Putting Quintessence Through the Ringer Joe Quintessence. A quick Google search tells me this SAT word means, “the most perfect or typical example of quality or class.” Sounds a bit hoity-toity, no? It’s fair to think so — San Cristobal has certainly built themselves up as a boutique brand, a bit of a connoisseur’s favorite. Today, we’re going to take a look at the newest release from San Cristobal, and put their merits to the test. Is this brand really worth top-dollar, or are all these reviewers just blowing smoke? Let’s find out. First up, the credentials. San Cristobal is produced by Ashton cigars, and made in Don Pepín García’s much heralded Nicaraguan factory. If those names mean nothing to you, it’s pretty much the cigar equivalent of a rock super group. Ashton has long been known for releasing some of the highest-quality cigars on the premium market, and Don Pepin Garcia is one of the most celebrated cigar makers ever. The résumé checks out here, let’s keep going. How about the history? Quintessence is the fifth release in the San Cristobal line, and each of the previous four have gone on to tons of acclaim. The original blend was 93-rated, Elegancia earned a 91-rating, Revelation (a stronger, box-pressed vitola) got a 91, and Ovation (a limited edition release) flew off shelves at break neck speed. Hell, there’s even a group of San Cristobal fans that gather in parking lots to tailgate and call themselves Parrotheads, after the famous parrot that’s on each box. Wait, what’s that? I’m being told that Parrotheads are something else completely, but regardless we’ll have to check the box here, too. San Cristobal comes from a storied tradition of delicious releases. Still not convinced? Alright, let’s forget the past, and move on to Quintessence itself. The cigar features a slightly thicker and oily Ecuador Habano wrapper overtop an expertly bunched and rolled selection of Nicaraguan binder and long-fillers. Take a whiff, and you’ll find typical barnyard aromas (A+ in my book). Leather, earth, and hay mingle together, promising that this should be a meaty and complex experience. I picked the appealingly thick 6.5” x 54 belicoso for this review, and after clipping the foot, the draw is just right. Toasting the foot, I’m immediately finding coffee, a sweet, vanilla like flavor, and lots of earth. Keeping things interesting, Quintessence evolves as it burns down, bringing about grass and leather (think Davidoff) in the second third, and finishes strong with an increase in strength and dishes of black pepper. I snagged two of these for the review, and once I was done with them I immediately considered picking some up for the humidor at home. A good sign, for sure. Alright, I’ve been rambling for long enough, let’s give this thing a proper wrap-up. Quintessence is one of the best cigars I’ve tried this year. If I sampled it earlier, it would have easily made our Top 25 Cigars of 2016 list (speaking of, keep an eye out for that feature, coming soon!). You can knock the price, but honestly, it’s worth it. I’d expect 90+ ratings from other publications soon, so get in early and don’t miss out.