When it comes to the Indie Cigar market, the line I feel is the strongest is the Esteban Carreras line. Esteban Carreras was created by Craig Cunningham, a cigar retailer in Southern California. I’ve found an incredible amount of depth in the cigars in the Esteban Carreras portfolio. The cigar that I feel stands at the top of their portfolio is the Esteban Carreras Habano Maduro. This is the type of cigar that is Cigar of the Year material. In fact, in 2009, I rated the Esteban Carreras Habano Maduro as my #3 Cigar of the Year. When I have put this cigar into someone’s hands, the result has been overwhelmingly positive. No doubt, the Habano Maduro truly brings something special to the table. This is one of the best full bodied, full strength cigars I have had.
I discovered the Esteban Carreras line about two years ago while I was up in New Jersey. I had sampled their 10 Anos (also a Top 10 cigar of mine for 2009) and I realized there was something special to what Cunningham and his company were doing. It was not long after that I convinced my local retailer to give these guys a try – and that’s when I managed to sample the Esteban Carreras Habano Maduro. After having this cigar, it reaffirmed all of the positive things I had been saying about this company.
So you might ask – what is so special about this cigar? Let’s take a closer look.
The wrapper on this cigar is a Nicaraguan Habano Maduro. It is also worth noting that this is available in a Natural Habano wrapper. The cigar itself is a Nicaraguan puro.
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano Maduro
The cigar itself is available in six vitolas in both the Natural Habano and Habano Maduro:
Robusto: 5 x 52
Double Corona: 7 x 54
Rothman: 4 x 54
Sixty: 6 x 60
Toro: 5.5 x 54
Torpedo: 6.75 x 54
For this cigar experience, I opted to sample the Toro. I probably will do an assessment of the Robusto separately. The Toro is my second favorite vitola behind the Robusto for this blend. It’s just that I have a box of the Toros and have smoked more of these as of late. The Toro size still does justice to providing an outstanding smoking experience.
Preparation for the Cigar Experience
For this cigar experience, I placed a straight cut into the cap. If you look at the photo above, this cigar had developed a nice plume on it, so it was very ripe to be smoked. On the pre-light draw I was treated to a combination of chocolate and light pepper. Judging from the appearance of this cigar, the flavor profile did not surprise me, yet it still made for a good dry draw. It was then on to toast the foot and enjoy this cigar.
Ultimately it is going to come to flavor and complexity that will determine if a cigar is in the stratosphere in terms of a great rating. The Esteban Carreras Habano Maduro brings it all to the table. The Habano Maduro starts out with chocolate and a hint of salt. The salt notes get a little stronger early on and then transition into a classic black pepper spice. I also detected some cherry sweetness early on. When you have a trifecta of chocolate, sweetness, and spice – it makes for a very good start.
About 5 percent into the smoke, the chocolate transitions into a cocoa powder taste. The cherry notes also increase in depth. The cocoa powder and cherry sweetness take some turns on which is the predominant note. The spice remains a background flavor and the pepper can definitely be felt through the nose.
About 15 percent into the smoke, the cocoa note makes another transition – this time into more of a coffee-like taste. The sweetness also takes on more of a taste of a generic syrup sweetness. This is the flavor profile that holds up until about the mid-way point of the smoke.
At the midway point, the spice begins to creep back into the picture – it takes on a combination of pepper and cedar notes. Another interesting thing happens at this point – some tea notes become present. Yes folks, you can have both coffee and tea flavors in a cigar and the Esteban Carreras Habano Maduro is proof. This is the way the flavor profile holds through the end of the cigar. The nub is cool and firm – and this makes for a wonderful finish.
Burn and Draw
With the Esteban Carreras Habano Maduro, I find these smoke better a little drier (65 to 68 percent humidity). This was the conditions I had my cigar for this assessment under. The burn and draw are excellent under these conditions. The burn is never too hot and the cigar tends to burn slow making for an enjoyable experience.
Strength and Body
From the looks of this cigar, it definitely looks like it is one with some power. Once you light up the Esteban Carreras Habano Maduro, the strength of this cigar is confirmed. No question this one is a full strength cigar. Is it the strongest cigar I’ve ever had ? Not by a long-shot, but it provides enough power to satisfy someone who enjoys a full strength cigar. A lot of arguments against full strength cigars is that they tend to overshadow the flavors. This is not the case with the Esteban Carreras Habano Maduro. This cigar has wonderful robust flavors and balance against the strength perfectly. If I had to say what makes this cigar special, it is how wonderful the strength and body of this cigar complement each other.
There probably isn’t a lot more to say than I’ve said above except for one thing – the price point. Depending on the vitola, these cigars are approximately in the $6.00- $8.00 range – a great price point. Cunningham and Esteban Carreras are doing something right with his brand. This went from a cigar I had to hunt high and low for to one that is appearing in more and more humidors. I always keep a box of these around and don’t hesitate to recommend to others.
Disclaimer: The cigar for this assessment was purchased from Outland Cigars in Charlotte, NC.