I am not one to smoke many Connecticut Shade cigars; I will be the first to admit it. To be honest, I typically find them lacking in almost every department I look for in a quality cigar, and because of that I do not light many up. While I don’t smoke many mild cigars that often, that is not my major reason for not smoking them; the reason is that they are typically not that flavorful. One dimensional is a great way to describe some Connecticut Shade cigars, and when I look to smoke a cigar, I do not want a one dimensional cigar. With that being said, there are some Connecticut Shade cigars out there which challenge those norms that you find with most Connecticut smokes, and those are very enjoyable. One of those is the XIKAR HC Series Connecticut Shade.
Well back in 2008 XIKAR decided that they would delve deeper into the cigar industry and launch their own cigar line. The line was originally called Defiance, but they changed the name shortly after to HC Series. The line did and is still doing incredibly in ratings, and has three varieties that offer smokes to each class of smoker. At the time of the original release the cigars were made by Jesus Fuego, and to this day they are still made by him. The cigars are made in two different factories, and the Connecticut Shade version is made in the Segovia Factory in Esteli, Nicaragua which is run by Nestor Plasencia. For this review I will be smoking the sample I was gifted, and that is the Belicoso which measures 6” with a 52 ring gauge.
The cigar is covered with a Connecticut Shade wrapper grown in Ecuador, and directly underneath that is an Ecuadorian Sumatra binder. You can really see the creativity of Jesus Fuego by using an Ecuadorian Sumatra leaf as a binder, and you also see these skills be utilized by A.J. Fernandez and E.P. Carrillo. The filler is composed of Costa Rica, Mexican and Nicaraguan tobacco, and once again there is a mixture of tobacco that is so unique and flavorful in its own way. The cigar is covered with a golden brown wrapper that is between Claro and Colorado Claro in appearance and is practically vein free while remaining smooth and silky to touch. It is a firm cigar, and the aroma at the foot is that of cedar, nuts, graham cracker, wood and hay.
Lighting up the cigar I am expecting some soft flavors and a smooth smoke, and there is that, but eventually the strength of the flavors begins to rise more and more, and it is then that it shows all the great flavors the cigar has to offer. There is a wonderful cream flavor profile to the cigar, and it is accompanied by some nutty, graham cracker, cedar and hay notes. This is a tremendous morning smoke, and would even go great with Champagne I feel. You can pick up some distinct almond and honey notes here and there, and even some light coffee bean notes. It is burning wonderfully, and you can see that distinct razor sharp burn line along the light wrapper and the solid gray ash. I would say the strength is between mild and medium in body, and closer to the milder side of things.
In the second third of the cigar the flavors are still very present, and this is what I look for in a mild Connecticut Shade cigar. I don’t necessarily look for strength in a cigar, but I look for a flavor; that is what is important to me. Those creamy notes are still very present in this third, and there is also this emergence of toasty notes. I am still picking up those graham cracker, cedar and hay notes, and it is showing that lovely nutty finish as well. It is still burning incredibly smooth and cool, and leaving a burn line that is razor sharp. I am still holding on to the gray ash from the first third, and this is a very well made cigar. I would say the strength has increased just a touch to being closer to medium in body, but still on the milder side of things.
I am in the final third of the cigar now, and it is finishing wonderfully. It is keeping all those great flavors from the first and second third, and the strength level has remained as smooth as it has been. The flavors of toasted nuts, coffee beans, hay and cedar are still very dominant, but there are those great cream and honey/graham cracker flavors on the finish which add a nice subtle sweetness to it. The strength of the cigar is still slightly below medium in body, mild/medium, and with the soft strength level you are picking out those great flavors. The burn line has remained perfect throughout, and the ash has kept that solid gray coloring as well. It is a cool smoke all the way to the nub, and on the finish there is a lot of smoke and soft pleasant flavors.
I believe this to be one of the better Connecticut Shade cigars on the market. I find that it captures those creamy and mild characteristics that you look for in a cigar with this wrapper, but it also packs a lot of flavors which are sometimes a miss with cigars of this type. I typically do not smoke Connecticut Shade cigars, even in the morning, but this would be a great smoke early in the morning as a first cigar of the day. If you are a smoker that has been enjoying Connecticut Shade cigars for some time, but want to expand your horizons this is a great transition period cigar because it will definitely help you in finding more flavorful cigars while remaining light in strength. I give this smoke a solid 90 points, and would recommend to many cigar smokers looking for something flavorful and mild.
|CT. Shade Belicoso
*cigar for this assessment given to me by XIKAR for review.