CI legends is a series of cigars you can't do without.
Legends started out as a small project. We originally asked four top cigar manufacturers to create the best damn cigar they could for $5 retail or under. The only condition is, the cigar had to be 5.75” x 54 in size. To get their competitive juices flowing, I let them know that they'd be competing for supremacy with other top makers! That was 6 years ago. Today, six more manufacturers have entered the ‘competition’, with several others chomping at the bits for a chance to join the fun. Enjoy the delicious fruits of their labor, blends that are among the very best for the money that can be had....on the planet.
Legends E.P. Carrillo - Brown Label:
If you've been paying attention over the last couple of years you have likely heard of Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, the man famous for creating the Dominican La Gloria Cubana line and now the proud creator of his own highly-rated brand. He's a legend, no doubt, and the success of La Gloria - and his newer E.P. Carrillo brand - is plenty of proof. The E.P. Carrillo Legends showcases the classic, medium-bodied profile that made him famous. Draped in a silky-smooth Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper and loaded with rich Nicaraguan and Dominican long-fillers, this smooth, Cuban-esque blend delivers plenty of flavor. Medium-bodied with a creamy core of coffee, oak, pepper, earth, and toasty tobacco, the Brown Label Legends is a flavorful, easy-going handmade you'll enjoy any time of day.
Legends AJ Fernandez - Olive Label:
Arguably the hottest cigar-maker and blender in the industry, AJ Fernandez's edition of CI Legends is probably long overdue. With a deep bench of top-sellers and coveted blends, AJ is responsible for brands like Diesel, Man O' War, San Lotano, and a wealth of other blends for Gurkha, Padilla, Rocky Patel, and more. When it comes to AJ, flavor and quality are always top-notch - each blend offering a rich, Cuban-esque character and plenty of well-blended boutique charm. His blend for the Legends Series is no different. Crafted with a dark, top-grade Sun Grown Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper and brimming with a robust blend of vintage Nicaraguan long-fillers, CI Legends by AJ Fernandez offers a hearty, medium-bodied profile. Notes of cream, oak, earth, coffee and pepper coat the palate before a clean, slightly sweet finish completes the ensemble. Delicious, expertly blended, and suitable for palates of all types, CI Legends by AJ Fernandez is an exceptional handmade....one that's most definitely on par with his much pricier offerings.
Legends Camacho - White Label:
Perhaps best known for creating dense, full, powerhouse cigars such as Camacho, the Eiroa family again put their considerable blending skills to the test. This rendition of the CI Legends is truly remarkable, a masterful, memorable handmade cigar. Very densely packed without any soft spots to speak of, this puro offers a dark, smooth, vein-free Habano wrapper gracing a healthy portion of earthy, grade 1 Honduran long-fillers. It’s clear at a glance that they’ve done all of us cigar nuts a favor. Upon lighting, you’ll notice an instant hit of peppery flavor that coats your mouth. Moments later, the tingling is tamed by a toasty flavor with dry hints of nuts. In true Camacho form, you notice a slight rush, as the powerful blend takes over. But fear not! The strength subsides, developing beautifully into a mellow, well-rounded smoke with slight hints of vanilla until it peaks at the 2/3 point, the blue-gray smoke feeling almost silky in the mouth. Gradually, just as you’d begin to contemplate nubbing it out, the peppery notes return, building to a crescendo - offering a robust and heady finish to this extraordinarily flavorful cigar.
Legends Drew Estate - Copper Label:
Drew Estate has entertained the world over with innovative, delicious super-premiums that include infused, gourmet blended and (of course) traditional handmades. Using the rich, hearty tobaccos of Esteli, Nicaragua as a cornerstone for each blend, Drew Estate has set itself a cut above the rest thanks to countless trips around the world for the sole purpose of discovering rare tobaccos, then bringing them back to the blending table where countless man-hours are spent. Their Legends submission was created in this same fashion. A rich Nicaraguan backbone of long-fillers is complemented by Dominican Piloto, then carefully influenced by the subtle nuances of amaretto and hazelnut. A slightly sweet Ecuadorian wrapper glistens in the spotlight, completing the cigar. Creamy throughout, this beautiful handmade delivers ample flavor created to relax the palate as thick, billowing clouds exit the foot with each puff. Medium bodied, with enjoyable hints of pepper and hazelnut.
