Life has gotten insanely busy, and I haven't gotten to any reviewing in several weeks now; overall, I've been doing more sleeping than smoking, and what smoking I have done has typically been social and enjoyment smoking, in environments where reviewing sticks was just not feasible. But I've been greatly missing the feeling of sitting down and giving my full attention to a cigar, so now that I have a bit of time opened up, that's exactly what I'm going to do.
I was very excited last night to find the Alec Bradley Fine and Rare JSR10=(86) at one of my local liquor stores last night; the AB F&Rs, as the name implies, are quite rare, as they are small-batch cigars, made in extremely limited quantities. The JSR10=(86) saw only 1,500 boxes of 10 produced for the entire U.S. Market (think of how many cigar retailers there are across the entire U.S.!)
I don't know that I could be more excited for any other cigar to be my reason to start reviewing again (with the possible exception of the My Father Special S...)!
Today also marks exactly 6 years since I enlisted in the Navy, so it happens to also be a great day for a celebratory smoke!
Cigar: Alec Bradley Fine and Rare JRS10=(86) 2015
Vitola: Gran Toro (6 1/2” x 56)
Binder: Honduras & Nicaragua
Filler: Honduras & Nicaragua
Rating (out of 10): 9.4
The wrapper is a rich, lightly veined, milk chocolate color, with a rich coat of oil and completely invisible seams.
The band is essentially a certificate attached to the stick, which indicates the cigar's issue date, roll date, release date, weekly production number, size, supervisor, hand rollers' names, and approval authority. It lends a real sense of collectability to these cigars; that is, if it was my intent to collect and not to smoke!
The construction appears absolutely flawless, with no seams and a perfectly applied cap. There is a crack in the wrapper just past the lower end of the band, but this looks to me like a simple storage issue at the retailer (this is why you should always be suspicious of shops that don't let you inspect the sticks yourself before you purchase them!), and I don't think it looks quite serious enough to cause any issues when smoking it.
The barrel carries rich earthy and floral scents,with a subtle sweetness I can't quite put my finger on. At the foot, there is a strong aroma of chocolate or fudge. I'm immediately reminded of the brownies my grandmother used to make when my brother and sister and I were younger.
For the longest time, I swore by cigar punches, as I preferred the clean, almost-always perfect cut I get with them. But I recently got my hands on a Xikar XO double-blade guillotine cutter, and not only does it cut cleanly almost every time, but it's an absolute beauty, also.
After the cut, I get a nice, open cold draw that tastes of cocoa, earth, and a hint of spice. It's quite tasty.
Of course, my Xikar XO is stunningly beautiful, but I couldn't have just one beauty by my side for a god smoke, so we introduced a third, the Xikar Xidris single-flame torch lighter. I've found that single flame lighters tend to give me a little bit more control over my light, and doesn't “burn away” the flavor the way a savage, 4-flame torch might when it incinerates the foot of a good cigar.
The first few draws are a soft and subtle blend of leather, cocoa, and cedar. There's the faintest hint of dry citrus coming through underneath as it starts to progress. It's like a tart orange, and I just got hit with a blast of sweet raisin.
A little over half an inch in, there's that chocolate brownie sweetness I was sniffing out before, but then a sudden surprise shift in flavor, resembling a sweet, buttered popcorn on the finish.
There's almost too many flavors to keep up with, all of them fantastic!
The burn is absolutely perfect on this stick so far, leaving behind an equally perfect medium-grey ash column that is both firm and toothy.
This is the kind of stick that I might expect to score perfectly, if it weren't for the unfortunate crack in the wrapper I mentioned earlier.
About an inch and a half in, and now I'm getting notes of wheat toast, orange preserves, and lightly charred cedar. There really is so much going on with this stick.
The ash dropped off about two inches in, where the burn become only very slightly less even.
Progressing into the second third, there's a soft, syrupy sweetness coming through, and the faintest hint of pepper on the finish. I do get a slight bit of harshness getting a bit closer to the middle, but it's not overpowering.
That crack in the wrapper is still about an inch away, but it's so far showing no signs that the heat of the cherry is forcing the stick to expand too wildly and break apart. It might actually be less of an issue then even what little I was expecting.
This is the exact point where Led Zeppelin (“Rock and Roll”) comes up randomly on streaming radio.
Sidetrack: I make it a point not to download and save Zeppelin to my iTunes or Spotify collections; I love me some Zeppelin, and the lack of control over when I get to hear them, either on the radio (actual radio or streaming radio) or live (as part of a cover band's lineup) makes it somehow... “sacred.” I think I would lose some of that reverence if I could just call that up whenever I chose. It's a position of sacred love I hold for Zeppelin alone.
About halfway through, the cigar seems to be settling into a comfortable and consistent buttery wheat toast profile, with an undertone of dried citrus, and a salty finish.
We're right on top of the split wrapper now, and it's still behaving as if there's no crack there at all. This actually is going to earn back a point I had docked from the construction, because I have never seen a damaged wrapper so well-behaved!
I smoked past the torn wrapper like it was never even there. Well done, Alec Bradley! The burn has likewise remained consistently even, if not razor-sharp, and we're past the halfway point on the stick without a single touchup.
Rolling into the final third, the brownie flavor has re-emerged, taking on hints of salted caramel, as well.
There is slightly more of a harshness as this stick burns closer to the end, but I'm still enjoying the flavor too much to give up on it.
Still a fantastically even burn, and not a single touchup during the entire experience!
The JRS10=(86) certainly lives up to the name, “Fine and Rare.” The flavors are wonderful and complex, well worth the expense, because once they're gone, they're not coming back in the same blend. Hopefully I can pick up a couple more before they disappear forever!