During a visit to the characteristic town centre of Chester I managed to sample the new Highclere Castle Toro cigar thanks to a sampling session at Turmeaus Chester along with Tor Imports.
Highclere Castle is renowned for its appearance as the iconic building for the popular TV series Downtown Abbey. The building is currently owned by the 8th Earl Carnarvon George Herbert who wanted to recreate the style of cigars enjoyed in the early 19th Century. To achieve this the Earl joined forces with Nick Melillo, the owner of Foundation Cigar Co. This gave rise to the birth of the Highclere Castle Company.
A.J Fernandez the legend of Nicaraguan blends supervises the blending and rolling of these cigars to create a mellow smooth cigar with the appeal to the British market. Each cigar is made using tobacco which has been aged for at least 3 years. They are hand rolled in Esteli situated in Nicaragua using Connecticut hade wrapper. Mata Fina is the selection for the binder then finalising the cigar using an exclusive hybrid seed the company has named Nicadan.
Cigar Tasting Session
I was fortunate to secure a ticket for the Wednesday night tasting session at Turmeaus Chester. This is the first time I have visited this wonderful shop. At first the store seems quite small and intimate with pure gems highlighted across the walls and display cabinets. Whiskies and other luxury spirits surround a gathering of inviting leather chairs and tables. Around the corner features a small bar where customers can choose and sample a variety of whiskies whilst they enjoy a cigar of their choice. Adjacent to the bar is where are the magical cigar brands are displayed along with a large walk humidor.
When the tasting session commenced, we were greeted by several staff and guest speakers and made to feel very comfortable and excited to try the Highclere castle cigar. Starting with a black coffee to cleanse the palate we introduced ourselves to those we sat. The session was presented by Scott Vines of Tor Imports who started to tell us the story of Highclere Castle whilst our cigars where carefully toasted and lit for us by Callum (very friendly Turmeaus staff member!)
The appearance of this cigar is quite regal and just by looks alone can tell you are handling a ultra-premium cigar. The band showcases the Highclere Castle logo which is embossed in gold on a cream background. The words ‘Hecho A Mano’ stretch across the bottom of the band meaning ‘Made by Hand’. For a brand born out of such elegance I feel that the band used is fairly plain and basic and would like to see something more elegant in its place.
With a pale golden brown colour this Toro is quite striking with a smooth wrapper with slight veins protruding. A rigid feel with no oils present in the wrapper. Leather and cedar aromas on the nose with strong earthy smells.
First impression was ‘wow! What a great draw’. An easy smooth cool draw with lots of smoke. The initial flavours where creamy with a lot of pistachio, espresso and slight floral sweetness. I was surprised as a lot of Nicaraguan Cigars start of quite feisty with a heavy peppery and spicy smoke. Not this cigar, the Highclere Castle Toro was smooth to the core on appearance and smoke.
On the second third the citrus flavours developed more leaving a slight tang in the mouth with slight saltiness. Halfway brought about white pepper on the taste buds especially on the retrohale. The cigar remained a steady even burn and the ash stay intact illustrating how well it had been made. This cigar is mild to medium and in my opinion something new to the table in the Nicaraguan range of cigars on the market in terms of smoking experience.
The cigar got stronger moving into the last third as the fiery notes adventured out with slight cedar and strong grassy notes. An impressive draw throughout and proved to be a long smoke. The cigar lasted 2 hours 10 minutes.
These cigars are not cheap but I feel that they back up their price tag and deliver something distinct and different. I am not saying these are something spectacular as I am more inclined to enjoying a stronger cigar but there is no dismissing that these are well made great tasting cigars.
A fantastic cigar enjoyed with a great bunch of cigar loving individuals made even better by the knowledgeable staff at Turmeaus Chester and Tor Imports. I would definitely purchase the Highclere Castle Toro again in the future and I plan on attending as many tasting sessions as possible at Turmeaus venues across the UK to hopefully undercover some more unique cigars.
Today has been one of those Saturdays which has seemed like a mad array of tasks and choirs needed to be done whilst struggling to find the time to complete them all. One of my favourite things to do when stress levels are high is to find a small part of the day to sit back, relax and enjoy the delights of a small Cuban.
My choice today was the Jose L Piedra Petit Cazadores which is a relatively small cigar and on the lower end of the price bracket for a Cuban cigar. Half way through the day I decided it was time to catch some chill time and get this cigar fired up.
Pre-lighting the Petit Cazadores I noticed that this cigar seemed rather brittle and maybe a slight bit too dry. However, my decision had been made and I was lacking the time to go routing through the humidor.
On lighting the cigar with my first few puffs I found this Jose L Piedra quite bitter and on the harsh side. Very strong flavours of spice, that mainly of pepper and star anise. This came as quite a surprise as my experiences with Piedras has taught me that these are usually quite smooth and light. Yet, being slightly drier than I like, this could have been the reason.
Into the second third and all harshness had subsided allowing for the usual creaminess to peer through and calm my palate. The spice remained but on a more pleasing scale whilst flavours of hazelnut and coffee started to display. This complimented the double espresso I was sipping on throughout smoking the cigar. I find that fresh coffee is a great drink to accompany a cigar to highlight the notes it hides. Im not sure if the espresso cleans the palate but I find the cigar to get better after each sip.
The cigar got a hell of a lot stronger and became severe on the taste buds. Almost burning zings and a tanginess to the cigar. I cut this shorter than I usually do and lay the cigar down. This Cazadores had a small moment of bliss but I was slightly disappointed with the start and finish of this smoke. Sometimes its just better to finish a cigar at the right moment than totally ruining the twenty minutes you have spent with it. Overall, I will still always have a handful of Jose L Piedra cigars in my hoard. They are great value Cubans and pleasurable short smokes and maybe I should have left this little fella to rest a little longer in my humidor.
Flavour: Medium to Full
Length: 4 1/8”
Ring Gauge: 43
When it comes to small Cuban cigars this little fella is very different from its brothers and sisters. My love for outdoor pursuits makes the smaller cigars the perfect companion especially when lacking in time.
The Montecristo OPEN Junior seems to be a new breed of Cuban. As we all know the majority of Cubans can be characterised by their hard hitting flavours and intense aromas. Something this cigar seemed to be lacking maybe why it has a relatively small price.
The Junior seemed to be a very light and creamy smoke. On lighting the cigar, the draw was fairly smooth and produced a lot of smoke. Even with the lack of flavour I could tell this cigar had been made and rolled well. The flavour seemed to be locked away until the 2nd third of the cigar.
The stick then started to show slight signs of that Montecristo pepperiness and slight spice. However, the flavour remained light and little too much for my liking. The cigar provided around 25 minutes of smoking perfect when you are struggling for time.
For the more experienced smoker I would probably suggest the Hoyo de Monterrey Le Hoyo du Depute as an alternative. Yet I fell this cigar is a great starting point for someone beginning their journey with Cuban cigars.
Length: 4 3/8" (110mm)
Ring Gauge: 38