La Zona

Eric Espinosa, Esteli, Nicaragua

601 Oscuro La Punta

601, its not an old brand but in its short existence it has build up quote a following and a history. The brand was started by EO Brands, the company of Erik Espinosa and Eddie Ortega, blended by José ‘Don Pepin’ Garcia and made by My Father Cigars, first at the El Rey de Los Habano factory in Miami and later in the My Father Cigars factory in Esteli, Nicaragua. Then EO Brands split up, 601 disappeared, but then returned as part of Espinosa Cigars, reblended, new design box and ring, made at La Zona and in december 2016 the news broke that the production will be moved from Espinosa’s own La Zona factory to the San Lotano Factory from A.J. Fernandez in Ocotal Nicaragua, which he recently bought from Fidel Oliva. And that’s the short version of the 601 history.


Back to the cigar, the 601 Oscuro La Punta is a perfecto, 5 1/2×52 in size and I am smoking an old one with the oldest label know so I think it must be about 10 years old. It is a Nicaraguan puro with a Habano Oscuro wrapper. I think this cigar was given to me at one of the EPIC herfs in Ocala Florida, a yearly weekend herf which originated from Cigar Asylum, my favorite cigar board.


The cellophane on the cigar has a nice golden brown color from the oils from the wrapper that have been leaking into the cellophane for years. Let me start with the ring, I wonder if I should score on the ring since the line has been revamped with new design rings, but I’ll score it anyway. I like the shape, the green color is a nice contrast with the white 601 and the white banner uses the same green for the word obscure. The golden lines make it all pop. The design is a bit outdated but Erik Espinosa took care of that. The wrapper is dark, very dark and leathery with hardly any visible veins.  The construction is flawless, I have never seen a perfecto with a cap so beautiful as this one and the cigar feels evenly filled. The aroma is medium full and reminds me of straw and manure.


Because of the shape I decide to cut the cigar xikar style. The cold draw is a bit tight but that could be because of the shape. I taste a spicy and peppery raisin flavor. The moment I light the cigar I taste pepper with dark coffee and a little sweetness. After a few puffs I taste some raw unrefined cocoa powder. After an inch I taste wood with a little lime and far on the background a little cocoa. Halfway the flavors are dry, I taste wood and a little cocoa. Right before the final third starts I taste the pepper again and it’s the Pepin pepper that was his signature back in the day. I still taste wood too and a little walnut. The final few puffs are very peppery and I’m loving it.


The draw is fine, better than the cold draw. The smoke is quite thin though. The burn is fantastic. The light colored ash is firm. The cigar is medium bodied at best and medium flavored too. The smoke time is a little over an hour and a half.

Would I buy this cigar again? I would love to try a reblended one.

Score: 90
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Categories: 601, 90, La Zona, My Father Cigars | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Cornelius & Anthony Señor Esugars Robusto

It’s almost time for Intertabac again and last year Courtney Smith gave me a handful of Cornelius & Anthony cigars that I enjoyed a lot. I did reviews on all of them, including the Señor Esugars but not on this vitola, only the toro. So with the trade show around the corner I thought it was a good idea to review this cigar in this 5×52 size.


Again this cigar has been made by Erik Espinoza at La Zona in Esteli, the most wonderful factory on a great location with a beautiful deck. If you happen to be in Esteli, drop by, if you’re lucky Mr. Warmth Hector Alfonso is there to entertain you with some great stories about how he came to work with Erik for example. And try the Cuban style coffee too while enjoying a cigar on their balcony, stare away into the mountains and enjoy life. This Señor Esugars is a great cigar to smoke while you are sitting there overthinking life. Enjoy the Nicaraguan filler, the USA grown binder and the Mexican San Andres wrapper while you soak in the atmosphere.


The ring, again, fantastic. Now the sample that I have didn’t have the secondary Señor Esugars ring but from pictures I’ve seen it fits the main ring. The very dark, like dark roasted coffee beans, color wrapper has a clear vein giving the cigar a mean look that fits the color of the wrapper, yet the dog on the artwork balances it out. The cigar is well constructed, great shape, evenly packed. The smell is medium strong and a mix of manure, charcoal, barbecue smoke and ammonia.


