Unless you’ve been asleep at the wheel the past month or two, you know that SCHIP is right around the corner. This bill is placing a heavy tax on all cigars, and will result in higher prices starting 4/1. Some manufacturers are using this tax as a vehicle to introduce price increases that, in some cases, go above and beyond the level of the tax. In several cases, manufacturers have instituted multiple price increases on the same cigar, capitalizing even further. On top of this, some cigars are already quite expensive, and any new increases (whether it be additional costs or taxes) could possibly put them out of reach for the working man. In an effort to provide you with optimum value, I will be matching up two cigars each week. One expensive cigar and one lesser-expensive option, comparing them based on flavor, satisfaction, construction, and price.
Volume 2 – Hoyo Excalibur and Indian Tabac Ltd. Reserve
Hoyo Excalibur is a monster brand, one that everybody has heard of. Many consider this to be a full-bodied blend, but I find it to be rather mellow, hitting a plateau in the medium-bodied range. For this reason, I think the mild to medium-bodied Indian Tabac Ltd. Reserve is a perfect match-up. Both are among our top-selling brands. Both are handmade in Honduras and offer similar strength profiles and flavor qualities. Additionally, both of these brands will experience a price increase due to SCHIP, but one will be much more significant than the other.
Let’s take a look at the cigars....
Hoyo Excalibur – Hand-crafted in the famous HATSA factory of Honduras. Connecticut shade wrapper. Honduran, Dominican, and Nicaraguan long-fillers. This is an attractive, blonde cigar with minimal veins and a nice, solid roll.
Indian Tabac Ltd. Reserve – Made in Nestor Plasencia’s San Marco factory of Honduras. Connecticut-seed wrapper from Ecuador. Honduran and Dominican long-fillers. Since it’s grown in Ecuador, the wrapper is a couple shades darker than that of the Excalibur, with an oily texture. Small veins are present. Perfect roll.
So, how do they compare in terms of flavor and quality? Let’s move on....
Hoyo Excalibur – I selected the 5.25”x50 Epicure. With the exception of the massive No. 1, this is the best-selling size. I chose it because the Ltd. Reserve has a similar vitola, the Bear. The cigar opens with notes of toast and wood. I pick up a very faint sweetness, just before the crisp, clean aftertaste takes over. Every now and then a hint of nuts joins the fray, but not too often. The cigar is smooth, and remains that way til the end, delivering a dominating core of wood and toast throughout. I consider this to be a complex cigar. Different flavors are present, but they’re subtle, and I suggest enjoying it with a clean palate. No one flavor builds, and there is no increase in strength during the burn. Excalibur is a nice, straightforward cigar with an anytime level of strength.
Indian Tabac Ltd. Reserve – As mentioned above, I chose the 5”x50 Bear to keep the playing field even. The individual cedar sleeve has been removed and she’s lit. The cigar opens with dash of pepper and toast, which quickly becomes overpowered by a creamy element that lingers after each puff. As the cigar burns, a cedary influence gradually becomes more prevelant, while the pepper and toast remain. Midway through, cedar and cream dominates, and the pepper can only be noticed through the nose. The cigar has now become medium in body, developing a nice richness along the way. There’s no doubt, the final third of this cigar is completely different than the first third. Interesting. This is also a nice cigar that can be enjoyed any time of day.
Leaving price out of the equation, this one is a toss-up. Both cigars are good. Mellow, sophisticated cigars. Both are complex in different ways. The Excalibur offers a constant series of subtle flavors throughout, while the Ltd. Reserve becomes rich, heartier, and a little stronger during the burn. That said, I would give the Excalibur an ‘88’ and the Ltd. Reserve an ‘89’. I know, I gave the Excalibur an ‘87’ back in October. What can I say, it’s starting to grow on me.
Now, let’s discuss the price. Excalibur isn’t the most expensive cigar, but it carries an MSRP of $107 per box of 20. With a CI price of just over $3 apiece, our price is discounted quite nicely, but will unfortunately be going up considerably due to an increase from the manufacturer. We anticipate this cigar selling for over $4 a stick. Indian Tabac Ltd. Reserve has a similar MSRP of $138 for a bundle of 25. Damn close, eh? We sell these cigars $49.95 per bundle (2 bones per), which will likely go up about around 30-cents a smoke. A modest increase.
This is a really tough comparison. Extremely tough. When all is said and done we're looking at a difference of about a buck fifty per smoke. Both are pretty good bargains, but it’s tough to beat a well-made stick that can compete with Excalibur in the $2 range. Because of this, and after weighing all factors, I’d have to hand it to the Ltd. Reserve....
Hoyo Excalibur: Indian Tabac Ltd. Reserve: