Alec Bradley Prensado Churchill

Alec Bradley Prensado Churchill

Origin : HondurasAlec Bradley
Format : Churchill
Size : 7 x 48
Wrapper : Honduran 2006 Corojo (Maduro)
Filler : Honduran/Nicaraguan blend
Binder : Nicaragua
Price : ~$10-11 each

Any cigar enthusiast knows that Cigar Aficionado magazine has become the cigar industry’s standard when it comes to cigars. Cigar smokers and manufacturers alike refer to it as the bible when it comes to the cigar lover’s lifestyle and culture. A high rating in this publication can make your sales soar, while at the same time negative feedback can often leave your cigars collecting dust on the back shelf of the walk-in humidor.

Perhaps no list is as eagerly awaited each year than their list of the year’s best cigars. One cigar gets to be crowned “Cigar of the Year” and, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been making it a point to ensure that I get my hands on the number one so that I can see for myself what the hype is about. On some occasions I had already smoked their top rated cigar while on others I hadn’t. The last cigar to be crowned Cigar Aficionado’s cigar of the year was the Alec Bradley Prensado. Many ‘aficionados’ found this selection surprising/controversial. In fact, I had never paid much attention to this cigar before, having tasted some of Alec Bradley’s other offerings and not being too pleased with them. However, because this cigar won 2011’s cigar of the year, I was compelled to give it a go. I often agree with the magazine’s overall impressions. While I may not think as highly or as lowly as they do in some of their ratings, usually, I can agree on a good smoke or a bad one only disagreeing with the rating itself. Can we really crown something “the best” given that taste is so subjective?

Needless to say, the winning cigar, especially if it is a non-Cuban, can pretty much be assured of selling out their supply in short order. Cuban cigars are different because they cannot be purchased in the United States, one of the biggest markets for the aforementioned publication.

Having set my eyes on the Prensado, I was fortunate enough to get my hands on one during my frequent visits to the United States. Thankfully I live a short drive to the border and normally pick up a few non-Cuban cigars when I cross the bridge. Living in Canada, the demand for non-Cuban cigars is not that great but we also have to contend with some hefty tobacco taxes. I was uneasy about spending over $20.00 one of these cigars here in Canada so I waited until one of my trips to the U.S. to pick up a stick.

I picked one up in early February, paying $10.75 for it. Buying them by the box will save on the per-cigar price, a practise that is against the law here in Canada. That is, you cannot offer a discount if you buy the box but instead must pay the actual cigar price multiplied by the number of sticks.

With all that said and out of the way, the other night was a perfect mild evening with little to no humidity and no breeze. It was the perfect outdoor condition to enjoy a cigar, and a Churchill at best given that I would need some time to get through this 7 inch smoke. Therefore, enough rambling… time to dig into the review. Is the reigning champion worthy of the its title?

Appearance : Rating: ★★★★½
This box-pressed cigar measures 7 inches long with a 48 ring gauge. The cigar is manufactured in Honduras and is composed of both Honduran and Nicaraguan tobacco. The main feature of this cigar is the lush and well aged (2006) Corojo wrapper grown in the Trojos region of the Honduran Jalapa Valley. The binder is Nicaraguan tobacco and the filler is composed of approximate equal parts of Nicaraguan and Honduran long leaf. The cigar looks rich. It has fabulous eye appeal sporting a beautiful band and a very oily looking Maduro wrapper. It sports a triple cap.

Construction : Rating: ★★★☆☆
As noted, the cigar is box-pressed and comes wrapped in cellophane. The Prensado was firm with a couple of spongy spots near the band. The cap on my sample was slightly crooked. The draw was effortless and, for the most part, every puff of the first half rewarded me with a very thick cloud of smoke. The smoke remained cool as was expected with a 7 inch cigar and the burn was less than impressive. I found myself fighting the burn and I needed to correct it on 3 occasions. The cigar needed to be re-lit twice. If you aren’t puffing this cigar often it will go out on you. The volume of smoke remained consistent for the first half of the cigar with the amount of smoke declining as I approached the band. The draw remained consistent but as I said, it had a tendency to want to go out on me if I did not take frequent draws. The first re-light was required approximately 2 cm above the band and the second one just beneath it. Deductions were given for the very uneven burn and the re-lights.