I cut the cigar. The cold draw is perfect, spicy and the flavors have a twang. After lighting the cigar I taste a spicy, earthy and peppery flavor with a little lime acidity. The pepper and acidity are a perfect match. After three quarters of an inch I taste some floral notes too, and green herbs. Halfway I taste more lemon but still with a lot of pepper and some wood. The pepper mellows out a bit at the start of the final third.


The draw is awesome, perfect. The smoke is thick, white and full. The ash is white, clear white. The ash is a bit coarse. The burn is good. The cigar is medium bodied and full flavored. The smoke time is an hour and half.

Would I buy this cigar again? Yes yes yes

Score: 92
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Categories: 92, Cornelius & Anthony, La Zona, Nicaraguan cigars | Tags: , , , , , ,

Espinosa Maduro Corona Gorda

Erik Espinosa doesn’t come from a long line of cigar makers, in fact, he started his career as a UPS driver bringing deliveries to cigar shops, thats when he got introduced to cigars. That led to working in a cigar shop, which led to owning a brand with Eddie Ortega and when they decide to part ways he started his own factory, La Zona, in Esteli. A factory that is now quite renowned and makes a few high rated, well received blends, not just for his own company but also for others like Moya Ruiz, Cornelius & Anthony and La Sirena. And I’ve had the pleasure to sit on the deck of the factory with cuban style coffee and a nice Hector Alfonso blended cigar, I wouldn’t mind doing that every day. Oh and Happy Birthday Hector!!


The Espinosa Maduro is one of the lines that Espinosa makes for his own cigar company, the name is a clear sign of that, but he also produces 601, Murcielago and the award winning Laranja for Espinosa Cigars. The line consists of four vitolas, three of them are box pressed (the robusto, toro & belicoso) while the 5 5/8 x46 Corona Gorda is round and has a pig tail. I’m smoking that particular cigar for a review today.


The Mexican maduro wrapper is very dark and leathery with a few veins, it’s not the best looking wrapper but for some reason I like it, the color and the texture just match up perfectly. The rings are gorgeous, beige with golden outlines, a red dot with the Espinosa logo and a light blue banner with the Espinosa name in red letters, and a smaller banner saying ‘hecho en la zona’ and then a deep blue detail. The foot ring brings back the deep blue with a golden edging and the same letters as the Espinosa name but now saying Maduro. The cigar looks a little crooked but the construction feels great and the triple cap with pig tail is placed perfectly. The aroma is quite strong and reminds me of cocoa, I live in an area with several cocoa factories so I know that smell all too well. I also smell a bit barnyard too.


I cut the cigar with my xikar guillotine. The cold draw is fine, I taste raisin and dark, creamy chocolate with some pepper. After lichting the cigar I taste coffee and dark chocolate with a hint of white pepper. After half an inch I taste dry grass with cedar and pepper. After an inch I taste oak with some rucola. The second third starts peppery with some fresh wood on the background. Halfway I also taste a little lime. Right before the final third I get a mild cocoa with a little mint and a strong yet balanced pepper. The final third starts meaty with some pepper. I taste some sweetness and it’s perfectly balanced with some acidity and pepper. Slowly some dark chocolate and cocoa shows up with some white pepper.


The draw is perfect, just the right amount of resistance. The smoke is thick and white. The ash is white too and very dense. The burn is straight and slow. This cigar is full flavored, medium to full bodied. The smoke time is two hours.

Would I buy this cigar again? I hope they get introduced to the Dutch market soon.

Score: 93

Categories: 93, Espinosa, La Zona, Nicaraguan cigars | Tags: , , , , ,

Cornelius & Anthony Meridian Robusto

I have smoked and review all but one of the Cornelius & Anthony blends, I started with the Cornelius toro, then went on with the Venganza robusto, Daddy Mac robusto, Señor Esugars Toro and the Aerial robusto so all that was missing is the Meridian blend and here it is, a review of the 5×52 robusto.


As all Cornelius & Anthony blends, except for the Cornelius, this cigar is made at the La Zona factory in Esteli, Nicaragua. The Cornelius is made at El Titan de Bronze in Miami, a must visit if you happen to be in Miami. The Meridian is made of Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers, a Nicaraguan binder and finished with an Ecuadorian Rosado wrapper.


