Beginning this June, Jeff Haugen and Joel Rogers, owners of boutique cigar brand, Crux Cigars began releasing the first of their initial five Crux Cigar lines—Ninfamaniac (7″ x 33 natural and DARK) and Skeeterz (4″ x 32). Scheduled for release in July are Passport (7″ x 40, 5.5″ x 44 and 6″ x 48 Marblehead), Classic (6.75″ x 47 Marblehead, 5″ x 50, 6″ x 52 Marblehead) and Bull & Bear (5.5″ x 55 and 6″ x 60 Marblehead). If you count the Ninfamaniac natural and dark as two separate vitolas, that’s 11 size/shapes of five lines set to be released within 60 days of each other. Who does that? Crux Cigars does. Who introduces their cigar brand to the world in the form of the slender and diminutive 7″ x 33 and 4″ x 32? Crux Cigars does. Who adds a security seal to the outside of their boxes, has a thin 69% Boveda pack inside and packages their 30 count boxes (Ninfamaniac) in six individually wrapped five packs? Crux Cigar DOES!
Ninfamaniac and Ninfamaniac DARK began appearing on retailer’s shelves a few weeks ago. Haugen, President/CEO and master blender for Crux Cigars said in an interview it’s taken three years of hard work to get these first cigars to the retailers and consumer. “The Ninfas, Skeeterz and Passports are my babies,” notes Haugen. Though there are many different components to launching a successful cigar brand, both Haugen and Rogers agree the tobacco came first through the entire process. “Only a few types of leaf work in small ring gauges…can’t be too thick, too oily,” said Haugen. Both men acknowledged their tobacco-first paradigm lead them to the Plasencia Cigars, S.A. factory in Esteli, Nicaragua. Haugen explained Palcentia is a highly respected, vertically integrated company. In the tobacco world, that means from the field to the final product, Placentia excels at every level; beginning with some of the highest quality and most diverse tobacco found anywhere, to their rollers, through meticulous quality control, and out the door as a final product.
As an added quality fail-safe, all Ninfamaniacs are rolled by one team of rollers—one bunchero (no Lieberman’s here) and two finishers. I’m told of the difficulties in rolling such a small ring gauge cigar. Those difficulties being part of the reason so few companies attempt them. It takes highly skilled rollers to roll such a small ring gauge, keep the blend honest to the master blender’s vision and at the same time keeping the draw consistently acceptable.
Both the Ninfamaniac and the Ninfamaniac DARK are made with the same tobacco varietals—the wrapper is Habano seed grown in Jalapa, Nicaragua; the binder, Indonesian, and filler tobacco is a viso leaf grown in Esteli. The difference being the wrapper on the DARK is 100% sun-grown, while the natural is wrapped in a shade grown leaf. This one simple difference has a distinct effect on the flavors from one cigar to the other.
I smoked three of each, natural and dark, for this review. All six cigars had a wonderful, slightly resistive draw, burned fairly evenly (I had to catch a couple up from time to time), and lasted from 45 minutes to an hour each. The natural wrapper initially had a fiery sharpness through the sinus’ in the retro-hale that mellowed at about the half-way point. The DARK, sun-grown wrapper had a much milder retro-hale initially, though still exhibited a bit of a bite, that also mellowed by the half-way point.
Both cigars were alive with transitions, the natural Ninfamaniac really ran my taste buds through a gauntlet. It opened nicely with nuts and dried apricots transitioned through cocoa and cream into an appetizing grilled meat component around the mid-point. Past that, the cigar was creamy with sweet chocolate and nuts. The experience reminded me of oven-fresh chocolate brownies. Overall, all three of the natural wrapper Ninfamaniacs I smoked were a delight in every way.
The sun-grown wrapper, Ninfamaniac DARK, was equally exciting, but didn’t have as many transitions. The flavors weren’t as sweet as the natural wrapper. They were, well… darker. Right off the toast, the cigar hit me with an aromatic dark chocolate that added cherry and walnuts around the first third. The cigar then pretty much held to these flavors through the middle of the cigar and into the final third, where a molasses type sweetness emerged, followed by roasted pecans before finally yielding to an earthy tobacco flavor.
As I said, the DARK is not as dynamic as the natural, but it certainly is equally as pleasing. I guess, through all six cigars, the natural tended to have more strength, but not by much. Both cigars I considered medium strength cigars with the natural pushing closer to medium-full.
Crux Cigar is a dichotomy between the old and the new, traditional and non-traditional. On one hand, they are presenting cigars with homage to historic Cuban traditions with the Ninfamaniac, a classic Cuban ninfa vitola and thematic use of the Marblehead shape which draws its ancestry from the no. 109 Cuban shape. On the other, they are utilizing new ideas in packaging—individual wrapped five packs in boxes complete with a Boveda pack; presentation—a bold, edgy logo featuring an eye-catching Swarovski crystal; and marketing—Ninfamaniac—“Can’t get enough”, Classic—“Make the damn time” or Skeeterz—“Just a little prick”. In Crux Cigar’s, Jeff and Joel really have developed a winner in my opinion.
Would I smoke these cigars again?
Oh, absolutely!! Both the Ninfamaniac and Ninfamaniac DARK really hit my sweet spot. Both are exceptional in their own right. I can hardly wait to try the rest of the Crux Cigar lines. As they become available in your area, Dojo Nation, buy’um up. Believe me, you won’t regret it! MSRP on both the Ninfamaniac and Ninfamaniac DARK is $5.99 per stick.
Until next time…Dojo Mojo Ya’ll!!