Cigar Review: Room 101′s San Andres (pre release)

Cigar Review Pre Release San AndresThe other night after the lounge was closed for the evening our staff gathered for a special cigar education class. This was put on by our always generous and attentive representative from Davidoff cigars. He put on a very informative class for us, teaching us all about the history of Davidoff, the various methods used to create all the different cigars under the Davidoff umbrella, and a whole bunch about the process that goes into making the cigars we all enjoy so much. It was great for the staff as a whole, and even though I consider myself pretty darn well versed in cigar knowledge I picked up some interesting tidbits. No matter how many years you’ve been smoking or how much knowledge you have, there is always more to learn when it comes to cigars.

Of course the focus was on Davidoff products, so we started out by smoking the AVO Heritage Series (delicious by the way) and discussing the different aspects of Davidoff, AVO, Griffin’s, Camacho, Room 101, Zino, and many of the other brands in the Davidoff family. It was a great seminar and a great experience for all of us, but the most exciting part for me personally was at the end. Brad told us all about the upcoming release of a new limited edition Room 101 cigar called San Andres. He completed the description by handing out a bundle full of pre-release sample cigars so we can all be familiar with the smoke when it’s released, as well as helping to stem the tide of employees smoking up a large chunk of a limited supply of cigars. The San Andres is the second in what is planned to be a series of small-batch, limited releases from Room 101, and as one of only a few Davidoff Appointed Merchants in the country, we’re going to have access to these very special and rare cigars.

It took some willpower to refrain from immediately firing up my San Andres the minute it was handed to me, but Jason and I decided that since this is such a special cigar, we wanted to make this review special as well. We decided to both smoke the cigar, but separately, not discussing as we smoked so we would each get an unbiased take, and post the results here for all of you. We both came away with different impressions, but with a number of similarities as well. Just goes to show that each smoker’s tastes are different, and that two very cigar-savvy dudes like us could both have a pretty different opinion on the same cigar.

San Andres pre release cigar bandWe were given a pre-release sample smoke in a very interesting 4 x 32 size. The size of the actual release smokes is still unknown. It looked like a nice little smoke, with a smooth, dark-but-not-too-dark wrapper that featured minimal veins and no imperfections. It is topped off with a cool black and red “Pre-Release Sample” band that gave a feeling of exclusivity and reminded me how lucky I am to get to get access to fun cigars like these.

Pre-light the cigar had a pleasant aroma which led me to expect some spice and wood. The initial few puffs delivered the spice in a big way, but it fell off into the background quickly. It was replaced by the wood flavor I smelled pre-light along with a healthy dose of smooth leather flavor that felt like it was coating my mouth in a very pleasant way. The construction was flawless, providing an easy draw that delivered thick puffs of smoke with zero effort. It was about this time that I began to wonder if any of my co-workers at the tasting seminar who picked up a sample would be interested in doing a trade with me.

As I neared the end of the first third, the cigar began to change again, making it clear that this was to be a very complex smoke that covers a variety of ground in the short 4 inch span. This change was to a mellower cigar, the spice fell even farther out of the picture and I got a very smooth and even creamy flavor that came out of nowhere. I wrote “almost buttery” in my notes at this point, it wasn’t quite the usual butter note that I get from some milder Connecticut-wrapped cigars but was more like a souped-up version of that note.

San Andres Pre Release CigarThis smoke doesn’t stay in one place for too long, and as I got deeper into the second third it went through another change. It gained a pretty significant amount of pure strength, going from a decidedly medium body into more medium-full territory. It also gained back some of the spice I noticed earlier on, and it was complemented by a very unique floral note that I really enjoyed, it gave a sensation like sticking your face into a patch of flowers in the middle of spring when they’re just starting to bloom. Unfortunately that flavor didn’t stick around too long, but it was great while it lasted.

The transition to the final third brought some deeper and richer flavors to the forefront of this smoke. I started to get some very nice cocoa notes on the retrohale, and the smooth leather prevalent earlier on made a triumphant return. Complimenting those notes was a very strong and pleasant flavor that I’ll describe as hickory, I was reminded of the sensation of inhaling over a barbecue grill (you know, with real wood charcoal and not that fake stuff) right before you toss the meat on it. Since I love me some barbecue, this was a real highlight of the cigar for me. It was mixed in with a pepper flavor that is also something I very much enjoy in a cigar, and it meshed very well with the hickory to create a very enjoyable section of this cigar. I puffed this one right down to the nub, and I did get a little bitterness at the end, most likely in my opinion from the cigar needing some more age to fully develop. It certainly didn’t harm my overall enjoyment and again, it made me think that I’d like to let a few of these rest in my humidor for a year or two and see what they’re like with some age.

Overall I really enjoyed this cigar, and in addition to some age I’m interested to see what a larger vitola will do for it. Obviously in the small size I had the wrapper flavor was very prevalent, but with the entire blend being so complex I can envision a larger ring-gauge providing even more complexity and variations. I would give this cigar a 7.5 or 8 on my scale of 1-10, and it is definitely one I am looking forward to picking up a few more of when the release hits so I can age them. Nice as it is to smoke in our world-class lounge during working hours, I think this one would be even more appropriate in a different setting – I’m already imagining it paired with an IPA on a summer evening after stuffing my face with barbecue!

