Monday, September 22, 2008

My Weekend Cigar: León Jimenes 300 Series Robusto - what a difference a year makes

I finally had a chance to do something I've always wanted to do with a cigar. Compare two different versions of the same cigar. In this case it was the León Jimenes 300 Series Robusto from last year (2007) and the 2008 release that was reintroduced at the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association show this past July.

I remember posting a video of José Blanco talking about the León Jimenes 300 from last year's RTDA Show in Houston. (The León Jimenes 300 Series Robusto was officially introduced in 2006 as a "teaser" to get consumer feedback on the blend.) The name comes from the cigars being aged for 300 days as opposed to the usual 90 to 180 day period. This cigar also sports a gorgeous, dark Cameroon wrapper. José told me last year that were holding off on releasing the cigars, not for flavor reasons, but because they were unhappy with the packaging, which was a silver and black color scheme with similar flat-printed bands. I thought they looked pretty nice, myself. Of course, he gave me some samples, and believe it or not, I never got around to trying them!

At this year's show, José handed me two more LJ Series 300 Robustos in the new blue and gold packaging with embossed blue and gold bands. The bands are wider, too, and like the previous black and silver version, feature the L-J initials flanked by two lions. Sure, they look more elegant, but how do they taste?

As a fan of good Cameroon cigars, I was eager to try the 2008 "300." Note that the cigars were now aged almost two full years. The wrapper had a nice even tone with a slightly oily patina, and hardly any noticeable veins. The cigar had a somewhat salty taste at the start, which became more woody as the cigar burned. The aroma was good, but a little on the heavy side. For the most part, the flavor in the first half left a bitter, peppery taste on the back of my throat and had a dry finish. However, in the second half the cigar rounded out nicely, and ended up scoring well in terms of fullness of flavor, the burn, draw, and quality of the ash.

I'm also glad José gave me two, because the second Robusto was a charm. No saltiness, the draw was not as loose, and the smoke was much more consistent throughout. In both cases, this wasn't a "sweet" Cameroon, but it did provide a solid, spicy, full-bodied smoke with plenty of earthy-woody flavors. The aroma was also not as "heavy" in the second cigar.

Shortly after smoking these cigars, I found the two León Jimenes (2006-'07) 300 Robustos in a box I had stashed in the warehouse. These cigars also had a nice woody character but the flavor was lighter; the wrappers were a bit lighter in color, too. Maybe they did tweak the blend a little? Of course, these cigars were now three years old, which could account for them being a bit milder. Who knows, but when I compared my tasting notes, the current León Jimenes 300 Series won the day in terms of wrapper color, overall strength, burn, fullness of flavor, and consistency.

~ Gary Korb

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