BACKGROUND: Matasa (Manufactura de Tabacos S. A.) was launched in 1974 as a small operation with only three rollers and Manuel Quesada leading the endeavor. Prior to that, the Quesada family had been leaf processors in Cuba. With 5 generations of family involved in the business, the Quesada's have roots in the tobacco industry that reach back for more than 100 years.
Manuel Quesada has been blending cigars for more than 35 years and he has given birth to numerous cigars including: Fonseca, Cubita, and many other private brands such as Licenciados, Nat Sherman, among others.
In 2008, the 5th generation of Quesada's decided it was time to nudge the company in a new direction by creating a new Quesada family brand that would pay homage to the family tradition and heritage. In 2009, the Quesada brand was launched with the Quesada 35th Anniversary cigar in honor of Manuel Quesada and his 35 years in cigar manufacturing. This cigar, which is a 6-inch by 49 ring box-pressed limited edition was well received and sold out during the first days of the 2009 IPCPR convention in New Orleans.
This year marks the second cigar under the Quesada brand and that is where this story comes full circle. In February last, I was one of 40 or so people who were on hand to witness the pre-release of the new Quesada Tributo. Tributo, which means "tribute" in English, was again produced through the collaborative effort of the entire 5th generation of the Quesada clan. As the name suggests, this cigar is a tribute to those who are no longer alive, but whose lives and memories have shaped the younger generation.
The Tributo cigar, which just started shipping, comes in four sizes and bears the name of the family members whose lives are being celebrated by the sharing of this new cigar. Those names are: Manolin, Alvaro, Alvarito and Julio. Today's featured Tribute will be the 6-inch x 52 Alvaro Belicoso.
The rare and wonderful thing about this cigar is the wrapper. The wrapper leaf is an Ecuadorian-grown hybrid that was developed using 4 different tobacco strains: Habano 2000, Corojo, HVA, which stands for Havana Vuelta Arriba, and Sumatra.
The filler blend is a combination of Dominican-grown Criollo 98 Ligero and a Nicaraguan Ligero grown in the Jamastrán Valley. As you can see, this cigar is loaded with Ligero tobacco, which typically carries full flavor and strength. However, having said that, the master blender also realizes that the cigar must be smokable. That is, it can't be too strong and it has to burn well. One of the typical characteristics of ligero tobacco is that it is very resiny and moist and therefore may not burn well. So, the master blender must choose the right percentages of the different tobaccos and make sure that the tobaccos are fully fermented and aged so as to work well in the cigar.
I've got a couple of these cigars sitting in front of me right now and the first thing I notice is that this wrapper leaf is dark mahogany brown and seductive looking. The vein structure is pretty prominent with some medium sized veins running helter-skelter through the wrapper leaf.
TASTING NOTES: The nose on this wrapper is awesome. Spicy alfalfa with a hint of baker's cocoa. Man, this thing is pungent. Beautiful. And, the feel of this cigar is about right. No soft spots and with a slight give to the body of the cigar. Just supple enough.
I'd like to make note of the fact that, when I was at the pre-release event for the Quesada Tributo in the Dominican Republic, we were treated to a flavor seminar in which we smoked small puros of each of the different types of tobacco used in this blend. That was a great way to experience first hand the flavors and body associated with each tobacco type. Each of the tobaccos was a type of ligero. The Dominican HVA (Havana Vuelta Arriba) ligero was dry, earthy and exhibited a little sweetness. The Nicaraguan Jamastran ligero was also earthy and added pepper and spice to the palate. The Dominican Criollo 98 ligero was sweet, smooth and stronger than the other two. It provided a pronounced pepper on the back of the tongue and was floral in the retrohale.
Putting it all together, the Tributo comes out of the gate with earthy, spicy sweetness. This cigar is rich with coffee flavor and some pepper spice too. On the retrohale I picked up more spice and wood notes. This is a rich and mouth-filling smoke.
The draw was very smooth and allowed me to get a lot of smoke with each puff. Since I was able to get plenty of smoke into my mouth, when I retrohaled, I got a huge hit of wood and pepper spice. The pepper trailed the back of my throat like taking a big gulp of bourbon.
The burn line was even but just a bit blistered. Overall, this cigar performed in stellar fashion.
The Quesada Tributo is a cigar with a unique pedigree. The hybrid wrapper gives a unique full flavor and the extra ligero tobacco creates a body and strength profile that will make you sit up and take notice. This cigar manages to be complex, while still satisfying a craving for a robust and flavorful cigar.
I have experienced no problems with burn or construction in the Tributo cigars that I've smoked. They are easy to smoke and provide a comfortable draw and generous amounts of smoke.
Most of these cigars will run between $6.50 and $8.00 per stick, except for the Alvarito, which is around $5.00. This is one of the cigars that I believe shows enough distinction that everyone should try it. This may end up being one of the cigars that you either love or hate, I love it and can recommend it highly.
These cigars are being stored in the singles drawer within an opened plastic cigar sack. This is to allow some ventilation while also protecting the cigars from wrapper-to-wrapper contact with other cigars in the drawer.
This is the first in a two-part series of podcast reviews of this cigar. They have been resting briefly in my humidor for 1 month.
Cigar Info Page » for Quesada, Tributo