingers. My first impression is that this cigar is pretty, but will it lack in substance - and - will it draw??? Snip, fire, and light. OK, get that crazy "won't draw" idea out of your mind, the draw is superb, easy, and gentle. A tight, slightly gray speckled ash forms slowly, this cigar is packed with a tremendous amount of tobacco. The slightest hint of sweetness on the palate initially, but it disappears after just a few puffs. An inch in, a robust spiciness forms in the back of your mouth. The finish initially disappears leading you to believe it's a mild-bodied smoke, but beyond that first inch, you realize that this is a complex masterpiece. This cigar burns perfectly, slow and even. The mellow flavor and medium body produces a number of profiles - nutty, slight jalapeno-spices, vanilla-accents, even a woodsy aroma. Of the 4 Legends, this is the most complex, but mellow enough to fully enjoy anytime. Impressive showing and a tremendous cigar that most connoisseurs will find challenges their palate to uncover the different tobacco styles. You don't need to set this one down either, the underlying strength won't put you down for the count, you'll find it relaxing and fulfilling, down to the nub. Follow it with a hearty burger (or for you ritzier folks - a nice filet mignon) and you'll put the sizzle back in your grizzle!
I'll stand up and applaud these LEGENDS for producing the world's finest - 4 distinctly different cigars offering the very best in quality and construction. Legendary makers producing legendary cigars, but don't take my word for it, rate them for yourself, I bet you'll find yourself doing what I just did to light one after the other after the other after the other. True Olympians in my book!