Legends Graycliff - Purple Label:
Avelino Lara’s achievement as the creator of the Cuban Cohiba blend could be considered a curse to some, as each of his new blends must live up to the incredibly lofty standards he set....for the industry and for himself. And time after time he clears that bar, as evidenced by his outstanding array of Graycliff blends. As you can imagine, Graycliff’s entry into the CI Legends series is bound to be an exciting one. A dark and oily Habano wrapper from Nicaragua cloaks a fine 2-country blend of supremely aged tobaccos from the Dominican and Nicaragua. This balanced mixture produces an explosion of rich and hearty nuances, noting hints of leather, earth, and coffee bean throughout the slow, smooth burn. Medium in body, balanced, and complex, this Legends is indeed delicious.
Legends La Aurora - Black Label:
Known to the world as the Dominican Republic’s oldest and longest running cigar factory, La Aurora is a giant among giants. Guillermo Leon and Jose Blanco, the men controlling the high-end blends coming from this factory have taken this daunting task by the horns, in order to continue La Aurora’s legendary lineup of top-shelf classics and rival the already existing, highly popular Legends blends. Using a mouthwatering blend of aged tobaccos, their entry accomplishes both. Within a toothy Nicaraguan leaf, lies a fine blend of Corojo, Cubano Piloto and Nicaraguan tobaccos that has been aging since 2001. Experience an eventful bouquet of flavors with this mild to medium-bodied beauty. A subtle peppery note mingles with an amaretto-like sweetness, complemented by an enjoyable, woodsy aroma and spicy aftertaste that lingers just long enough to satisfy til the next puff. Smooth from start to finish and pushing out plumes of thick, white smoke, Legends by La Aurora is a treat for the senses.
Legends Matasa - Blue Label:
Manuel Quesada is the legendary hall-of-fame cigar maker responsible for such brands as Fonseca, Cu-Avana, and the original Dominican Romeo y Julieta blend. Yet his CI Legends offering is a marked departure from those milder blends. Utilizing a seriously complex blend of choice Dominican Piloto fillers wrapped in a toothy, chestnut-brown Ecuadorian Sun Grown (ESG) wrapper, Quesada has crafted a blend here that will be cherished by any cigar lover, particuarly veterans looking for complexity. This premium combination of fine tobaccos issues a veritable explosion of cedary flavor right off the bat, accompanied by a touch of natural sweetness from the toothy, elastic ESG wrapper leaf. The mature, round, flavorful smoke stays consistent yet interesting as it burns. Like a cigar safari, it offers exciting developments that keep you wondering what will come next - all the while slowly building towards a robust conclusion, topped off with a definable hint of spice.
Legends Nestor Plasencia - Maroon Label:
Nestor Plasencia was a natural fit for the Legends Series. He is one of the world's leading tobacco growers, owning fields throughout Central America and beyond. In fact, most of the cigars you enjoy on a regular basis contain tobaccos grown by him and his father, Nestor Senior. His supply and variety of fine tobaccos is limitless, granting him the potential to blend masterful cigars, which he has down with the Maroon Label. Dressed in a rich, redolent, and oily broadleaf maduro wrapper from Honduras, this fine cigar utilizes a long-leaf mixture of aged, Nicaraguan-grown ligeros bound by a dark Nicaraguan leaf. The result is remarkable, a medium to full-bodied array of flavor, including leather, earth, and coffee delivered throughout the smooth, chewy core. A pleasant sweetness finishes each savory puff, completing an eventful and memorable smoke.
Legends Pepin Garcia - Yellow Label:
To keep it simple, Pepin Garcia is ‘blowing up.’ Famous for creating the heavily sought Tatuaje and Padilla Miami 8&11 brands, expect nothing short of spectacular from this intoxicating submission. Upon first glance, it’s easy to see Pepin’s Cuban heritage. The veiny, natural-colored wrappers and well-placed triple-caps. A spicy, earthy pre-light aroma. Handmade in his new Nicaraguan factory, this impressive blend utilizes Pepin’s prized, 1st Generation Habano seed tobaccos, all grown in the black soils of Nicaragua. The Corojo wrapper is top-notch, delivering a strong, spicy flavor even before the cigar is lit. Inside, a well-aged mixture of select Habano-seed long-fillers combine to deliver an assortment of satisfying flavors. Sit down before lighting, because this gem is a powerhouse. Expect a peppery burst of flavor upfront, which gradually mellows into chewy notes of wood and earth. This transition makes the cigar’s spicy character an afterthought, lingering long on the aftertaste urging you back for another puff. Naturally, construction is incredible. Enjoy the even, cool burn thanks to a beautiful, solid roll. Delicious.
