Gunning for a full-bodied smoke, Pride Cigars Founder/President/Blender Ares Contreras nailed a bulls eye with his husky Bandolero line. I sampled several of the toros in a lineup that also includes a robusto "Billy the Kid" (5 ¼ x 50), torpedo "Jesse James" (6 1/8×52) and super toro "Pancho Villa" (6×60). The Bandolero tobaccos are predominately Dominican, with the addition of some Nicaraguan in the filler. The leaf is aged three years before being completed at Pride Cigar’s Dominican Republic facility. If you want a hearty, yet smooth, cigar, the Bandolero delivers.
Not to overdo the whole cowboy thing, there is a bit of the Old West in the cigar’s appearance. The deep brown colorado wrapper is exceptionally oily, with a fair display of bumps and prominent veins, giving it a slightly rugged look that’s nicely offset by the band, printed with colors reminiscent of a glowing campfire, and crossed by a trusty six-shooter. The cigars come individually cello wrapped in boxes of 20 (of course, sold individually at retailers), and even the boxes play the Wild West card with the outlaw reward stamp burned into the interior of the lid. Overall, a very appealing (if somewhat theatrical) presentation.
The company describes the Dominican Habano wrapper as a natural oscuro, which I interpret as meaning it’s consistent with the rugged, bumpy leaves required to endure the extra processing required to create a maduro wrapper, but it isn’t subjected to the complete process, so it’s lighter in color and less assertive in flavor. It’s not as dark as the typical maduro or black oscuro wrapper, and I really liked the restraint used to create its look and taste. Seldom do you find this treatment for a tough wrapper leaf.
While the wrapper presents a rustic appearance, there’s nothing rustic about the construction, which is firm with the perfect amount of give. The triple-piece cap was generously, if a bit randomly, applied, easily accepting both guillotine or punch cuts while maintaining its integrity. It has great mouth feel and the wrapper contributes a significant amount of rich, unctuous flavor throughout the smoke. The wrapper is perhaps the Bandolero’s most outstanding accomplishment.
This beefy, well-constructed cigar is not easy to light or keep lit, and it wants to take a lopsided approach to burning. The construction uses the old school "entubado" rolling style, in which numerous leaves of the long filler are separately rolled, almost like pancaked straws, and then bunched into the final product and encased in a Dominican binder. While entubado rolling does allow for the complexity of the individual filler tobaccos to come through, if not done carefully, it can also cause a more erratic burn than accordion-bunched fillers. Each tube tends to have a mind of its own. Be sure to roll the cigar carefully while toasting and lighting to get every part of the head burning at the same time or you’ll be in for instant boating.
The cigar starts off with a sinus-tweaking bang of pepper and barnyard (not unusual in a full bodied stogie), but the potent, peppery overture quickly subsides, especially if you give the cigar a few moments to rest. The first third of the cigar is redolent with dry, earthy flavor and no sweetness. It reminds me of a nicely aged Burley pipe tobacco, with a character of hay and forest loam, complemented by pleasing cedar and mesquite notes I assume come from time spent in a cedar-lined marrying room.
There’s a lot of power here, but it’s never overwhelming. The easy draw and excellent construction invites vigorous puffing, but the nuances get lost if you give in to this temptation. As the cigar progresses toward the halfway mark, it tends to start burning unevenly, which I attribute to the entubado rolling, NOT spongy construction. I had to nurse the cigar a bit, burning off a bit of the "overhang" with my lighter and re-shaping the ember on the bottom of the ashtray. It was not a significant issue, although it could be without the benefit of a lighter and ashtray. This characteristic was consistent with every stick.
The cigar also tends to go out within a couple minutes of being left alone. An easy way to remedy this is to sip and savor it like you would a potent single malt whiskey–no furious puffing and no neglect.
The second half of the cigar was a real delight. As the nicotine built, the leathery and earthy character was supplemented by hints of currants, balsamic vinegar and cassia bark. The final third featured a return of a mellow black pepper flavor. While the nicotine contributed to this berry and pepper taste, it was refreshing to find such a full-bodied cigar that didn’t turn tarry or bitter in the home stretch. Nor did the nicotine ever build to the point of being overwhelming.
The Bandolero can be a fine, dense outdoor smoke. You might want to bring along your lighter and a cutter, just in case you need to let it go out, trim off the ragged foot, and re-light if it starts to burn unevenly. A little fussing is worthwhile for the explosion of rich flavor this cigar delivers. For a drink accompaniment, it needs something bold but not as assertive as a high-proof whiskey which might lead to palate overload. It was delightful with a bold black tea and a robust coffee, and I think would also perform nicely with a smooth tequila, medium-bodied red wine, Amontillado sherry, or a slightly sweet fortified wine like Madeira or Port.
Overall rating: 86
6 x 50
Wrapper: Dominican Republic Habano Natural Oscuro
Binder: Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua
Made in: Dominican Republic
More information here: Wild West Lives Again in Bandolero, Pride Cigars’ Latest Boutique Cigar
|Tad Gage is the author of the best selling Penguin Books "The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cigars," in its second edition. The book has sold over 40,000 copies worldwide, in three languages, and is available in stores and online distributors. Tad has made cigar connoisseurship accessible to beginners and veteran cigar smokes alike. He is delighted to answer questions through CigarChronicles.com. Just comment below.|