Xikar HC Series Connecticut Shade Robusto

The partnership between Xikar and Jesus Fuego in the creation of the HC Series seems to have been a successful one, both the Criollo and Habano Colorado have been well received by cigar enthusiasts. But I’ve heard considerably less talk of the Connecticut Shade line, which has been billed by Xikar as a “slightly stronger than the average Connecticut Shade cigar” that also stays “true to a Connecticut’s character.” So when the local Xikar rep handed a mixed assortment of samples recently, I grabbed the lesser known brother of the HC Series and got to work.

If something about the bands look familiar to you, don’t worry, that deja vu feeling isn’t the onset of some unfortunate mental disorder. The bands of the HC were designed to resemble Xikar’s popular Havana Collection of cutters, lighters and ashtrays. (And, surprise, HC stands for Havana Collection.) Ordinarily, it’s the other way around, cigar accessories are designed to complement the look of a cigar line, and generally hit the shelves after the cigar is established. That’s because it’s usually a cigar manufacturer producing promotional swag, not an accessories manufacturer introducing a cigar line.

Speaking of the bands, you’ll probably notice the words “El Corojo” on the main band. And if you’re paying attention, you’ll also notice that’s not part of the cigar’s name. It turns out that this isn’t a reference to Corojo tobacco either, at least not directly. It’s actually a hat tip to El Corojo in the Vuelta Abajo region of Cuba where Jesus Fuego was born and raised, and also the location his ancestors first planted tobacco. With the family reference, it’s clear Mr. Fuego takes this tobacco creation seriously, so lets take a sober look at the HC Series Connecticut Shade.

Cigar Stats:
Size: 5 x 50
Wrapper: Ecuadoran Connecticut Shade
Binder: Sumatra
Filler: Costa Rica, Mexico, Nicaragua
Smoking Time: 1 1/2 hours
Beverage: Water
Source: Sample or Gift
Price: MSRP $8.50

The Pre-Smoke
The HC Connecticut Shade is a great looking cigar. It may have been made to complement a cutter and lighter set, but looks right at home in my island-themed ashtray. The cigar is decorated with two bands, each covered with the signature Havana Collection collage, and a big stylized palm three between the red letters H and C on the main band. The foot band functions both to protect the foot of the cigar and indicate the blend. In this case Connecticut Shade.

The wrapper is what you expect from a Connecticut Shade leaf, light in color with a slight oily sheen and a mixture of both large and fine veins. Aside from some discoloration (which was actually pretty significant on one cigar), the sticks I reviewed were without cosmetic flaw. While testing firmness, I found one cigar did have a soft area in the middle third, but the rest were consistently firm and well packed.

The scent of the wrapper was slightly sweet medley of hay and compost and the cold taste produced a creamy, spicy flavor.

The Burn
Things went pretty well in the burn department. For the most part, the cigars burned evenly, drew well, produced a solid ash and a nice volume of smoke. Each stick had its moments where things were less than optimal, some jaggedness in the burn line and the odd relight, but no serious issues to report. It came as no surprise that the cigar with the soft spot had the most trouble, especially burning through that tender region.

The Flavor
The HC Connecticut Shade began it’s journey to ash with a promising mixture of bready, creamy and toasty flavors. Along the way to the second third, I also picked up an intriguing combination of caramelized marshmallow and mushroom, as well as buttered bread, a subtle spice and lingering sweetness.

The cigar started tasting less bready and more toasty and grassy with a healthy of dose of back-of-the-mouth spiciness in the second third. There was still some creaminess and almost caramel sweetness to the flavor, but both of these elements were less prominent than in the preceding third.

The final third was more prominently toasty, grassy and spicy. The creamy and sweet elements were all but gone from the final act.

The Price
We’ve been spoiled in the past year with a great assortment of high-quality, budget-priced cigars, and as a result, I find myself wishing this stick were a buck or two cheaper. However, it is close to that $8 mark which, for many, marks the high end of affordable premium cigars. And it’s actually cheaper than some of Jesus Fuego’s other products, which leads me to believe the cigar is priced reasonably. Given it is a tobacco extension of Xikar’s highest end accessories, it also could have been considerably more expensive.

The Verdict
The HC Connecticut Shade has to be one of the more interesting Connecticut-wrapped cigars I’ve had recently. I was skeptical when I began smoking for this review. Jesus Fuego is known for his work with the Corojo leaf, not the Connecticut Shade. But by the second third I was convinced that the five years Mr. Fuego reportedly invested in this blend paid off. I really started to get into the cigar. And I wasn’t ready for it to be done when I set the nub down for the last time.

I’m not the biggest Connecticut Shade fan (though I have been smoking enjoying them more often lately), nor is this my favorite Connecticut-wrapped stick, but it is a worthy cigar and I could see myself lighting up more of these in the future. Connecticut Shade fans really should give this cigar a try, especially if you’re in the market for that Connecticut flavor with a little more oomph or just looking for a little variety.

Liked It: Yes
Buy It Again: Likely
Recommend It: Yes, Connecticut Shade fans should try this.

Tower of Burn
Here for your viewing pleasure is my trademark Tower of Burn.