I generally don’t smoke Connecticut Shade-Grown wrapped cigars, as I find them to be a bit light for my tastes, but every so often I’ll try one that has an unusual binder/filler combination that promises to make it particularly satisfying. I just found one of those— the Alec Bradley Maxx Connecticut.
The particular stick I tested was The Culture, a 6.5 by 54 toro gorda. The wrapper was typical of top-quality Connecticut; thin, a light golden color and few noticeable veins. The aroma of the unlit cigar was hay-like with a little earthiness. I used a double guillotine to shave the top of the cap as I don’t like punches for larger ring gauges. The pre-light draw was free and easy, almost a bit too easy, but the cigar was uniformly firm, so my concerns were somewhat assuaged. The same notes I detected in the unlit aroma returned; hay and earth, with an additional grassy element creeping in. I toasted the foot and lit up.
The first few puffs exhibited a unique flavor profile. I got more of the hay and grass notes (in a pleasant, not-too-bitter herbal way), plus an oaky hint with some leather. Although I expected a mild smoke, the Costa Rican binder and Columbian, Mexican, Honduran and Nicaraguan filler blend raised the power up to a medium-strength level, with more body than the vast majority of blond wrapper cigars.
The chunky stick turned out to be quite well-made, and burned nicely straight. The flavor became richer and fuller, while maintaining the same profile, but about an inch into the cigar, a mild white pepper note popped up and remained for the rest of the journey, though never in an intrusive way. The oak element became a bit more like cedar after the first half, but the balance stayed true.
The smoke had a light aroma, but lingered for a while, and I was pleased with the thick and creamy clouds. In the last third, a bitter element developed that I found somewhat discordant with the rest of the flavors, and the intensity toward the end didn’t help with those clashing tastes.
In summary, a mostly positive experience that would have been better if I had stopped just before the burn reached the band. The appearance was nice, even though the band is rather ordinary looking. I’ll give it 12 out of 15.
The construction was solid, and the burn was true, so there’s no fault to be found here, earning it 32 out of 35. Just a little note here: As with most Connecticut-grown shade wrappers, the leaf is extremely thin and fragile, almost like onion skin, so care must be exercised in handling the cigars or cracked, flaking wrappers will be the result.
I expected to give the flavor and aroma a superb score, but that last hint of bitter herbs near the end sullied the experience. I would have written it off as an anomaly, but I smoked a second, and it happened again within a quarter-inch of the same spot. For that reason, I can only give the flavor and aroma a 40 of 50, for a still respectable 84. The experience may be a bit different with some of the other vitolas in the line; one of the other shapes might deliver a better (or worse) smoke.
Overall rating: 84
Binder: Costa Rica
Filler: Columbia, Nicaragua, Mexico, Honduras
|Russ Ouellette is the blender/creator of the Hearth & Home series of pipe tobaccos for Habana Premium Cigar Shoppe and www.pipesandcigars.com in Albany, NY. He has been a cigar smoker and pipe tobacco blender for over 30 years. Russ will be contributing articles in several areas starting with reviewing cigars that are the best bang for the buck – something we anticipate many readers will be interested in during these challenging economic times.|