Two decades ago, after a successful career in the video rental business, Tony Serino decided to enter the tobacco industry. His new enterprise, APS Distributors, initially specialized in the buying, importation, and distribution of “daily smoke” bundled cigars; giving retailers the option to enhance their traditional inventory from Arturo Fuente, Davidoff, and Macanudo with more affordable options. Over the years, Serino increased his offerings with “boxed cigars” priced near the premium range. As he approached his twentieth anniversary in the tobacco business, Tony decided to enter the super premium market and went searching for a factory and a master blender. Eventually, he was introduced to Omar González-Alemán.
Omar González-Alemán began his career in the tobacco industry as a boy in Cuba, his father instructing him on the intricate skills needed to produce outstanding cigars. After working for a while at Partagás, Alemán landed a job at the La Corona Factory in Havana, Cuba, where he eventually became its Head Director—manufacturing cigars for the Romeo y Julieta, Hoyo de Monterrey, Por Larrañaga, Saint Luis Rey, San Cristóbal de la Habana, and Montecristo brands. Several years ago, Omar relocated to Estelí, Nicaragua and established La Corona Cigars, S.A., which has rolled cigars for HR, Soneros, and Cubanacan. In choosing Omar González-Alemán to produce their first line of super premium cigars, the company stated, “To justify the investment and production of a super premium blend requires a partner that not only has the blending talent but also total control of the production from sowing the seeds to banding and boxing the blends. We have finally found that partner which offers us vertical integration.”
At last year’s IPCPR show in Las Vegas, Tony Serino unveiled the Serino Cigar Company. The company’s freshmen releases are spread out over four different blends, one of which is the Serino 20th Anniversary Royale Maduro XX. As Carson Serino, the company’s vice president, told Cigar Dojo, “The Maduro XX blend was created for the cigar connoisseur—to truly deliver a memorable experience. We wanted to make an “oscuro maduro” blend that was rich in flavor but not taxing to the palate, as a fine cigar should showcase balance. Notes of dark chocolate, coffee, earth, and leather illuminate this blend.”
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Serino 20th Anniversary Royale Maduro XX Breakdown
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano 2000
- Binder: Nicaraguan (Jalapa)
- Filler: Nicaraguan (Estelí | Jalapa)
- Factory: La Corona Cigars S.A. (Nicaragua)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 6″ × 52 Toro
- Price: $10.25 (MSPR)
The Serino 20th Anniversary Royale Maduro XX is one of the four blends of super premium cigars the Serino Cigar Company introduced to the market in 2016 to commemorate Tony Serino’s twentieth anniversary in the tobacco business, joining the Royale Connecticut (Connecticut Shade wrapper), the Royale Medio (Ecuadorian Habano Claro wrapper), and the Royale Maduro (Ecuadorian Oscuro wrapper). This new line of cigars is offered in four sizes—Belicoso (5½” x 52, $10.00 MSRP), Robusto (5⅛” x 48, $9.75 MSRP), Sublime (6¼” x 54, $10.50 MSRP), and Toro (6″ x 52, $10.25 MSRP). The vitolas are wrapped in cellophane and shipped in attractive, twenty-count dress boxes, which are color coordinated for each of the four blends. In the case of the Royale Maduro XX, the box is midnight black.
The Royale Maduro XX cigars are composed with an Ecuadorian Habano 2000 wrapper, which the company describes as an “oscuro maduro”. A Nicaraguan binder from Jalapa encases a blend of long-leaf Nicaraguan filler tobaccos from both Estelí and Jalapa, which were aged for five years before being used in the construction of the four vitolas.