Flavor : Rating: ★★☆☆☆
This is where I disagree with the aforementioned publication and with many of the reviews I have seen since the crowning.

The pre-light draw gave me a very typical maduro tobacco taste. It had no resistance and provided woodsy and earthy tones. The foot of the cigar had a deep earthy aroma as did the body of the cigar itself.

I toasted the foot and proceeded to light the cigar at which time I was immediately greeted with a very full-bodied spice with exceptional smoke volume. I tasted hints of wood and leather. The spice was strong with a very noticeable, almost distracting “heat”. It was not a typical peppery spice but was a longer lasting heat, best described as cayenne pepper or even a jalapeno spice. The draw had a long finish with the spice overshadowing the leathery, woodsy flavours. I noticed hints of thick cocoa, bitter chocolate and to be quite frank, I was reminded of burnt espresso like when it is simply served too hot causing the coffee to go very bitter. The best way to describe the flavour I got out of the first couple of centimetres was a burnt, unsweetened espresso with hints of wood and thick cocoa. There was certainly a lot going on. The spice remained constant and perhaps was a bit over the top. The burn started to go wavy at approximately 1cm.

The cigar remained very spicy for the first third. The finish remained long. It continued to offer hints of wood and leather especially noticeable in the finish. Hints of bitter espresso remained. The ash was typical of maduro cigars, dark and toasted grey. It remained firm and fell off on its own at approximately 1.5 inches into the cigar. It was at that point that the burn became very uneven. As the first third ended so did the overpowering spice. That is not to say that the spice disappeared but it became less of a distraction.

The cigar mellowed out a bit at the start of the second third at which point the burn needed a correction. Much of the overwhelming spice and bitterness subsided and gave way to milder hints of earth and wood. I started to feel some very faint hints of salt on my lips at this point. No longer was the spice lingering at the back of my throat.
At the halfway mark the volume of cigar smoke declined. The burn got away from me again and required its second correction. I was not getting the harsh bitterness anymore and the intensity of the spice subsided to a palatable level. Hints of musty wood with tobacco and roasted coffee emerged. The overall intensity of the flavour declined noticeably.

Past the halfway mark the flavours became much more muted and the burn again started to waver. I could start to feel the nicotine at this point and the spice became more like a cracked pepper heat. The smoke volume decreased and the bitterness was replaced with a more palatable sweetness. I picked up hints of cocoa and slight citrus with some coffee tones that were balanced by mild saltiness on the lips.

During the final third of the cigar there was much less spice/pepper. The cigar became much smoother and sweeter/creamier. The harsh bitterness disappeared and I was starting to taste hints of sweet chocolate and thick coffee. The cigar needed to be re-lit just before removing the band and again just past it. It wants to be smoked and long pauses will cause the cigar to go out. The volume of smoke noticeably dimished in the last 2 inches. The ash became flaky following the halfway mark falling off more frequently, perhaps every cm or two, perhaps because of the uneven burn.

The cigar started off as a very full-bodied cigar ending more medium-bodied. It was a medium/strong strength. The cigar flavours were very complex. However, complexity is only a good thing if the flavours accompanying that complexity are pleasing. Unfortunately, I found that for the most part they weren’t. The cigar did not become really enjoyable for me until long after the halfway mark of the cigar and that is just too long for me to wait for the cigar to balance out. I can’t imagine having to wait 5 inches into a 7 inch cigar to finally experience balanced flavours. If I was not intending to review it I would probably have put the cigar to rest much earlier. Most of the time I was fighting the burn and battling bitterness and harsh spice. The predominant flavour was that of a woodsy/earthy cigar. I do love peppery cigars but this spice was just overwhelming, like someone sprinkled cayenne pepper into the cigar. It offered short hints of lush cocoa at the start but these were very short lived. The lush cocoa and coffee sweetness that I normally get from maduro cigars re-emerged later on into the smoke but simply took too long to develop. The cigar lasted almost an hour and 45 minutes with the last 2 inches becoming difficult to draw and stay lit.

