In the expansive suite of brands held by Altadis USA, it seemed the classic Henry Clay cigars were to remain unchanged, that is, since being updated from Cuban to Dominican tobaccos, post embargo. While remaining a staple for many maduro fans, the cigars played second fiddle to other classics, such as Montecristo and Romeo y Julieta; both of which contain many blends, as well as modernized updates in the last few years.

But Henry Clay got the long-awaited update, coming as somewhat of a surprise, when Altadis displayed the Henry Clay Tattoo at 2015’s IPCPR show. Joining forces with Pete Johnson, a limited number of cigars were produced as an homage to the original Dominican blend.

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Further expanding on the success of the new Henry Clay cigars, Altadis announced a second update to the brand only a few months later, releasing the new Henry Clay Stalk Cut in January of 2016. The theme focuses on the on the curing style for the Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper used—as the entire tobacco plant is cut at the base, allowing the leaves to extract nutrients from the tobacco stalk as they cure. This is known to be a longer process, making for more rich and earthy flavors from the tobacco.

Henry Clay Stalk Cut Breakdown

  • Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf Vintage 2012
  • Binder: Dominican Piloto Vintage 2010
  • Filler: Dominican Olor Vintage 2012 | Dominican Piloto Vintage 2012 | Nicaraguan Criollo Vintage 2013
  • Factory: Tabacalera de García S.A.S. (Dominican Republic)
  • Production: Regular Production
  • Vitola: 6″ × 54 Toro
  • Price: $8.50

On paper, the blend appears very similar to the recent Henry Clay Tattoo, which was limited to 2,500 boxes. With the Stalk Cut, the blend again uses select tobacco vintages, having a noticeably younger wrapper and becoming a regular production release for the brand.

The cigars take on a similar look to the HC Tattoo, replacing the black scheme with a gray box. The box displays a vista painting of the original Henry Clay factory on both sides of the lid. On the interior, the cigars are ribbon-bound in bundles of 10, sitting side by side, making for 20 cigars per box. The bands use the same larger and bolder look introduced with HC Tattoo, only swapping gold for silver in the color scheme. This style carries over to the sub-bands, having “Stalk Cut” displayed diagonally (replacing “Tattoo”). As with Tattoo, I have to admit, I’m not a fan of the look—it seems to not know whether it wants to be bold and modern or an old school homage. Perhaps they were reaching for a balance between the 2, but it seems to satisfy neither style.

Cigar Look/Feel

The cigars shed the pigtail cap used on Tattoo, instead adorning the finished product with an extended wrapper over the cigar’s foot. The cigars are box-pressed again, only much less prominent, with a more subtle soft press shape. It’s a beefy stick, with a solid feel—it doesn’t seem to be overly packed though, having a medium weight and nice, springy construction. The wrapper is light for Broadleaf, I’d still call it a maduro, but only barely—with a milk chocolate shade.

The nose shows very faint notes of hay and paper, with stone fruit being most noticeable in the pre-light draw. Interesting, the seemingly well-placed triple cap actually popped off when cutting—rather than the usual style of, you know, cutting…

Smoking Experience

With the shaggy-style foot, I always like to take a few puffs before toasting—we don’t want to let that perfectly good wrapper tobacco go to waste people! Here, I found a very interesting campfire smokiness, almost like fire-cured pipe tobacco. But with a proper light, this is quickly replaced by a velvety smooth chocolate and light hints of pepper. It seems my strange cap-popping first cut hadn’t quite breached the binder—the draw feels strangely tight, but a 2nd cut brings things to a more manageable level (about medium-firm). This brings in predictably more smoke, with a healthy dose of smooth caramel and chocolate.



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The large size feels somehow more manageable from the soft-press—sometimes it’s just fun to switch things up. I expected more spice from the blend, but a suspiciously sneaky strength seems to be taking its place. There is also an interesting aroma from the cigar’s head, having a similar campfire essence from earlier, with a touch of sulfur (just like the smell of your childhood cap guns—hello nostalgia!). Vanilla cream is joined by loads of caramel on the finish, and the retrohale offers a much-appreciated mixture of root beer and bananas (nice).

The cigar is primarily medium, although the strength and flavor often creep into the medium-full territory. At around the halfway mark, the retro picks up a little spice it was curiously lacking prior, with an interesting Christmas-like character (little clove, little cinnamon, little nutmeg)—you know the smell of walking into one of those Christmas stores… Toasted marshmallow is quick to balance this out, with plenty of long-lasting and chewy chocolate. Nearing the final portion of the smoke, the strength pulls back a bit, making way for floral notes, joined by a slight tinge of perfume. But in the end, the darker tones emerge—charred oak, darker chocolates, anise in the retro, and eventually, a vegetal note that’s just a bit too harsh—the signal to call it a day.

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Would I smoke this cigar again?

Probably. I’m not going to go out of my way and make this my daily smoke (of course, I don’t really have a daily smoke…). At $8.50, it’s certainly manageable for not only the enthusiast, but the casual smoker as well. And with plenty of interesting flavors to ponder, you’ll have a fun experience, complete with a long smoking time and solid construction (ash held in at least 2″ segments). I thought this was a more solid and thought-out experience, compared to the HC Tattoo, with less undesirable flavors (perfume, artificial sweetener). Sure, you may not go out of your way for this one, but certainly pick up a few on your next B&M run and see if it fits your profile—just watch out for that sneaky strength!

henry-clay-stalk-cut-cigar-review-rating

Henry Clay Stalk Cut by Grupo de Maestros
Henry Clay Stalk Cut is a big improvement on last year's HC Tattoo, which was a quick seller to retailers and a slower sell to consumers. Here, there appears to be more balance and less undesirable flavors—having interesting flavor combinations and enough strength to make for a fun smoking experience.
Appearance78%
Burn/Construction96%
Draw86%
Flavor88%
Complexity85%
Price/Value92%
Pros
  • Interesting flavor combinations
  • Good evolution of strength, for a modern feel
  • Long-holding ash
Cons
  • Low smoke output
  • Draw slightly firm
  • Occasional strange flavor
88%Beefy
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