Graycliff is an expensive brand that sits at the very top of the super-premium class of cigars. In this respect, they are fully the equal of the luxury Davidoff brand. Frankly, their pricing has prevented my exploration of what is regarded as an excellent family of smokes. The Espresso line represents their most robust blends and is enjoyed by smokers of powerful cigars like tone-ny.
The Lancero format has one of the most elegant proportions in the cigar world. The lengthy and slim barrel is as attractive as it is difficult to roll. Made famous and infamous by the legendary Cohiba Lanceros, this format is somewhat uncommon and only those producers who can boast the best leaf and most skilled rollers can include it in their lineup. in this respect, it makes perfect sense that brands such as Tatuaje and Graycliff should present this format.
Initial inspection showed an incredibly oily and mottled colorado maduro wrapper. The wrapper was thick and resilient, quite veiny and stretched in places. Though visually far removed from the ideal of a tissue-thin, veinless wrapper, the velveteen sheen of the capa indicated the quality was absolutely top notch. The appearance suggested sun-grown leaf.
Rolling and gently squeezing the cigar between the fingers revealed two things. First, the visual appearance of oiliness was backed up by the tactile sensation of slick and supple resilience. The image that came to my imagination was a brand new oilcloth duster. It had an almost waxy feel to it. Second, the fillage seemed right on suggesting the potential for a good draw.
Sniffing the cigar for the first time gave me a noseful of an intensely earthy, spicy aroma that actually tickled me to the point of sneezing! What was I in for?
Lightup and Early Stage
The nicely done pigtail cap came off with a quick clip revealing a nicely bunched bundle of filler. A test draw confirmed that airflow would be good, with just the right amount of resistance. I did not toast the foot but instead lit it up with the gentlest combination of heat from my torch and blowing on the young coal. Once the entire foot was ignited, I gave it a few moments to settle down before recording my initial impressions.
Once the burn stabilized, gently drawing on the lancero brought forth clouds of heavy, heavy smoke. This cigar delivered perhaps the heaviest bodied smoke with the richest mouth feel of any cigar that I have smoked. The smoke delivered an immensely dense flavor of sweetness, dark leather and earth. A subdued white pepperiness was in the background. Having recently smoked a sungrown Fuente Cuban Belicoso, the profile of that cigar was fresh in my mind. I enjoyed the Cuban Beli, which is a surprise as I don't usually care for Fuente cigars. The Espresso Lancero, however, easily bettered the Beli many times over. The depth of flavor was overwhelming in its intensity and weight. The strength was perhaps medium at best, but the sheer density of flavor was shocking.
I smoked in my garage due to the rain. This also meant that the humidity was high. Coupled with the inherent oiliness of the tobacco, I found that I had to regularly knock the ash and do a full purge. Blowing back out through the cigar stokes the coal and burns off residue that can affect burn and taste. Every time I felt the cigar starting to require a deeper draw, I purged and was rewarded with huge clouds of pungent, aromatic smoke as fresh as from the first half inch. The burn was organically straight and required no corrections.
Late Stage and Finish
The cigar performed flawlessly throughout the smoking. Draw was just right and the burn was self-regulating. Smoke volume remained high and the aroma stayed strong, very aromatic and engrossing. Just pure spicy tobacco and very satisfying.
As I smoked it down, it was a little hard to gauge exactly how it was developing. Due to the periodic refreshing, the flavor profile would mute and then come back gangbusters. I think that with more age, perhaps several years, the cigar would be able to be smoked through without purging. Several days in the drybox did not seem to have too much of an effect on this and so I suspect that it was the high oil content that affected this aspect of the burn. This confirms Andrew's suspicions.
One very curious aspect of this cigar was that even as young as it was and as full-bodied as it was, I was able to freely and comfortably expel the smoke through my nose. This is most unusual as young cigars commonly can be quite irritating when expelled through the nasal passages. This cigar, however, delivered smoke that was sweet, rich and intensely aromatic when expelled in this manner. There was no irritation, no burning and no acridity, just waves of brain-tripping sweet, earthy flavor. In this respect, the Lancero lived up to the line's name...tons of sweet cocoa and coffee were just dripping with every puff.
I smoked the Lancero down to the last inch and a half before I started to have more persistent burn problems. Even so, I only detected the slightest bit of bite. For a young cigar there was a stunning lack of harshness. The overall balance of flavors, however, was not optimal. The sweet and earthy tones were so prominent that the medium tobacco notes were mostly submerged. In fact, hours after smoking it, I could still smell a chocolate-graham cracker residual on my hair and hands. If I did not know this cigar was made with natural tobaccos, I'd almost swear that it was flavored.
Smoking this brought back memories of other sweet, cocoa, coffee cigars such as Montesino maduros, Alec Bradley Trilogy Exotic Maduro, Padron Anniversarios, Anejos, AF Cuban Belis. The only thing is, this cigar exceeded them all manyfold in terms of the sheer density of flavors. In a sense, it is the equivalent of the Bolivar Gold Medal for this flavor profile.
This was an incredible cigar and I was fortunate to have been given an opportunity to experience it. If Graycliff decides to go into regular production with this size and blend, at least one box will definitely find its way into my humidor. As far as cigars with this sweet, earthy, sweet spice profile goes, the Graycliff Espresso Lancero is absolutely without parallel.
Edited by Rod, 13 January 2009 - 06:28 PM.