From Jason…

San Andres pre release cigarThe cigar I was given as a sample is small, a 4 x 32(?) in my estimation. The appearance is great. The cigar has minimal veining and a nice chocolate color with a well put together triple cap. The cigar is firm and smooth with a matte finish feel to it. The wrapper itself has a cedar aroma while the foot has, for lack of a better term, a cow barn fragrance. It sounds bazaar, but I find that to be a desirable quality in a good maduro. The pre-light draw is a bit lighter than I had expected as compared to the firmness of the cigar. The taste so far is sweet and grassy, also not how I expected it to taste. I had no real expectations of the Room 101 brand because I have not had more than 1 before today, and that 1 was when they were first introduced a few years ago.

For a little something different, Travis and I sat down together to do a dulling review. We unspokenly (making up a new word) decided not to speak to each other during the first 2/3 of the smoke so as not to persuade the other to an opinion.

On the toast, I got what seemed a burst of spice, but after taking a few puffs, I did not notice the spice at all. The retrohale left me with a medium feel and a roasted nut taste. At this point, I would call this cigar smooth and mildly sweet with a hint of cedar. I am noticing a slight off taste that I would describe as tart. I attribute that to the cigar being a little young. I understand that this blend is not due to be released for another month, so it will have that extra time to age and relax. Overall it is not overwhelming in any way and I might not have noticed it at all if I was not trying to pick this cigar apart for a review.

San Andres pre release cigarThere is plenty of thick smoke coming out of this stick quite easily. The ash looks magnificent and is holding on beautifully. The burn is also quite even at this point. I did just notice something I was not expecting, I got a floral note; almost like hops. It only seemed to last one or two puffs and it was gone. I wonder if there was an outside contributing factor that made me notice that. The cigar is developing a mild creaminess also.

Regarding the size, I like this one. At 4 inches it gives enough to taste and understand what you are getting into, but it is short enough to quickly enjoy and move on. I specifically asked the rep what sizes would be available in this extremely limited release, but he told me he did not know. In fact he wasn’t even sure if the size I am smoking would be a production size. If I got a vote, I would be in favor of this one.

About 1/3 in and a coffee not has become present along with a light black pepper spice. The ash has still not fallen off, that is impressive to me. I am also enjoying the fact that the cigar is staying nice and cool and creamy.

Once I reached the ½ way point the ash fell off naturally and I feel like some pressure has been lifted from me to be so careful. I like to give a new cigar a chance to show me what it can do, but I don’t like wearing the ash either. The flavor of this cigar has remained remarkably consistent so far with very little ups and downs. I did have to make a minor touch-up that I think might not have been necessary if I was more patient.

San Andres pre-release cigarThe cigar is starting to get a little warm as I get to the final 1/3 but I am not surprised based on the thinness of the stick. There is a slight flavor change back to a dark coffee. Unfortunately the cigar died on me at about 1” left and I chose not to do a relight.

During the final 1/3, Travis and I began to lift the silence and discuss our thoughts with each other for comparison. I think that also played part in my cigar prematurely extinguishing. Ironically we were joined also at that time by one of our retail floor salesmen, Harry, who was also smoking the same cigar and was about 1/3 in and wanted to join the discussion once he realized we were also smoking one. Strangely enough we all had some things we agreed on as well as significant differences. Harry asked to read my notes to “catch up” and we all chimed in. He asked me about the floral note I experienced, when I found out Travis also noticed it at a similar part which led me to believe it was truly there and not a product of my environment.

Interestingly, we smoked at a very similar pace and seemed to notice it at the same point (about 1/3) so perhaps it was in the room. Harry noticed leather, which is something I did not pick up, them again perhaps I did and didn’t know it. We all remarked on the fantastic construction and wonderful consistency this cigar presents. The conversation then moved on to the future of this cigar and what we hoped for on release day. I was content to see a size similar to the sample, but knew that was unlikely. Harry was hoping to try something in a wider ring gauge, 50-54 ideally. Price was discussed as well, and this is where our combined years of experience came into play. We were not about to begin to speculate an actual MSRP, but we all understood that due to limited availability, the price would be in the premium range.

Despite the consistency and impeccable construction, I don’t know that I would do a revisit on this cigar. It was made incredibly well and I am excited for the release, but something about it just did not do it for me.


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About Travis

I've been smoking and selling cigars for many years. The only thing better than relaxing with a fine cigar after a hard day's work is relaxing with a fine cigar DURING a hard day's work! My all time favorite cigar is the Padron 1964 Anniversary Series with a Maduro wrapper, but my tastes can range all over the place. I mostly enjoy cigars in the medium-full range, but much like my taste in things like music, books and movies I can find something to enjoy in any style as long as there is quality behind it.

Other stuff about me, I grew up in New Hampshire and now reside here in Albany, NY. In my spare time I like to play poker, attend concerts and watch my beloved Boston Red Sox. Follow me on Twitter!

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