Cream of the Crop Joe The year’s winding down around here, which means it’s almost time to start enjoying the holiday season and pack on a few pounds for my upcoming hibernation. As a man of habit, there’s a few things I do every Thanksgiving and Christmas: stuff my face until my belt is uncomfortably tight, drink what some fun-suckers would consider “too much,” and then throw some football on TV, crack open a bottle of bourbon, and hand out the cigars. That’s right lads, these festivities offer us up the perfect excuse to take down an extra cigar or two after dinner and to splurge on something a little nicer than our everyday fare. Now there’s your “go-to” brands for occasions like this, and if you stick with the classics, I won’t blame you. You’ve got your Padrons, your Davidoffs, your Ashtons, your Cohibas… all great selections that no sane man with a pulse in his body would bat an eye at. But if you want to try something a little off the beaten path after you put ol’ Tom to rest this November, I’ve got a little under-the-radar gem for you: Micallef Experiencia La Crema. Or, in English “Micallef Experience The Cream.” Hm. I think the Spanish sounds a little better.To burst my own bubble, I’m not too much of a trendsetter here. This cigar did receive a well-deserved 90-rating a few months before I wrote up the review you’re perusing today. But, still, I haven’t heard too much buzz around it and frankly I think the brand deserves a bit more. For those that enjoy it, here’s the history: if you just want to know about the tobacco, skip ahead two paragraphs. The Micallef story is an impressive, though familiar, one. The family behind the brand, the Gomez Sanchez tobacco family, got their roots in Cuba all the way back in 1934 growing and selling premium cigar tobacco. Today, decades later, Joel Gomez Sanchez (the grandson of the founder) follows in his grandfather’s footsteps in their factory in Mexico. It’s a true family run business, with a laundry list of Gomez Sanchezs helping to operate the growing, fermentation, rolling, and distributing of their tobaccos around the globe. And believe me, these guys have some bona fide credentials. Joel alone comes from Cuba and began working as an apprentice in the Partagas factory when he was just sixteen. In 92, he rolled Cuban H. Upmanns. In ‘94, he left Cuba to go to Miami, and learned everything he could from his grandfather about the business and culture of cigars. That knowledge and history – that’s where the magic happens. Each Micallef cigar is rolled to precise specifications straight out of old-school Cuba, and they’ve learned that you can’t rush perfection. The proof is in the pudding, and this cigar is no exception. Each leaf in the Micallef Experiencia La Crema is aged an extensive four years before the cigars are even rolled. And then, just to make sure the tobaccos have adequate time to really marry and develop, the cigars are aged another full year after rolling. To put a little perspective on that fact, a majority of premium cigars on the market only spend 30 to 90 days in the aging rooms after they’re rolled. All that’s great on paper, right? But as I’ve harped on in my reviews before: packaging, story, and history only add up to so much. At the end of the day, the cigar has to actually taste good or nothing else matters. And Experiencia La Crema tastes good. Really, really good. A lot of cigar descriptions call cigars balanced and if you’ve ever wondered what that word means, light this thing up. A little bit of cedar, a little bit of sweetness, and little bit of spice: they all combine together to create an incredibly smooth and satisfying blend that burns true and cool. And I don’t normally love Churchills, but this cigar is worth the time commitment: subtle changes throughout the burn time keep things interesting, and the cigar never inches a notch above medium-bodied. If you’re still reading this, thank you for indulging my ramblings yet again. Let’s wrap this thing up. Micallef Experiencia La Crema is well worth the money – go for a fiver if you don’t believe me, but don’t be shocked when you’re eyeing up a box soon after.