The saga of Matt Booth and his involvement in the premium cigar industry proved to be one of, if not the most closely watched narratives across 2017 for craft cigar enthusiasts. This began with the shocking news on January 9th that Booth would leave the industry—which took effect nearly immediately.
Considering the popularity of Booth’s Room101 brand, many believed it would not be long before he returned with a new manufacturing partner. Rumors and speculation increased throughout the year, culminating with the announcement of his return just weeks before the annual IPCPR trade show. But it was who Matt Booth returned with that captivated smokers more so than the when, teaming with the artistically-geared Robert Caldwell for two limited edition projects.
At IPCPR 2017, both Hit & Run and The T. (formerly known as The Truth) were on display. The former was marketed as a collaboration between Booth and Caldwell, using Room101 imagery and a Dominican blend unlike anything seen from Booth up until this point. The latter seemed to draw a bit more attention however, with a three-part collaboration of the industry’s most star-studded names (AJ Fernandez, Robert Caldwell, and Matt Booth) promising a surefire result.
The T. Short Churchill Breakdown
- Wrapper: Nicaragua
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Factory: Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua (Nicaragua)
- Production: Limited (100,000 cigars)
- Vitola: 5½″ × 48 Short Churchill
- Price: $12.00 (MSRP)
Hit & Run shipped in mid-August, roughly one month after debuting at IPCPR. The cigars saw mixed reviews from critics (notwithstanding an impressive 93 rating from Cigar Dojo), despite occupying a healthy spotlight from craft enthusiasts on social media. But it always seemed that fans more eagerly awaited the trifecta that would eventually be dubbed “The T.”
The cigars were first announced as “The Truth,” but when the boxes were seen on display at Caldwell’s IPCPR booth, the names had been blacked out. This was due to a trademark issue with Tatuaje, as the company already produces a line named La Verite (a French phrase that translates to The Truth). The cigars eventually reappeared in late October as “The T.” and began shipping in early November.
But cigar enthusiasts were much more interested in the names behind the cigar, rather the cigar’s name itself. AJ Fernandez is/was clearly the hottest name in premium cigars, and Caldwell and Booth are both innovators in the realm of artistic/creative projects—widely regarded as top-influencers of ushering in the modern wave of craft cigars.
While The T. is manufactured at AJ’s popular Tabacalera A.J. Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua factory and makes use of his sought-after Nicaraguan tobaccos, the brand doesn’t fall under any of the three men’s own labels—instead showcasing the contributors actual names on the product/marketing. However, the cigars are distributed by Caldwell Cigar Company.
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The T. encompasses a line of five vitolas, each box-pressed and packaged in boxes of twenty cigars (with the exception of the Short Churchill, which is packaged in boxes of ten and appears to be among the most difficult to obtain). The look of The T. is surprisingly classy, offering creamy, matte white boxes (or Army green, in the case of the Short Churchill) and a straightforward serif font. This is juxtaposed against a more modern, graffiti-inspired font used to list additional information such as the three contributor’s names, as well as the vitola’s name and dimensions on the box.
There is also imagery of skeleton keys on both the boxes and bands, alluding to the three contributors involved. Interestingly, AJ Fernandez uses skeleton key imagery on the AJF La Gran Llave cigar (which translates to “The Great Key”). The cigar’s primary band is a traditional-looking oval shape, using an interesting color scheme of lavender gray, orange, black, white, and gold. There is also a thin sub-band that uses the Army green of the cigar’s box and gold letters that list the initials of the three men involved in the project.
The cigar is only slightly box-pressed, offering a medium bunch that has a little give to it when squeezed. The wrapper is fairly dark and could probably pass as Nicaraguan Habano Maduro. On a closer inspection, the leaf has a soft oil sheen when held to the light, showing undertones of purple amongst the overall chocolate brown hue. There is a fuzzy feel to the wrapper, which lacks nearly any veins and appears quite well-rolled.
The smell of the wrapper is of manure, leather, and musk—a general barn-like vibe. The foot shows additional notes of chocolate, dark cherries, raw tobacco, and dust. The pre-light draw is fairly light in flavor, with notes of cedar, light cabinet spices, and more raw tobacco.
The cigar lights up with flavors of corn chips and medium-roast coffee. There is a subtle tingling of spice in the nose and back of throat, but it’s actually not nearly as much as expected. Throughout the first third, flavors are added and removed from the profile, including moments of root beer, mineral/wet concrete, dark chocolate, espresso, and a touch of creaminess on the finish. The smoking experience is roughly medium in strength, flavor and body throughout this portion.
Moving from the subjective to objective, The T. Short Churchill offers a solid construction, with a dusty gray accumulation of ash clinging to the cigar in two-inch chunks. The burn line is generally wavy but always within a manageable threshold (not requiring touchups of any kind). The draw is medium-plus and produces an equal amount of smoke output—this is basically perfect.
Flavors in the cigar’s midsection seem to abandon fiery spices entirely, instead focusing on soft and creamy notes of custard and milk chocolate (like Swiss Miss hot chocolate powder). Later in this section there are more complex additives of squash, general vegetation, and black licorice.
The smoking experience ramps up at some point in the late mid-section, surprising your senses with a full strength not previously detected. This portion is joined by a renewed spiciness (black pepper), dark coffee, an onslaught of anise and black licorice, raisons, and tangy bread dough that is reminiscent of the dark, honey wheat-style bread often served at steakhouses. The overall profile finishes at medium-plus in flavor, full strength, and medium-plus in body.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
I wouldn’t be opposed to it. This is a fun smoke with easily enjoyable flavors for the mainstream—it has the chocolate (creamy and occasionally dark), coffee, cream, and even a kick of black licorice for an added twist. This, paired with great construction, means I will not turn this cigar down, assuming you’re handing me one. But with the high price point and limited availability, that contrived situation isn’t likely to happen often. I’d recommend grabbing a 5-pack and take it from there.
Interestingly, I originally planned to review this cigar in the Lonsdale format, but found the Short Churchill to offer a much better smoking experience, contrary to my usual vitola preference. With the cigar’s dark and thick wrapper, the thin size’s wrapper seemed to overpower the blend, making for much less complexity, in my opinion. Both sizes benefitted quite a bit from time in the humidor—it’s a dark blend that may not reach its full potential for a couple more years.
- Flavor: Medium-Plus
- Strength: Full
- Body: Medium / Full
- Black Licorice
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Sazerac Cocktail, Barleywine, Milk Stout, Medium-Roast Coffee
- Purchase Recommendation: 5-pack
- Stellar construction
- Near-perfect draw
- Progressive strength
- Needs added rest (recommended three-plus months)
- Can be somewhat one-noted at times