Legends Perdomo - Red Label:
Nick Perdomo, founder of Tabacalera Perdomo, went against the grain by producing the only figurado in the bunch. But it’s hard to argue after looking at the end product. In fact, it’s hard not to be downright giddy before, during and after sparking this beauty. Aesthetically, the cigar is stunning, a tightly wound, bullet-shaped smoke with a dark, positively first-grade sun-grown Nicaraguan maduro wrapper leaf. This leaf is eye-popping: smooth with nary a vein, glistening with natural oils, and giving off a lovely sheen. The tip of this torpedo is masterfully formed into a sharp, very pointy head. Filled to the brim with an intricate blend of aged Nicaraguan fillers, Perdomo’s medium to full-bodied treat instantly awakens your taste buds with a potpourri of wide-ranging flavors. It’s not overly rich however, and the well-balanced smoke mellows as you go, occupying the palate with clearly discernible earthy notes, followed by a slightly cedary undertone and mellow spiciness. The draw is impeccable - slow, cool, and deliberate - making this cigar journey one you’ll want to take over and over.
Legends Puros Indios - Green Label:
Cigar master Rolando Reyes, Sr.’s Puros Indios is an excellent cigar with a unique, robust and aromatic taste. And it's usually easy to spot, due to the splotchy, almost marbleized Ecuadorian-grown wrappers. For his CI Legends entry, however, Rolando indeed displays the artful blending genius he is known for, but gives us a cosmetically beautiful cigar as well - so it not only smokes like heaven, it looks angelic too! Employing a hand-selected, supple Ecuadorian-grown Connecticut shade leaf, he introduces a well-aged blend of choice Dominican and Honduran long leaf. What results is an intensely flavorful smoke, but one that’s surprisingly mild in strength. Consistent throughout, this hefty Honduran-made toro loads your palate with thick volumes of velvety smoke, giving off smooth notes of toasted wood that are complemented by a variety of mellow earthy undertones. The slow, cool burn allows you to fully appreciate the deep depths of flavor of this soothing premium. Outstanding.
Legends Rocky Patel - Orange Label:
Within the past few years, Rocky Patel has reached super-stardom in the cigar industry. Indian Tabac helped put him on the map just 10 years ago, and more recently his astounding RP blends, including RP Vintage, RP Sun Grown and Edge have taken things up a notch. Each successive new blend seems to instanteously become a darling, not only of Cigar Aficionado but of cigar smokers everywhere - pleasing the most discriminating of connoisseurs. So we're proud to bring you Rocky’s entry into the sales juggernaut that is the CI Legends saga. In fact, I anticipate that CI Legends by RP will quickly be in competition among the top spot among all the Legends blends ....and that's some rarified air to begin with. His blend features a rich, patiently-fermented Corojo wrapper leaf that’s simply gorgeous – oily and toothy. The supremely-aged Honduran long-leaf fillers are plentiful, resulting in layers upon layers of deep, complex flavors including a toasty, coffee-like character and sweet creaminess, complemented by a pleasing charcoal aroma and medium-bodied profile.
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 reminscent 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!
Before you ask, I’ll answer: Yes, the masterful hands of Avelino Lara blended this cigar. Yes, the same Avelino Lara that blended the original Cuban Cohiba. Yes, the same Cuban Cohiba that causes so many to practically contemplate selling their limbs just to try one. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s move on to the write-up…
I’ve burned my way through 4 of these cigars prior to writing this review. I want to make sure it’s dead-on, because a lot of customers were ecstatic when word of a Legends by Graycliff got out. Currently, I am enjoying the last from my 5-pack and am now confident after experiencing the same enjoyable smoke from each sample. The wrapper is dry and rough to the touch – not toothy rough, but more of a thick, leathery rough. It’s slightly dark, with a consistent hue from head to toe. The aroma is subtle, with sweet hints of wood. The tight roll and neatly applied cap took to my Xikar with ease, giving access to draw that required the slightest bit of effort. After a quick light I am off and enjoying a cedary blast of flavor that’s smooth and robust. Thick plumes of white smoke fill the office, while a solid, dark ash seems to clasp itself to the end of the cigar. Normally, the initial flavors of a cigar will open with a pop and mellow soon after. This is not the case here. The cedary goodness holds strong right up to the midway point, where (almost instantly) a creamy note of cashews stops by to say hello. Although the visit is short, it’s sweet and a wonderful (unexpected) change of pace, just before the smoky, robust finish. A smooth, flavorful, well-built, spontaneous smoke. And, the best part: this cigar is medium bodied from start to finish - something that can be enjoyed all day long. Yes folks, an every day, all day Graycliff.
The lucky streak continues. Four winners in a row! If only the Eagles could be so fortunate.