As in every Cornelius & Anthony review I rave about the ring and since its the same on every cigar I can only praise the ring again. This time I also praise the secondary ring as it used the same colors as the main ring, the off white and the gold and it makes it a perfect match. The wrapper is like a dark chocolate with a mild shine and a silky feel. The construction feels perfect and the triple cap is beautiful. The cigar has a manure and wood aroma, medium strong.


I decapped the cigar with a cutter. The cold draw is perfect. There is not much of a predominant flavor in the cold draw. After lighting I taste an earthy coffee with a tiny bit of cinnamon. After half an inch I taste a buttery, earthy flavor with a little sugar. Slowly some pepper shows up too. Halfway I just taste earth and pepper. The final third I taste wood with a mild vanilla buttery flavor and pepper, a little sharp on the tongue. The flavors and overall strength pick up.


The draw is perfect. The smoke it thick, white and full. The salt and pepper colored ash is a little frayed yet firm. The burn is good. This cigar is medium bodied and medium flavored. The smoke time is an hour and fifteen minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? A 92 rated cigar, so yes!

Score: 92
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Categories: 92, Cornelius & Anthony, La Zona, Nicaraguan cigars | Tags: , , , , ,

Espinosa Habano Toro

La Zona is quite a new factory but it’s easy to say that I’m a fan. Not only for the great cigars they make, but it’s also a cozy factory downtown Esteli and with the best spot to sit, have a cup of coffee and a cigar on the balcony, overlooking the city with the mountains in the background and just enjoy life. It was one of my highlights of my second trip to Nicaragua, the time that I went for the Cigaragua book.


This is not the time where I bought this 6×52 Espinosa Habano Toro though. I bought it a year earlier when I spend a week in Florida after traveling to Nicaragua. I guess I bought it at one of the Smoke Inn locations or otherwise at the Island Smoke Shop on Key Largo. it’s, as far as I know, Nicaraguan puro with, as the name says, habano wrapper.


When I take the cigar out of the cellophane I see an oily, smooth, glossy wrapper with thin veins. I love the ring, broken white background, golden details, the Espinosa logo in white on a red background, a light blue banner saying Espinosa and a small white banner ‘hecho en la zona’. The foot ring has the same text but with red letters on a light blue background. The cigar feels evenly packed, is squishy in a good way. The cap is decent but not perfect. The cigar has a medium strong aroma of barnyard with a little black pepper.


I used my xikar cutter, the cold draw is great. The flavor is spicy, some lemon, mild peppery. After lighting I taste a nice coffee, smooth and tasty. After half an inch I taste spices, all spice, very nice. The flavors are smooth. After a third I still taste the spices but now with some vanilla and pepper. The final third is more woody, still with the spices and a bit pepper.


The draw is great. The light gray ash is firm and pretty. The smoke is white, thick and great in volume. The burn is straight. The cigar is smooth, medium bodied and medium flavored. The smoke time is almost two hours.

Would I buy this cigar again? I want a box.

Score: 93

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Categories: 93, Espinosa, La Zona, Nicaraguan cigars | Tags: , , , ,

Cornelius & Anthony Aerial Robusto

I told the story about this brand a few times in my previous reviews of the Cornelius, Venganza, Daddy Mac and the Señor Esugars so I won’t repeat the story of five generations and why the name Cornelius & Anthony is chosen. I also won’t repeat how I got to know the brand, that I knew Courtney Smith from her previous company. I will just tell that when she gave me the first batch of cigars in 2016 it was just the Daddy Mac, Venganza and Cornelius (that eventually made my top 25 of the year) but at intertabac 2017 she gave me the other blends, the Señor Esugars, the Meridian and this Aerial.


The aerial is made in Esteli, Nicaragua at the La Zona factory of Erik Espinosa. The blend consists from Nicaraguan fillers, a USA grown binder and a Connecticut Shade grown in Ecuador. And even though my preferences changed the last year and I dislike Connecticut Shade less than before it’s still not my favorite wrapper. But as always I go in with an open mind, maybe this is the Connecticut shade that will wow me.


