Origin : Honduras (Raices Cubanas Factory)
Format : Gran Corona
Size : 5 5/8 x 46
Wrapper : Honduras Criollo '98*
Filler : Honduras & Nicaragua Ligero
Binder : Honduras Criollo '98*
Price : $8.50 MSRP
* Ocean State's website lists both the wrapper and binder as being Honduras Criollo '98, but the press release announcing the J. Grotto Series Reserve states that the wrapper and binder are Nicaragua Criollo '99 and '98, respectively.
J. Grotto Series Reserve is the latest release from Rhode Island's Ocean State Cigars, Inc. Ocean State is just two years old, and the J. Grotto Series Reserve is their second line, following the original J. Grotto Series. The Reserve comes in four sizes, 5 5/8 x 46, 5 x 52, 6 x 52 (with a pig tail cap), and 6 x 60. The tobacco used in the Reserve line is aged three years, and then the finished cigars are rested an additional three to four months before shipment. Ocean State claims that "the Reserve has power, but no spice."
The J. Grotto Series Reserve samples I smoked were both very attractive. They all displayed very oily wrappers with fine veins. The wrappers were a beautiful red/brown color. The only blemish I encountered on any of the samples I smoked was a small water spot on one of the cigars.
The ash on the Reserve series serves as testament to its impeccable construction. On every sample I smoked the dark grey ash was very firm and consistently held on for around two inches. Additionally, all the cigars were constructed with tight seams and both felt and looked very well rolled. One of the samples suffered from a slightly tight draw, but it didn't affect the smoking experience in any significant way. The samples all burned relatively straight and never required a touchup.
Although Ocean State claims that the Reserve series doesn't have any spice, all the samples I smoked opened with pepper on the first puffs. After eight or ten puffs the pepper died down and revealed a bready taste, sometimes with fruit (in fact, one sample hit a couple puffs that tasted vaguely reminiscent of a fruit tart!) and sometimes with cream. On one sample I could feel the pepper on the back of my throat until the 3/4 inch point. Transition from the first third to the second there was a very wide variety of flavors sliding in and out of the profile: fruit, bread, butter, earth, and cream. One sample exhibited a delicious syrupy finish, somewhat sticky feeling and sweet, with notes of honey and earth as well. Another combined the sweetness and bread flavors into something resembling an overcooked sugar cookie. All the samples then consistently ended with a mix of butter and earth. In terms of power, Ocean State hit the mark as all the samples picked up body from a heavy medium to a light full over the course of the smoke.
Smoke time across all the samples generally came in at around 70 minutes or so. At a price of $8.50, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who would call this smoke a deal; however, the dynamic and frequent flavor changes made this cigar a real treat, and the price is in line with other similar "boutique" cigars.
Overall Rating :
The J. Grotto Series Reserve Gran Corona was a real treat to smoke. I am a fan of this vitola in general and have smoked many great cigars in this size, so this cigar was up against some stiff competition. Although I can't call the Reserve the best I've ever smoked, it was an enjoyable experience and I look forward to smoking more of them in the future.
Many thanks to Paul Joyal from Ocean State for providing samples for this review!