27 Apr 2009
It wasn’t so long ago that I named Isla de Cuba, Cuban Crafters, and Bucanero as my favorite boutique manufacturers. Well, after smoking a handful of exceptional cigars from Tesa’s Series Gran Cru line—one of nine blends from the Chicago-based producer—I’m ready to add that company to my short list of top boutiques.
Located in a shop on the Near North Side of the Windy City, Tesa cigars are “meticulously blended by Chicago area resident Chris Kelly and crafted in the Tesa Cigar factory in Estelí.” Their naked, tiger-endorsed blends make use of a variety of enticing wrappers and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua.
The criollo ’98 maduro-wrapped Gran Cru line is no exception. It was created to fill the need for a cigar with balance yet full flavor “without the in-your-face strength,” according to Tesa’s website.
The six inch by 54 ring gauge No. 2, a torpedo-shaped vitola with a beautiful cap, features hearty pre-light aromas of espresso and cocoa. It manages to command attention without flash (or a band for that matter) due to its oily sheen, dark and textured wrapper leaf, and solid cross-section of filler tobaccos. Veins are plentiful but not a cause for concern.
Right off the bat I could tell this cigar had little in common with the Series Finos F500 I reviewed (and loved) earlier this month. While that Connecticut shade smoke is mild and creamy, the Series Gran Cru No. 2 starts with a flavor that instantly reminds me of a 601 Green—specifically, a rich and well-rounded profile of black coffee, roasted nuts, leather, and cocoa bean.
I would say that this cigar, however, is better balanced, complete with subtle nuances that drift in and out. If you pay attention and smoke through the nose, for example, it isn’t difficult to detect a sweet flavor that’s akin to moist chocolate cake. Delicious. And with a fairly straight burn that requires just a few touch-ups, a smooth draw, and a solid ash, the combustion qualities are fine.
One drawback of this outstanding smoke is its limited availability and relatively high cost. As far as I can tell, the only way to get it is to either visit the shop in person or purchase it from Tesa’s online shop for $11.70 per single. Before you dismiss trying this cigar for those reasons—a huge mistake in my opinion—consider that Tesa donates 10% of its profits to benefit the housing, education, and sustenance of the Nicaraguan people.
Still, I realize that’s a lot to pay for a cigar you’ve probably never heard of. Despite that likelihood, I have no reservations about wholeheartedly endorsing the Tesa Series Gran Cru No. 2 and giving it four and a half stogies out of five.
[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]
photo credit: Stogie Guys