The wrapper is latte colored, relatively dark for a shade grown Connecticut wrapper and it has a soft sandpaper feeling. The ring is amazing, detailed, very well printed but the secondary ring is orange with white letters and doesn’t fit with the Cornelius and Anthony ring because of the color in my opinion. The construction feels good but the triple cap has a bit of a color difference. The cigar has a strong smell, its manure all over.


I used my Xikar butterfly cutter and decapped the cigar. The cold draw is fine, I taste a mild raisin flavor with some spice on my lips. The trusted vintage Ronson took care of the lighting. I taste a spicy coffee and earthy flavor with a hint of sweetness. After a centimeter I still taste the sweetness but now with wood and spices. The sweetness reminds me a bit of marzipan. The cigar lacks the Connecticut Shade mustiness and that’s a plus in my book, it’s quite spicy and sweet. Halfway the spices tone down, the sweetness remains with wood. A mild pepper shows up too. The flavor slowly changes to a vanilla sweetness on wood with a bit of lime and pepper.


The draw is great, the smoke is medium on volume and thickness. The light gray ash is firm. The burn is pretty straight. This is a balanced, medium bodied cigar, medium full flavored. The smoke time is ninety minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? Yea, this gets my seal of approval and made a very small list of Connecticut Shade cigars that I enjoy.

Score: 92
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Categories: 92, Cornelius & Anthony, La Zona, Nicaraguan cigars | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Cornelius & Anthony Señor Esugars Toro

Last year, right before intertabac, my friend Courtney Smith contacted me and asked me if I would be there. Turned out she was coming to the trade show with her new company, Cornelius and Anthony. We hung out a bit and she gave me the three blends they had at the booth, the Cornelius, the Venganza and the Daddy Mac. This year Courtney and her co-worker Todd Vance were at the trade show again and I came home with the other blends, Meridian, Aerial and this Señor Esugars plus some artwork for my man cave.


I love the artwork on the cigars, we talked about how Cornelius looked like H.H. Holmes even though it’s the real Cornelius who’s the brand named after and also on the artwork of this Señor Esugars. It’s the dog of brand owner Steven Bailey, he was holding her while Courtney took a picture. The artist who made the Cornelius artwork took the picture to the next level and the artwork of the Señor Esugars was born.


The Mexican wrapper on this cigar is dark, rustic and a little rough to the touch but it fits the cigar. The sample I had only came with the beautiful Cornelius & Anthony ring, very detailed, well printed but without a secondary ring like all the other blends did. The construction is good with a clear triple cap, the rollers at La Zona did a good job. The aroma is strong, sweet and acidic with a hint of charred wood after campfire in the forest.


I cut the cigar with a double blade guillotine cutter. The cold draw is perfect, the cold draw leaves a peppery flavor on my lips but on my lips only. I lit the cigar carefully with a soft flame and taste coffee with some lemon and herbs. After a few puffs the coffee turns to dry wood with pepper in the back of my throat. Halfway it’s wood, herbs and pepper, balanced but it gives me a dry mouth. The pepper is no longer in the back of my throat but more to the front. Slowly a spice mix shows up, cumin and nutmeg come to mind. The pepper grows a little and so does the lemon. The final third is strong, full of flavor, wood, spices and pepper all balanced out by a little acidity.


The draw is flawless, the smoke is voluminous, thick and white. The burn needed a little correction once.  The salt and pepper colored ash is frayed but firm. This cigar is medium full bodied and full flavored. The smoke time is close to two and a half hours.

Would I buy this cigar again? Damn right I will!

Score: 92
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Categories: 92, Cornelius & Anthony, La Zona, Nicaraguan cigars | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Cornelius & Anthony Venganza Robusto

Imagine, you’re fifth generation in a certain industry, you and your ancestors have done really well and your company is making good money but for the last two decades health organizations and lobbyists have been bashing your industry, legislation has become heavier and heavier over the years, the numbers of consumers are on the decline worldwide what would you do with possibly industry ending legislation in the future? Keep on going the path you’re on now and possibly see the company vanish in two or three generations or expand into a growing segment of the industry, a segment that has less of a stigma and less legislation? That was the question Steven Bailey from S&B Brands was facing, his family has been farming tobacco for roll your own tobacco and cigarettes for 150 years but with current and pending legislation that is now becoming dangerous ground to depend on. So he made the choice to enter the premium hand made cigar industry as well with a new brand called Cornelius & Anthony, a tribute to the first Bailey to grow tobacco, Cornelius Bailey and Anthony is Steven’s second name.


