In 2020, after several years of anticipation, the 601 Black made its return. The 601 Black is a cigar that traces its roots back to EO Brands, the partnership between Espinosa Cigars’ founder Erik Espinosa and Eddie Ortega. 601 Black was one of the original 601 blends released in the EO portfolios. At the time it was released, it was considered a groundbreaking cigar in that it was one of the early Connecticut Shade blends to break the mold of traditional, milder Connecticut Shades. In 2011, a decision was made to stop making the 601 Black. Shortly after that EO Brands dissolved and 601 would follow Espinosa into Espinosa Cigars. The 601 Black faded away, but there were reports that it was rebranded as a shop exclusive for a retailer in California. Oddly, when the 601 Black disappeared, the Connecticut Shade market began changing and there was more demand for bolder Connecticut Shade cigars. As Espinosa Cigars’ Director of Operations Hector Alfonso said, the 601 Black was a cigar “ahead of its time.” In 2020, Espinosa Cigars announced it was bringing back the 601 Black as an annual limited edition cigar. Today we take look at the re-released 601 Black in the Toro size.
The 601 Black Toro was announced prior to the 2020 virtual edition of La Zona Palooza, the brand festival of Espinosa Cigars. Originally the 601 Black Toro was offered in event packages, and following La Zona Palooza additional five packs were made available to select retailers. Espinosa says future 601 Black cigars will be packaged in boxes. Currently, the 601 Black was only brought back in the Toro size.
Without further ado, let’s break down the 601 Black Toro and see what this cigar brings to the table.
Blend and Origin
In addition to the Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper, the remainder of the 601 Black Toro consists of all-Nicaraguan tobaccos. The cigar is said to use the same recipe as the original version. While the original 601 Black was made at My Father Cigars and now most of the 601 line is produced at AJ Fernandez’s San Lotano factory, production for the revived 601 Black is made the La Zona factory.
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Factory: La Zona
While there have been other sizes releases, the 2020 edition of the 601 Black Toro was released in one size – a 6 x 50 Toro.
The Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper of the 601 Black Toro is light brown with a light sheen of oil on it. The surface of the wrapper was slightly bumpy. There were some visible veins, but surprisingly the wrapper seams weren’t too noticeable.
The 601 Black features the band design that is found across many of the 601 cigars but with a gold and black color scheme. On the center of the band is a black oval with the text “601” in white font. Below that is a black ribbon design with the text “RESERVA LIMITAD” in white font. The lower portion of the bank has the text “BLACK” in white font on a thin black background with a small orange flag element on the left and right sides. Each side of the band has two medallions on it. The far left and right have two additional small orange flag elements.
A straight cut was used to remove the cap of the 601 Black Toro. From that point, it was on to the pre-light draw phase. The cold draw delivered notes of cream, cedar, and berry. While the 601 Black Toro’s cold draw flavor profile wasn’t much different than other Connecticut Shade cigars, it still was a satisfactory one. At this point, it was time to light up the 601 Black Toro and see what the smoking phase would have in store.
The 601 Black Toro kicked off with notes of berry, wood, and black pepper. The cream and berry notes moved to the forefront. The berry notes had a slightly burnt flavor to them. Meanwhile, the wood and pepper notes settled into the background. At the same time, there was an additional layer of black pepper on the retro-hale.
Early in the second third of the 601 Black Toro, natural tobacco notes emerged in the forefront with the cream and berry notes. As the cigar progressed through the second third, there was an increase in the pepper notes while the berry and cream notes settled in the background. The wood notes also remained in the background
By the later part of the second third, the natural tobacco was now the main primary note. This was rounded out by the pepper, berry, cream, and wood. This is the way the 601 Black Toro came to a close. The resulting nub was slightly soft to the touch and cool in temperature.
The burn of the 601 Black Toro performed stellarly. This was a cigar that maintained both a straight burn path and a straight burn line requiring less than the norm for touch-ups. The wrapper will blister easily (as noted in the photo below), so be careful when applying a touch-up. The resulting ash was light gray. While there was some minor flaking, this was a burn still skewed toward the firmer side. Both the burn rate and burn temperature were ideal.
The 601 Black Toro had an open draw. While this wasn’t a loose draw, normally I prefer a draw with a little more resistance. There were no adverse effects from the draw and this was a low maintenance cigar to derive flavor from.
Strength and Body
While the 601 Black is positioned as a bolder Connecticut, this still wasn’t the boldest Connecticut I have tried. At the same time, this certainly isn’t a traditional milder Connecticut. The 601 Black started out on the lower end of medium for strength and body. There was a nominal increase in the intensity of both attributes, but in the end, the strength and body didn’t quite reach the medium to full threshold.
In terms of strength versus body, there was a slight edge to the strength, but this didn’t have a negative effect on the equilibrium of the smoking experience.
In many cases, when a company brings back a line after a hiatus, the re-release falls short of the original release. This is not the case with the 601 Black Toro as the 2020 release exceeds the previous iteration. This would be a great candidate to have as an ongoing production release, but for now, we’ll have to settle for waiting once a year for it. While it’s a bolder Connecticut, it’s an approachable candidate for both the novice and experienced cigar enthusiast. As for myself, this is a cigar I would smoke again and buy multiples to keep in the humidor. At 91 points it exceeds the Cigar Coop Standard of Excellence threshold.
Key Flavors: Natural Tobacco, Cream, Berry, Wood, Pepper
Draw: Very Good
Finish: Very Good
Value: Buy Multiples
Cigar Coop Standard of Excellence
News: 601 Black to Re-Launch at La Zona Palooza
Source: Espinosa Cigars, Purchased
Brand Reference: Espinosa
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop
Mark E Truskett
so are the 601s released last fall it until fall 2021? it was originally indicated there would be a full release in Jan 2021, but no news and no cigars!