When I went to meet my friend and her husband in Havana recently I was really looking forward to catching up, enjoying a cigar and a drink (or two… or three), and chatting about this and that. My friend Danays Leon is one of a select few women who are full-fledged Habanos Sommeliers, and it was she who invited me last year to the Balcon de Habanos… possibly the best cigar event I have ever attended.
As is tradition among cigar smokers, neither of us came empty handed. Danays and her husband brought me two Habanos cigars – the extremely popular Montecristo #2, and a Ramon Allones Regional Edition from Cono Sur – the southern cone of South America. I smoked both of them as we sat on the patio of a local restaurant drinking mojitos and enjoying the company and conversation. It was a beautiful evening, and I had been looking forward to finally meeting her new husband, Dorin.
As will always happen when cigar enthusiasts meet, we discussed what cigars we had been enjoying recently, and as I was sitting with a true professional, we discussed different pairings with wines, whiskies, and rums. For her to ask my opinions on pairings was an honour, and I did my best to represent as well as I could. I was adamant that a Montecristo Edmundo needed a fine Islay Malt to pair properly, because the spices would overpower a Highland or Speyside.
When Danays and Dorin pulled out a bag of non-Cuban cigars I was surprised… only once in my journeys to Cuba has anyone offered me an NC. Danays pulled out a cigar with a blue label that I recognized from only one place -her Facebook page. I had never given it any thought before, but for her to hand it to me made me ask.
“This is our cigar. My husband’s name is on the band.” I read it closely and sure enough it read: Don Dorin Potolinca, Duke of Sperlinga. Excuse me, I did not realize I was sitting with European royalty! It seems that Dorin and Danays were building a cigar brand and they wanted my honest opinion on this, their first offering. I promised I would take it home with me and smoke it on the patio one day, when I could give it my honest opinion and full attention.
From first light I tasted the pepper, reminiscent of a Montecristo yet very different. As I smoke the first half I try to place the fruitiness of the smoke, which is as obvious as it is subtle. In the retrohale I am getting notes of a very pleasant bitter apple, possibly a hint of citrus and plums. There is a definite aftertaste that is very creamy, like I had a drink of a liqueur that left a few drops on my cheek.
The construction of the cigar is excellent; it smokes evenly from beginning to end without need to relight or touch up. I tapped the ash every two centimetres or so, but I had a sense that it could have held on much longer. It burns a very light grey – nearly white – and there is not even a hit of coning, caving, or canoeing. In short, it burns nearly perfectly from start to finish.
The smoke is smooth and creamy… and plentiful. The draw is neither tight nor too loose; my friend Josh likes to use a PerfectDraw tool on all of his cigars for a looser draw, but I wouldn’t imagine he would need it with this.
The second half of the cigar the flavour alters somewhat; the draw is smoother, less peppery, with notes of leather. The retrohale is now spicier, and tickles the nose a bit. It is well balanced, and certainly an enjoyable smoke.
The only caveat that I have with this cigar is that I only have the one, and it is hard to write a fair and balance review from a single cigar. I generally like to smoke a few of any vitola before giving an opinion… but because the owner is a friend, I’ll make an exception, just this once 😉
As I sit on my patio blowing smoke rings (thanks, Greg…) I remember our conversation from that day earlier this month. Dorin and Danays are working hard with their blender and torcedors in Dominican to produce a high quality cigar that will impress royalty while staying within reach of the rest of us. How appropriate, from a couple where the Duke married a Cuban commoner (who I suppose is now a Duchess… will I have to bow the next time we meet?)
The size is right in my wheelhouse… 6″ by 50 ring gauge. It is not a lunchtime cigar by any means, rather a cigar to be enjoyed on a patio with a nice coffee or rum. Budget about an hour for the cigar, which puts it in the Goldilocks Zone – not too big, not too small. It’s gauge made it ideal for my Xikar 11mm punch, and it smoked like a dream.
Is it a Habanos cigar? No. In my experience, while there are some excellent non-Cuban cigars on the market, none compare with a fine Cuban. I wouldn’t usually the usual analogy that even if you love steak, there is nothing wrong with a hamburger. More accurately, I would say that while my diet consists of a lot of rib steaks, sometimes I enjoy a nice piece of salmon. It is not necessarily that one is inferior to the other, but it is certainly noticeably different.
I don’t know when Sperlinga Cigars will be widely available to North American markets, but I would keep an eye out for them… I am not usually a fan or Dominican cigars, but when they are available I will certainly have a box in my humidor at all times.