14 Oct 2013
The fact that Illinois, unlike Virginia, doesn’t have a state-controlled monopoly on the sale of liquor didn’t factor into my decision to move back home to Chicago in 2011. But it certainly didn’t hurt. Liquor store competition generally results in better selection, lower prices, and an overall superior experience. The absence of a state liquor stores was a welcome change.
Our home in the Lakeview neighborhood is a short walk from a Binny’s Beverage Depot, a chain of nearly 30 liquor stores in the Chicagoland area—most of which have a walk-in humidor. While one might expect a liquor store to have a paltry stock of smokes, I’ve consistently found my local Binny’s to have excellent prices and a selection that would be the envy of many stand-alone cigar shops. I can’t go in there to buy libations without perusing the humidor to see what’s new. The whole arrangement is downright dangerous.
One new noteworthy display is the Flor de las Antillas Toro Grande, a cigar that’s crafted exclusively for Binny’s by My Father Cigars. Binny’s is the third tobacco retailer to get its own exclusive Flor de las Antillas vitola, the others being Texas-based Up in Smoke (Lancero) and Philadelphia-based Holt’s Cigar Company (Short Churchill). The formats may be different, but all adhere to the same recipe: a Nicaraguan sun-grown wrapper around Nicaraguan tobaccos.
The box-pressed Toro Grande (6 x 60) retails for $9.70 per cigar, or $174.95 for a box of 20. Only 500 boxes will ever be made for a total run of 10,000 cigars. I sampled four for this review. Each came equipped with a maroon band across the foot, a triple-cap, a firm packing of tobaccos, and pre-light notes of sweet cocoa and earth.
Slightly less awkward in the mouth than a normal 60-ring gauge smoke because of the box press, the Toro Grande starts with a delightful profile of cream, pepper, vanilla, and a spice that reminds me of nutmeg. The texture is bready and a little airy. The midway point witnesses no increase in the medium-bodied profile and more of a focus on coffee and dry wood. The finish is characterized by less sweetness and more bitter notes.
With damn near perfect combustion qualities, the Flor de las Antillas Toro Grande is a solid buy for less than $10—even if its large format means the cigar overstays its welcome a bit. While I’ve never been a big fan of large, thick cigars, I can see myself keeping a few of these on hand for those times that call for extra-long smokes. That results in a rating of three and a half stogies out of five.
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photo credit: Stogie Guys