n.d.r. – Exclusively written for Facciamo Puff
As I am in the early stages of my new company, Las Cumbres Tabaco, coming out with my new own cigar, Señorial, I would love to write about my cigar and promote it further. However, with the launch of my cigar being planned for the first week of June this year, I prefer to explain how I made Señorial, meaning how I blended it.
Production started February 7th 2014 and will undergo 90 days of aging before release.
The tobaccos used in the filler have already been aged minimum two years. The tobaccos are from Tabacalera Palma’s own farms.
Señorial is crafted at Tabacalera Palma, the newest member of ProCigar, Santiago, Dominican Republic. They work very much with their own-grown Dominican Filler-tobaccos with years of very thorough and unique process of aging.
Tabacalera Palma is owned by my cousin, Jochi Blanco, it is a factory founded by my Uncle in 1936 and stays in the Blanco family.
Señorial by Jose Blanco
- Wrapper: Habano Ecuador
- Binder: Nicaragua, Esteli
- Filler: Dominican Piloto Cubano and Dominican Corojo
This is a full-bodied and truly full-flavored cigar. The flavors are rich and complex throughout the smoke with some spice and a hint of sweetness. The cigar has a rich and pleasant aroma and ends with a good long finish.
How did I get to this blend?
“Blending a cigar is an art” – this is a phrase that has been said and repeated many times and it definitely deserves to be used and re-used endlessly! I agree and I do so passionately!
Nonetheless, my 40-plus years of smoking cigars have taught me something very important: knowing how to Fully Enjoy smoking a cigar is another art in itself!
As many know I have spent years doing what I call a “Blending Seminar.” I used to make it based on Fillers and their separate characteristics, and a couple of years ago I moved on to making it based on Wrappers, their different profiles and their influence on the cigar as a whole. This Blending Seminar is very much about how a cigar is created, but it is just as much focused on the actual smoking and realizing the sensations and stimulations going on in your palate.
Even though, as I mentioned above, many already know or have seen one of these two Blending Seminars, I will write a little piece about it and there is always more to learn, re-learn or be reminded of. I always say that you should not expect to become a connoisseur over-night and we are all in a never-ending learning process in this ample subject.
Blending a cigar is like cooking – you add ingredients and take some out, you mix them, you try them, you marry them… A good blend can be found after merely three tries to a hundred or more, you may have all the best tobaccos but they just don´t harmonize… so you keep trying until you reach your goal, whatever that goal may be for “this” specific cigar.
To start with the critical key part of making a blend, what do we look for? We look for the six elements that we fundamentally Need in a Good cigar:
- Flavor (the taste)
- Aroma (the smell or rather, nicer to say the scent)
- A Good Finish
There is often confusion between Flavor and Strength. You can have a full bodied cigar in strength with very little flavor, and you could have a full flavored cigar which is very mild in body. In my opinion the best way to blend a cigar is to have lots of flavor with a nice aroma and with the strength desired, mild to medium to full… The strength should not depend on the flavors – the flavors should be there no matter what.
The Aroma is very important as the smell of the cigar and its smoke. I will get back to this further down the text.
Then there is Complexity. A cigar can be truly great with the right strength, flavor and aroma, but without complexity throughout the smoke this cigar may be just another good Boring cigar! Complexity means the slight changes and fluctuations felt during the smoke from beginning to middle to end.
However, the cigar must be Balanced. Complexity without balance can feel like a “mistake” in the blend. The strength and the flavors may compete with each other for the first place, yet they must be balanced. The tobaccos must all be well married in order to be enjoyed smoothly with pleasure. Balance is like a symphony with all notes in place.
Finally there is the Finish. What is a good finish? A good finish is when the flavors keep lingering in your mouth for a long time after putting the cigar down. It would be a shame to truly Love a certain cigar and then, as soon as it´s over and out, you suddenly don´t feel any remains or memory of the tasty savors anymore. A good stick with a Good Long Finish will make the experience Full!
I will now move on to the smoking itself. If we are 50 people in one room smoking the same cigar, in the same condition, after the same dining, how many points of views would this room have? 50 of them! All somewhat different! This is due to the fact that we all have unique tastes and diverse tolerances (such as tolerance of strength or sweetness etc…).
I often ask who blows smoke through their nose, it means to “retrohale” (of course without inhaling it!). It is not always doable, but if you can, it is a good thing to do just a couple of times during your smoke. This is due to the close relation between taste and smell. Hence I now go back to the subject of the importance of the aroma. Try to eat or drink something while pinching your nose – you will taste nothing. Try to eat or drink something blocking only one nostril – you will feel the savors, but less. Following the same logic, try blowing out smoke through your nose and your head will fill up with all the full flavors, aromas and especially the more exact strength level. I repeat: this is not a must at all; this is merely a suggestion, an idea and a further explanation of the aroma vs. flavor.
Now I would like to get to the next step of the Blending Seminar – the aspects of different tobaccos. However, I will not get into the details of every origin out there (that is another huge subject!). Yet I will give a few examples.
