Friday, August 28, 2009

Some thoughts on the 601 Habano Oscuro Tronco and beyond

As I was leaving the office last Friday to start a well-deserved vacation week, I stopped into the Famous Smoke Shop retail store to see what was happening. There's usually a good crowd in the store on Friday night. Under the flat screen TV is a PC that's usually showing the special deal on CigarMonster.com. Out of curiosity, I took a peak at the page and saw a 5-pack of 601 Habano Oscuro Tronco on sale for $19.95. It was hard to resist, and according to the Cigar Monster countdown clock I had less than two minutes to make a decision before it reverted to the regular $27.36 price. My gut said, "Go for it!" and next thing I know, store manager Dave Zayas is ringing me up.

I decided to smoke one of those cigars last night. It had been a long time since I'd had a 601 Habano Oscuro (a.k.a. "601 Green"). After last night's affair with this marvelous cigar, I've added the 601 Habano Oscuro Tronco (5" x 52) to my all-time favorite cigars list. From start to finish, this cigar chugged along dense with dark, chewy, complex flavors. It's really a cigar you have to experience yourself to fully appreciate. I'd also place it among Don Pepin Garcia's best cigars. I also concluded that each cigar Pepin creates is like a song. They all have a common thread stylistically, yet each blend is totally unique in its own rite. I don't think the cigar business has seen such a prolific pair of hands in quite some time, if ever.

That said, I really didn't plan on getting into a cigar review today. Instead, I wanted to point out something that crossed my mind last night as I was relaxing with my cigar. I was thinking that the 601 brand is going to be around for a very long time. Then I started to think about the company who produces them, E/O Brands. I think E/O is a good example of the kind of cigar producer with whom the current and next generation of cigar smokers are now beginning to align themselves.

I'm reminded of what happened in the movie business when independent filmmakers began producing more popular movies than the big studios, giving us edgy directors like Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez for starters.

This similar trend in the cigar business may be attributed to "directors" like Pete Johnson (Tatuaje), and more recently, Dion Giolito with his Illusione cigars. Moreover, I think Sam Leccia (nub, Cain) can also be counted among those "indies" who's stars have also risen.

Some other companies to consider are Alec Bradley, who's been free-rolling since releasing their highly-acclaimed Tempus cigars a couple of years ago. I also feel that Drew Estate's time has come in the traditional-blend cigar market. They've been working their Liga Privada No.9 cigars line slowly and steadily, and it's earned a well-deserved place among the finer limited editions.

So, is this the beginning of the end of the established, BIG cigar company brands? Will more new cigar smokers opt for the more unique rather than the conventional? Will brands like Macanudo, Partagas, Romeo y Julieta, H. Upmann, et. al., eventually be forced to fold up their tents? Certainly some interesting questions to consider, and I welcome your comments.

~ Gary Korb

2 comments:

dmj said...

I find it fairly inconceivable that Macanudo, R&J, and some of the other big established names would completely go away, but it is easy to see them as somewhat marginalized by the "boutique" brands over the last few years (although some of those boutique brands are not so small anymore).

EO, Drew, Alec Bradley, and the others you mentioned tend to cater to the cigar enthusiast, and there are a lot of us out here now days. Many of the big General and Altadis brand names cater more to the occasional smoker or the person who smokes a certain cigar because they feel like it conveys a status upon them (I can't explain the success and exorbitant of non-Cuban Montecristos and Cohibas any other way).

Daniel said...

As such i don't fully agree with Mr. Gary Korb that it is the end of big brand but simultaneous it is also true that the new compaies which are establishing themselves with quality products. i have done a lot of experiment with Buy Cigars in terms of flavor and style.