Roughly five years ago, my hair was longer, face was cleaner and midsection was smaller. Moreover, I couldn’t refer to myself as a cigar connoisseur or aficionado, but rather, a cigar groupie. I was fascinated by anyone who worked in this great industry and it didn’t matter if it was a cigar maker, rep, roller or anybody else who does this for a living. Hell, the janitor of Tacalera Fernandez could have walked in the doors of the CI Bethlehem Super-Store for all I cared…you would still find me picking up my jaw off the floor.
Seems crazy, right? But the crazy part is this; there are thousands of you out there just like me who adore the men and women who contribute to this captivating industry. I have a cool story for you, which of course I need to load up my reviews with fluff to meet the requirements of an “official” cigar review. Sadly for you, I treat this page more like a diary. Therefore, I hope you enjoy.
In 2009, I worked in the Cigars International Bethlehem Super-Store which served as one of the coolest and most memorable time periods of my life. I made close friends, co-workers and customers alike, and really developed myself into the…well, let’s just say, “cigar guy” that I am today. Moreover, it was during this time that I transitioned from a humble adorer to a businessman who worked side-by-side in the same industry as the men and women who I had once looked up to like idols.
One summer day, during the same time a certain “festival” was taking place up the road, many cigar stars stopped into the store to pay us a visit. I happened to see a gray-haired fellow who didn’t say much but was consciously observing the store and product layout. Doing my duty, I asked him, “Did you need help finding anything, sir?” In a quiet, almost soothing voice (yes, I know this sounds highly questionable), he responded, “No thanks. I’m ok.” At this point, I’d normally let it go and continue going about my business which normally meant B.S.’ing about the Eagles’ not-so-promising upcoming season, how bad the Phillies were that particular year and wondering if the Sixers still had a team in Philadelphia. However, there was something intriguing about this man, almost as if I should know who he is.
It finally hit me…this guy was on our wall in the form of a framed photograph with a couple other cigar manufacturers and some CI cronies. I asked him, “I feel like we met before. Do I know you?” He responded, “I’m John Gonzalez. I work with Pepin.” Since that point, John has made a conscientious decision to pay me a visit every single time he was in the Lehigh Valley.
Let’s fast forward to 2013. Less hair, unkempt 5 o’clock shadow and, let’s just say, well-fed. It was a Sunday afternoon and wouldn’t you know it…John made the trip all the way out to Hamburg, Pennsylvania to see me just because he was in the area. We chit-chatted a bit until he said, “Brock, we have to sit down and talk. I have good news.” This, of course, sparked my interest immensely as I informally responded, “What’s up, John?”
That day John informed me he started a new cigar company called Kuuts and his production is coming out of Compania Hondurena de Tabacos (Honduran Tobacco Company). Immediately, I was elated for John and told him, “John, I normally don’t do this but you’ve been a good friend of mine for a while now and I want you in for an event ASAP.” Needless to say, within the next month, John and marketing guru Gabriel were front-and-center with a table bursting with the products, Miro, Placeres Reserva and Tabacalera Zapata. I was honored that John would take the time out of his busy schedule to come to the boondocks of Pennsylvania and showcase his brand new products with us.
After having cigar after cigar during the event, there was one that truly stuck out and, for me, it was a cigar called “Tabacalera Zapata”.
This Honduran gem started off with a slight white pepper and a little zestiness. The toro size, a well-made 6”X52 vitola, felt good in the hand as the draw was almost effortless. I was curious how the flavor profile was so unique in the sense that it was buttery smooth, almost creamy, yet contained a slight pepper which gently hit the front of my palate. After my investigation, I found that the “Tabacalera Zapata” utilizes a Honduran Connecticut Oscuro Wrapper which is about as unique as it gets. Though one could literally translate “oscuro” meaning “dark”, the wrapper shade is light and gives the appearance of a shiny Corojo or Criollo.
The first third of this cigar was quite successful and eventful, producing flavors and strength I was not expecting. The “Tabacalera Zapata” Toro began to change going into the middle third of the cigar, delivering notes of toffee and natural sweetness. Though I wasn’t drinking on the job (which people sometimes find hard to believe after experiencing my antics), I have to imagine this particular blend would pair quite well with an aged scotch. The concoction of Nicaraguan and Honduran fillers provide just the right amount of strength and flavor that my palate enjoys. It’s medium bodied and silky smooth.
I encourage all smokers to use their nose when smoking cigars. What I mean by this is: If tolerable, try passing a very small portion of smoke through your nose when smoking cigars. You will get a lot more and different flavors from a blend that you otherwise wouldn’t. I refer to this notion as “retro-haling” and on the retro-hale of this Honduran beauty, there is little-to-zero harsh, bitey pepper through the nose.
Upon the very clean finish, I gathered flavors of earth and caramel. Things to note with this blend: Construction and density were a home-run. Flavor was above average but the balance was impeccable. This is a great blend that I would recommend to most anyone looking for a cigar that is flavorful, yet won’t put them down for the count as if they stepped foot in the ring with Larry Holmes.
I can’t say that “Tabacalera Zapata” was a life-changing cigar. Very few cigars I smoke these days can carry that prestigious crown. However, price point is fair and the smoking experience is extraordinary. My advice to you is the pick up a 5-pack of these off the website and store a couple away for a few years.
Thought for the day: Thought for the day? Ain’t nobody got time for that!