Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Xikar XC Maduro

Xikar - XC Maduro
Xikar is known for their high-quality cigar accessories, but not many smokers know Xikar for the quality smokes they've been putting out.  Their accessories are flashy yet minimalist; stylish and of quality.  If you've been in any B&M worth their salt then you've seen a wide array of cutters, lighters, ashtrays and the list goes on.  If its cigar related, Xikar's got it covered.  So it was only a matter of time before the company took a stab at making their own cigars.
Jesus Fuego-Master Blender
When Xikar got into the cigar game they did so with conviction and the desire to do it right.  They enlisted the cigar acumen and expertise of blend master Jesus Fuego, owner of J. Fuego cigars and a former pupil and professor at Cuba's heralded Pinar Del Rio University.  PDRU is a college where one can major in various tobacco related studies.  Mr. Fuego knows his stuff and is gaining more respect in the industry with each passing year.
Since Xikar launched their own cigars they've received 10 90+ point reviews in various publications.  I'm not sure to what extent, if any, Mr. Fuego was involved with this particular cigar but his legacy and style is in this cigar somewhere.

Today's Cigar
The XC Maduro is the newest addition to Xikar's cigar line up.  I'm smoking the robusto vitola; standard sizing, 5" by 50 ring gauge.  The robusto is the 'go-to', 'run of the mill' size these days and frankly, the XC Maduro has a standard cigar look.  The cigar has some weight to it, I mean it really feels dense and hefty in hand.  It is well-made, feeling firm throughout with no soft or empty spots.  It has just the right amount of that spongy feel to show you its fresh.
Xikar doesn't make shit cigars.  Bundled this cigar runs 2-3$, which is an amazing value; so I'm curious to see what this is all about.  The fact its bundled contributes greatly to its low cost. Boxing and presentation are a costly part of cigar production.
The Wrapper
Not particularly dark for being a maduro, the wrapper has some noticeable natural oil; but what really catches my attention is the attractive toothiness of the cigar.  For those not in the know, toothy refers to the bump, rugged look of a cigar.  Toothy is a good thing.  A cigar with too much tooth probably has something wrong with it; one with none is probably a Philly blunt.
The wrapper leaf has a marbled look to its coloring which looks nice.  I'd call this one of those colorado wrappers with respect to hue. (Not to be confused, as Xikar makes a Colorado - to clarify, we are reviewing the XC Maduro)
According to Cigars Intl, the XC Maduro uses a habano oscuro grown in Connecticut.  Oscuro's are usually the blackest leaves you can find.  I suspect that the fact this is a habano-seed leaf (cuban wrappers are known for being lighter in hue - in the middle of the spectrum so to say), grown in Connecticut attributes to its rather light color.  Don't get me wrong; this is not a light colored wrapper when compared to a shade wrapper, but this is not your normal oscuro.  I've seen oscuros that are basically black; so this is light in color when compared to other maduros.
Connecticut is known for two things when it comes to tobacco.  One is Connecticut-shade wrappers.  These are highly sought after for mild cigars.  They are thin, pliable leaves with an extremely mild, creamy profile. Second is the hottest leaf on the market, the Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper.  On the opposite end of its shade brethren, the broadleaf ranges from medium to dark brown and is known for its flavorful and full bodied taste.
The XC Maduro is a blend of Nicaraguan and Dominican long filler.  The Nicaraguan for strength, spice and some sweetness, the Dominican for a smooth a creamy smoke (my opinion).

Smoking this Cigar.....Next Page

Smoking the Cigar - Overall
The cigar lights with ease and kicks off with a little spice that quickly subsides and a sweetness starts to prevail.  The cigar burns well through-out and I've gotta say this is a well=made cigar.  Some might say that anything bundled isn't quality, but this cigar proves otherwise.  If you're not worried about a pretty wooden box that adds 1-2$ to each cigar in it, then this is a great pick up with tons of value.
First and Second Thirds
There is no shortness on flavor and body.  The cigar doesn't evolve a ton throughout, but it is definitely discernible by thirds.  As I mentioned, the cigar starts with that Nicaraguan peppery spice and it is evident you're in for a medium to full bodied smoke.  Within a few puffs the pepper chills out and the sweetness of the maduro comes through the nose.  I can taste the mixture of Nicaraguan and Dominican tobaccos and they compliment each other well.  
After the first third which is an introduction of pepper to sweet, the 2nd third opens up a quality profile of flavors, but is rather basic.  This soon ends as the 2nd third meets the halfway point; this is when the cigar starts to get good.  Standard to maduro wrapped cigars, I taste a little cocoa, fermented tobacco and some ripe dark fruit. 
Final Third - Thoughts
The final third of this cigar left me wanting a longer cigar.  It was good.  Frankly, I wish it was a toro.  The cigar started tasty, had a short lull, then opened up with a complex flavor profile that had me savoring each puff.  The final third continues the tune of ripe dark fruit, cocoa and some roasted coffee.  The cigar pours plumes of smoke and the draw is wide open.  Some smokers will say they prefer mild resistance, but I find cigars burn quicker at the foot if smoke isn't flowing through them.
I'm impressed with this XC Maduro.  To my knowledge, these are only available at Cigars International.  You cannot beat the price.  These cigars could easily be $9-10 sticks at the shop and people wouldn't blink. I smoked two of these for this review and found solid consistency in each.  This has opened up my eyes to Xikar's cigar game.  I always knew they were well-made and had a great reputation, but just like wine, a lot of folks smoke based on the look of a band or because they go with cigars they know and like.
Personally, I try to mix my smoking selection up as much as possible.  That is what makes this hobby a passion after all.  Variety, education and taking the time to treat yourself.

Grade:  A
The low price is a heavy weight in this decision.  If this were a normally priced stick, I would give it a solid B.  But at 2-3$ a slug, you can have an every-day smoke without sacrificing flavor and quality.  I'm going to try a few more; if I notice a drop off in quality I will let you know.  But I have a feeling this will be one of those hard to find sticks as the news spreads of the value.  Sometimes you can find quality construction with no flavor.  Others, good flavor with shit construction.  Others have both but zero complexity.  
The XC Mduro has the complete package.

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What do you think? Am I on to something? Am I wrong? Or am I full of shit?