Posted by Jack | in Epicurean Cigars | on 03 Apr 2014 | at 7:18 AM | 2422 views
Epicurean Cigars is really starting to shine for House of Emilio.  Owner, Steven Ysidron's approach to small batch cigars is very much like fine wine vintages....and each of his products has that " once they are gone they are gone forever" kind of feel to it.  His latest creation takes rare cigars to another level....
The subject of this review is the fourth cigar Steven Ysidron has added to his catalog.  The prior three, AG Vintage 2007, AG Azul, and Gonzo Vintage 2007, have all rated in the 90's on my blog.  Over the past several months, I have chatted with Steven often and watched as he posted updates and information about the Gonzo Santeria on Facebook.  It has been a labor of love and to see the reactions the cigar has already received in reviews and the from the public have been incredible.  The Santeria is a very rare cigar, folks.  Only 150 fifty count boxes of three sizes exist.  That is 22,500 cigars in total.  That may seem like a big number but if you think about the millions of cigar smokers in this country alone....many people will probably never get to try the Santeria.  A sad thought.  Hopefully that - and this review - will energize you to get your hands on some of these and hoard them.  So, without further ado, let's get smoking....
Construction: The Santeria Heina is a toro sized cigar with a square box press that is fairly crisp.  The cap is finished with a great pigtail and the wrapper leaf shows some minor seams and vein structure.  There is a vintage or rustic appearance to this cigar which feels lovingly hand made.  The band is a simple gloss black with an oval on the back showing off the Santeria logo.  Overall a very nice looking cigar.
Pre-light Aroma and Draw: Out of the cellophane, I get notes of rich soil, cocoa, and some mild raisin.  The draw is absolutely perfect.
Light and Burn: As I smoked my way through the Heina, the burn line stayed razor sharp with a very soft and delicate light gray ash.
Tasting: Starting off the Santeria shows itself to be a smoke bomb.  Clouds of aromatic white smoke just billow from this cigar.  Notes of earth, black pepper, and cocoa start off the Santeria in terrific fashion.  I get sweet notes of vanilla and caramel too.  The flavors are already very dense and rich.  Great start!
The first third gives off notes of black coffee, cream, and cocoa around a very rich earthy core.  I have tried several cigars in the past few months employing the Mexican San Andres wrapper leaf and I have found many of them to be very spicy.  I am pleased to report that is not the case here...the Santeria is...what is the best word for it?  ....Elegant.  Steven has done a superb job at balancing the usual strength of the San Andres leaf with an elegant amount of body and flavor without overpowering the palate.  We'll call it medium bodied so far.  A nice dried fruit note starts to show up as the middle of the cigar approaches.
The middle third moves the cocoa to the front.  It is still creamy smooth too.  There is still nothing overpowering about this cigar.  Balance is the name of the game.  As the creaminess, sweet flavors, and dried fruit notes mingle together they create a very delicious undertone that really shows off the complexity of the Santeria.  So what do we have going so far?  Earth, coffee, cocoa, cream, fruit, and touches of caramel underneath.  Simply outstanding.
A very sad final third has arrived.  You know you have a good cigar when you look around on it for a reset button so you can smoke it over again.  The flavors take another turn here and the coffee notes come to the front a bit more.  The creaminess and cocoa notes still play a big part of the flavor and the dried fruit drops away.  There are notes of cinnamon and some nice herbal spices to be found too.  The balance continues to be terrific and the long and sweet finish ends this beautiful cigar nicely.
The Santeria stays cool to the nub and never gets harsh nor does it every become overpowering.  Easily one of the best I have smoked this year.
Value: The Heina will run you around $12.  If you factor in how rare it is, that price is terrific.
Final Thoughts: Steven has a masterpiece on his hands.  The blending is superb and the complexity, construction, and presentation couldn't be better.  I can see this cigar aging very nicely too.  The flavors are already married well and should only add to the complexity in the coming months and years.  I asked Steven the other day what he considered the best size of the Santeria and he stated...very quickly, I might add...that the Ruca (corona size) is the one he prefers.  With that kind of endorsement, how can you not grab a few?  If your local shop hasn't ordered them tell them to hurry.  Without a doubt, I highly recommend this cigar.
Wrapper: Mexican San Andres
Binder: San Andres and Jalapa double binder
Filler: 2009 Nicaragua Jalapa and Condega
Size: 6 x 52 box press
After many months of waiting, the Santeria is actually here!
The band is similar to the Gonzo Vintage 2007 - quite a unique shape actually.
Awesome pigtail cap
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