The brand came out with four lines, the Cornelius, which I was the first review I posted this year, the Daddy Mac (will make you jump jump) named after his father Mac, who everybody in the company calls Daddy Mac, the Meridian and the Venganza. The first one is produced in Miami at the famous El Titan de Bronze factory on SW 8th street, ala Calle Ocho in the Cuban district Calle Ocho in Miami, the other three lines are made in Eric Espinosa’s La Zona factory in Esteli, Nicaragua. I consider myself a lucky man that I’ve been to both factories, I spend quite a few hours at El Titan de Bronze and have sat on the balcony at La Zona, overseeing Esteli, with a great cigar, good coffee and the entertaining company of Hector Alfonso.


This 5×50 Robusto, made with Nicaraguan filler and binder wrapped into an Ecuadorian wrapper, was a gift from Steven, Courtney Smith and Todd Vance when I met them at Intertabac 2016. I knew Courtney from her stint with La Palina and we talked about cigars and she gave me a handful of the Venganza, Daddy Mac and Cornelius to try. When I take the cigar out of the cellophane I feel a smooth wrapper, which is medium dark with a nice oily shine to it. The cigar feels well packed but at the top, where the beautiful triple cap ends, I feels a soft spot all around the head of the cigar. The ring is beautiful, very detailed with gold, white and black on an olive green background and a secondary ring in red with gold with the venganza name on it. The cigar has an aroma that comes close to the dry food we fed the sheep when I was a kid. Not that I was a farmer, we had a farm field behind our house and the farmer that owned that land had sheep and cows, in the spring when the sheep had lambs he gave us a 100lbs bag of dry food and asked to give that to the sheep every evening so he wouldn’t have to come by every day and me and my sister loved feeding those fluffy friendly walking bundles of wool.


I punched the cigar and found a very easy cold draw with a mild bitter cocoa and tea flavor. I taste a mild bitter wood with coffee and earthy notes. I also taste some chocolate. Slowly I start to taste a growing pepper too and a little sweetness. After a third I taste nuts with pepper, very nice. The pepper grows stronger.


The draw is too loose, so loose that it will effect the rating in a negative way but only with half a point as the draw gets better along the way. The smoke is thick and full. The burn is a little off but I didn’t have to correct the burn. The pepper and salt ash is firm. This is a full bodied, full flavored cigar. The cigar is well balanced and has depth. The smoke time is an hour and twenty minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? Yes! They will be available in Germany.

Score: 91
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Categories: 91, Cornelius & Anthony, La Zona, Nicaraguan cigars | Tags: , , , ,

601 La Bomba Napalm

This is an addition to the 601 series that every cigar aficionado knows or should know. The brand has a bit of a history, first owned by Erik Espinosa and Eddie Ortega at EO Brands and made at My Father cigars, then made by Rocky Patel when he distributed EO Brands and when EO Brands fell apart, Espinosa got the brand and now makes the cigars at his own La Zona factory downtown Esteli. And he created this new La Bomba line.


Now I was trying to find some information on the blend and I read about Ecuadorean wrappers, Connecticut Broadleaf, Nicaraguan Habano, so I’m confused, some websites even say it’s a Nicaraguan puro and the Espinosa website is ‘coming soon’ at the time of writing this review. All I can tell is that I bought it at one of the Smoke Inn locations back in 2014, after I returned from Nicaragua and spend a week in Florida before I flew back home.


The dark wrapper is dry and leathery, but what stands out is the long pig tail, that looks like a flint that is on a stick of dynamite, kind of like the firecrackers that the Two Guys Smoke Shop has made as a yearly limited edition by different factories. The wrapper is flawless, The construction feels good and the long flint makes the cigar quite unique. The ring is bright yellow with a 601 print of which the 0 is a bomb, a white banner saying la bomba, the brightness of the yellow is great. The aroma is quite strong and smells like barnyard with manure.


