So, similar to my write-up about my visit to see Hamlet Jaime Paredes for a “Tabaquero” cigar-line promotional evening at a Michigan brick-and-mortar shop back in January, I once again had the chance to go see him for another “Tabaquero” promotional night. Nick Mitchell, the local Rocky Patel rep, had e-mailed me a while before, and gave me a head’s up of another night to visit with my Cuban buddy, this time at a spot a bit closer to me, in wonderful downtown Detroit.
Since emigrating from Cuba to the U.S. in January 2015, Hamlet has been working with Rocky Patel, and the two of them last year released the “Tabaquero” line of cigars, which were Hamlet’s baby under his palate- and blending-prowess. This particular meet-up with Hamlet was again part of his touring program for the brand, and we met up at La Casa in downtown Detroit, MI, and I was able to bring along good brother Don / “Hubba”, from the Friends Of Habanos online cigar forum.
What a venue! I was quite pleased by this locale. Funnily enough, I’ve been to the parking lot right outside of La Casa a number of times – it’s the one I always go to for parking for taking in a Detroit Tigers game, as Comerica Park is literally just a few steps away across the street. It was a nice cigar parlour, with a fairly well appointed shop and humidor downstairs (along with some interesting Xikar pouches, something custom made with a lithograph of a supposed Sylvester Stallone note, but something which the newer gal behind the counter was unable to tell me anything about)…
It also has a nice long main-bar with a good performance area for live jazz bands and the like, and a sparsely laid-out and intriguing upstairs VIP Lounge, with six or so different rooms, an outdoor terrace looking right at the Tigers’ play-place, and a really nicely appointed upstairs bar as well. Comfortable chairs throughout, interestingly and nicely decorated all around, and just a great “vibe” to the place…
As during my January visit with Hamlet I tried one of the “Tabaquero” Toro cigars, this time I went with a Robusto Grande, a 5″ by 54-ring-gauge stick. At only $10.99 USD a stick (prices different in each state due to tax variances), it’s quite a decent value. I started the smoke at 7:05 pm, pairing it at various times with a Captain Morgan dark rum & Coke, then a straight Zacapa 23 rum, and lastly a Blue Moon Belgian-wheat beer. Yup – some interesting pairings in there.
Hamlet, Nick, Don and I all had quite a bit of time to shoot the breeze. Unfortunately, with the individuality and quantity of all the various rooms in the VIP Lounge, people were spread out all around. Add that to the fact that it was a GORGEOUS evening out, and the attendance wasn’t as high as Nick was really hoping for. There wasn’t as much of a “circling of the wagons” feeling to people hitting up Hamlet for questions and lots of time. However, that loss let us sit and chill and relax and have lots of time to chat again.
Hamlet corrected me from my earlier post, and continuing thought initially that evening, that these “Tabaquero” cigars were Nicaraguan puros. He corrected me that these are NOT Nicaraguan puros, but that they are instead Nicaraguan filler, the binder being half Mexican San Andrés and half Brazilian binder, and then the wrapper being Mexican San Andrés. So, my bad on that (I’ve corrected that in my January post as well).
Talking about leaf, Don happened to ask Hamlet a question that got him on an interesting thought train, and that we had some good discussion about. For the long and short of it, he stated that the Nicaraguan filler leaf, to him, seems EXACTLY like Cuban tobacco. Yes, he acknowledged that obviously the taste is different, as the terroir from Cuban tobacco just has that certain essence, and tells a story of smoke that’s different on the palate from other region’s tobaccos. But he said, if he closes his eyes, and he’s not actually smoking it, the physical properties seem damn near identical. He said the texture, the tooth sometimes, the weight and tensile properties – it’s just like Cuban tobacco. He said, to him, “if I close my eyes, it’s just like I’m back rolling at Briones Montoto [the old Romeo y Julieta factory].”
He also was quite excited – the “Tabaquero” Salamones just apparently got a 90 score in Cigar Aficionado. Though I have my own personal gripes about Cigar Aficionado magazine itself (and especially the way they do scoring tastings), it still definitely will do good for him, Rocky, and the product line to get the extra attention that way. He’s happy, so I’m happy – glad to see the extra attention coming his way.
And, once again, he did put on a clinic on cigar rolling aspects with his Culebra rolling display (funny to see the Stinky Cigar Ashtray with all the remnants in there too)…
Add to that, there was lots of other talk too. Some interesting things coming in July at the IPCPR tobacco trade show, which he explained to me, and I’m excited to see come to fruition. Also, hopefully his green card / U.S. citizenship is sorted out promptly as well, and we can make some plans for him to travel north of the border soon, as well as some other thoughts that he and I shared.
As for the cigar itself, while I found it didn’t start as well as my Toro from January, it was still quite nice, and finished fairly well. It started somewhat harsh and tannic. But, the cigars felt somewhat damp to me – while it isn’t overly humid in the region right now at all, and wasn’t that day, it definitely was more so compared to our January meet-up, so that could have had an effect. Again though, this cigar reminded me thoroughly of some of my favourite Padron Serie 1926 and 1964 maduro sticks. I had strong hits of dark rich leather throughout, and an omnipresent mahogany-and-cedar bold woodiness, with some dark fruits in there as well on the fringes. The cigar had good volumes of smoke, and a medium-strength-and-not-overpowering peppery spiciness on the finish.
The stick finished at 8:38 pm, one-hour-and-thirty-three minutes. I’d score it an easy 89. Don had smoked one of the Coronas himself, and was amazed. While he didn’t tell me any particular point scoring on it, I do believe he said he had the Robusto and the Toro before as well, and said the Corona was the winner, and worked so well with the blend.
Huh! Who woulda thunk it? Hamlet’s “Tabaquero” blend, working better with a skinnier format!!! (Sorry – a bit of an inside joke for those that personally know Hamlet. He HATES rolling thin-and-skinny cigars, as his preference is for Salamones and Robusto Extra / Canonazo formats and the like. It’s funny as shit to get him swearing at you, Scarface-esque, when you ask him for “pencil sticks” though!!!!)
Well – I guess it’s only prudent that we all continue to bug him for a Lancero release then, right?!?!? LOL.