It is always hard to pinpoint the exact moment when a movement kicks into gear—the first domino that falls to establish a new trend. In the cigar industry, a new age of Connecticut-wrapped cigars has arrived; they have depth of flavor and a little more kick and complexity than was previously available in what is often considered America’s most purchased cigar genre (aka your “grandfather’s Connecticut”).
Ten-plus years ago, Connecticuts were strictly mild and often reserved for morning smoking sessions. But these cigars lacked creativity in the eyes of the modern enthusiast—those that emphatically embraced the growing wave of bold and innovative flavor experiences that began appearing throughout the cigar boom of the ’90s. Somewhere along the way, the same high-priming tobaccos that power the aforementioned “flavor bomb” smoking experiences began creeping into the filler recipes of more unlikely candidates, including that of the traditionally mild Connecticut. This is not to say that the modern wave of amped-up Connecticuts will have the unsuspecting smoker reaching for the nearest glass of water in fear of losing their lunch—only that flavors are now upfront an clearly visible, showing newfound complexity and a level of bright, citric, sweet flavors that may better accompany smoking sessions well beyond the old adage of “a morning pairing with a cup of joe.”
Today’s cigar smoker has a veritable buffet of choices in the Connecticut realm; hell, almost every company makes a solid Connecticut. We at Cigar Dojo wanted to take some time to highlight a few of today’s most flavor-forward Connecticuts—those that can perform toe-to-toe with the proverbial “flavor bombs.”
San Lotano Requiem – Connecticut
It may not be the first modern-day Connecticut, but the San Lotano Requiem – Connecticut by A.J. Fernandez Cigar Co. (then known as San Lotano Connecticut) certainly helps to quantify the general timeframe (released in 2010) when non-mild Connecticuts began turning heads. The brand has recently undergone an overhaul, with each of the three primary San Lotano blends (Habano, Maduro, Connecticut) now falling under the “Requiem” sub-classification. The blend is slightly tweaked as well, using Fernández’s famed Nicaraguan tobaccos in combination with Dominican fillers, a Honduran binder, and a bronze-hued Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper leaf. This is a medium-bodied experience with palate-awakening flavors of white pepper, graham cracker, buttered nuts, and loads of custard cream.
RoMa Craft Intemperance EC XVIII
The Intemperance line was among the first formal releases for RoMa Craft Tobac when the company debuted back in 2012. Michael Rosales and Skip Martin, founders of RoMa Craft, struck gold with the Intemperance EC XVIII line (my favorite size is the Brotherly Kindness), which is named for the 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This unpopular law effectively banned the sale of alcohol throughout the country (brought about due to the temperance movement), which was later reversed by the 21sth amendment, of which there is also a RoMa Craft offering (Intemperance BA XXI). As far as cigars are concerned, RoMa Craft has cleverly played into the modern-day movement against cigars/tobacco, showcasing a “yin and yang” of sorts with both light (EC XVIII) and dark-hued (BA XXI) smoking experiences. Concerning the former, the cigars feature an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper with an Indonesian binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. With RoMa Craft being known for medium to full-bodied smoking profiles, as well as small-batch consistency, the EC XVIII bursts onto the palate with enough flavor to turn even the most ardent maduro devotee. The cigars are medium-plus in body and deliver dense flavors of peanut butter, light-roast coffee, black tea, natural tobacco, and burnt caramel sauce.
Quesada Reserva Privada
Cigar Dojo’s 2015 Limited Edition Cigar of the Year, the Quesada Reserva Privada was a truly special blend. The story goes that in 1997, Quesada Cigars Master Blender Manuel Quesada had the foresight to set aside an unusually banner harvest of tobacco, despite the advice of his peers. For 17 years he let the choice tobaccos age, finally utilizing the leaf with the atypical juxtaposition of both mild (Connecticut) and powerful (Pennsylvania ligero) tobaccos. The unusual combination of a delicate Connecticut wrapper, along with binder and filler from this 1997 Dominican San Vicente crop, and finished with some Pennsylvania ligero, creates an experience like non other in the world of Connecticut cigars. The Reserva Privada is limited in production, only being rolled until the crop of ’97 tobaccos have been depleted; a highly recommended choice worth seeking out before the cigars become one of lore.
The T. Connecticut
Few would deny that a collaboration between Matt Booth, Robert Caldwell, and A.J. Fernández would be destined for greatness. Such a cigar materialized in both 2017 and 2018 with The T. and The T. Connecticut, respectively. While both Robert Caldwell (Caldwell Cigar Co.) and A.J. Fernández (AJF Cigar Co.) are no strangers to high-profile collaborations, the addition of Matt Booth (Room101) came as a welcomed surprise, marking one of the first releases from Booth upon his return to the cigar industry in 2017, after his brief flirtation with retirement. The T. Connecticut is in stark contrast to the dark Nicaraguan puro of its predecessor, dialing back the blend to instead offer the finesse of Connecticut Shade over an all-Nicaraguan interior. Replete with creamy, mouthwatering flavors of citrus, white pepper, cream cheese, brown sugar, and tart candies, it’s hard not to list The T. Connecticut among full-flavored offerings of any wrapper varietal! Upon its release year, the cigar was awarded Cigar Dojo’s No. 5 Cigar of the Year for 2018.
