13 Oct 2015
The VegaFina brand made by tobacco giant Altadis usually takes a backseat to the more prominent names in the Altadis portfolio, including Montecristo, H. Upmann, and Romeo y Julieta. It’s positioned as more of a value play and marketed with the tagline, “Every day is the perfect time to enjoy a masterpiece.”
In January, VegaFina joined the growing list of brands that have launched line extensions with “Nicaragua” in the name, all of which are clearly aiming to cash in on the popularity of the Central American country that’s known for its strong, rich tobaccos.
Called simply VegaFina Nicaragua, the new series is an “impeccably blended and hand-rolled” cigar with “100% Nicaraguan” tobaccos from “the unique regions of Estelí and Jalapa.” The recipe includes a Habana 2000 wrapper, a Seco binder from Jalapa, and a mixture of Seco, Ligero, and Viso tobaccos.
Three sizes are available: Corona (5.75 x 42), Robusto (5 x 50), and Gran Toro (6 x 52). Each retails for $5.50-6.25 and is made at Altadis’ Tabacalera de García in the Dominican Republic.
The first time I took a Gran Toro out of its cellophane and held the cigar in person, I was taken aback by the color of the wrapper. Perhaps more dramatically than any other cigar I can recall, VegaFina Nicaragua is severely mottled (my picture doesn’t do this justice). There are dark streaks all over the dry surface, giving the Gran Toro an almost zebra-like appearance. I’m not saying this is an indictment of the cigar’s quality, mind you; but I also wouldn’t expect Altadis to include this wrapper on one of its flagship brands.
Once the Gran Toro is lit, delicate pre-light notes of sweet hay and grass give way to a medium-bodied profile of cream, cedar spice, paper, and café au lait. Given the blend’s name and makeup, I was expecting something bolder, spicier, and stronger. That said, the flavor is well-rounded and nuanced, and the texture strikes a surprisingly sophisticated tone.
As the Gran Toro progresses, it becomes clear the central theme is the interplay between the sweet creaminess and the spicy cedar—just the sort of cigar that pairs well with a light sipping rum. Throughout, as is to be expected from Altadis, construction is top-notch with a smooth draw, straight burn line, abundant smoke production, and solid white ash.
Seasoned cigar veterans who stray away from the likes of Altadis and General Cigar will be missing a value-priced smoke that sports great texture, balance, and complexity. Put simply, VegaFina Nicaragua is a good cigar for the money. The Gran Toro is worthy of an admirable rating of three and a half stogies out of five.
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photo credit: Stogie Guys