Value : Rating: ★★★½☆
$10.70 for the cigar of the year (cheaper if bought by the box in the U.S.) and for a 7 inch smoke lasting 15 minutes shy of 2 hours is amazing value. If you enjoy the cigar then the cost of the cigar is not an issue. It offers exceptional value for such a long lasting smoke. However, I did not particularly enjoy the cigar and will not be buying another. I find it hard to rate value because much of what I deem to be of value must be accompanied by a reason or desire to spend the money to begin with. As I did not enjoy the cigar I cannot honestly say that it has any value for me. However, on a general level, I must admit that this 7 inch Churchill is priced right for those that enjoy it. It certainly won’t bust your wallet unless you are buying it in an unfriendly tobacco tax market like Canada.

Overall Rating : Rating: ★★★☆☆
I don’t agree with the Cigar Aficionado tasters/rating. I can think of many more cigars that I found exceptionally more appealing than this one. I think their tasters were being somewhat generous. Maybe they tasted something I didn’t or perhaps I had a bad sample. This is not the first time that the number one cigar caused controversy in the smoking world. I am not going to like this cigar simply because a publication thought it was the best of the year. Too many people simply follow the leader and play along in that regard, having their initial impressions swayed by the knowledge that they are smoking the cigar of the year.

I don’t think I recall seeing reviews of this cigar before the rating was released but since being crowned the best of 2011 I’ve seen many which is why I couldn’t wait to taste it for myself. I am often left wondering if people like the cigar because of its crown or if they actually find the smoke pleasing.

Much of my positive rating for this cigar was based on appearance. The cigar really looked sexy and I really wanted this cigar to be better. I absolutely loved its appearance. The photograph was taken by me and the cigar in the photograph is the actual cigar I smoked. I really wanted for its taste to match its looks. Unfortunately it failed miserably in the only area that counts: taste. This goes to show that beauty is truly only skin (wrapper) deep.

26 Comments on “Alec Bradley Prensado Churchill”

  1. I am in complete agreeance with DrFever. I had a 5er of these about a month or two before the cigar of the year issue and I actually gave the last 2 away because I could not get over the bitter taste. I think the black market is by far the better cigar by AB. This is another example of you can’t always go by the ‘best’.

  2. TriMarkC says:

    WOW! Not only are you Canadians hosed with your higher cigar taxes, but your doubley hosed with the box purchase! Sorry to hear that brother.
    And you’ve just given me another reason I’m glad to be an American!

  3. TriMarkC …

    Yes, Canada is not a very cigar friendly country. Our “SIN” taxes are some of the hightest in the world. This is why you don’t see a lot of brick and morter shops as many smokers choose to order online for the best deals. It’s been brutal since they also clamped down on the lounges, at least in Ontario.

    However, there is a saving grace. For less than $700 I can fly on a week long all inclusive trip to beautiful Cuba and am able to bring back 50 sticks (and thanks to my wife, make that 100). When I travel with another couple that doesn’t smoke, I am able to bring back 200 and the prices in Cuba are a fraction of what we pay here.

    As for American sticks, there isn’t a lot of demand up north here because we can readily smoke Cuban cigars however, I do live about an hour away from the border and we cross border shop a lot and I use those opportunities to pick up some sticks. Also, I have many friends and family that fly down to Florida often and I always give them a list so, thankfully, I rarely if ever pay Canadian retail for my cigars.

    Cigar taxes aside, I am just as proud to say that I am Canadian as you are proud of your nationality. Cheers brother.

  4. To leave my 2 cents regarding AB Prensado. Just like you I was very curious about this cigar. Since I live in Vancouver, one quick trip to Washington and I picked up box of Prensados. When I tried one in Vancouver my experience was much like yours, I was constantly fighting this cigar and I could not relax and enjoy it (burn especially). I was stuck with the box of unpleasant surprise.

