23 Jan 2014
The cigar industry’s two heavyweights, General and Altadis, don’t have to worry about overall sales. With best-selling brands like Macanudo and Montecristo, they dwarf nearly all the other purveyors of premium, hand-rolled cigars.
But neither firm is coasting. The landscape these days is littered with former giants that once dominated their fields and appeared to have no sales concerns. Just check out Sears or Kodak or Blockbuster. So, like their behemoth brethren in the beer-brewing industry who are fighting small craft bottlers, General and Altadis are determined to keep the boutique brands just that. Of course, there are about as many ways for big companies to react to creative competition as there are consultants ready to advise them. One of the most popular paths: create an entrepreneurial, “start up” mentality among existing divisions. That seems to be the route General’s taken with La Gloria Cubana since Ernesto Perez-Carrillo left in 2009.
Let’s face it, though. Getting the small, but often influential, number of passionate smokers who blog and Tweet and podcast about cigars to try a General or Altadis product is a challenge. General has tried hard, with extraordinary booths at IPCPR, seemingly unending local events, cranking up its social media presence, and making interesting cigars with low prices.
With La Gloria, flamboyant team leader Michael Giannini exploded its storied role in the 1990s boom to develop an almost experimental brand that offers nearly endless possibilities. General’s website shows 14 different La Gloria lines with all sorts of tobacco combinations, shapes, and packaging.
The Serie R Estelí line is a B&M exclusive that comes in three large ring gauges, this 54 being the smallest. Size is one thing that sets it off from its online sibling, the Serie R Black, which sports even bigger ring gauges.
I’ve smoked about 10 of these, several of them gifts from General and the others purchased at a local shop where they list for about $6.50 each. All the sticks generated lots of smoke, burned excellently, and were remarkably consistent in everything from performance to the appearance of the reddish Jalapa Sol wrapper. I’ve also smoked a couple of the 60s and found them similar, though a tad spicier.
A Nicaraguan puro, the Estelí has a nice, rich pre-light aroma from the wrapper, while the filler’s bouquet is reminiscent of pipe tobacco.
Spice and pepper are plentiful in the beginning of the No. 54, shifting down a little at about the halfway point. Along the way, I picked up some sweetness, wood, and a little leather. I encountered none of the harshness I typically associate with the regular Serie R line. The Estelí is smooth with a fine finish.
If you routinely smoke boutique brands from Nicaragua, you should give the Estelí a try. I know I’ll continue to smoke them. I give the La Gloria Cubana Serie R Estelí No. 54 four stogies out of five.
[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]
photo credit: Stogie Guys