Welcome to another Member sponsored Geek Critique generously sponsored by our member tuck0411 (Todd). The cigar provided for this round is the French Collection (by Jochy Blanco) Cardinal Mazarin.
Jochy Blanco is a fourth-generation tobacco grower, a second-generation cigar maker, and the the CEO of Tabacalera Palma. Jochy visits France from time to time to explore vineyards and 300-year-old churches. On a trip about 5 years ago he visited an art gallery, and noticed many Old Master painters focused on religious figures as their subject matter. He was intrigued and started to research these figures, mostly cardinals. He became inspired to make cigars named after a few of them, that would pair well with wines. Art inspiring art. His ode to France and its rich history of wine, art and culture. No one could understand the branding, so he decided against selling them as a line, but these cigars were so damn good Jochy didn't mind taking up some space and aging them for his own stash. Privada Cigar Club came along and was able to get their hands on these to sell.
|This cigar was enjoyed with Blanton's|
Pre-Light: 8 Points of 10 Possible
The cigar has a gold paper sleeve and a purple and gold band. The exposed head is a medium brown color, has a little tooth, not much oil, and has a nice sweet honey and cedar aroma. The sleeve slides off easily revealing the rest of the stick, similar but not as strong an aroma as the head. There are no soft spots, and judging by the weight in the hand and the roll at the foot it seems well packed but not overly packed. The seams are visible but it still appears well rolled. The wrapper has one somewhat prominent vein but other than that very minor veining.
I was surprised when I looked up this cigar and saw it was supposed to be 56 ring. By the looks of it I would say it's a 52 ring.
Lighting and Burn: 8 Points of 15 Possible
The cigar lit just fine with a torch lighter. For the first 1.5 inches it burned beautifully, nice and straight. The ash was a brick, no flaking, and was a consistent light grey color. The middle half of the cigar did not burn well. I noticed when the ash fell at 1.5 inches that the cone was tucked under the wrapper. At that point I normally would have done a purge to re-engage the wrapper but the wrapper was having issues so I didn't think that positive pressure on the shaft would be a good move. The burn had to be corrected at least three times in that middle half from being lopsided, and just trying to get that wrapper to burn. Once I got past the wrapper issues the burn returned to performing just fine.
The smoke volume was medium on average, medium to full when burning right on 2nd puffs.
Construction: 18 Points of 30 Possible
The draw was way too tight after giving the stick a V cut so I went to a straight cut. No real improvement so I had to bore out a half inch at the head and then the draw was still on the tight side but probably smokable. The cap handled those two cuts and the bore beautifully. Upon lighting I was able to pull smoke through the shaft without too much puffing so the tighter draw didn't significantly affect things as far as I could tell. That resistance remained until the end of the smoke.
The wrapper is where this really loses some big points. About a half inch into the smoke I noticed a split in the wrapper along a minor vein about half way up the shaft. Fortunately it turned 90 degrees and I kept the band on as long as I could so it didn't continue to propagate. However, as the burn line progressed two more smaller cracks appeared about where the band was. It seems the wrapper just couldn't handle the expansion from the heat for some reason. Maybe this plus the tighter draw indicates the cigar was overpacked and expanded more than intended.
Flavor and Aroma: 30 Points of 45 Possible
Strength of the cigar was medium-full I would say, leaning toward the medium side of that. The body was medium as well. It wasn't what I'd call a smooth smoke, but not caustic either.
Upon lighting I'm immediately greeted with a flavorful start: plenty of nice black pepper spice immediately on the front of the tongue and again in the back of the throat, along with some tannin and tobacco, with maybe a touch of walnut. The retro is a wonderful floral/cedar sweetness. Some mild spice quickly appears in the retrohale. The spice has a drying effect in the palate but I'm enjoying the bold start. At a half inch in it's almost like the initial retro and the palate mix has flipped as I'm getting some sweetness on the draw and spice on the retro. The walnut moves closer to the front of the flavor profile as well. The retro picks up something zesty at about ¾ inch and there's a nice tobacco finish on the retro now, sign of some strength picking up. At about an inch in the profile seems to balance out between the palate and the retro, both have some sweetness and spice, and overall the spice has backed off some, leaving a nice balance of sweetness, spiciness, and what I'll call wrinkle nut (pecan/walnut). This cigar is handling a whiskey pairing very nicely.
Once the burn issues start in the middle half the spice picks back up on the palate as at the start but the other flavors are fading and the flavor is becoming one dimensional, I'm sure this has everything to do with the wonky burn. The sweet and nutty flavors continue to fade into spice, tobacco, and some bitterness.
At the conclusion of the burn issues, call it the last quarter, some of the nice sweet and nutty flavors returned, to a degree. At about 1.5 inches let it was getting hot and harsh so I ended it, right around 90 minutes or so.
Thanks to Todd for letting me give this one a try. I definitely saw the potential for an enjoyable smoke in that first third, but unfortunately mine had construction issues that plagued it the rest of the way and it really dinged the score. I look forward to seeing what the other's experience was on this.