Friday, October 22, 2010

Ashton ESG Churchill
Size: 6.75 x 49
Tobacco: Dominican puro
Price: $16.36 (CigarsDirect), $19 (retail)

CigarsDirect sent me two of these cigars, a churchill and a bellicoso. Shaun B. was down in Memphis for his son’s baptism so we celebrated with a glass of 18-year Balvenie and the ESG’s. They were good-looking cigars with no blemishes or veins. The wrapper is a dark sun-grown Dominican. Pre-light taste was salty, with a promising but not overpowering aroma. Construction was flawless. Both cigars lasted about 90 minutes, with no touch-ups or canoes.

This was my first Ashton, and it challenged my assumptions about the brand. I don’t know why, but I’ve always thought premium Ashtons (not the Benchmade line) were mild, positioned to be competitors to Davidoff. But this cigar began with a burst of spice, sort of medium-to-full, and it gradually intensified until it reached a crescendo in the final inch. A perfect pairing with the smooth, mellow, oaky single malt.

According to, the ESG was created in 2005. It is blended by Carlos Fuente, Jr using wrapper grown exclusively on the Chateau de la Fuente estate. From 2005-10, the company has released one new size per year. As of 2010, all sizes have now been released and will be available going forward.

Since we’re talking about the stratisfied air of Top 5 Cigars I’ve Ever Tried, I feel compelled to rank this one: I’m sliding it in at #4. It lags behind the Padron 1926 and the God of Fire just a tad because it lacks a certain level of complexity. It barely loses a tight race for #3, because it is as close to perfection as I remember the Cuban Monte #2 to be.

G.A.R. by George Rico
Size: 5.5 x 52 (Robusto Grande)
Tobacco: Nicaraguan (filler), Ecuador (binder, wrapper)
Price: $9.46

The G.A.R. line is a relatively new cigar from George Rico, the man behind Gran Habano. Gran Habano tends to fly under the radar; not many know about it, but the Corojo #5 is a consistent winner plagued by occasional tight draws and bad burns. The G.A.R. line is strong and full-bodied. The original blend (which is what I smoked) sports a white label on the foot. There are also two newer extensions: Vanguard (Black band) and LUX (green band).

This cigar, given to me by Cigars Direct, showcases a dark, toothy, oily wrapper. A deep, spicy prelight aroma. Upon lighting it, I was initially impressed by a nice pungent taste, and a rich blast of pepper spice. It was very reminiscent of one of George Rico’s other blends—the Siglos 3.

Unfortunately, like the Siglos 3, the full-bodied taste quickly into a medium-modied mediocrity. The drop-off wasn’t as bad as the Siglos 3, as this cigar still managed a subdued flavor, burned slow and cool, with no construction issues. Pairs well with a single barrel Kentucky bourbon. However, it was slightly disappointing, especially given its rather high price point.

I’m smoking an El Mejor Emerald as I write this review, and I can’t help but notice the tastes are similar. Not bad at all, but I’ll take a $2 El Mejor over a $10 G.A.R. given the similar taste profiles.

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