Origin : Dominican Republic
Format : Toro
Size : 6 1/4 x 50
Wrapper : Brazilian Maduro
Filler : Dominican
Binder : Cameroon
Price : $7.80
I was recently sent a couple of pre-release cigars to review from Iconic Leaf Cigar Company, a relative newcomer to the cigar industry. According to the company’s literature, Iconic Leaf Cigar was founded by two very well-known and well-respected legends in the cigar industry who have chosen to remain anonymous in their pursuit to make the very best premium boutique cigars that can be found anywhere in the world without the influence of their names. Iconic Leaf Cigar’s founders may have chosen to keep their identities private but their leader has not. Led by J.R. Dominguez, son of legendary cigar maker Jose Dominguez, Iconic Leaf is extremely excited about their new line-up of cigars recently unveiled at the IPCPR trade show in Orlando. According to the company, all tobacco leaf in the RECLUSE goes through EIGHT fermentation cycles and is a collection of what they deem to be “truly iconic leaf” from around the world. The RECLUSE cigar selection is produced exclusively at the Leyendas Cubanas factory run by Don Jose Rafael.
First, a little bit about the Recluse cigar straight from their website:
The RECLUSE cigar is comprised of the absolute finest of everything. From the seed that is sown, to the blend of the tobacco leaves that make up this masterpiece, to the painstaking fermentation. Under the watchful eye of the maestro, Don Jose Rafael in the Leyendas Cubanas factory, each cigar goes through a Club Med for cigars, if you will. Each leaf is hand selected from only the finest tobacco leaves of the harvest. From the Flavorful and smooth Brazilian Maduro wrapper and Cameroon binder, to the specifically selected Dominican leaf variations in the filler, these cigars are what we believe to be the finest in the world. Each and every leaf in the RECLUSE goes through EIGHT fermentation cycles. Why? Because Don Jose Rafael will not settle for mediocrity. Every RECLUSE is rolled in the old Cuban tradition of tubing which is taking each filler leaf and rolling it into a tube instead of folding it. Once all the filler leaves are each individually rolled into a tube shape, they are brought together and surrounded with the binder. This is time consuming but creates an effortless draw and an unparalleled smoking experience. We then box press each cigar to compress the leaf and reduce air space. This spotlights the flavors of the blend and creates a slower burn while delivering an exceptional draw. The RECLUSE line is offered in ten box pressed sizes.
Having been sent a couple of unbanded Toros to sample, I wanted to be fair to the company so I let them sit in my humidor for a couple of weeks to stabilize and acclimate themselves following the shipping. I was eagerly awaiting the opportunity to taste one and last night decided that the Recluse would be my cigar of choice. Pictures of the bands, provided by the company, can be seen in the attached images. I chose to smoke my sample with a straight cut.
This cigar is a 6.25 x 50 box-pressed toro. The sample photographed is the actual cigar I smoked for this review. It has a beautiful oily Brazilian maduro wrapper. The seams were visible and the wrapper had some thick visible veins. The cap looked a tad sloppily applied. The Recluse was firm to the touch with no noticeable soft spots. Its pre-light aroma was a very pleasing woodsy/cocoa and the foot had a very pleasing natural tobacco/woodsy scent. The box press makes the cigar’s stated 50 ring gauge appear smaller. It felt firm in my hands and was very comfortable to hold and smoke.
This cigar burned flawlessly. Not once did I need to correct the burn and, more importantly, I never had to re-light it. If the burn wavered now and then it was very short-lived and corrected itself almost as quickly as it went wonky. The Recluse provided clouds of thick white smoke. The ash was firm, white and only occasionally was there any flaking. The draw was effortless and remained so during the entire duration of the smoke. The deduction was for stem particles I noticed in my cigar when I snipped the cap off that you can see in the photo below. Although they did not impact the draw or burn, seeing any stem particles in my cigars is unacceptable for me.
I was hit with spice and cocoa on lighting the cigar. There were hints of oak and earth. The cigar let off a very pleasing velvety, caramelized smoke. Let us not mistake the spice for peppery spice for it is certainly not. The spice is best described as a cayenne-like heat. At times it was overpowering, however at the outset it was mild enough to be tolerable and went well with the velvety cocoa, leather and woodsy flavors I was getting from the cigar. Caramel, cocoa, leather with woodsy hints were the predominant flavors in the first third. The finish was long thanks to the spice. The spice would remain at the top of my mouth and at the back of my throat from puff to puff, never really leaving.
