December 5, 2011

Cigar Review: XIKAR HC Series Criollo Toro

HC Series Criollo Toro
I know that I recently reviewed a XIKAR cigar, but I was gifted some more wonderful smokes by the local representative for XIKAR at the last event that Havana Phil’s had so I thought I would get going on those reviews. In fact, I was ecstatic when I was gifted the XICAR HC Series Criollo. I am a huge fan of Criollo tobacco to begin with, and this is the one line in the HC Series that really captivates my attention. Criollo tobacco is an interesting tobacco leaf, and often people do not care for them as a wrapper, but I love them. The wrapper typically gives off a nice sweet spice to it with nutty and toasty characteristics, and it also has a nice dry finish. Some great examples of Criollo wrapper cigars are the Kristoff Ligero Criollo, CAO Criollo, Alec Bradley Tempus and the Perdomo 10th Anniversary Criollo. The HC Series Criollo goes somewhat further than just the wrapper in the blending process though because Jesus Fuego really wanted the smoker to get a lot of Criollo flavors, and he used Criollo tobacco as a wrapper and binder. I am sure there is Criollo tobacco in the filler as well, but it is not entirely specified. I should say that Don Pepin uses Criollo in his filler a lot of the time. 




The HC Series Criollo begins with a wonderful Nicaraguan Shade Grown Criollo wrapper that has been aged for five years. I imagine the wrapper is from Jalapa, because that is where some of the best Criollo wrapper is grown, but I am not entirely positive. The binder is also Criollo that has been Sun Grown and is from Nicaragua as well. Underneath all that wonderful Criollo tobacco is the filler which is composed of Honduran and Nicaraguan tobacco. As I said earlier I am not sure how much of it is Criollo, but I imagine there is some Criollo tobacco in it along with some Corojo. This particular line in the HC Series brand is made in Danli, Honduras at Nestor Plasencia's El Paraíso Factory, and like all the lines, the cigar is blended by Jesus Fuego, and he does a fabulous job with this cigar.

The toro vitola which I sampled measures 6.5" with a 52 ring gauge. It has a slightly rough wrapper that is somewhat silky as well. It has a beautiful color to it, light brown with bits of red, and would fall between Natural in Colorado in coloring. There are veins present throughout the cigar, and it is very firm to touch. The cigar has wonderful aromas of spice, sweetness, bread, wood and leather. The cold draw is great as well and there are bits of caramel and tea present in the draw.  


HC Series Band Logo
Upon lighting the first third, and letting it work some way in I begin to pick up some lovely flavors. There are hints of tea right away, and I am also getting dry wood, leather, caramel and spice flavors. There are some slight sweetness notes to the cigar as well, and it is different than the caramel notes I am getting. The burn on the cigar is perfect so far, and it is producing a lovely ash that is holding on to the cigar firmly. The color is of charcoal gray and the amount of smoke it is giving off is perfect for smoke rings. I would say the cigar is around medium in body, maybe medium full, and very pleasant. I am really tasting the Criollo tobacco so far, and I am loving the draw on this cigar.

When I get into the second third the spice level has increased dramatically and so have the tea notes. There is a nice bit of nutty notes present in this cigar, and some earthy flavors as well. The spice notes are that of cayenne in this third, and it matches wonderfully with the wood and leather notes. I am not getting as much caramel notes in this third, but it is still somewhat sweet. The draw is still great in this third, and the burn line is also perfect. The ash has been holding on to the cigar very well as well, and the strength has remained fairly similar to that of the first third. This is a cigar that I would pair with a wonderful mojito, rum, tequila, or a rum and coke. I wouldn't pair this with a wine, and I would typically smoke this cigar in the summer time. It has a dry finish to it, and with cigars like this I typically prefer them in the summertime just because they give off that vibe. There are certain cigars I like in the summertime and those are Cuban Hoyos, Cohibas, Trinidads, or even non-Cubans such as the Opus X or My Father No. 1. Don't ask me why, I just do.
Nicaraguan Criollo Wrapper
The final third is very similar to that of the first and second third, and very enjoyable. I am getting those lovely tea and spice notes, but I am also getting those nutty, wood, leather, caramel and sweet notes as well. It is a very complex cigar, and you can definitely taste the Criollo tobacco in it. Being a fan of Criollo tobacco I am really enjoying this smoke, and loving the dry spicy and sweet finish it is giving. It is a wonderful cigar from beginning to end, and the flavors and strength are great. The burn line and smoke have been wonderful, and even when I smoke it down to the nub it is still burning very cool. It stays probably between medium and medium-full all the way to the end, and captures a nice bit of complexity.

I really enjoyed this cigar, and I figured I would, but I can see hesitation by others because of the Criollo tobacco. I have found that people either love Criollo wrapper cigars or hate them, and the best way to find out is to smoke a bunch of them. This was one of the better Criollo wrapper cigars I have had in a long time, and it is definitely blended and made well under Jesus Fuego. I give this cigar a solid 90. It has a nice bit of complexity to it, not as much as I would like, but still very nice. I was able to get those wonderful Criollo notes, and at the same time get some balance to it with the other tobacco. If you have never tried a Criollo wrapper cigar then I suggest you begin with this one. This will definitely open the door for you on Criollo tobacco, and I think if you give them a chance you will begin to really love them. Great job XIKAR and Jesus Fuego on another great blend to the HC Series.
HC Series Criollo
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