10 Apr 2008
When a cigar buddy gifted one of these to me a few weeks back, I didn’t know what to think. You see, I had never smoked a candela before I lit up that stick and two more Don Tomás Candela Robustos for this review.
That shouldn’t surprise most of you. As Cigar Aficionado reported in February 2003, and as Patrick S wrote in March 2007 when he reviewed a Camacho, candelas can be hard to find these days. Funny, especially since such “latter-day oddities” were once the preferred U.S. cigar – so much so, in fact, that the wrappers were dubbed American Market Selection.
Today, Don Tomás is one of the few outfits that furnishes a candela line to the U.S. market. As rare as they might be at your local B&M, you can purchase these online for next to nothing. Boxes of 25 Robustos sell in the $49 to $69 range. Still, the company employs a typical, hyped-up marketing strategy to push its product:
“Some months ago, among a supply of Cameroon wrappers, the people in the cavernous Don Tomás warehouse chanced upon a forgotten lot of three or four bales of candela wrapper. A search through the company files revealed that the bales had been literally lost for 18 years!”
Yeah, right. Not knowing what to expect, I surveyed this five and ½ inch by 50 ring gauge peculiarity to find a pale green wrapper that appears virtually flawless. Given the stogie’s Kermit-like hue, however, I’m not sure I could see any veins if they existed. Still, it seems well built and very firm to the touch.
After carefully clipping the head so as not to damage the fragile wrapper and lighting the foot, I found an extremely mild flavor with notes of grass and sweet hay. Then I was immediately struck by the sheer sensation of smoking a cigar that actually feels like rolled up plant leaves (for those who don’t know, the texture of candela wrappers are truly unique). A bit of the banana peel bitterness that’s characteristic of candelas, or so I’m told, creeps in after the first two inches, but it’s neither chemical-tasting nor obtrusive. The mild Honduran puro wraps up with some spice and olive.
I found the burn to be fairly straight, the white ash to hold firm up to a full two inches, and a moderately easy draw. It’s about an 80-minute journey from light to nub.
I get the feeling candelas are love-it-or-hate-it cigars, but I came away from this experience a bit conflicted. While I enjoyed the flavor and while the physical properties are excellent (especially for the value price), I can’t see myself seeking out another for quite some time. Nonetheless, I would encourage everyone to at least try the Don Tomás Candela Robusto, and I give it a respectable three out of five stogies.
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photo credit: Stogie Guys