By Russ Ouellette
As a rule, I dislike the proclamation of any product as "Best Something of the Year". It’s especially annoying when it regards something that has to be judged as subjectively as a cigar. If I have any knowledge of the subject, I usually find fault in these kinds of selections. Well, Cigar Aficionado just picked the Alec Bradley Prensado Churchill as Cigar of the Year for 2011, so it’s my duty to take another look at this award-winner.
This box-pressed 7 by 48 Churchill makes a very nice presentation with its silky, rich chocolate brown, long-fermented Corojo 2006 wrapper from Honduras’s Trojes region, and an elaborate but still elegant band. The cigar is firm and even, and the visual cues present a feeling of overall quality – small veins, almost seamless wrapping and a solid cap. The aroma of the unlit cigar is somewhat sweet and very rich.
I cut the cigar with a Palio, shaving the top third of the cap off. The pre-light draw was slightly firm but free, and had a nice aged tobacco note. I toasted the foot and lit the cigar, taking pleasure in the dense blue-white smoke.
I have to take a sidebar here: I don’t know if it’s something that I’ve been doing wrong, but I’ve always have a problem getting box-pressed cigars to burn evenly, and my experience with the Prensado was no different. In the first inch, the cigar had a noticeably crooked start, but as is not uncommon with a well-made stick, it evened out relatively quickly.
The initial flavor profile is one of smooth, deep coffee with a sweet wood undertone, but what really grabbed me was a very pleasant roasted nut flavor on the finish of each puff. This was a new experience for me. There have been a number of smokes I’ve had over the years where the finish is a bit different from the taste of the smoke itself, but I found this cigar’s aftertaste to present a dramatically different counterpoint.
The makeup of the Prensado is 100% Honduran and Nicaraguan leaf (Honduran wrapper, Nicaraguan binder, blended filler), and this particular mixture lends itself to some other unusual characteristics. Beside the very satisfying finish, this medium to full bodied smoke lacks the strong spice normally found in a cigar of this type. In my experience, a blend with this level of richness almost always has some peppery or spicy "zip," but as I smoked this Churchill, the core flavors remained dominant, intensifying along the way. The coffee flavors developed from a medium-bodied to a dark-roasted character, while the woodiness developed into a cedar note with a bit of leather. The roasted nut aftertaste became more like that of smoked almonds.
After the first inch, the burn was razor-straight all the way, and the draw was flawless. The aroma was smoother and more sophisticated than most, with little or no harshness. In the homestretch, the flavor became solidly full-bodied, but never overpowering.
This is a gorgeous cigar, and that gets it a 14 out of 15 for appearance. The construction was spot-on, and except for the momentary glitch early on, which as I mentioned, could just be me, it burned perfectly all the way, earning it 32 out of 35. The flavor was so unique that I really had it give it some thought. I definitely enjoyed the variety of tastes, but the different elements were so well integrated and lacking harshness that it represented a singular experience for me. I had to wrestle with my judgment a little, finally settling upon 46 out of 50. This makes a total of 92 points, which is as high a rating as I have given any cigar. It’s exceptional.
Do I agree that this is 2011’s Cigar of the Year? At certain times, depending upon my mood, it would rank right up there, but at other times there are options I would choose over it. That’s the main reason I chafe at these annual "beauty pageants." Still, by any measure, the Alec Bradley Prensado Churchill is a terrific cigar. Rather than give it a title, I’d rather just smoke another one, thank you.
Overall rating: 92
7 x 48
Wrapper: Trojes, Honduras (Corojo 2006 Seed Strain)
Filler: Trojes, Honduras, Nicaragua
Made in: Danli, Honduras
The following 1 minute, 30 second video clip has Alan Rubin talking about the Prensado Cigar.
|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.|