Don't get it twisted. Even the most seasoned cigar smoker still appreciates a solidly constructed Connecticut shade-grown premium cigar blend from time to time.
There's just something about that creamy, smooth smoking sensation that you get from this delicate style of cigar wrapper that cannot be or substituted or imitated.
On the flipside, entirely too many cigars sporting a Connecticut shade-grown wrapper lean toward the unassuming side of the stogie spectrum. Cigar manufacturers have long preferred to play it safe and produce a milder crowd-pleaser than a complex blend with bold sun-grown internals.
So when I stumbled upon the Cortado by Partagas a few weeks back, I wasn't expecting all that much, because at face value it appears to be yet another Ecuadorian Connecticut shade-grown cigar.
But holy hell was I in for a surprise...
The first thing that struck me about this particular cigar, was the sweetness you get from its unlit barrel and foot. It's intoxicating, with a honey and vanilla note that sits atop layers of soft-serve ice cream.
The foot does have a whiff of spice, with white pepper and sun-grown tobacco earthiness being noted. Construction is stellar, with a perfect spring to each cigar being detected.
Smoothly capped, with only a single spot of discoloration on one of the sticks being noted, this bright red banded cigar is a stunner in the unlit impressions department.
Move beyond the oversized serving of soft-serve vanilla ice cream sweetness up front, and allow the white pepper and earthen notes to develop, and you will realize that this isn't your typical "mild cigar blend."
There's a mellow espresso note that's building behind that Indonesian binder, and suddenly the name Cortado starts to make a lot more sense.
The first half of the Cortado is a creamy, sweet, surprisingly round-bodied smoking experience. With smoke that borders on being labeled as "chewy," and an aftertaste that is damn near divine.
There's a yin-yang sort of scenario here, where the milky mildness of the tangy Connecticut shade-grown wrapper exerts just enough dominance over the sun-grown filler leaves and bold binder to keep things in check.
As the espresso bean bitterness and mild white pepper grade spice slowly intensify, so too does the wrapper's characteristics. The result is a first half that makes you wonder whether the second portion of the stick can live up to the hype.
But sure enough, one hell of an intriguing encore ensues within the second half, as the Cortado slowly shifts from sweet and milky, to dry and toasty.
It's still very much a mild smoking sensation, but with a twist. Despite providing a notable increase in smoke production, an unexpected reversal to a lighter mouthfeel occurs. Typically, cigars transition the other way, and become more oily, robust, bitter, or even sweeter at times.
But not this blend. It's all mild espresso, milk, mild spice, and plumes of smoke that sit lightly upon the palate.
What does remain, however, is that divine cortado coffee aftertaste. A flavor that is accented by a slight bump in bitterness toward the final portion of parting puffs. It's still a very light closing to the cigar, and it almost makes you want to fire up another stick.
Ash / Burn / Smoke / Draw
I can't speak highly enough for the construction I found within each Corona-sized stick I smoked. Burn, ash, draw, and smoke all scored top points.
Unfortunately, due to the smaller ring gauge of the cigar, the ash was prone to premature drops.
It didn't take very long for me to realize that the level of depth and flavor within this premium cigar blend is on a whole other level.
Surpassing every other Connecticut shade-grown cigar I've had in recent memory, the Partagas Cortado is truly a cut above in every regard.
My only complaint was that I would have liked that vanilla note to hang around a little longer, as it may have made the final third a little more rounded.
I also found myself cleaning ash off myself quite a few times. So there was that issue to contend with as well.
So I am eager to test out a larger vitola at some point because as long as every aspect of this mild-medium Partagas product stays intact, the Cortado stands a really good chance of earning a spot as best Connecticut shade-grown cigar of the year in my book.
Connecticut Shade-Grown (Ecuador)
Honduras, Mexico, & Nicaragua
5.5" x 42 "Corona"
House-made Café au Lait