I am going to change things up a bit and give my thoughts on the cigar in the beginning, rather than waiting till the end of the review. When I smoked the Epicurean Gonzo Vintage I did not find it was a cigar for me. I thought it had lacked complexity and transitioning and was a cigar that was not to my liking. I know a lot of smokers liked that cigar, but it was not for me. When I went into the Gonzo Santeria I was worried a little bit because it was a tweaked version of that original blend. I can tell you that my worries were not necessary and that this was nothing like the original Gonzo Vintage. I really love the Gonzo Santeria and I can tell you that right now this cigar is in my list for Top 25 of 2014. We still have many months to go, but this is one terrific smoke that delivers so many great qualities. With that being said, let us look at the cigar.
As mentioned in my introduction, the Gonzo Santeria is a modified version of the Gonzo Vintage. The blend is changed so that two leaves are swapped out with ligero priming leaves, but the filler is still a blend of 2009 Nicaraguan tobacco from Jalapa and Condega. The binders are the same binders as before, Nicaraguan Jalapa and Mexican San Andres, but the wrapper is now a Mexican San Andres wrapper rather than a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. The cigar is made in Nicaragua and is a limited production stick. Total production is set at 450 boxes, 150 boxes per size, and there are 50 cigars a box. For this review I was given the Heina vitola and the cigar measures 6" with a 52 ring gauge. The cigar has a nice pigtail cap and it has a great press as well. The coloring is that of a solid maduro and it is slightly oily with some veins throughout. The cigar is firm in hand and it shows an aroma that is rich and filling, and it has earthy, cocoa and damp tobacco qualities.
Lighting up the cigar it begins by showing those classic Mexican San Andres flavors that are accompanied by Nicaraguan tobaccos in the filler It is showing notes of chocolate, rich earth, sweet and soft spices and damp tobacco. There are some creamy aspects to that, along with some woody qualities, and it is an enjoyable beginning. It really has that Mexican San Andres flavor that a lot of people love and it is very smooth on the palate. I would say that the strength of the cigar is at a medium to medium full level and the body is right there as well. I could smoke this in the morning, afternoon or evening without any problems, but since I am not a huge maduro guy, it would probably be an afternoon smoke. In terms of construction the cigar is smoking wonderfully and it is producing an even burn line with a solid charcoal ash on the end. The ash is holding on fairly firmly and with that is a nice bit of smoke. The draw is cool and so far I am pleased with the beginning.
When I get into the second third of the cigar I find that the flavor profile really begins to open up. It is showing those rich cocoa, earth and creamy notes from before, but it is now accompanied by this flavor profile that I pick up with Cheerwine and Dr. Pepper. There is a nice sweet crisp spice and with that is this dark cherry flavor that is really incredible. There are some soft amaretto notes as well and it is a complex cigar and one hell of a maduro. The construction remains perfect in this third and it is showing that even burn line with a solid charcoal ash that is holding on firmly to the end. The draw is smooth, cool and easy, and it is all you can ask for in a cigar. I would say that the strength and body have increased to a medium full level and for me this is one of the best maduros I have had all year. It shows those maduro flavors that everyone loves, and then some!
As I enter the final third of the cigar I find that the dominant Cheerwine and Dr. Pepper flavor has faded some, but it is still producing some great stone fruit and amaretto notes. They two pair together wonderfully, and when you add the rich earth and cocoa notes in with that it is incredible. There are some sweet spice notes present as well, along with some creamy and woody qualities, and this is a wonderfully complex smoke. The transitioning from third to third has been great and it has tons of depth with that. The construction in the final third remains as perfect as it has thus far and it is showing an even burn line with a beautiful charcoal ash on the end. The ash is holding on firmly and this is a smoke I could smoke back to back of and never get bored. I would say the final third has a body and strength level around medium full and the final draw is flavorful and cool.
This is a solid cigar, I said that in the beginning. It showed excellent construction form beginning to end and with that was a smooth draw that was easy for me as a smoker while producing a great bit of smoke. The burn line was always perfect and it showed a nice charcoal ash along with that. It was producing a solid medium to medium full body and strength level throughout and it was a cigar that was a classic maduro that showed wonderful rich flavors. I had a lot of complexity and transitioning from third to third, and the second third was simply incredible. I think this is the best stick that Steve has put out with Epicurean and it is a limited edition that will smoke great now and I believe age wonderfully. It is kind of crazy that the cigars come in 50 count boxes, but it is cool as well. If you really love the cigar you will buy them and have a lot to smoke over the years, and if you can't buy a whole box, but can buy some here and there, you should be able to continuously pick some up out of the box at your local shop. I am giving this cigar a solid 92 rating and look forward to smoking it again throughout the year.
Seth's Humidor Rating: 92
*cigars for this assessment were provided to me by Epicurean Cigars