The volume of smoke seemed to intensify as I smoked it. Nice thick clouds of white smoke with a firm ash and even burn. I like voluminous smoke with my cigar and this one does not disappoint in that regard. The smoke was made all the more enjoyable because of its velvety/oily texture.
As I started the second third I started to pick up hints of salt on my lips that helped to balance the sweet cocoa notes. The finish was shorter than the first third as some of the overpowering spice I encountered in the first third subsided. As I neared the middle of the cigar I picked up hints of dark, bitter chocolate and unsweetened espresso. This bitterness did not last long though but was strong enough to leave an unfavourable impression. Thankfully this bitterness quickly evolved into a a toasted nuttiness. I continued to pick up woodsy, leathery notes. As I approached the end of the second third some of the spice that had decreased earlier started to re-emerge.
The slight salty hint on my palate remained as I started the final third and the finish became longer thanks to the re-emergence of that spice. The cayenne-like heat returned and lingered on my pallet right about the time I started to feel the nicotine. The spice helped to lengthen the finish but admittedly at times this spice was a tad too much for my taste. Woodsy notes with aromatic cocoa were the predominant flavors. The bitterness that crept in at the centre of the cigar never returned.
As I neared the middle of the final third the cigar gave me hints of semi-sweet chocolate, caramel and oak with a very pleasing natural tobacco flavor. The aforementioned cayenne like spice intensified. The finish remained long, the spice remained very noticeable and at times was overwhelming and distracting. I feel like some of that spice masked some of the flavors. At times I could not pick up any discernable flavors because I was battling the spice. The final third provided the most intense flavors and when the spicy notes weren't getting in the way the flavors were pleasant.
Wood, leather and spicy cocoa with hints of caramel and coffee were my lasting impressions of this well-constructed cigar. I loved its smoke output.
This cigar was certainly complex. If it had a drawback for me it was that at times the flavors were very muted while at other times the spice was a tad overwhelming and distracting. It didn't have that nice flow I look for in a complex cigar. However, it certainly had enough of a variety of flavors going on and Iconic Leaf must be commended for putting together a very well built cigar with enough of a flavor profile to keep my interest.
I put the cigar to rest with approximately 2 inches remaining because the spice became too overpowering. Had it not been for the spice, I would most probably have smoked this down to the nub.
Overall strength was medium with the flavor profile being complex and medium to full-bodied.
Although the cigar was a pleasure to smoke, deductions were made for the at times overwhelming spice, the fact that there were times when the cigar exhibited almost no flavor, for the mediocre flavor transitions. When the flavor was on however, it was “on” and made for a very enjoyable smoke indeed.
Remember, I did not pay for this cigar, however the company confirmed with me that their suggested MSRP for the Recluse Toro is $7.80 per cigar and at that price, this cigar offers exceptional value for the quality of the smoke. It certainly does not command the “boutique” cigar prices out there today and in blind tastings can give many other more expensive maduros from more familiar names in the industry a run for their money. There is no doubt that they have come into the market with a competitive price point.
Overall Rating :
This cigar surprised me in a good way. There are more expensive cigars out there that aren’t worth the money. Keeping in mind that taste is purely subjective and what smokers prefer in their cigar varies from smoker to smoker, I can honestly say that I enjoyed this cigar more than the Cigar Aficionado Cigar of the Year Prensado by Alec Bradley and if Iconic Leaf can maintain their price point it would surely command a spot in anyone’s humidor who enjoys a nice Maduro cigar. The key for Iconic Leaf will be in getting their brand to be recognized. If I had two complaints with this cigar they are that at times the spice was a tad overwhelming and, as well, there was the odd time during my smoke where the cigar seemed to lack any flavor other than plain tobacco but this latter complaint was short lived. Furthermore, I know they are fairly new but there should never be any stem particles in a hand-made cigar and I am sure that this was just a one time deal and not reflective of their effort to make a fine boutique cigar because I feel they have succeeded in doing so. I think we will see and hear a lot from this cigar company in the coming months and I feel honoured to have had the chance to smoke their pre-release sample.