Meanwhile, remember that there is not only the origin to think about, there is also the seed – for example: a Dominican Corojo will be different from a Dominican Criollo, as will a Brazilian Mata Fina be different from a Sumatra, etc…
Nonetheless, the origin is extremely important! Each origin has its own soil and its own climate being the major players in the traits of its tobacco.
When we smoke a cigar, what do we pick up? We basically pick up: Bitter, Sour, Salty and Sweet. Then we move on to discover: sharpness, youngness, metallic sensations, woody tastes, notes of coffee, notes of coco, earth, grass, cedar, heaviness, and the list goes on… All of this is subjective of course, according to what we each separately feel. Moreover, our palate will focus on very different aspects of a cigar depending on our last meal and drink – was it oat-meal with a glass of fresh orange juice? Or was it a rich and spicy Indian delight with a fruitful red wine? Further on, there are many other sorts of “sophisticated descriptions” that can be found – they are of course interesting as well as entertaining for a passionate cigar-lover to read and philosophize about. Last but far from least there is the State of Mind – what may taste sweet and floral on a sunny day could then taste bitter and salty after a particularly stressful day at work.
As an extra and vital recommendation: Please check your watch before choosing the size of the cigar you are about to smoke. It would be heart-breaking to throw away three delicious inches of a stick just because you have to rush back to a meeting!
My original Blending Seminar is done with four to five different Fillers smoked separately one by one. Each Puro will be completely one dimensional which is usually not an actual pleasure to smoke. However in the end it is very exciting as well as fundamental to smoke the final blend of these fillers to see how they eventually performed together!
A few examples of origins of Filler-tobaccos:
(as mentioned above, I will not go into the details of every unique and distinct seed, for now I will only keep the examples short and focused on soil)
- Brazil – Sweet, flavorful and always easy to marry with other origins.
- Nicaragua – Earthy, rich, spicy and with lots of aroma.
- Dominican – Strongly depends on the seeds! Yet to give some kind of description, they can be very aromatic, earthy, with a great combustion and in few cases even very sweet. Furthermore they blend successfully with different origins as well.
- Peru – Sweet and aromatic and also happily marry with other soils.
One by one these puros above will hence not be a nice and smooth smoke, but with the right percentage of each of these fillers inside a bunch with a binder and a well-chosen wrapper, there you go! You could very well find the final experience to be a great cigar with all six crucial elements presents (the six must-be-there traits above).
Note: This is not a blend that neither I nor anyone has created – I merely picked these origins from an imaginary hat as I was writing just to give an example…
Moving on, I do nowadays indeed perform my next Blending Seminar with the focus on Wrappers and their impact on the final blend.
What is the ratio of wrapper to filler in the taste-profile of a cigar? The answer is: it depends on the Ring Gauge. The thinner the cigar, the more influence from the wrapper and the thicker the cigar, the less impact from it.
I have never been a big fan of large ring gauges (such as 60), I personally prefer a well-balanced Corona Gorda (46), a Corona (42) or even a Lancero (38-40). Yet taste is indeed subjective, and with respect to all tastes, I blend cigars for all types of sizes.
Thus, we now do the opposite of the previous Blending Seminar – we now smoke the Same filler/bunch together with Different wrappers on it.
- Connecticut Shade – Smooth and at times with some bitterness and twang.
- Cameroon (one of my personal favorites) – Definite Spice and sweetness.
- Ecuador – Earthy and spicy in the case of some seeds.
- Nicaragua – Earthy and full-flavored.
I strongly believe that this is a very stimulating exercise to do. For a true cigar-lover I would go as far as to say that this is an imperative experiment to make! The importance of the wrapper on a cigar is often misunderstood and I do my best to spread this piece of knowledge as much as possible!
Finally, in the full experience of a good cigar there are Two groups of Artists! Excluding the farmers and the entire factories (which is a whole other enormous subject), these two groups of artists are the Blenders and the Smokers. The blenders have to make sure to include the six vital characteristics: Flavor, Strength, Aroma, Complexity, Balance and a Good Finish. Then, the smokers have to open-mindedly and truly understand a cigar before casting a judgment on it.
So, next time you pick up a cigar you are particularly interested in or curious about: if you have a magazine or a site with a description read it and think about it. Then as you smoke your cigar, even though you keep that profile in mind, feel free to create your very own opinion on top of that and truly savor it!
In every Blending Seminar, may it be the first or the second one, I always tend to do it as a group discussion in which everyone (if possible, depending on the size of the crowd) has to say something and each give their personal views. Indeed, we all have a different tolerance and our own distinct taste-buds, so apart from some basic general traits in the tobaccos, there is no right or wrong answer.
All of us, including myself, are still and forever in the learning-process, and in these seminars, although in a different way, I probably learn just as much as the participants do!
Final tip: Never judge a cigar by its cover!
At the end of this article, which is still barely reaching the knee of the entire body of tobacco, I hope that some light is put on this subject, hopefully opening up the minds of cigar-smokers.
As you smoke Señorial when it comes to you, I wish to fulfill my own list of demands in a truly good blend, and very importantly I wish to fulfill your demand in a great stick!
Smoke and think about what each cigar has to offer! And Enjoy the journey of this enjoyment!
n.d.r. – a breve la traduzione in Italiano