JFR Maduro

25 Feb

Blender: Arsenio Ramos
Maker: Casa Fernandez/ Tabacalera Tropical
Filler: Nicaraguan
Binder: Nicaraguan
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano Maduro
Flavors: Tangy maduro, dried fruits, earthy spice → cocoa, citrus, coffee
Draw/Volume/Strength: 0 / +1 / 3
Rating: 9.0

Shop local. There are a thousand reasons to get the things you need every day close to home, and even more reasons to get the things you only need once in a while close to home, too. Now, by “close to home,” I don’t mean at the big-chain grocery store up the street, although for most of us, that’s often necessary. What I mean is, try to support your LOCALLY OWENED businesses as much as possible.

Photo of JFR Maduro Robusto (5½x50) showing details of head and foot

JFR Maduro Robusto (5½x50)

Contrary to appearances, the Cigar Sasquatch doesn’t make a living writing cigar reviews (oh, if only!). As a small business owner who competes with big-name chains, I can only tell you that what you save in price at a chain is often lost in quality and service. And maybe that doesn’t mean as much to some people as it formerly did, but when it comes to providing customized services, your locally-owned businesses can beat the chains every time.

There’s a big debate among cigar smokers about buying on line or from so-called “Brick and Mortar” shops, and like most cigar lovers, I do both. As you can imagine, I visit a lot of cigar shops. I mean a lot. Any time I’m looking for new blends to try, I usually hit of a few local shops to get a handful of singles. It gets me out of the house, and keeps me up to date on new releases and special editions. And while I’m fortunate to have a nearly ideal cigar setting at the Sasquatch Cave, I also like to visit a lounge or two from time to time. And when I do, I always (let me repeat), I ALWAYS buy cigars from the lounge. But there are times when you just have to buy on line.

Let me start by saying, I realize that my case may be unique. I often labor under the idea that everybody buys massive quantities of cigars, stores them for years in a thousand-count humidor, and smokes them by the fist-full. I recognize this may be a faulty assumption, but be that as it may, I do buy and smoke a lot of cigars. So it just doesn’t make sense for me to get them all at B+Ms. I’d like to say that I only get box quantities on line, but the truth is, I pick up an occasional 5-pack as well, when I can bundle the shipping with other orders (or even get free shipping). I’m just not willing to buy one 5-pack on line, and then pay $6 to ship it.

The JFR line was originally intended to be sold through “Brick and Mortar” retailers only (JFR = Just for Retailers), although by now, it’s readily available at a number of on-line retailers as well (I guess that says something about distribution channels in 2012). These unbanded, uncellophaned cigars are hand made by Casa Fernandez at their Tabacalera Tropical in Esteli, Nicaragua, and are available in a dusky Corojo or a rich Habano Maduro. I selected the Maduro Robusto (5½x50).

The blend features all Cuban-seed Nicaraguan tobaccos, covered in a beautiful cocoa-hued maduro wrapper, and finished in a tight little knotted pigtail and untrimmed foot. The cold draw is slightly tight, but don’t fret; the untrimmed foot restricts airflow until the instant you hold a flame to it.

And speaking of that untrimmed foot, I’ve heard some discussion about how to handle it, whether to trim it or to leave it, and if you leave it, how to light it. Allow me to settle the matter. You don’t need to trim it, and the lighting couldn’t be simpler. In fact, you don’t even have to toast it. Just take your torch or a match to it, and puff away. It should light right up, and the first burst of flavor you experience will be pure maduro wrapper. Delicious.

The first flavors are a nice tangy maduro, with a little spice and an earthy texture, over a background of dried fruits. The cigar is tightly rolled, firm but supple, and the draw is dead-even (0) from a cap cut, producing a hearty smoke volume (+1) of moderate strength (3).

By mid way, it adds a contrasting mix of mellow cocoa and crisp citrus to the palate, smoothing away a bit of the spice, but staying rich and interesting. The burn wandered slightly in the first third, but straightened out after some minor touch-ups. The salt-and-pepper ash is slightly flat but nicely scaled, holding to just under an inch. By the end, the prominent flavors are the maduro sweetness, and the rich coffee flavors, on a mellow finish. It smokes to a cool inch and a half nub in about 75 minutes.

Overall I rate this cigar 9.0. The simple presentation aside, the flavors are complex and highly enjoyable, remaining good despite some burn trouble and necessary touch-ups. I regrettably had only one of these to smoke, but I’d like to smoke a few more to gauge the consistency.

So it seems this experiment that is JFR cigars is both a success and a work-in-progress. The paired down presentation balanced against beautiful detailing in the construction of the cigar, and the B+M vs. on-line debate, demonstrate the dynamics of the modern marketplace, pairing the desire to shop local against the realities of price and availability. In the end, I encourage you to do what you can to support locally owned businesses, because small business is the linchpin of economic growth in your community.

Until next time, this is the Cigar Sasquatch saying, “Love what you smoke, and smoke what you love.”

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