Perusing the stock stuffed into the walk-in humidor down at the local cigar shop reveals a kaleidoscope of bands, boxes, smells, and shades of cigar wrapper. It’s an intoxicating experience, one that can even make the most veteran cigar smoker a bit giddy when they first step inside.
For all the mild cigar fans out there, finding the right smoke amidst the tobacco maelstrom requires very little effort. Connecticut shade-grown wrappers are a cinch to spot. Pale in color, and almost completely devoid of tobacco leaf veins, these khaki cigars stand out amid the swaths of red, brown, copper, milk chocolate, and dark roasted coffee hues within the boxes about them.
But presuming that a cigar will offer a super mild smoking experience based purely upon the fact that it has a milky, shade-grown wrapper is not an advisable action. The potency of the tobacco packed inside of the filler section of a certain cigar type, along with the binder wrapped about its circumference has the power to turn even the most unassuming stogie into an absolute ass-kicker.
But, now and then, you encounter a cigar that takes you from mild territory and drags you just deep enough that you have to stop and reassess what you are smoking. Such is the case with the Connecticut-shade wrapped Elegancia Natural from San Cristobal.
Smoking one of these natural cigars doesn’t require a ton of nerve, or a particular infatuation with mild or Connecticut-shade tobacco either. The Elegancia line is all about easing you into the middleweight bout, without you getting your lights knocked out in the process. A balanced anytime smoking experience that pairs well with pretty much any activity, including pool parties.
If a luau party is on the calendar, then San Cristobal’s Elegancia should be at the top of your shortlist of stogies to toss in that personalized cigar travel pack. Not just because it blends beautifully with most foods and can be paired with pretty much any tropical cocktail, but because of how it looks straight out the gate.
Double-banded–and quite festively, at that–the image of the winged parrot amidst a sea of ships screams “party cigar.” Move past the slimmer, gold medal-adorned second band, and you’ll find an Ecuadorian Connecticut cigar wrapper that is shade-grown to the point where it borders on double claro territory.
At 5.5-inches in length, with a 46 ring gauge, this corona size cigar type is the sort of smoke you grab when you know that an hour is your maximum allotment of puffing time. While the robusto size may be the clear crowd favorite, the slightly longer and skinnier cigar that is the corona offers a similar burn rate and is not as prone to running hot due to its slimmer size.
It certainly smells mild too, and pre-lit pulls are of the same caliber. Sweetgrass and toasted bread come to mind, with a little bit of spice lingering on the palate afterward.
A gentle squeeze reveals a soft, slightly doughy construction. This could either be a harbinger of an uneven smoking experience or just enough give to produce a fantastic draw. There’s only one way to find out…
Tobacco Nerd Note: San Cristobal is the brainchild of legendary cigar-maker Jose “Pepin” Garcia, and his son, Jaime Garcia of My Father Cigars fame. Although Pepin has long been known for his medium to full-bodied Nicaraguan tobacco blends, an unlikely partnership with another cigar superstar father/son duo is what would ultimately lead to the formation of the San Cristobal line.
Marketed for its “golden-blonde Connecticut-seed wrapper leaf harvested in Ecuador,” the shade-grown San Cristobal is mild, milky, and grassy from the first draw. Is it as creamy as it says on the company’s website? That depends on your palate.
We find that although the shade-grown Connecticut cigar wrapper does take on some of those velvety tones that you’d expect, the Ecuadorian outer leaf is just part of the journey. It may not play second fiddle to the Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos, but it isn’t the only star of the show either.
Nutty, with a distinct café au lait coffee kick, San Cristobal’s Elegancia Corona in natural form starts in the mild-medium category upon being torch lit. The richer Nicaraguan inner tobacco leaves are mildly spiced and balanced, proving once again that no one does a premium cigar blend quite like the Garcia Family. The cigar flavor profile, strength, and body selected, with sweet smoke emitting from each end, things are off to a solid start for this little luau cigar.
Tobacco Nerd Note: Officially launched in 2007, the San Cristobal cigar brand is the result of a series of prototypes that the Garcia Family was tasked with blending for Ashton back in 2006. The result was so good that Robert Levin and Sathya Levin of Ashton Cigars offered to release the product as a permanent fixture less than a year later. Today, the San Cristobal brand is distributed and marketed beneath the Ashton name but remains 100% a Garcia Family cigar type straight from Nicaragua.
“The mild to medium-bodied profile entices enthusiasts of milder cigars and offers ample allure for cigar lovers prospecting for a touch of backbone.”- The Garcia Family
The Second Half
Most of the sun-grown tobacco hailing from Nicaragua is potent enough to make the average mild cigar smoker ask for a glass of water and a moist hand towel. An overwhelming encounter for those who are unaccustomed to stronger smokes, but a joy for those of us who get off on the intensity it imbues.
San Cristobal’s Elegancia line takes a bit of an underhanded approach to this sort of situation, preferring to bunch milder Nicaraguan leaves within each stick. The result is a fantastic gateway to Nicaraguan tobacco for those who rely almost entirely upon mild Dominican cigars.
Pulled from parts of the tobacco plant that are just south of the stronger ligero foliage up top, this blend of viso and seco leaves produces just enough “pop” to make your entrance into the second half of the cigar flavor profile rich and rewarding.
Peppery and tart, with a fat dash of bready toast tossed in for good measure, the corona size of the Elegancia Natural takes things to a 3.5-4 on the potency scale and holds it there quite nicely. All of those grassy and café au lait touches from the first half are still in wild abundance as well, mixing nicely with the aforementioned cigar flavor profile notes.
Pulls offer cumulonimbus-sized clouds of smoke, due in part to the soft construction of the cigar barrel itself, and the balanced burn of the Nicaraguan filler and binder tobacco within.
The retronasal end is just as mild as it gets in the strength department. This remains true even well past the halfway mark, with an intensity that is sure to keep even the timidest cigar smoker in their safe zone.
Tobacco Nerd Note: The San Cristobal name may be relatively new to the market, but it’s been a registered U.S. trademark for quite a while. Ashton Cigars’ founding family, the Levins, have held the rights to the San Cristobal brand since the 1980s, but never really did much with it. This all changed in the early 2000s when the Levins began to show an interest in Nicaraguan tobacco, which would ultimately lead to them meeting Jose “Pepin” Garcia and his son, Jaime. The rest you would say is cigar making history.
Toward the end of the Elegancia natural, you will discover that it has not changed very much since that halfway checkpoint. All of the oils and nicotine have continued to enhance the boutique cigar flavor profile, but have not added much intensity whatsoever. Perfection for those who want to keep things in check from a strength perspective.
As a tasty char forms, the body of the cigar becomes more rounded. One that is rich with straw and roasted coffee, with just enough creaminess to keep it from becoming a full-on medium finish.
Satisfied with the parting puff’s lasting finish, you sit back to contemplate the 45-minute smoking experience you just indulged in. Did it change the way you view mild cigars or revolutionize the way a Connecticut-wrapped cigar flavor profile is perceived? Probably not.
But if strong cigar tobacco grown in the lush tropics of Nicaragua has been on your “no-smoke list,” the San Cristobal Elegancia may be just the ticket for kicking things up a notch. Receiving one of these little “gateway cigars'' in your monthly boutique cigar subscription is a real treat. A cigar that allows you to safely take a smoke on the wild side and still keep your palate in one piece the entire time.
Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about that massive tiki drink that was just plopped down on the bamboo bench next to our lawn chair…
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut Shade-Grown
Wrapper Shade: Natural
Ring Gauge: 46
Smoke Time: 45 minutes