    I brought rest of cigars with me to vacation (Serbia), did not have humidor with me, just a box and miricle happened. Extremely worm weather over there dried out cigars just a bit and my friend and I was in for a treat. Cigar still needed to be smoked a bit faster than usually but burn was flawless, aromas opened up and cigar started to grow on me.

    Now I was little bit puzzled, this cigar might be very good one, however it might not be perfect one for Vancouver weather conditions (something along these lines, in winter low atmosphere pressure, high humidity and you cannot light your barbecue properly and in the summer time you have no trouble firing up barbecue).

    And to summarize already long mail, even though I thoroughly enjoyed this cigar in Serbia I will most likely not be picking up this stick to smoke in Vancouver again

  5. Sinisa,

    Thank you for the description of your experience with this cigar. I don’t think humidity had anything to do with my paricular sample but in your case, the fresh box may have had a few “wet” cigars. Mine had a chance to stabilize in my humidor for a few months before lighting it up.

    Like I said, I may have simply had a bad sample. I am travelling to the southern U.S. in August and I might just get the urge to try another (to be fair, a second stab at one might give me a different experience)

    I will certainly follow up if I decide to try another but for now, there are other smokes I’m meaning to sample first.

    Thank you for your feedback.

  6. AB Prensado was especially surprising as number 1. It never even came close to hitting my radar when i came out with my Top 10 for this website last year nor did it make any other reviewers list last year. I think many online reviewers don’t put much stock in CA’s list since they revealed they only smoke the first inch of every cigar for their reviews. The serious cigar geeks seem to read publications like this one instead to get a better grasp of what a cigar is like. Most independent online reviewers can more objectively (if there is such a thing) review a cigar because most sites don’t depend on ad revenue from said cigar companies. Usually about $10k-$15k in ad money to just get a review with CA. So think about why a cigar like this snuck up the list, or how many of those sticks got on there at all.

  7. Aaron, I think another reason why sites like this and other independent reviewers put more effort into their reviews is because unlike the high gloss publications, most of us pay for our own cigars, mostly reviewing cigars that we spent our hard earned money on. As a result, it is imperative that the cigar be smoked as far as possible in order to adequately rate its complexity and more importantly to determine whether it is worthy of more of our hard earned money. Let’s face it, this is not a cheap passion.

    Many a cigar I thought was horrible 1cm in turned out to be a gem and likewise, many awesome starting smokes turned into slugs.


  8. I am glad I read this review because I thought I got a bad batch. I let them sit for two months and even “dry boxed” my last two but found the exact same things as dr fever. I hate when my cigars are uneven, I am always careful to light them correctly and rotate while smoking but these ALWAYS burned uneven. They all went out at the soft spot in the middle and I HATE than when my cigar goes out! Again I take great care to keep my sticks lit.
    So thank you for confirming that I did not have a bad batch but only had a bad cigar!

  9. Cyber-Speculator says:

    I’ve tried smoking 4 of these cigars (2 Churchill’s + 2 Robusto’s from a sampler pack) so far and my experience is more or less the same as the reviewer’s. The cigars simply would not smoke and kept going out due to ‘tunneling’

  10. I hope the Hennessey XO eased your pain.

  11. I agree with DrFever! Good to know theres other Canadians in Ontario enjoying the good life. As per your purchasing strategy it’s quite familiar as mine and I find it to be quite beneficial if you know what I’m saying. If your close to the NF U.S.A border Smokin Joes is a great spot for Tax free cigar shopping and if you want to relax and have a cigar with a no corking fee service in a nice comfortable lounge visit Virgil Ave Tobbaconist in Buffalo. Enjoy, keep up the good work.

  12. Thank you Jer … And yes, I am very familiar with all 3 NF bridges to the border ;-) Thank goodness I live close enough to allow me to purchase some quality non-Cuban sticks at non-Canadian pricing.

