By Russ Ouellette
In recent years, the Alec Bradley line of cigars has carved out a solid niche in the market, starting with the Maxx and Tempus series and building through the Family Blend, SCR and American. They now have an intriguing new entry called the Black Market.
The cigars are visually striking in their packaging and in the appearance of the vitolas themselves. The lower half of the cigar is covered with a printed paper band, which partially covers a secondary band. When the lower sleeve is slipped off, a thin band surrounding the center is exposed. The wrapper itself is dark, silky and attractive, looking nearly seamless with minimal veins, and feeling firm and consistent in the hand.
An earthy barnyard aroma is evident on the pre-light, and the draw prior to lighting up revealed elements of coffee and nuts. After toasting the foot and lighting, I was surprised with the initial flavor. It reminded me of a nice black medium-roast coffee, like a Costa Rican blend- slightly sweet in an almost herbal way with an underlying spice that is more like Italian-type flavors than pepper.
There’s a remarkable pleasant acidity that I found interesting with a mildly sweet finish that segues into a basil-like hint. The burn was virtually flawless, and the quality of the cap indicates the skill of the roller. The aroma was enjoyable with a sweet wood note. The woodiness soon translates into a bit of an oak and cedar flavor that lies just underneath the coffee flavor that gets more pronounced around the second half of the cigar. The only negative, and a slight one at that, is that in the last couple of inches, the cigar can get a little hot, but that’s certainly not uncommon.
The one that I smoked was a 6 by 50 toro, and it was solid all the way in terms of construction with a firm, consistent feel that inspires confidence in the craftsmanship. What makes this cigar stand out is that nothing stands out. Let me explain- there’s no single element of the cigar that takes center stage. The appearance is as good as anything else I’ve seen, the flavor and aroma are nicely unified with no harshness and nice medium-bodied flavors that remain consistent and the burn is spot on. In spite of all that, this cigar is not the spiciest, strongest, cheapest or most expensive. It doesn’t blow up your taste buds or nose, yet it is refined and enjoyable from start to finish.
The appearance was good enough to get a 14 out of 15 on my scale, and the workmanship gets a solid 33 of 35. When you add in a flavor/aroma score of 45 out of 50, the aggregate is a 92 out of a hundred, and when you factor in the fact that the price puts it in the lower end of the mid-range, this cigar represents an outstanding value for the dollar. With this latest entry, Alec Bradley continues a great streak as they re-invent their product line. Black Market is another winner; time to light up.
Overall rating: 92
6 x 50
Filler: Panama, Honduras
Made in: 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.|