Back in 2017, PDR Cigars launched a blend known as El Criollito. Originally El Criollito was a blend developed for the Spanish market by PDR owner Abe Flores in conjunction with his distributor in Spain (Jaime de Juana), and a group of retailers from Spain. Later that year, El Criollito was added to PDR Cigars’ regular production portfolio. Fast forward to 2021, we would find PDR Cigars in the midst of overhauling its whole portfolio – including blends and packaging. 2021 would see the revamping of El Criollito. The blend would be refreshed and the packaging was upgraded to be more eye-catching. Today we take a closer look at the 2021 edition of El Criollito in the Robusto size.
At the time the revamping of El Criollito was done, PDR Cigars told Cigar Aficionado magazine that it was also going through a rebranding of the company as a whole. When the company was founded, it was originally known as Pinar del Rio cigars. It later became known as PDR Cigars. While PDR Cigars is not changing, what PDR Cigars is called is now changing. PDR will now stand for Puros Dominican Republic. This reflects a lot of what is going on with the refresh of the portfolio – namely emphasizing more use of Dominican tobaccos, and putting a Dominican influence on some of the packaging.
Without further ado, let’s turn our attention the 2021 version of the El Criollito Robusto and see what this cigar brings to the table.
Blend and Origin
The blend components of the El Criollito 2021 edition look analogous to the original version. The one difference is there is more of an emphasis on the Dominican tobacco in the blend. As the name indicates, Criollo tobacco plays a pivotal role in this blend – being featured in the wrapper and in the filler.
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Criollo ’98
Binder: Mexican San Andres
Filer: Dominican, Nicaraguan Criollo ’98
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Factory: PDR Cigars
El Criollito is offered in eight sizes. Each is presented in 24-count boxes with the exception of the Club size which comes in 50-count boxes. The Half Corona is available in five-count tins while the Purito is available in six-count tins.
Club: 4 1/4 x 30
Purito: 4 x 34
Perla: 3 3/4 x 42
Short Gordo: 4 1/4 x 58
Half Corona: 3 1/2 x 50
Robusto: 5 x 54
Double Magnum: 6 x 60
Setenta: 7 x 70
The Ecuadorian Criollo wrapper of the El Criollito Robusto had a medium brown color to it. The surface of the wrapper did not have much in the way of oil. There was some subtle mottling and a small amount of toothiness on the surface of the wrapper. The wrapper had some visible veins and visible wrapper seams, but overall had a relatively smooth surface.
Prior to lighting the El Criollito Robusto, a straight cut was used to remove the cap of the cigar. After the cap was detached, it was on to the pre-light draw stage. The cold draw yielded notes of cedar, earth, and natural tobacco. While it wasn’t a pre-light draw that delivered revolutionary flavor notes, it was nonetheless a satisfying one. At this point, it was time to toast the foot of the El Criollito Robusto and see what the smoking phase would have in store.
The El Criollito Robusto picked up where the pre-light draw left off. There are more notes of cedar, earth, and natural tobacco. In addition, some fruit and mixed pepper notes surfaced on the tongue. Early on the cedar notes were primary, but as the cigar settled into the first third the natural tobacco and fruit notes took over as the primary note. The cedar settled in the background with the earth and pepper notes. Meanwhile, the retro-hale had an additional layer of pepper and cedar.
As the El Criollito Robusto moved through the second third, the natural tobacco took over as the sole primary note. The fruit notes settled into the background with the earth, cedar, and pepper notes. The natural tobacco notes developed a slight bitterness. At this point, the bitterness was not overly aggressive. Meanwhile, there was an increase in the pepper notes.
There wasn’t much change in the final third. The natural tobacco notes remained primary. Because the overall sweetness of the cigar diminished, the bitterness was a little more aggressive during this stage of the smoking experience. The pepper notes were more prominent, but were still secondary to the natural tobacco notes. Meanwhile the earth, cedar, and (to a lesser extent) the fruit notes rounded out the flavor profile. This is the way the El Criollito Robusto came to a close. The resulting nub was soft to the touch and cool in temperature.
On each of the El Criollito Robustos that were smoked, the burn started out low maintenance but as the cigar progressed, the burn required frequent touch-ups to maintain a straight burn path and straight burn line. The touch-ups certainly did the trick, but many touch-ups were required to keep the burn on track. This was a cigar that produced a firm, light gray ash. As for the burn rate and burn temperature, both were ideal.
The El Criollito Robusto had a touch of resistance on the draw. This is something that I consider to be a big positive on the draw. At the same time, this cigar produced ample amounts of smoke and was a low-maintenance cigar to derive flavor from.
Strength and Body
The El Criollito Robusto started out as a medium-strength, medium-bodied smoke. Along the way, there was a slight increase in the intensity levels of both the strength and body. While there was more strength and body at the end of this cigar than at the beginning, both attributes could still be considered to be in the medium range of the spectrum.
In terms of strength versus body, the body maintained a slight edge over the strength.
BANDING AND PACKAGING NOTES
The original El Criollito banding featured simple brown and white bands. The copper accents that were added to the band on the 2021 version are a major upgrade. While I did like the wood boxes of the original, the Cuban-style wrap boxes for the 2021 version of El Criollito is also an upgrade.
I really like all of the changes that PDR Cigars implemented with the El Criollito – this includes the packaging and the blend. El Criollito isn’t going to be a cigar that delivers exotic and unusual flavors. It delivers a very classic flavor profile that can appeal to a wide range of cigar enthusiasts. While I didn’t formally assess the first PDR version of El Criollito, I can say the 2021 edition is better. Coming in at a very respectable 88 points, this is a cigar I could recommend to any cigar enthusiast. It is certainly a cigar I would buy and smoke again.
Key Flavors: Natural Tobacco, Fruit, Earth, Cedar, Pepper
Burn: Very Good
Finish: Very Good
Value: Buy One
News: Revamped PDR El Criollito to be Launched at PCA 2021
Source: PDR Cigars
Brand Reference: PDR Cigars
Photo Credit: Cigar Coop, except where noted