  13. I’ve had a box of these and the Torpedoes in my humidor for some months now. My experience w/ the Churchills is exactly like DrFever’s, but I find that the Torpedoes smoke wonderfully and deliver a much more enjoyable flavor profile with much less overwhelming “heat” as described, and I find it a go-to cigar with some scotch. Maybe the Torpedo should have been closer to the top spot instead?

    Great review DrFever, thanks, and keep ’em coming!

  14. Crazyjorge says:

    I live in FL. and I have been smokng these churchills for 3 months. I experiance the opposite. Even burn with a nice ash, amazing 3 different flavors thru out the stick. I think the trick is you have to rotate these sticks around in your humidor, so it can burn evenly. I did have 1 get out of control, but overall this is 1 of my favorite cigars. Beside my all around favorite the Montecristo Media Noche #2. Excellent. On I wait for the Free Fall to get them for 4.50 a sick. The ash can last about 3″ long before you have to knock it off yourself. At 6.1 x 54, this cigar last about 1 1/2 long. But the Prensado Churchill, I will always pick them up too. That’s just my opinion. And of course everyone has a different opinion on every stogie. Try a Montecristo Media Noche # 2 once. You will be amazed!

  15. I am quite relieved to find out I am not the only one baffled by these cigars. I bought two boxes when the review came out, and was given a third as a gift. They are a disaster. CA should be ashamed of the rating given. They just won’t burn correctly , and the flavor is odd at best. I let them sit in my humidor for months, tried one again just yesterday, same result. A struggle , then it went out as usual, and I said No Mas. I am done . Stuck with an expensive pile of useless sticks!!

  16. I just had one of these in Robusto and I have to say I couldn’t finish it. The flavor was at best tolerable, nothing to write home about. I found the flavor profile conflicting and jumbled between roated peanuts, burnt coffee, and white pepper.

    The construction is this sticks worst flaw. Inconsistent draw, starting rather firm, then opening up, then getting very tight before I put it down aorund the half way point. It simply would not burn evenly, the wrapper acted like it was treated with fire retardant. It tunneled so bad that I had to cut off the cherry and re-light it. I felt like this stick just kicked and screamed the whole time. I finally just put it down halfway into the 2nd third as it was making me angry.

  17. I’m smoking my second presado churchill. While its not better than any of the padron line it is a good cigar. I let mine rest for two months. That seemed to get the humidity right for a decent burn. I didn’t get the harshness others mentioned. The flavors, for me, became richer, deeper and better from third to third. Either I got lucky or it’s a damn fine cigar. Either way I’m okay. Padron 7000 is still much better and 1926 and 1964 speak for themselves.

  18. I must say ,you’re right about this Cigar, I’m smoking one now ,and it will be the 1st and last one I do,

  19. MiningJunkie says:

    Great review that pretty much sums up my thoughts about this stick. I’ve never been an Alec Bradley fan. Ever since I tried their Trilogy cigar on the advice of a friend I have looked to avoid this brand.

    I often disagree with Cigar Aficionado’s ratings. Then again, taste is so subjective, however I always make it a point to sample their highest rated cigar. I sometimes wonder if they take a considerable fee to rate a cigar so highly knowing it will greatly impact sales. Regardelss, I can’t believe they got it so wrong with this cigar.

    The cigar has all the “looks” and smell of a cigar waiting to be lit bit for me that is where the fun and excitement ended. I was waiting for something to emerge to wow me but it never came. In fact, the cigar was quite tasteless and lacked any real complexity. I had no major burn issues … It was all about taste or shall I say, “lack of”.

    The entire cigar tasted like a lump of damp hay. I felt like I was smoking sod. No eye opening spice, pallete pleasing flavor or change in overall taste throughout the entire smoke. Not once did I take a puff and say “wow that was tasty”. I don’t like wasting my money so I forced myself to smoke it down but I was never really finding anything that would ever make me want to touch another Alec Bradley again. I was definitely reminded of the Trilogy Authentic Corojo Churchill and often wondered if they just didn’t re-package that dud as the Prensado.

