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Staff Reviews for CI Legends Series

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CI Legends

Steve R

Due to several requests, I’m killing two birds with one stone. This review is going to be long, so please stick with me here.

CI Legends has turned into a vicious monster with razor sharp claws and long, pointy teeth. In the beginning, we asked 4 of the world’s most recognized premium cigar makers to compete for the best $5 handmade. A blend of their choice rolled into a nice, 5.75” x 54 shape. Since this time, 4 more top manufacturers have created a blend that, we as a whole feel, fits the mold of this enormous CI Legends project.

The latest Legends have landed. Submissions by two manufacturers positioned on opposite ends of the cigar world spectrum, La Aurora and Drew Estate. One, the oldest cigar factory in the Dominican Republic, a name known for creating some of the world’s finest traditional cigars in the world. The other, a factory bubbling over with creativity and originality that, within just over 10 years in the business, has grown famous for its combination of old world traditions with unconventional tobaccos and unchartered blending processes.

Right off the bat, I am going to tell you that I enjoy these cigars. Think about it, if we didn’t like them, we wouldn’t have added them to the series. It took months filled with countless samples to finalize these submissions. And, in addition to rejecting plenty of samples from these manufacturers, others have sent promising hopefuls that didn’t make the cut. Legends is a roaring success, we want to keep it that way.

Legends La Aurora

As expected, La Aurora’s submission is a solid mild to medium-bodied cigar, with a little more emphasis on the medium side of things. It opens with a creamy, chewy burst that, thanks to the dark Nicaraguan wrapper, slowly molds into a rich, smooth smoke. A blend of Corojo, Dominicano Cubano Piloto and Nicaraguan tobaccos (all from 2001) offer a woodsy flavor and aroma riddled with spice, while the toothy maduro-like wrapper leaves behind a pleasant sweetness after each puff. As per the usual, performance is not a factor. La Aurora is a finely tuned machine when it comes to quality control. Slow, straight burns, consistent flavor and easy draws are commonplace, and this soothing cigar is yet another example of the factory's prowess.

Legends Drew Estate

Throw all assumptions out the window. Once people hear Drew Estate, they think one of two things, 1) I love their stuff or 2) ick, flavored! Wake up, Drew Estate does not make flavored cigars, and saying so in the presence of Jonathan himself could cost ya a limb. In my eyes, it’s safe to say that Drew’s submission is one of his best creations to date, as it seems to be a fusion of Kahlua, Natural and traditional cigars all rolled into one relaxing smoke. The tobaccos incude a Connecticut shade leaf grown in Ecuador, while the long-filler combination employs Dominicano Cubano Piloto and Nicaraguan leaves. Silky in appearance, this chestnut colored handmade is extremely creamy in character. There’s a little bit of pepper throughout, complementing the subtle, hazelnut-like sweetness. As expected, the aroma is nothing short of luxurious. Sweet, enjoyable and only evident while the cigar is burning – no, you will not notice an ACID or Natural-esque aroma after opening the box, which also puts the creativity of Drew Estate on display.

There you have it, the latest inductions into the CI Legends Hall of Fame. 2 more fantastic cigars from big name makers that won't break the bank.

Legends Nestor Plasencia

Steve R

The Plasencias have been in the tobacco business for over 150 years. Currently, Nestor Plasencia Senior and Junior operate seven farms throughout Central America and beyond, maintaining well over 2,000 acres worth of tobacco crops. Throw in six factories and over 5,000 employees, and you have one of the largest tobacco suppliers in the world. In fact, it’s safe to say, you’re enjoying tobaccos grown on one of Nestor’s farms with almost every premium cigar you burn.

Also, did you know, the Plasencia’s created the Habana 2000 wrapper? Criollo, too? And, did you know, the Plasencia’s were the first to grow certified organic tobaccos? So, why do I tell you this? Simple. To truly appreciate their tobaccos, one must truly understand their love and passion for cigars. The Plasencia family lives, breathes, and eats tobacco.

Their passion for growing tobaccos carries over into their love for premium cigars, and producing some of the world’s finest. For this reason, top brands such as Rocky Patel, Alec Bradley, Gurkha, El Mejor, and Cuba Libre call the Plasencia’s factories their home. And, we asked Nestor to craft our most prized blend, the CI Anniversary. Therefore, it was only natural for him to utilize his unlimited supply and variety of fine tobaccos to create an exciting new addition to the Legends Series.

Legends Series Nestor Plasencia is coated with a dark and oily Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper from Honduras. This leaf is loaded with oils, offering a rich, wet, and chewy character with ample sweetness on the finish. Inside, Nestor married a rich, long-leaf mixture of Nicaraguan ligeros bound by a robust Nicaraguan leaf. Up front, the outside leaf dominates, coating your palate with a buttery richness that’s smooth as silk, masking a faint spiciness. After a few minutes, the fillers beneath begin to shine, promoting a bold core of earth and leather, while the cigar develops a meaty, medium to full-bodied profile. The sweeet aftertaste lingers long on the palate, and smacks of coffee bean, a common characteristic of aged Nicaraguan tobaccos. The cigar pumps out a truckload of grey smoke, filling the room with a pleasant, charcoal-like aroma. The final 2 inches are robust and satisfying, rich and spicy; completing an eventful experience that evolves several times throughout the burn. To be honest, I'll be honest if you're not tempted to light up a second immediately after finishing your first. I've done this several times, and am amazed at just how tasty this cigar is, and powerful, yet it never overwhelms.