The Royale Maduro XX Toro is a beefy looking cigar with a slightly larger ring gauge than what is normally found on a vitola classified as a toro (fifty-two in the case of the Maduro XX, instead of the usual fifty). Its Ecuadorian Habano 2000 “Oscuro Maduro” wrapper is a bit on the rough side—with slightly raised seams, some keloidal scar veining, and superfine sandpaper grits of tooth. The toro’s color is a mixture of chocolate and gingerbread, with contrasting splashes of hickory scattered across the face. A medium amount of oil on the wrapper produces an ethereal sheen in the early-morning sun. The cigar is finished with a nicely-applied, triple cap.
The Maduro XX is encased with a primary band printed in the colors of blue and red with gold embossing. In the center, a graphic interpretation of a coat-of-arms contains the word “SERINO” hovering over a large, cursive “S.” A secondary band, with a gold, embossed crown at the top, resides around the foot and identifies the toro as the “Royale Maduro XX” blend. Very firmly packed from the foot to the cap—with one diminutive soft spot beneath the main band—the wrapper aroma combines aged tobacco with a subtle sweetness, while the open foot smells of cedar, chocolate, earth, and dried hay.
After the cap of the toro 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 fairly open, with just a slight, and desirable, amount of resistance. As a bit of peppery spice formulates on the upper lip, smooth flavors of coffee, cocoa, pepper, and leather immediately touch the palate.
After toasting and lighting the cigar with a soft double-flame lighter, the palate is immediately inundated with bold flavors of dark chocolate and spice, like a big bite from a SABADÌ “Modica Chocolate with Chili Pepper” bar. These flavors are soon enhanced with touches of coffee bean and saddleback leather. As the cigar settles into the burn, the fermented oscuro maduro wrapper begins to enhance the initial notes, filling every nook and cranny of the mouth with hearty and rich plumes of smoke. The draw is practically perfect—easy and open—producing a prodigious amount of smoke output from both the cap and the foot of the toro. Aromas and flavors of barnyard mustiness, bread, cocoa, coffee, citrus, and dried fruits begin to mingle with the primary notes of dark chocolate and spice, while cedar and red and black pepper are dominant on the almost sinus-clearing retrohale.
As the Royale Maduro XX enters into the second third, the strength slowly increases from medium to medium-full, while the body continues to reside in the medium range. The initial coffee bean flavor transitions to heavier ristretto shots of espresso, followed by a slight increase in saltiness. Very subtle flavors and aromas of anise, black cherry, and mixed nuts flirt in and out of the mix, adding an additional layer of complexity to the cigar. The smoke production, while still voluminous, is quite dry, requiring frequent sips of San Pellegrino—my preferred beverage when reviewing cigars.
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Room aroma is reminiscent of entering your favorite tobacconist after a long absence—open the outside door and let the heady atmosphere of the shop roll over your shoulders. The burn line wavers in a sine-wave fashion, requiring its first touch-up before one and one-quarter inches of ecru and charcoal ash tumbles to the floor. On the retrohale, the red and black pepper flavors, present in the first third, are replaced by bold notes of freshly-crushed black peppercorns with trace amounts of cardamon and licorice.
During the final third, the Royale Maduro transitions into a smoking experience that is medium-full to full in both body and strength. The aromas and flavors of the cigar meld toward three dominant notes—dark chocolate, espresso, and pepper. While the vitola experiences a loss of the complexity present at the beginning, the draw continues to be open and lush. The cigar, however, requires two more touch-ups at roughly one-inch intervals as it burns toward the nub. Additionally, the Maduro XX is quite strong in terms of nicotine content and should be tackled on a full stomach.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
The answer to that question is, “Yes.” The Serino 20th Anniversary Royale Maduro XX Toro is a good example of what a factory can accomplish with aged Nicaraguan tobaccos. Its powerful flavor profile will provide the experienced cigar enthusiast with nearly two hours of enjoyment. The cigar has become part of my regular rotation.
- Smoking Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
- Pairing Recommendations: Espresso, Guinness, Scotch, Bourbon
- Purchase Recommendation: Box split
- Excellent draw
- Bold flavors
- Initial complexity
- Multiple touch-ups
- Complexity fades after the first half