On an embittered day of inspiration, sometime between 1910 and 1913, José Guadalupe Posada—a Mexican printmaker, cartoonist, and lithographer—entered his studio, picked up an echoppe, and began scratching with the tool on a treated plate of zinc. The resulting etching depicted a female skeleton dressed only in an elaborate hat. Posada’s creation was a satirical portrait of those Mexican natives attempting to adopt the traditions of European aristocrats. Jose named the small zinc etching La Calaveras Catrina—which translates to “Dapper Skeleton”—and it eventually became the icon of the “Day of the Dead,” which is a Mexican holiday celebrated annually between October 31 and November 2.
Over one-hundred years after its creation, La Calaveras Catrina inspired Jon Huber—the president and co-founder of Crowned Heads—to develop a line of cigars commemorating the “Day of the Dead.” As stated by the company:
Las Calaveras will be an annual release that is a respectful homage to those who have passed away in the year before, and is intended to be a celebration of their lives and remembrances, rather than a mourning or a symbol of sadness and death. Each year, we all lose a friend or loved one, or know of someone who has endured that same loss. In today’s fast-paced world, it is all too easy to forget the fragile nature that is life. Often, in the race to gain material success, we lose sight that our true legacy are the lives we touch and the love we leave behind once we pass on. It is in this spirit that Las Calaveras pays tribute to those who have touched our lives and shared their love.
The Crowned Heads Las Calaveras Edición Limitada was initially released in 2014 to critical acclaim. The line consisted of three vitolas shipped in colorful boxes of twenty-four cigars, with production limited to a total of 1,000 boxes per size. Produced at the Garcia family’s My Father Cigars S.A. factory in Esteli, the cigars were composed with an Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder, and long leaf filler from Nicaragua. In the summer of 2015, the company created another three vitolas under the Las Calaveras Edición Limitada marque and increased the production to 1,250 boxes per size. These cigars used an Ecuadorian Habano Rosado wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler and were also manufactured at the same production facility.
- Crowned Heads Las Calaveras Edición Limitada 2014 review
- Crowned Heads Las Calaveras Edición Limitada 2015 review
For the 2016 Edición Limitada, Crown Heads once again returned to Estelí and the My Father Cigars S.A. factory, increasing the production to a total of 4,500 boxes to meet the ever-growing demand for this highly-anticipated, annual release.
Las Calaveras EL 2016 LC46 Breakdown
- Wrapper: U.S.A. Connecticut “Grade A” Broadleaf
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Factory: My Father Cigars S.A. (Nicaragua)
- Production: Limited Edition (1,500 boxes per vitola)
- Vitola: 6” × 46 “LC46” (corona gorda)
- Price: $9.25
The Las Calaveras Edición Limitada 2016 is the third annual release from Crown Heads’ marque commemorating the “Day of the Dead” Mexican holiday. This year’s line of cigars is offered in three sizes—LC46 (6” x 46, $9.25), LC50 (5” x 50, $10.25), and the LC54 (5½” x 54, $11.25). The vitolas are shipped in twenty-four count, reddish-brown, cabinet boxes which feature Crown Heads’ graphic interpretation of Jose Guadalupe Posada’s La Calaveras Catrina on the sliding lid. Additionally, the company is offering a sampler box containing the three sizes along with an exclusive Piramide (6⅛” x 52) vitola. Production of the sampler is limited to 2,000 units priced at $39.95.
While the binder and filler of these four cigars consists of Nicaragua tobacco—matching the internal composition of the two previous releases in 2014 and 2015—the Las Calaveras Edición Limitada 2016 is distinguished by its use of a “Grade A” Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, compared to the various Ecuadorian Habano wrappers (Oscuro and Rosado) used in the construction of its older siblings.
