Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Cigar Review: José L. Piedra Brevas


In the 1880's, the Piedra Family left the principality of Asturia and set out on the voyage to Cuba. The family arrived in Cuba but unlike some, did not stay in Havana. Instead, they headed east and set down in the central of Cuba at the town of Santa Clara. It is roughly three hours east of Havana and 45 minutes west of the town of Cabaiguan, home of Don Pepin Garcia. The Piedra Family settled down in the heart of the Vuelta Arriba, and this is a region that was growing tobacco since the 1500's. The family quickly entered into the world of tobacco and began producing cigars. The family continues to run the operations until the Revolution, and after that the government took control. For a period of time the brand was discontinued, but it was resurrected less than ten years later. The brand is all handmade short filler cigars, and prior to 2007 it was a Multi-Local Brand. It became a Global Brand that year, along with H. Upmann, and since then has become the only short filler Global Brand. Today I look at this short filler brand and focus on the José L. Piedra Brevas.

For this review, I went with the Brevas which is one of the more well known smokes in the Piedra brand. Like all smokes in the brand, it is a short filler Habano and is composed of tobacco from the Vuelta Arriba regions. It measures 133 mm (5.2") and has a ring gauge of 42. You can pick this up in five packs or bundles, but for the cost you might as well get the bundle. The Habano has a wrong wrapper which you can see is not the best of qualities, but it still possesses some redeemable traits. There is a nice Colorado coloring to it and there are few veins present throughout. The triple cap is placed perfectly and with that the Habano is rolled fairly well showing some softer spots here and there. There are aromas of salted wood, soil and tobacco on the wrapper, and on the foot I am getting some notes of rich earth and stronger tobacco notes.

The first third begins by showing some solid tobacco notes and some salted wood qualities. I always envision a piece of wood that has been washed up on the beach and being hit with waves of saltwater for a good amount of time. It shows that wood aroma, but it has just enough saltiness in there to tweak it. There are some coffee and cinnamon notes as well, and this is a great bundled stick. Habanos seems to deliver well with these, and while the construction may not always be top notch, the flavors are spot on. Currently the construction is wonderful for me, I have not had any problems to date with this brand though, and it has a razor sharp burn line with a nice charcoal ash on the end. I would say the body is at at medium level and the strength is there as well, and this is a Habano I could begin my day with and have no problems.

When I get into the second third the tobacco notes become more and more dominant, and it is showing some noticeable pepper and spice qualities with that. The salted wood notes have faded, and I am getting a gritty earthy flavor present as well. There are some dark cocoa notes that are unsweetened popping up too, and it has a strong coffee bean finish. I would classify the strength level as being between medium and medium full, and the body is there as well. Surprisingly, this is a really good short filler smoke and a tasty Habano. I am not saying it is mind blowing, but it is enjoyable. The construction remains solid in this third and it is showing an even burn line, that solid charcoal ash and a cool draw that is producing a decent amount of smoke. It has gone out a couple of times, so this is a Habano you have to pay attention to when smoking.

I am in the final third of the Habano now and it is showing some more changes from before. The spice, pepper and tobacco notes are stronger than they were in the second third, and much stronger than they were in the first third. It still has those coffee bean flavors with some dry earth, and overall it is a dryer third with an enjoyable and strong flavor profile. The construction is perfect to the end and it is showing that even burn line, solid charcoal ash and a cool draw that is producing a nice amount of smoke. This is probably one of the best smoking Habanos I have ever had, I mean that, and it is quite entertaining because it is a short filler smoke. In terms of strength and body, I would say it is closing at a medium full level, and it ends quite well for a Habano and makes you want to have another one. Great with a cup of coffee, this is a terrific budget friendly smoke to begin the day.

The question of whether or not this is a great Habano is answered quite easily. No, it is not. But, it is a terrific budget friendly smoke and the fact that this is short filler is quite impressive. I would rate it higher than some non short filler smokes and believe it to be more complex than some non-Cubans out there. Yes, that will piss some of those manufacturers off, but that is the way it is. The Habano shows transitioning from beginning to end, terrific construction and a strength and body level that grows the further you get into it. I don't know how impressive these would be with age, I mean why would you age them, but I imagine they smoke just as good then as they do know. Because of these factors, I would buy bundles of these to have around, let's face it, some will smoke poorly, but others will smoke great. I am giving it an 86-88 rating now and with age the same.

Overall Rating: 86-88