El Artista Big Papi (by David Ortiz) Toro

Updating one of my prior Facebook reviews, for a cigar I absolutely love: the Big Papi Toro by David Ortiz, in collaboration with El Artista. Papi and El Artista cooperated on this brand-new stick to honor his long and impressive baseball career (most of it with the Boston Red Sox) as it drew to a close at the end of the most recent season. El Artista is a smaller manufacturer based in the Dominican Republic, where Ortiz was born.

Cigar: El Artista Big Papi by David Ortiz

Vitola: Toro (6” x 54)

Price: ~$210/box; ~$11.75/stick

Origin: Dominican Republic

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Binder: Dominican Criollo '98
Filler: Dominican/Nicaraguan blend

Rating (out of 10): 9.5

Let's just talk about appearances here for a moment. The box is a simple red and white design that I think any Sox fan would agree is perfectly fitting. It features the name "Big Papi" and a red silhouette of Ortiz's trademark point to the sky, which he would do after hitting a home run, to honor his departed mother. Inside the box, we've got 20 sticks, with an elegant red ribbon around the foot, and a band which reflects the same brand name and silhouette image from the box, against a white background with... pinstripes. My initial reaction to pistripes in baseball is one of disgust because... “they” wear pinstripes. But it works here, I think. Mostly because the primary color scheme is red and white, not blue and grey. Ultimately, the cigar is "dressed" exactly like a David Ortiz cigar should be.

The wrapper is a knobby, veiny Ecuadorian Habano, nice and oily and perfectly capped. It is a nice, medium brown in color, toothy, and oily. It is at once elegant and rugged, a fine tribute to Number 34.

The construction is pretty solid, no unusually soft or hard spots, though there is a small crack hiding under the foot band, that appears to run along one of the veins, which may be an issue as it burns, so we'll just have to keep watching it.

The cap is nice and neat, and I get a good, clean cut with my wide punch.

I get a nice whiff of sweet chocolate and leather along the barrel. The foot maintains the chocolate, but is distinctly earthier, as well.

First Third:
The prelight draw is a bit tight, and tastes kind of dry and sweet... I want to say like graham cracker and dried fruit... raisin, maybe? The initial draw once lit reflects much of the same, with more of the fruitiness coming through. There's also a slight spiciness on the aftertaste, almost like a little impromptu zinger from Big Papi himself, declaring "This is my fucking cigar" (which reminds me, I still need to see Patriots Day). It quickly burns past that small crack I noted, with no further issue.

A few puffs in, and the cigar gets noticably woodier, taking on a distinct cedar tone, a flavor which matches the aroma. It's hard not to associate the woodiness with basbeball bats, given Ortiz's legendary batting power, despite the fact that bats are made from different woods than we're seeing in the flavor profile. It's a symbolic association, not a literal one.

The burn is just a little uneven, and produces a strong, white ash. The draw has opened slightly, still a bit tight, but definitely reasonable. I'm tasting that raisin flavor creeping back in, blending with, rather than overtaking, the cedar. There's subtle graham cracker notes easing back in, also. There's even some wonderful floral notes working their way into the aroma. It's quite nice.

Second Third:
We're making our way into the second third (perhaps it's more appropriate to call it the fourth inning), and the ash is still holding strong, the burn still even. It's maybe not a razor sharp burn line as it was before, but it's doing exceptionally well at adjusting itself as it burns. The flavor profile remains consistent, with cedar, raisin, and graham cracker notes flowing in and out, through, and around each other with ease.

The ash finally dropped off just before the halfway point, and fell cleanly. There was slight disruption to the burn line, but the cigar self-corrected within seconds, and burns evenly again as we hit the "Seventh-Inning Stretch" (the final third).

Final Third:
Here, the spiciness begins to pick up. It's getting late in the game, and things have been going pretty smoothly so far, but it's time for Big Papi to bring the fire and put this one out onto Landsdowne Street, and that's exactly what he does with this stick. There's an increasing taste of red pepper working its way in, as the raisin and graham cracker start to fade, leaving a spicy, cedary flavor in the final three.

Closing Thoughts:
Despite some issues with the burn being uneven, this cigar is absolutely fantastic—perhaps not a grand slam, but a home run, for sure. It's the first time I've smoked anything from El Artista; actually, it's the first I've heard of El Artista. But these guys are absolutely playing in the same league as the bigger manufacturers, and I'm excited to try some of their other lines in the future! But this will be one I'll always want to have in the dugout.

And of course, following another stellar performance by David Ortiz, I'm missing the shit out of Boston...