It is a pleasure welcoming Nestor Plasencia to the Legends Series. Compare this to the Legends Perdomo. Dark, toasty smoke with notes of coffee and comparable strength, but less focus on spice until the end.

CI Legends Pepin Garcia

Brandon S

It goes without saying that Pepin Garcia has exploded onto the cigar scene as one of the premier makers of spicy, full-bodied cigars whose flavor and strength profiles are oh so reminiscent of true Cuban cigars. Just take a gander at the man’s portfolio of blends and you’ll notice that there isn’t a mild or light-bodied cigar in the lineup. Finally, a man after my own heart!

Don’t get me wrong though, I enjoy all types of cigars including mild, medium and even some (dare I say it?!?) flavored or infused cigars. However, I’ve found that over time my preferences have migrated towards full-bodied smokes. So, needless to say I was waiting with eager anticipation for this new blend from Pepin to arrive. I snatched up a box real quick like and burned through all 20 over the course of a week…

Out of the box the very first thing I noticed is the triple-cap that adorns the head of this cigar. Triple-caps are a feature that most people associate exclusively with cigars rolled in Cuba and are typically regarded as a sign of superior quality. The cigar itself is solid and heavy in the hand and the Corojo wrapper is thick and shiny with oil. Toasting the foot yields a nutty, earthy aroma that “tingles” the inside of the nose. Upon lighting the cigar my eyes immediately began to tear as a peppery sensation envelops my entire mouth. In true Pepin fashion, this cigar promises to deliver flavor and strength by the boatload! At the one inch mark I find that the spiciness has started to subside. Taking its place is a thick and leathery smoke that is robust in character with a peppery finish. From here on out the cigar slowly gains strength yet remains balanced and enjoyable. Best not to smoke the Legends Yellow label on an empty stomach though! This firecracker will catch up to you in a hurry and will leave you weak in the knees yet giddy with delight. For an everyday “go-to” cigar that is full-bodied, complex and can easily compete with cigars costing three times as much or more, the Legends Yellow label delivers it all and then some.

Trust me on this one. I know that you might be thinking that this is simply a shameless plug to sell you a superior CI private label and well, you’re right. But, Pepin Garcia is a man who just wants to make top-notch cigars regardless of what band he puts on it. In his eyes every cigar that he makes is either first-rate or it doesn’t leave his factory, period.

CI Legends Pepin Garcia

Steve R

Yes, it’s true. Another fantastic blend has been added to the illustrious Legends Series. After tasting hundreds of samples from various top manufacturers over the past 6 months, one blend proved worthy of joining the ranks.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll likely say it again…this is going to be a favorable review. We invest a lot of time, effort and money in the Legends Series. Far too much blood, sweat and tears to add an inferior cigar. You want and expect the best of the best and that’s exactly what we demand out of each potential cigar submitted. That said, let’s get on with the review.

Jose ‘Pepin’ Garcia (otherwise known as Don Pepin) began rolling cigars in Cuba at the age of 11 and quickly worked his way up to maestro-level, the most experienced of Cuban torcedores. In 2002, Pepin opened a tiny Miami-based factory called El Rey de Los Habanos, where he employs a Cuban-trained team of 8 rollers. Here, some of the industry’s most exciting and highly-rated cigars are made, including Tatuaje and Padilla Miami 8&11. In 2006, Pepin established a second factory in Nicaragua. That’s where we step in…

We’re big fans of Pepin’s cigars - especially after receiving the Padilla Achilles, his second joint venture with Ernesto Padilla. Over the course of 2006 we received a nice supply of concept blends from Pepin’s Nicaraguan factory, using the same tobaccos that made his prior releases so damn popular and, in turn, nearly impossible to find. One sample in particular blew all of us away. Now known as the Legends Pepin Garcia, this is the cigar I am currently enjoying.

Pepin’s entry sports a handsome Corojo wrapper. Small white veins run throughout this smooth leaf, which is capped three times in true Cuban fashion. The foot gives off a peppery aroma highlighted by heavy doses of spice on the pre-light flavor. Upon lighting, bursts of dry pepper consume my palate and work their way through the nose. To say this cigar is zesty would be an understatement. If you’re having trouble getting up in the AM, the first inch alone will jump start your senses faster than a quintuple-shot of espresso injected directly into your bloodstream. After burning beyond the 1” mark, strong notes of oak and earth begin to dominate, pushing the dry pepper to the back of the palate on the aftertaste. An aftertaste that hangs around for about a minute. The cigar is somewhat creamy throughout, a characteristic I’ve yet to experience with any Pepin’s blends. The end was rich and satisfying, leaving me relaxed, mellow and wanting another. Construction-wise, Pepin's Legends drew perfectly with a slow, deliberate burn and a barrel that remained solid to the nub.

Overall, this is a fantastic cigar offering that fantastic Pepin Garcia ‘twang’ without the heavy price tag. Loaded with character, the medium to full-bodied Legends Pepin Garcia are as satisfying as they come.

CI Legends Graycliff

Steve R
Just when I thought my spending was finished this year, BOOM!, in comes a shipment of Legends from Graycliff. We weren’t expecting them to arrive until the early part of ’06 (the boxes aren’t finished), but our jolly friends from the Bahamas decided to send us an early Christmas gift. Naturally, I hounded the receiving crew to get them checked in, allowing me to be the first to make an employee purchase. Graycliff quality for just $5-$6 a cigar? I fully intend on taking advantage of this outstanding opportunity.

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.

CI Legends


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!