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Commentary: Once Upon a Time in Mexico

15 Mar 2012

Only a couple years ago, Mexican tobacco was quite the rage. It seemed you couldn’t pick up a cigar magazine or check out a new brand without wading through the hype. Features about the Turrents, Mexico’s leading cigar family, and San Andreas morrón wrapper were as common as Black & Mild displays at a 7-Eleven.

Mexican tobacco, the declaration went, was breaking out, no longer consigned to the New York cabbie smoke, Te-Amo. Well, maybe not. I wouldn’t rank the effort with the failed public relations campaigns behind, say, New Coke or Ford’s Edsel. But I also would call it far from successful.

I couldn’t help but recall all this the other day when I was flipping through a reprint of Cigar Journal’s Finest 25 Cigars of 2011. The intro mentioned how impressed the tasting panel was with the number of countries where the cigars’ tobacco originated, including Mexico.

Looking through the list, though, I couldn’t find any that included Mexican tobacco, though there were two with “secret” filler components. So, maybe the Journal knows those are Mexican or, since it was a reprint, the lead-in referred to other cigars in the full issue.

Next, I went through Cigar Aficionado’s top cigars list for 2011 and quickly found one: La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Belicoso with that San Andreas wrapper in the second slot. But that was it. Nothing Mexican was listed in the other 24.

When I went back to CA’s list the year before, there were four in the top 25 with Mexican wrappers, including another size of the La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor.

What does all this prove? I’m not sure. I’d posit that it’s another indication that cigar smokers are discerning, generally make up their own minds, and aren’t particularly swayed by advertising or promotion.

I also think my opinion of Mexican tobacco is probably similar to that of many smokers. I routinely find it to have what I can best describe as an unpleasant dry, dirt taste that more often spoils, rather than enhances, a blend. And while I wouldn’t automatically reject a cigar because it had Mexican tobacco, it likely would drop in consideration.

Sometimes I’m surprised to discover that a cigar I enjoyed contains Mexican tobacco; more often, I find it’s in a stick I didn’t particularly like.

What do you think?

George E

photo credit: Ben Miller

11 Responses to “Commentary: Once Upon a Time in Mexico”

  1. MA Hoffman Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 7:18 am #

    Agree whole-heartedly. Mexican tobacco is by and large second rate.

  2. Tore Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    illusione maduro's are rare but have a mexican wrapper, and they arent bad

  3. Mike Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 9:33 am #

    Don't a lot of cigars have a bit of Mexican tobacco in the filler? Cameroon Partagas does, I know.

  4. Truth teller Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    Well everyone says Padron 26 and 64 Maduro use Mexican wrappers.

    • Patrick Semmens Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

      I've heard such rumors too, but the Padrons have never confirmed it and they are still widely reported as a Nicaraguan puro.

      Regardless of the truth of that particular bit of hearsay, its certainly possible that some makers are using Mexican leaf but not telling it because of the reputation. It makes you wonder if its the taste and quality of the leaf, or just marketing that gives Mexican tobacco a bad reputation.

  5. Rocky Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    I don't place a lot of faith in reviews by Cigar Journal or Cigar Aficionado. But, based on experience, I do take the reviews at this site into serious consideration when it comes to cigar purchases.

    That said, George, I think it would be interesting for you to investigate how cigars with Mexican tobacco have fared here at Off the top of my head, I can recall the Murcielago and the new Ortega Serie D to both be highly rated — and they both have Mexican wrappers.

    Thanks for the commentary and content, as always.

    • George E. Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

      You're right about the Murcielago and SG's ratings. It's done well. Remember, though, there are 3 or 4 of us reviewing cigars. That's why we're always careful to put our names on individual reviews so readers will know who is saying what. I don't think I've ever reviewed the Murcielago and, frankly, am not particularly fond of it. I haven't smoked the new Ortega. And just the other day I wrote favorably about the La Gloria Cubana Artesanos Retro Especiale Cubano that includes Mexican tobacco in its double binder.

  6. Patrick Ashby Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

    I like this piece and the discussion. Unlike George, though, I feel like I'm starting to develop a taste for Mexican tobacco. And I do particularly like Ortega's new Serie D.

  7. Swede214 Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

    When I was smoking cigarettes, the cigar that I smoked back then was Te-Amo, what did I now, it tasted good to me, a little strong, but out on the golf course, it was fine. Have not smoked one in twenty- five years, I wonder how one would taste today. George did mention about the Te-Amo in his opening remarks, that is what made me think about Mexican tobacco,just thought I'd add my two cent's in.

  8. cigarfan Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 10:53 pm #

    A few other tasty blends that use San Andres maduro wrappers: Undercrown, Montecristo Reserva Negra, Omar Ortez Original Maduro, and Sabor Cubano (made by La Tradicion Cubana.) I think the Mexican marron wrappers on those cigars rival the best CT broadleaf.

  9. Sean Monday, October 7, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

    There is nothing inherently wrong with Mexican Tobacco. Don Pepin's blends for Ashton, the La Aroma de Cubas, use quite a bit of Mexican, or San Andreas, wrappers and are a great smoke for those looking for something along the lines of padron, at a lower price point. I've drifted away from those fuller bodied, spicy, sticks toward more mild to medium sticks with greater balance and more complexity (think graycliff, Davidoff, Ashton heritage), but when I feel like a fuller stick, I can name a few sticks in my humidor with Mexican wrappers that aren't bad. Moreover, quality of the tobacco and your palate are different things. Padron, for instance, uses very high quality tobacco and their construction is not bad. It's just not what I like most of the time. Good tobacco can be blended in a way you do not like. I know a guy who does not like Connecticut wrappers-not that he thinks they are bad or anything, he just doesn't like the flavor and finish. But for all the great tobacco and blenders, there is always stuff that is not made well. Mexican tobacco go a bad reputation in the 80s/90s, and a lot of what it is now used in is cheap cardboard used in mobile station blunts, in cigarettes, which on an industry level uses low quality tobacco, and there is very little of it in a cigarette anyway.