    Save your money …. I can only scratch my head as to how this garnered CA’s cigar of the year. Someone at CA was obviously “smoking something” rather that the Prensado. One of the more forgetable “cigar of the year” I’ve ever tried.

  20. I just finished my first Prensado Robusto. And like so many others I was disappointed. A few weeks ago when I picked the current copy of CA I purchased a AlecBradly Black Market. As i enjoyed this smoke, I thought it safe to purchase a half box of the Presando cigars as it was the CA #1 cigar for 2011. Right from the start there was a problem, as a layer of the leaf immediately pealed off from the punch I gave it. The cigar lit fine and the draw was good. The first 3 to 4 draws were very hot. The burn throughout the cigar was uneven and the ash dropped at less than 1 inch of burn. I also, like others, needed to relight it several times. This is a cigar that must be puffed on frequently to keep it going. The flavors were slightly peppery (which I enjoy) but too much leather. The final 1/4 of the cigar started to give me a headache so I finally put it down. I still have 9 of these cigars to get through, and I will, but I will not be buying these again. Sorry Mr. Rubin and CA,but this is not a great cigar. I find the Oliva O and the Oliva V much better cigars. Tomorrow I will try the CA 2012 #1 cigar, Flor de las Antillas, and hope it restores my faith in CA ratings.

  21. Yes to two points CA reviews and rating are sometime out of whack and sin tax is Canada is ridiculous. Yet I was able to find and was recommended Alec Bradley Prensado Churchill for $12.50 a stick in Canada. I have yet to smoke it. Once I smoke I let you know the result and if it was worth the money.

  22. Agreed, this is an overrated stick (double-T). It was a bit spongy, required a lot of babysitting and touching up, and my stick was very, very mellow, especially for a full-bodied cigar.

    I was not sure the stick would get past the first third’s blooming effect–how does a cigar receive accolades and fail miserably at its most basic of functions? Anyhow, halfway through and the burn issues resided, but the flavor profiles were very mild and limited.

    Hoping that the four others in my humi provide a better experience, but something tells me I am in for more of the same.

  23. JonathanE says:

    I think what we have here is inconsistency. I just smoked a Robusto and your description of the last half of your Churchill matches my experience as a whole but somewhat better. Double all the goods you mentioned, stay on top of the burn and it really is a great smoke. Worth the gamble? If you can get one at CBid’s price I recommend taking the chance..

  24. Spot on review. Picked one of these up as part of a low priced bundle introductory offer from Cigars dot com … So I can’t complain too much as I paid $30 for 10 sticks + a terrible humidor. (Including a Cohiba, Macaduno, Ghurka, Rocky Patel). I was shocked when I learned that this was the CA cigar of the year. It burned terribly uneven with a jagged ash. I needed to relight it less than a quarter of the way through. The taste was harsh. I am admittedly not a fan of Maduro, preferring a medium body like Macanudo or Punch. Still, I do appreciate a good smoke and was let down. I probably wouldn’t buy this again even if it wasn’t the CA cigar of the year. The price was right for me but still … It looked very beautiful and that’s about as far as it went. This worries me as I recently bought a Partagas 160 (a foolish impulse buy at $150 per stick). I dread another overrated rating cigar experience. Tolerable at $10.50 but at $150 … It would be very defeating to have the same experience with the 160 as with this. Seems like a consensus that the Alec Bradley was uneven and hard to keep going.

  25. My last two boxes of Prensado Churchills have been stunning, but it is three years on since the cigar won COTY (and also since your review). Production may well have become more consistent now AB are no longer under pressure to cope with a dramatic leap in sales.

  26. Hans Hula says:

    Insightful review. I had one in the humidor after buying it. I always buy Cigar Aficuonado’s top cigars of the previous year. So today I discovered it at the very bottom of one of my large humidor boxes. I smoked it and was very disappointed. Your review exactly reflects what I experienced during these last 70-80 minutes. I still got 2 inches left but I wasted a full lighter fill relighting this one after every other draw. Do not waste your money on this thing!

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