|Epicurean Gonzo Santeria|
The Epicurean Gonzo Santeria is the fourth blend to be released by Steven Ysidron’s Epicurean Cigars. In late 2012, it was announced that Epicurean Cigars would be the sixth company to be added to Gary Griffith’s House of Emilio family. In terms of brand identity under House of Emilio, Epicurean Cigars has a distinct focus – small batch, Nicaraguan-based blends using premium crop tobaccos. The Gonzo Santeria was announced to be a variation of Epicurean’s Gonzo Vintage blend – featuring a different wrapper and two additional leaves of ligero. The Gonzo Santeria has recently made it to shelves. Ysidron has been doing some excellent work with Epicurean Cigars, but it is perhaps the Gonzo Santeria that now stands at the top of his work to date – this is one excellent cigar.
Ysidron has his cigar making roots in the Dominican Republic where he and his father were making cigars with the Fuente Family. By 1999, he and his family started producing cigars out of Nicaragua – where the Epicurean line now has its roots. As mentioned, Nicaraguan tobacco plays a key role in the Epicurean line of cigars – and certainly in the Gonzo Santeria blend.
Santeria is described as a “cult religion” that is found in the Caribbean. This was the inspiration behind the name and the cigar itself.
Without further ado, let’s break down Epicurean’s Gonzo Santeria and see what this cigar brings to the table:
The Gonzo Santeria is the first Epicurean Cigar to use a San Andres wrapper. San Andres leaf is also used as a part of the cigar’s double binder.
Wrapper: San Andres
Binder: San Andres, Nicaraguan Jalapa
Filler: 2009 Nicaraguan Jalapa and Condega
The Gonzo Santeria is available in three sizes. The cigars are packaged in boxes of 50 with production limited to 150 boxes per size. These cigars are all box-pressed.
Ruca: 5 x 42
Heina: 6 x 52
Padrino: 6 x 60
For this cigar experience I smoked the Heina, which is a box-press toro vitola. The Gonzo Santeria Heina had more of a squarish box-press. The San Andres wrapper had a cocoa color with some darker marbling that can be seen upon closer examination. There wasn’t much in the way of oil on the surface of the wrapper. There were some visible wrapper seams and some visible veins. There is a small pig-tail on the cap. The square-press was firm with no soft spots.
The band to the Gonzo Santeria is black in color. In the center of the band is the text “SANTERIA” in a large modern-styled font. Above that text is “GONZO” in smaller red font. Below the “SANTERIA” text is the text “2009” in a large red font with the text “vintage” in white cursive font draped over it. Below the “2009” is “AGED FOUR YEARS” in small white font – and below that text is “ESTELI NICARAGUA” in a smaller white font. To the left and right are two gray designs which I assume represents the Santeria origins. Below the right gray design is the text “BY STEVEN YSIDRON” in small white font. There is one more Santeria-like design to the far right which is white in color.
Preparation for the Cigar Experience
Instead of pulling the pig-tail cap off of the Gonzo Santeria, I went with a straight cut (as I normally do with pig-tails on a cap). Once the cap was removed, I moved on to the pre-light draw. The cold draw provided a mix of leather, cocoa, and some spice. There was a slight bit of sourness on the cold draw, but this was nothing major. Overall it still was quite a nice pre-light draw to this cigar. At this point, I was now ready to light up my Gonzo Santeria and see what the smoking phase would have in store.
The Gonzo Santeria started out with a mix of espresso syrup, earth and some spice. The spice resembled more on an herbal spice that was also present on the retro-hale throughout the cigar experience. As the Santeria moved through the first third, the forefront became more of a mix of espresso syrup, cocoa powder, and earth notes. These notes seemed to vary in different degrees of intensity at different points during the latter part of the first third of the Santeria.
In the middle of the first third, the Santeria moved into a pattern where the espresso, cocoa, earth, and cherry notes were present on the draw and the herbal spice provided a nice long finish.
In the second third, the black cherry notes diminished to the background and I picked up the espresso, cocoa, and earth notes as primary flavors. The spice remained prominent on the finish.
As the Santeria moved to the second third, the earth notes remained primary, and now the espresso and cocoa notes joined the black cherry notes in the background. There was a slight increase in the spice as well.
The last third of the Santeria exhibited more in the way of earth and spice notes. The espresso and cherry notes could still be detected in the background. This is the way the Santeria remained until the end of the cigar experience. There was no harshness at the end of cigar – and the resulting nub was cool in temperature and slightly soft to the touch.
Burn and Draw
The Gonzo Santeria is a well-constructed cigar and this was reflected in both the burn and draw which scored very well. The burn line remained straight from start to finish and the Santeria required little in the way of touch-ups – making it a low maintenance cigar from a burn standpoint. The resulting ash was not overly tight, yet was not loose either. The ash had a bright white color to it. The burn rate and burn temperature were both ideal.
|Burn of the Epicurean Gonzo Santeria|
The draw was outstanding as well. It was not too snug and not too loose. It made for a very enjoyable cigar experience from start to finish.
Strength and Body
The Gonzo Santeria is not a cigar that is going to overpower you in terms of strength. I assessed this cigar as being in the medium strength range from start to finish. As for the flavors, they fall into the medium-bodied range. The flavors build a little more weight on the pallet and by the last third, the Santeria progressed to medium to full-bodied. Overall the Santeria does a good job at balancing the strength and body, however in the last third, I still gave a slight edge to the body.
Epicurean is really doing some excellent things in its lines of cigars, but as mentioned the Gonzo Santeria moves right to the top of Ysidron’s work since he started the company. This is a cigar that hits on all cylinders from start to finish. Perhaps one of the best qualities of the Santeria is the complexity that this flavor profile delivers. The Gonzo Santeria is the kind of cigar that I’d recommend to the novice or experienced cigar enthusiast. As for myself, this is a cigar I’d recommend smoking again. Even though this cigar comes in 50 count boxes, normalizing this to a standard 20 to 25 count box, this is still worth a box split in my book. It’s one I would smoke again.
Body: Medium (Medium to Full in last third)
Assessment: 3.5 – Box Split
Source: Samples provided by manufacturer (*)
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* The cigars for this assessment were given to Cigar Coop by House of Emilio. Cigar Coop is appreciative for the sample, but this does not influence the review.