Many cigars that are released into the market have a story behind them. When it comes to the story behind the Kristoff Guardrail, this is a story like no other. Kristoff Guardrail debuted in 2022, but the story’s roots go back a couple of years beforehand. Kristoff owner Glen Case was in Oklahoma and had rented a motorcycle. He was on the road when his back tire gave way and caused him to crash into a guardrail. The accident was serious enough to land Case in the hospital for weeks, followed by many months of rehabilitation – including spending time in a wheelchair. When Kristoff Guardrail was released a couple of years later, Case was fully recovered. Those around him kept the accident quiet, so many were shocked to hear of the accident. Case felt he was given a second chance at life, and this was the inspiration for the Kristoff Guardrail. Today we take a closer look at the Kristoff Guardrail in the Robusto size.
While there is a personal story involving Case for the Kristoff Guardrail, there also is a tobacco story. Regarding Kristoff blends, Case is very much known for his multinational blends, which include tobaccos from different countries and regions. In the filler, Case is using some tobacco from the Burma Valley of Zimbabwe. While Case isn’t claiming to be the first, he feels confident he is one of the early adopters. From my knowledge, when the Kristoff Guardrail made its debut, there was no major handmade regular production line using Zimbabwe tobacco. Now, let’s break down the Kristoff Guardrail Robusto and see what this cigar brings to the table.
Blend and Origin
In addition to the tobacco from Zimbabwe, the filler contains Dominican tobacco. Dominican tobacco also comprises the binder. The cigar is finished with a Brazilian Arapiraca leaf. It’s a wrapper that Case used before, most notably on the Kristoff Kristania Maduro.
Wrapper: Brazilian Arapiraca
Filler: Burma Valley Zimbabwe, Dominican
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Factory: Tabacalera Von Eicken (Charles Fairmorn)
The Kristoff Guardrail comes in three sizes. Each is presented in 20-count boxes.
Matador: 6 1/2 x 56
Robusto: 5 1/4 x 54
Churchill: 7 x 50
The Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper of the Kristoff Guardrail Robusto had a dark roasted coffee bean color. The surface of the wrapper had a light amount of oils on it. There was some mottling that was also present on the wrapper’s surface. There were some visible veins, and the dark color of the wrapper did a good job of hiding the wrapper seams. The cigar has a loosely covered footer. Finally, the cigar has a thick pigtail on the cap.
As opposed to pulling off the pigtail, a straight cut was used to simultaneously remove the cap and the pigtail of the Kristoff Guardrail Robusto. Once the cap was detached, it was time to commence with the pre-light draw ritual. The cold draw delivered a mix of coffee, earth, and a slight amount of cedar notes. Overall this was a satisfactory pre-light draw. At this point, it was time to toast up the footer of the Kristoff Guardrail and await what the smoking phase would bring to the table.
The Kristoff Guardrail Robusto opened up with notes of coffee, earth, natural tobacco, bittersweet chocolate, baker’s spice, and cream. Early on, the coffee and earth notes moved into the forefront. The cream, natural tobacco, chocolate, and baker’s spice settled in the background while some cedar notes joined them. Meanwhile, the retro-hale delivered a layer of mixed pepper. The coffee and earth notes remained primary during the second third of the Kristoff Guardrail Robusto. There was an increase in baker’s spice and cedar notes. Natural tobacco notes were also present. The mixed pepper that was present on the retro-hale made its way onto the tongue. Meanwhile, the chocolate notes diminished in intensity, and the creaminess dissipated by the second half.
The final third saw the coffee and earth notes remain primary. There were definitely some spices in play, as the pepper notes and cedar were the more prominent secondary notes. The flavors were rounded out by the baker’s spice, natural tobacco, and touches of chocolate. This is the way the Kristoff Guardrail Robusto came to a close. The resulting nub was soft to the touch and cool in temperature.
The burn of the Kristoff Guardrail Robusto required some touch-ups to maintain a straight burn path. While the touch-ups did the trick, more were required than preferred. There was some jaggedness on the burn line from time to time. This wasn’t the firmest of ashes. I would categorize it as slightly loose. It had a very light gray color. As for the burn rate and burn temperature, both were ideal.
Overall the draw to the Kristoff Guardrail Robusto had what The Smoking Syndicate’s Ben Lee calls a “milkshake draw.” It had just the right amount of resistance to it. At the same time, this was a low-maintenance cigar to derive flavor from.
Strength and Body
The Kristoff Guardrail Robusto started out with medium strength and medium-bodied flavors. Along the way, there was a slight increase in strength and body. While there was more strength and body at the end of this cigar than at the beginning, I would still classify the intensity levels as being in the (upper part) medium range for both attributes. Both the strength and body balanced each other nicely, with neither attribute overshadowing the other.
BANDING AND PACKAGING NOTES
Kristoff did a fantastic job on the bands and boxes of the Kristoff Guardrail. Both feature a silver and black color scheme. The silver color has a slightly weathered look that helps make the bands pop. The bands also feature motorcycle handlebars and angel wing designs helping bridge the cigar to the story behind it.
It is worth noting that the Kristoff Guardrail is not in the “rustic elegance” boxes that Kristoff is known for. Glen Case has referred to Rustic elegance as rough-cut cut boxes packaged with loose tobacco. Kristoff Guardrail has sleek boxes with no loose tobacco. Case announced at this year’s PCA Trade Show that he plans to move away from the rustic elegance look for the rest of the Kristoff portfolio.
Many times when there is a story behind a cigar or a new tobacco, It can also be a setup for a letdown once I smoke the cigar. This is absolutely not the case with the Kristoff Guardrail Robusto. Flavorwise the Kristoff Guardrail Robusto fires on all cylinders. As far as the Zimbabwe tobacco goes, I can’t specifically identify what it contributes to the blend, but from an intangibles standpoint, there was something very different. This cigar scored very well, coming in at 91 points and exceeding the 90-point threshold. The cigar might have scored even higher if the burn was a little better. It’s a cigar that I would probably steer to a more seasoned cigar enthusiast but wouldn’t discourage a novice from trying.
Key Flavors: Coffee, Earth, Chocolate, Baker’s Spice, Natural Tobacco, Cedar, Pepper
Complexity: Medium Plus
Finish: Very Good
Value: Box Worthy Consideration
News: Kristoff Guardrail Previewed at 2022 PCA Trade Show
Brand Reference: Kristoff
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop