Gran Habano Azteca Jaguar

This year at the IPCPR trade show, it was hard to avoid the Gran Habano booth. Not only was it on a major foot traffic highway, but if you got within two or three booths you just had to go have another look at “El Gigante”, the world’s largest production cigar. (Or at least I couldn’t resist.) Yes, a real, smokable production cigar. Reportedly, for $200,000 you can buy yourself one of these massive 19 foot, 1,920 ring gauge Corojo #5’s to share with 100 or so of your closest friends. But if $200K is out of your price range, or you prefer cigars that you can finish in an hour or two, without a team, you’ll probably find Gran Habano’s new Azteca line of cigars a better option.

The Azteca has been in the works for quite some time, with unbanded samples (not always of the same blend, the rumors say) being available as far back as last years trade show. The officially released blend features a intriguing double dose of the very popular Mexican San Andreas Maduro tobacco, as both the wrapper and binder. The Azteca is available in three sizes with animal names inspired by Aztec culture, the 6 x 60 “Puma”, the 6 x 54 “Jaguar”, and the 5 1/2 x 52 “Eagle”. There may also be a corona-sized extension to the line at some point in the future, a stick with either a 44 or 46 ring gauge.

Apparently, the Azteca is already a hit. In a recent press release, it was announced:

“Due to the overwhelming success of our new Azteca cigar we have decided to cease production of the highly-rated 3 SLS and Cabinet Selection lines. This difficult decision will allow Gran Habano to maintain our high level of quality and consistency within our core lines and any special projects that may be in development.”

Clearly that’s great news for Gran Habano. But is the Azteca a cigar worthy of killing two other lines to produce? Let’s light up this Jaguar and find out. (But if you’d like more information about “El Gigante” and the Azteca from George Rico himself first, check out our interview with him at the trade show. Just be sure to come back and finish the review, you don’t want to miss the contest!)

Cigar Stats:
Size: 6 x 54
Wrapper: Mexican San Andreas Maduro
Binder: Mexico San Andreas Maduro
Filler: Nicaragua, Panama
Smoking Time: 2 hours
Beverage: Water
Source: Trade show samples
Price: MSRP $6.60

The Pre-Smoke
This cigar is definitely one that will get attention in the humidor. The bright orange step-pyramid box will grab eyeballs from even the most distant dark corner of the room. And the large flashy bands featuring a golden Mayan calendar are likely to get inquiries at even the smokiest of herfs. But under all the ornamentation and pizazz is a cigar that’s pretty good looking in its own right. Its San Andreas Maduro wrapper is dark, oily and covered with a very fine tooth. Additionally, its veins are few in number and generally small.

The cigars I lit up for this review were all consistently firm, and, with the one exception, free of imperfection. (One stick had a large superficial hole just above the foot band.) The wrapper had a dark compost scent with hints of something I can only describe as a faint combination of espresso and ammonia. But this scent faded quickly once the cellophane was removed. The cold draw offered up a dusty, and slightly acidic dried fruit flavor.

The Burn
The Azteca performed nicely in the burn department, despite the less than stellar conditions a trade show sample must survive. It burned evenly most of the time, produced a solid, nice looking, darker ash and the draw was just right. The only issue I had was the need to touch up one stick a little in the final third to correct some minor unevenness.

The Flavor
The Azteca wasted no time warming up, rich roasted nuts, syrup, leather, cocoa and nougat make themselves known in very short order, and in ever changing combinations. As the cigar progressed the syrup sweetness took on some cherry notes and sometimes turned a little tart. Earth, leather and cocoa flavors became a little more prominent around a third of the way in.

The second third began with leather and smokey wood layered on creamy nuts and a more subdued cocoa sweetness. By the halfway point there was a lingering creamy nut and wood finish that easily bridged the gap between puffs. The flavors of the preceding third all returned intermittently in this middle section, but sweetness tended to be less cherry and tart, and more caramel and nougat.

A short time before the final third, I started to notice a bit of a chalkiness to the mouth feel, and a charry characteristic when the wood flavor was present. Leather also seemed to play a bigger part, and interestingly, the cherry sweetness returned for a short encore before the end. In general, the last half of the cigar saw less of the subtle, but almost continuous flavor variations so common in the first half. That being said, there was still ample variety.

The Price
No complaints about the price, the Azteca should fit comfortably in most cigar budgets.

The Verdict
Rich, decadent, delicious and box-worthy. I love this cigar, and it’s price point. There may not have been the significant variations in the flavor between thirds that we often look for, but there was enough going on from one puff to the next (especially in the first half) to keep my attention. And if you take your time with it, the Azteca will reward your attention handsomely. It probably helps that I have a sweet tooth when it comes to cigars, because this one is candy.

I should also note is that this is not a powerful cigar. It does coat the mouth nicely with oodles of flavor, but if you’re looking for a cigar that will give you a kick, this is not the stick you’re looking for. However, once you taste it, I’ll bet that kick won’t seem as important. I definitely recommend it. And if you’re having trouble finding one one to try, you’ll definitely want to check out the contest selection below.

Liked It: Box-Worthy
Buy It Again: Yes
Recommend It: Yes

As I mentioned earlier, a corona-sized Azteca cigar may be in the works. To enter the contest, please leave a comment and tell us what you think would be a good name for that new size. The best two answers will receive a five pack of Azteca cigars and an Azteca t-shirt from Gran Habano. And just for participating, three more people will be randomly selected to receive a mystery prize. Winners will be selected next Wednesday, September 8th, 2010.

And the winners are…
– Ryan with “the Leopard” or “the “Rattler” –> Azteca 5 Pack and t-shirt.
– Bruce with “Chantico” –> Azteca 5 Pack and t-shirt.
– wizzaman with “jete gusto” or “chiefs pleasure” –> Gran Habano Mystery Prize
– Brett with “Chupacabra” –> Gran Habano Mystery Prize
– Joseph with “la serpiente” –> Gran Habano Mystery Prize

Congratulations guys! I’ll be in touch soon to get your mailing address. Thanks everyone for participating!

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