The Crowned Heads Las Calaveras Edición Limitada 2016 LC46 is a lovely example of a premium cigar in the corona gorda size, its full six inches in length perfectly complementing its narrow ring gauge to produce a George Peppard sense of sophistication. Its “Grade A” Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper is more attractive than usual—with only one visible seam, two scar-shaped veins, and intermittent splashes of Braille-like tooth. The color of the LC46 is dark cafe noir with contrasting areas of rain black. An overall oiliness on the wrapper produces a glistening sheen in direct light, like a Tootsie Roll after a half-hour in the early-morning sun.
The cigar is encased with the single oval band containing an embossed gold crown at the top, which was also used on the two prior annual releases—the black and white logo highlighted with this year’s trimming colors of brown, creamy yellow, and orange. Very firmly packed from the foot to the cap—bordering on the verge of dried modeling clay—the wrapper aroma combines natural tobacco with worn leather, while the open foot smells of coffee, damp earth, and partially-dried hay.
After the cap of the corona gorda is opened with a double guillotine cut—to ensure the maximum amount of taste from the wrapper, binder, and filler—the initial cold draw is open, with just a slight touch of resistance. Flavors of bittersweet chocolate and coffee immediately touch the palate, while a tingle of Sriracha sauce spreads across the upper lip.
After toasting and lighting the cigar with a soft double-flame lighter, the first few draws produces a rather forceful taste of dark-roasted coffee prepared in a French press. This initial flavor is quickly enhanced with touches of spicy sweetness—quite similar to the Organic Dark Spicy Aztec Chocolate Bar made by Lake Champlain. This combination quickly culminates in a mouthwatering flavor profile that attractively coats the entire tongue and the roof of the mouth. The draw of the cigar is outstanding and full, producing enough smoke to coat the ceiling of an A-frame chateau in the Swiss Alps above Gstaad. Aromas and flavors of coffee, chocolate, rawhide, and spices mingle together in a creamy balance, while red and black pepper are dominant on the retrohale. The smoking experience is smooth and flavorful.
As the Las Calaveras Edición Limitada 2016 enters into its second third, the strength gradually increases toward the medium-full range, while the body becomes fuller and rounder. The aromas and flavors present in the first third of the cigar continue to build, while the initial coffee notes shift from French press to espresso. Flavors and aromas of cherry, mixed nuts, and vanilla flirt in and out of the mix, adding to the complexity of the LC46. Additionally, a slight increase in saltiness produces a desirable amount of saliva in the mouth.
Room aroma is reminiscent of green coffee beans roasting in a tin pan over a hardwood fire on a crisp mountain morning, a few hours before sunrise. The burn line is razor sharp, holding over two inches of silver ash, highlighted with streaks of Battleship gray, between the tightly-compressed stacks. On the retrohale, the equal mix of red and back pepper present in the first third is replaced by black pepper with trace amounts of cedar and assorted nuts.
As it burns through its final third, the Las Calaveras continues to provide a complex, flavorful, and enjoyable smoking experience. With each puff, the espresso notes begin to display a slight increase in bitterness—similar to the difference between shots pulled with Lavazza coffee instead of Illy—while the flavor of a charred porterhouse steak sprinkled with sea salt appears as the corona extra continues to incinerate. The burn line remains sharp, with the ash naturally falling off in over two inch clumps; certainly a candidate for a Cigar Dojo long-ash contest from a smoker with a bit of patience and restrictive movement. Overall, the Las Calaveras Edición Limitada 2016 LC46 is a fine cigar which triggers all of the senses of taste—sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and that elusive umami.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
The answer to that question is “Yes. When available.” The Las Calaveras Edición Limitada 2016 LC46 is an excellent cigar, which provides a very flavorful and complex smoking experience. I was fortunate enough to acquire a few sampler boxes and have smoked all four sizes. While each vitola produces a similar profile, the LC50 robusto is my favorite of the four.
- Smoking Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
- Pairing Recommendations: double espresso, Guinness, Booker’s Small Batch Bourbon, Manhattan and Old Fashioned cocktails
- Purchase Recommendation: full box and sampler pack
- Outstanding construction
- Mouthwatering flavor
- Good complexity
- Limited availability