I cut the cigar because of the flint on the cap. The cold draw is a bit easy and has a well fermented tobacco taste with a spicy undertone. I lit the cigar with a single torch. I taste coffee, full and strong. After a quarter of an inch I taste wood and pepper. After a third I taste cedar, pepper and cinnamon, all strong and bold. Halfway the pepper toned down a little and I taste wood with a strange but tasty carrot flavor. The final third starts very peppery again.


The draw is loose, too loose for my liking. That makes the smoke a little thin. After a few puffs the draw and smoke get much better. The frayed ash is almost white. The burn is pretty straight. This cigar is one of the strongest cigars I have smoked in a long time and the flavors are equally strong and bold. The smoke time is an hour and a half.

Would I buy this cigar again? In the future I’ll be singing La Bomba every time I hear Ritchie Valens or Los Lobos. Great cigar.

Score: 94
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Categories: 601, 94, La Zona, Nicaraguan cigars | Tags: , , , ,

Cornelius & Anthony Daddy Mac Robusto

The cigar I latest highest this year so far is the Cornelius and Anthony Cornelius Toro, a pretty new brand that I got introduced to by my friend Courtney Smith, who’s working for them, at the Intertabac trade show last september in Dortmund, Germany. I smoked a few of these cigars during the show and actually when we were clubbing on friday night with Courtney, Steven & Todd fro C&A, Tony Gomez from La Flor Dominicana, Riste Riatevski from Jas Sum Kral and the ultimate party guy Rocky Patel I just lit up a Daddy Mac when the DJ started a 90’s hiphop set including Kris Kross Jump “The Mac Dad will make you jump jump, Daddy Mac will make you jump jump”. Gotta love the irony there right? But to cut a long story short, the Cornelius Toro is the best cigar I reviewed so far this year, lets see what the Daddy Mac does.


The Daddy Mac is named after Steven Bailey’s father, Mac, and everybody at the company calls him Daddy Mac. The cigar comes from another factory than the El Titan de Bronze made Cornelius since this cigar, just like the Meridian and Venganza lines, are produced by Erik Espinosa in his La Zona factory in downtown Esteli. For those who know Esteli and know La Zona probably agree with me that there is no better place to sit down and smoke a cigar than on the rooftop terrace at La Zona, with the overview of the city and the mountains on the background, watching the crazy traffic, sipping on a great Cuban style coffee or an alcoholic beverage and listen to the great stories told by Mr. Warmth Hector Alfonso. The 5×52 robusto is made with a Brazilian wrapper, Ecuadorean binder and Nicaraguan fillers. The cigar has a dark oak colored wrapper with a beautiful triple cap and just like the Cornelius it has a double ring, one brand name ring that is just drop dead gorgeous, white, black, gold, grey and very detailed with a second, smaller, black ring with gold lining and golden letters saying Daddy Mac.


The construction feels good and the triple cap finishes the looks of the cigar. The cigar doesn’t have a strong aroma, its a mild to medium hay aroma at best. I used my punch to cap the cigar. The cold draw is good, a little on the tight side but just a little. I taste a wooden and peppery flavor. At first I taste cedar with a little coffee. After a centimeter I taste spicy yet citrusy wood. It’s all a bit musty though, reminds me of Connecticut shade but it isn’t.


After a third cigar is spicy, yet a little musty with a base flavor of cedar. Halfway I also taste a little sweetness. I taste a bitter flavor on the tip of my tongue, which I don’t like too much. When I take a sip of water I taste a flavor that I can’t describe but I like it and it tones down the bitterness on my tongue. The overall feeling of the flavors are creamy. Close to two thirds I taste licorice, a flavor I like. The cigar also gets some pepper. Passed the two thirds mark taste more of the sweetness. The cigar finishes strong with nutmeg, cedar and pepper.


The smoke is thick and more than decent in amount. The ash is light gray, dense in structure and firm. The draw is good, not perfect, it’s slightly to tight for my liking. The burn is great, slow and quite straight. This cigar is medium to medium plus bodied cigar and medium plus flavored, well balanced and with sufficient evolution. The smoke time is about 100 minutes.

Would I buy this cigar again? I prefer the Cornelius

Score: 88

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Categories: 88, Cornelius & Anthony, La Zona, Nicaraguan cigars | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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