Tobacco Leaf Classification
Has Altadis USA gone Boutique?
VegaFina Sumum Edicion Especial 2010
“One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor”; or, “you say tomato, I say tomahto. Both of these time-honored expressions serve to illustrate that all of us have our likes and dislikes. And when it comes to cigars, we all have preferences. Personally, I tend to like boutique cigars. I have found that when family-oriented cigar companies make product in small quantities, the results are cigars with unique character. In contrast, the cigars made by the big cigar conglomerates seem consistently thinner in flavor. But then I tried the “new” Altadis USA VegaFina Sumum Edicion Especial 2010…this cigar turned my preconceptions upside down. It was as unique and intensely flavorful as any boutique cigar I’ve smoked.
Much has been written about the recent cigar resurgence. This “mini cigar boom” has been driven by a huge jump in cigar quality, as well as a fierce competition among the many new cigar superstars. Names like “Pepin” Garcia, Pete Johnson, AJ Fernandez, Ernesto Padilla, Litto Gomez (to name just a few) have become synonymous with cigars of unprecedented character and flavor. The immergence of new players has raised the bar for all cigar manufacturers. This new standard for cigar quality seems to have pushed all cigar makers to greater heights, even the cigar “establishment”. Now, with the introduction of the VegaFina Sumum Edicion Especial 2010, Altadis has finally been able to capture that elusive boutique mojo.
Not really new…
Although new to the USA, the VegaFina line is actually a well-known brand in Europe. According to an Altadis rep, “VegaFina is the best selling non-Habanos cigar in Spain – the second largest premium cigar market in the world behind the US”. Judging from the samples I tried, I can certainly see why this cigar is a hit.
There’s a lot to like about this VegaFina.
First of all, it’s a beautiful cigar. With a silky smooth cap and dark-chocolate colored wrapper, this VegaFina feels like a quality cigar. It’s got good weight in the hand and its chubby shape is appealing. The popularity of this fat vitola has not escaped Altadis. And the elegant packaging serves to enhance the cigar’s presentation.
Even before lighting the VegaFina, one gets a sense that this is something different. Its pre-lit aroma is quite strong and its wrapper greets the lips with an unusual set of flavors. Hints of mint and pine are evident, as well as a woodsy quality I’ve never before tasted. Frankly, I was skeptical. Would I enjoy smoking a cigar that presented so many “untraditional” flavors?
An attention grabber…
Upon ignition this VegaFina hits the ground running. With tons of flavor, the complexity seems almost overwhelming. There are so many flavors that it’s hard to distinguish one from the other. It does, however, have an underlying sweetness, as well as a rich abundance of smoke. And with just the right amount of spice, this cigar has it all. Its initial pine/minty quality diminishes as the cigar progresses, but is always present. After finishing the first sample, I was not sure how I felt about this VegaFina. It had such an unusual flavor that I was left pondering its effect. I needed to smoke another to fully understand what this cigar had to offer.
How do they do that?!
It’s uncanny how the VegaFina grabs your attention. While smoking it I found myself looking at the cigar and wondering where all that flavor was coming from.
In spite of its intense flavors, the VegaFina is super smooth. It burns like a dream and has an ash with a tight grip. But why isn’t it a powerhouse? How did Altadis manage to squeeze so much flavor out of a medium strength cigar? Of course it’s all about the blend and age of the tobaccos. Here is what Altadis has to say: “VegaFina Sumum is made of the very best tobaccos, hand selected at the peak of the season for their unique characteristics and aged with care. Qualities our expert blenders knew would create a stick with the most satisfying and rich flavors and aromas. The result is a cigar with distinct body, toasty aroma and unique rich flavors.” The use of Peruvian filler must also contribute to this VegaFina’s unusual flavor profile. (The only other cigar I’ve smoked with a similar flavor element was the Alec Bradley Black Market. There, the use of Panamanian tobacco may impart that pine/minty quality.) Additionally, I think that indeed, the tobaccos used in this blend are from a particularly good harvest. It will be interesting to see if Altadis can keep this amazing flavor profile in future vintages.
Upon smoking two more samples, I became used to the unusual and untraditional flavor of the VegaFina. This is certainly not a “Cubanesque” cigar, but who cares! I’m always impressed by a cigar’s uniqueness. That’s what I look for in a great cigar. And the more I smoked the VegaFina, the more I enjoyed it.
Yet, as good as this cigar is, I think it will get even better with age. It seemed to be a bit light on the X factor; that umami-like texture, often present in well aged cigars. My thinking is to get a box and see how they age. I’ve got a feeling that in a year or so the VegaFina will score off the charts.
Is that price correct?!
It’s hard to believe that a cigar with this much flavor can sell for only $6/stick. But there it is; another example that shows price has little bearing on the quality of a cigar. The VegaFina Sumum Edicion Especial 2010 is a special cigar worth much more than its price. In this case, the tobaccos work together to create a flavor greater than the sum of its parts. Its components work in perfect harmony to create a unique cigar of tremendous flavor.
With the creation of the VegaFina Sumum Edicion Especial 2010, Altadis has met and exceeded the new flavor threshold. Whether America will embrace such a unique flavor profile remains to be seen. But the ability to pack so much flavor into a $6 stick is a grand achievement. I’m curious to see what Altadis will do as an encore.
Brand: VegaFina Sumum Edicion Especial 2010
Vitola: Robusto (54 X 5)
Flavors: Pine, wood, mint, cocoa.
Manufacturer: Altadis USA
X Factor: 8.6
Finish: Light and pleasant.
“Wrapper: Aged for 2 years. The Ecuadorian grown Cuban seed wrapper tobacco is harvested at its prime and specially chosen for the dark, rich color.
Binder: Aged 3 years. The Santa Domingo binder has harmonious, almost sweet notes that create an exceptional aroma and a clean, firm ash.
Filler: Aged 3 Years. Tobacco of Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Peru are blended, creating earthy and spicy notes with just a sense of coffee flavor.”