VegaFina Fortaleza 2

The VegaFina Fortaleza 2 has become the third major release under Altadis USA’s VegaFina line this year.  This cigar follows-up the recently released  VegaFina Sumum 2010 and the VegaFina Jose Seijas 2011. The VegaFina Fortaleza 2 was showcased at the 2012 IPCPR.  Much like the Sumum 2010, the Fortaleza 2 is not a new launch.   The Fortaleza 2 has been a cigar that has been available in Europe from sometime.  Altadis USA made a decision to bring this cigar to the American market much like they did with the Sumum 2.  If you have followed this web-site, then probably have seen that we have been very high on the releases coming out of Altadis in 2012.  The VegaFina Fortaleza 2 is no exception – bringing another quality release to market.

The VegaFina line is one of Altadis’ many lines that come out of the famous Tabacalera de Garcia factory in the Dominican
Republic.  This line has done especially well in Europe- especially in Spain.  The line made its way to the United States a
few years ago, and have provided a value-priced milder smoke for cigar
enthusiasts. The trend with each of the three VegaFina cigars that have been launched is to provide more in terms of strength and/or body.

Let’s take a closer look at the VegaFina Fortaleza 2 and look at what this cigar delivers:

Blend Profile

The blend features a San Andres Criollo wrappers over Dominican binder and filler.  Many of the 2012 Altadis releases such as the VegaFina Jose Seijas 2011, Trinidad Paradox and Te Amo Revolution have been leveraging San Andres tobacco.  No doubt, the connection by Altadis with the Turrent family (growers of San Andres tobacco) is playing a role here.

Wrapper: San Andres Criollo
Binder: Dominican Olor
Filler: Dominican Piloto Ligero

While many are familiar with the San Andres Negro wrapper used on maduros, the San Andres Criollo is not a new seed.  In a recent video we shot with Drew Estate’s Steve Saka, he explains the origins of Criollo seed can trace a path through the San Andres region of Mexico.

Vitolas Available

There is an interesting trend here.  The four vitolas launched in the United States do have ring gauges over 50. This bucks a trend from Europe that tends to gravitate toward smaller ring gauges.

Churchill: 6 3/4 x 56
Toro: 6 x 54
Robusto: 5 x 50
Robusto Tube: 5 x 50

In addition to the Robusto vitola, the following vitolas were launched in Europe.  These keep to the smaller cigar ring gauges and lengths.

Panatela: 4 1/2 x 36
Short Belicoso: 4 x 52
Gran Corona: 5 7/8 x 46

As for the U.S. launches, the VegaFina Fortaleza 2 will be sold in boxes of 20 – except for the Robusto Tubes which will come in boxes of 10.

Appearance

For this cigar experience, I smoked the toro size vitola. The VegaFina Fortaleza 2 Toro has a medium brown wrapper.  The wrapper has a slightly silky complexion to it.  The wrapper has visible seams veins on the surface.  From the footer of the cigar, one can detect a barnyard-like tobacco aroma.

The band of the VegaFina Fortaleza 2 features a gray, black, red, silver and white color scheme.  On the center of the band is a VegaFina logo.  This features “VF” in red font with a white trim to it.  The “VF” sits on a black circular background.  A silver wreath surrounds the “VF”.  There is also white and gray striping toward the outer part of the circle.  The rest of the band features a thick black stripe with a thinner gray stripe above and below it.  The black stripe features smaller “VF”s outlined in gray in wallpaper fashion.  On the left side of the band is the text “VEGAFINA” in gray font.  On the right side of the band is the text “HECHO A MANO” in gray font.

Preparation for the Cigar Experience
For my smoking experience of the VegaFina Fortaleza 2, I went with a straight cut to remove the cap from the cigar.  It was now on to begin the pre-light experience.  The dry draw notes I detected were coffee, natural tobacco sweetness, and wood.  Overall, this was a solid pre-light draw experience.  It was now on to toast the foot and see what the rest of the cigar experience would deliver.

Flavor Profile

The start to the VegaFina Fortaleza 2 started off with the natural tobacco sweetness that I had detected on the pre-light draw.  This was followed up by a citrus component.  The citrus component definitely had some of the lemon flavor qualities that the VegaFina Sumum 2010 produced.  Some pepper spice notes also emerged in the first half.   It is in the first half where the pepper and citrus notes come on par with the natural tobacco sweetness.
In the second half the natural tobacco sweetness morphed to a caramel-like sweetness.  This becomes the primary flavor in the second half with the pepper and lemon notes secondary.  Later in the second third, the lemon notes dissipate.  As the Fortaleza 2 moved into the final third, the notes were pretty much caramel and pepper.   The finish had some spice, but the caramel notes also balanced the spice nicely.   The resulting nub was soft to the touch, and a little warm in temperature.
Burn and Draw
The burn of the VegaFina Fortaleza 2 burned relatively straight with few touch-ups required.  While the burn rate was ideal, the burn temperature had a tendency to burn a little on the warmer side during the second half.   Easing up on the draw in the early stages of this cigar seemed to help prevent the cigar from getting too warm.  Overall the draw was excellent.  I wouldn’t consider this a loose draw.  In other words, this isn’t a cigar that has a tendency to over-draw.   However, this did require a little more maintenance on the draw to prevent a warm burn from happening.

Strength and Body
This definitely is not your mild strength, mild to medium-bodied VegaFina.  At the same time, this is not going to be an overpowering VegaFina.  It is just when you compare the VegaFina Fortaleza 2 to some of the brand’s core offerings, there is a noticeable difference.   From a strength perspective, the Fortaleza 2 has just enough kick to qualify this as a medium to full-strength cigar.   As for the flavors, they have some nice depth to them – just enough to qualify the Fortaleza 2 as a full-bodied smoke.  I’d give the body an edge over the strength when comparing the two attributes.
Final Thoughts

I’ve been a little critical of San Andres wrapper lately – particularly on maduros, but I must say Altadis has been getting some very good flavors from the San Andres Criollo wrapper.  I’ve liked how it worked on the VegaFina Jose Seijas 2011, and I like the flavors on the Fortaleza 2.

Following the past twelve months at Altadis has been exciting as there is definitely some excitement in the blends that are being released.  While I’m inclined to put this release into this renaissance category at Altadis, one must remember this cigar had already been released for the European market.  Whatever the case, this is still a very nice cigar.  Unlike the VegaFina Sumum 2010 and VegaFina Jose Seijas 2011 which were limited releases, the Fortaleza 2 is a core line.  While this is a cigar I’d recommend for a more seasoned cigar enthusiast, this might be a good cigar for someone who has cut their teeth on the milder VegaFinas to try.  As for myself, it is certainly one I would reach for again.

Summary
Burn: Good
Draw: Excellent
Complexity: Medium
Strength: Medium to Full
Body: Full
Finish: Good
Assessment: Nice to Have
Score: 90

Source: Some of the cigars from this assessment were purchased at Burners Cigars in Huntersville, North Carolina.  There were also two samples provided by Altadis USA. Cigar Coop is appreciative for the sample, but in no
way does this influence this review.