Zino Platinum Crown Series Emperor Edition 2010

Reviewing cigars is not a hobby with a certain element of danger. This week, in an attempt to get the scoop (or at least beat Jerry to it) I’m putting tens of dollars on the line and risking a possible nicotine knockout by what has already called by some “The Green Monster.” I’m not naming names, but the green-banded Goliath that is the Zino Platinum Emperor 2010 is rumored to have already put at least one veteran cigar smoker out for the count. He thought he’d wrestle the beast to the floor quickly before lunch, and wound up spending half hour unable to get up from his chair. Or so the story goes.

At the time of this writing, the available information on the new Emperor is pretty limited. It’s due to hit the shops early this week, and the Zino Platinum folks like to keep the details under wraps until the cigars are in customers’ hands. However, I did find a small blurb about it on the Zino Platinum Facebook account.

June 24, 2010 – Zino Platinum has added another elite cigar to its already stellar portfolio. The 2010 Zino Platinum Emperor Edition truly embodies what exclusivity and luxury really mean. Masterfully blended aged tobaccos create a cigar exceptional to the sight, taste and smell. A proprietary Dominican-grown tobacco that is a cross between Cuban and Dominican Seeds binds the select Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers. It is finished with a gorgeous Ecuadorian wrapper that has been specially fermented to offer such rich color, even burn, balanced flavor and inviting aroma. These unique cigars are offered in Limited Edition tins of eight cigars for your enjoyment. Only 1,000 tins of this distinctive 5 x 64 format are available for the entire United States.

What the accompanying picture makes clear is that the total production line is 8,000 cigars, with 8 cigars in each green tin, a smaller run than the 2009 Emperor. The blurb doesn’t say anything about the potency of the cigar, so perhaps the early word is a little exaggerated. It’s time to light it up and find out.

Cigar Stats:
Size: 5 x 64
Wrapper: Ecuador
Binder: Proprietary Dominican Cuban-Seed Hybrid
Filler: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua
Smoking Time: 2 hours
Beverage: Water
Source: Purchased by reviewer
Price: MSRP $26.00

The Pre-Smoke
Before I get into the specifics of the cigar itself, I’d like to mention how much I like that the cellophane on Zino Platinum cigars is sealed shut with a sticker. Most of us have watched, grimacing, as some rookie “aficionado” pushes a cigar half way out of its cellophane and shoves it up his nose for a sniff and then puts the cigar back in the box. With these sticks, you know that hasn’t happened. (Of course, there’s not much that can be done about the geniuses that like to run the cellophane under their noses. Mmm… transparent vegetable cellulose.)

With the cellophane cast aside now let’s have a look at the sticks. The cigar is contained in a oily, dark reddish wrapper leaf with fine veins. They look flawless from a distance, but I did find the occasional small hole here and there. One cigar had three, but even then, unless you’re really looking for them, you’ll never know that they’re there.

The cigars were smooth, but had slightly more give than your average smoke. The feel is pretty consistent with other Zino Platinum products I’ve lit up in the past. The wrapper’s scent was a musty barnyard and the cold draw tasted slightly sweet and musty.

The Burn
Cigars made my Davidoff are known for their consistency. And consistent these were, but not in a good way when it comes to the burn properties. Of the three green monsters I slayed with fire, not a single one of them burned evenly for very long, requiring frequent touch-ups. And two of the three went completely out within an inch, in spite of a very generous amount of time spent toasting the foot to ensure proper ignition. I’m not sure if it was exacerbated by the girth of the cigar, or was a result of being so fresh off the truck (it did have a day of humidor rest before I got them), but I’m less inclined to be generous with what is definitely an super-duper premium cigar.

On the bright side, probably the most important aspect of the burn, the draw, was good. The softer feel of the cigar noted above does not translate into a shortage of smoke. And a little less crucial, the ash was also pretty nice looking, most of the time.

The Flavor
The first third of the Emperor began with a meaty earthiness that grew creamy in texture as the cigar progressed. It did not take long for me to begin to notice the musty element that I find common in Davidoff cigars. As I approached the second third, cocoa and a little bit of sweetness were added to the mix.

The cigar was a little less creamy in the middle third and the cocoa element grew a little richer when it was present. In addition to the flavors mentioned before (the meaty earth and must), I started to pick up hints of wood.

In the final third, the wood was more prominent, and the earthy element diminished somewhat and was less meaty. The Davidoff mustiness continued to be pretty constant, of course, but there wasn’t much of the cocoa flavor left.

The Price
When you pick up a Zino Platinum Emperor, you know what you’re getting your wallet into. It’s not going to be cheap, and this years Emperor is a little more expensive than the previous one. (It also bears mention that the 2010 has a ring gauge that’s 6 sizes larger than the 2009.) In an ideal world, I’d love to see the Emperor somewhere south of Andrew Jackson, but we all know that isn’t going to happen.

The Verdict
There’s no denying the Zino Platinum Emperor 2010 is an enjoyable cigar, but it does have it’s drawbacks. The price is an obvious factor, and the burn could be better. But another big factor for me is the girth of the cigar. Extremely large ring gauged smokes are once again the hot cigar trend (though it’s debatable if they ever really went out of style), but it’s not a trend I like. Cigars larger than 54 or 56 ring gauge can be uncomfortable to smoke. The relative softness of the Emperor did help with the comfort factor but it’s still a lot of tobacco to stick in your teeth.

Getting back to the strength of the Emperor 2010, I did start to notice its power pretty early on. But I’m happy to say that I was still able to function normally at the end of the smoke. That being said, this is probably not a cigar you want to light up on an empty stomach, nor while operating heavy machinery.

If your pockets are deep and your idea of a great cigar is a fat stick that serves up both smooth rich flavor and a pleasant buzz, this is cigar you need to try. I could see myself smoking these again, but due to price, it’s not likely to happen very often.

I should give a quick shout out to the boys at Buckhead Cigar Club in Atlanta. They somehow got their shipment of Emperors a few days early, and were nice enough to give me the heads up the minute they arrived.

Liked It: Yes
Buy It Again: Perhaps for a special occasions, etc.
Recommend It: Yes

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