If you've read just three of my reviews before, you'll know I tend to express excitement over just about every cigar I'm about to smoke. It's true, cigars excite me, and I'm always anxious to try something I've never had before... the Trekkie in me would paraphrase, “to boldly go where I have not gone before.”
That being said, tonight I have an opportunity to do something I have not yet had the chance to do-- a pre-release review, at the personal request of the blender.
A year or so back, I did a review of the Crow Cigar, produced at the El Artista factory in the Dominican Republic; it was the personal blend of Jonás Santana, now of Blackbird Cigar Company. He recently stumbled upon that review, and reached out to me via my Instagram, to ask if I'd be willing to review a couple of new blends his company has scheduled for release in January, before they appear in retailers' humidors. That's a pretty rare opportunity for a confessed amateur like myself, and of course I jumped right on board. Trouble was, I'd just had dental work done and had to wait for my gums to heal completely before I could smoke again at all, but here we are, on my first day smoking again, and I'm delighted to sit down and smoke the first of these two blends for review.
Cigar: Crow San Ándres, by Blackbird Cigar Co.
Vitola: Robusto, 5” x 50
Origin: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Mexican San Ándres
Rating (out of 10): 9.8
I'm told the final band design and printing is not yet finished, so I won't focus too long on it. What I have is a simple white paper taped around the barrel, bearing the name of the cigar (Crow San Ándres) and its maker (Blackbird Cigar Co.), and marking it as “pre-release.”
The stick itself is a rich, milk-chocolate brown, with a perfect cap and a closed foot. There are some slight veins to the wrapper, and a slick sheen of oil readily noticed by the fingertips. One very minor bit of damage to the wrapper on this particular stick, but nothing that is going to adversely affect the burn.
Because it's not a final band and it's just taped in place, I'm removing the band before I cut or light.
Construction is perfectly balanced throughout, and the only flaw is the tiny little hole in the wrapper noted above. Cut is perfect (once again, thank you, Xikar XO!). Let's go.
The barrel smells nice and earthy, mostly of cedar, but with the faint suggestion of something slightly fruity. The foot, while closed, presents a more floral scent.
The cold draw, while a bit tight thanks to the closed foot, tastes of cedar and some kind of sweet fruit or berry. But enough waiting, let's light up.
First draw after lighting is bold, and tastes strongly of cedar, with a very soft floral undertone. Fantastic smoke output. Getting plenty of salt-and-peppery spice.
The burn is just the tiniest bit uneven, but it's bearable. In fact, it almost seems to be evening itself out. It's also leaving a beautiful light-grey ash column with just the slightest bit of flaking, but otherwise firm and sturdy.
The spice fades somewhat going into the second third, giving way to a soft, floral character. The burn has evened out perfectly.
The cedar remains, more an undertone now. There's something new here, too... a bit of coffee, I think. Not too bold, but definitely black.
Burn is uneven again, but waiting to see if it evens before giving a touchup.
The last third comes in cedary again, with that same coffee undertone. The burn has mostly evened out.
That coffee comes through nice and strong on the retrohale.
As the last third burns its way down, the spice picks up in intensity, taking on a more peppery tone, more like jalapeno now than black pepper.
With about an inch and a half remaining, the spice is coming in and out. One draw is soft and cedary, the next hot with peppery spice. Lots of excitement as we near the end.
I'm being left with a peppery spice on my lips, and a wonderful aftertaste of coffee as the last half-inch or so burns down. Pardon the somewhat... sexist saying here, but I can't help but think as the end nears, “I hate to see you go, but I love to watch you leave.” In this case, though, it's a cigar that I hate to finish, but this ending is absolutely glorious.
This was one I'll definitely have to do my best to get a box of, once they're released. In the meantime, I'm glad I have a couple more to enjoy. It was well worth smoking it down until it burned my fingers to hold what little was left of the nub, and I look forward to smoking many more to come!