Smoking the majority of offerings from the La Zona factory (owned by Erik Espinosa of Espinosa Premium Cigars), one would be quick to notice a steady stream of bold, full-bodied, flavor-forward cigars. Taking this trend and flipping it on its head, Cubariqueño and their fan-favorite lineup of Protocol-branded cigars rounded out their portfolio beautifully with the Themis—a full-flavored Connecticut that represents La Zona’s strengths in a more approachable manner. Without overpowering the palate, Themis uses its Connecticut wrapper in conjunction with an all-Nicaraguan interior, bursting onto the palate with a bright and lively sensation not unlike bubbly champagne! Adjoining characteristics of white pepper, honey, and sweet citrus/vanilla liqueur (think Tuaca) make the Themis as fun to smoke as it is to say…
AVO Syncro Nicaragua
What good would a list of premium Connecticut-wrapped cigars be without including AVO Cigars? Debuting on the market in the late ’80s, the brand is named after the late Avo Uvezian, a musician best known for writing Frank Sinatra’s Strangers in the Night. Uvezian partnered with the now-legendary Hendrik “Henke” Kelner and began producing Dominican-based blends at Kelner’s facility in Santiago (now best known for manufacturing Davidoff cigars). AVO’s cigars are often considered among the world’s most refined smoking experiences, best known for combining Kelner’s prized Dominican leaf with exquisite Ecuadorian Connecticut wrappers. In the modern era, the brand has consolidated its growing collection, while carefully expanding into new territories. This is most noticeable with the Syncro series, where AVO utilizes its musical background to showcase fine-tuned synchronizations between the brand’s Dominican roots and other, more exotic tobacco-growing regions of the world. AVO Syncro Nicaragua is one of the least “Connecticut-like” cigars on our list, featuring an unusually dark Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper over a diverse interior of Nicaraguan, Peruvian, and an assortment of Dominican tobaccos. The cigars—AVO’s first regular-production box-pressed offering—showcase a much more aggressive experience than fans of the brand have come to expect, including atypical flavors not unlike Belgian funk (craft beer fans know where we’re going here), caramel, salted butter, sweet cream, black licorice, and even root beer candy.
The Eastern Standard has a dark Connecticut wrapper that performs somewhat differently than standard Connecticut Shade leaf, being hybridized from traditional Connecticut and Brazilian Mata Fina. At first glance, Eastern Standard looks indistinguishable from any natural or Habano you would expect to see on store shelves (as opposed to the lighter, claro shade of standard Connecticuts). By using a darker, hybridized version of the Connecticut seed, the Eastern Standard creates one of the more unique and memorable Connecticuts to reach the market in the modern era. Joining the unique wrapper is a Dominican Habano binder and vintage fillers from Nicaragua and the DR. The cigar smokes with a Cubanesque profile, offering an assortment of buttered nuts, cream, citrusy coffee, musk, and natural tobacco.
The story of the Undercrown line by Drew Estate is well documented, but to briefly summarize, workers on the factory floor of Drew Estate’s Estelí-based facility were smoking too many Liga Privadas; out of the need to smoke something more affordable, the Undercrown was born. The Undercrown blend was originally designed to maintain the overall character of the Liga Privada line but at a more approachable cost point. Undercrown Shade, on the other hand, serves more as a spinoff of a spinoff, using the flavor-forward inspiration of the Undercrown Maduro to showcase a creamier, Connecticut-wrapped addition to the brand. Undercrown Shade incorporates Cuban-seed tobaccos from Nicaragua and the DR, bound in a Sumatran leaf and finalized in a vibrant Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper. The blend is just under medium in body, bringing forth a continuous stream of smooth and creamy smoke from start to finish.
My Father Connecticut
My Father Cigars—and the García family in general—are known for their peppery profiles, which doesn’t necessarily lend itself (naturally) to the Connecticut style. But with the My Father name being consistently ranked among the world’s best upon its 2008 debut, it became increasingly apparent that the line was missing a Connecticut alternative. Instead of wiping the brand of its world-famous black pepper spice, the Garcías simply diverted to other ingredients within the same metaphorical spice cabinet… This includes generous doses of white pepper, sage, and cardamom—being used in sweet, creamy unison with flavors of walnuts, caramel, and loads of florals. My Father Connecticut stays true to the classic Don Pepín profile while balancing the sweet and creamy characteristics that a Connecticut should embody.
Tatuaje’s Négociant is unique in both blend and concept. For starters, it’s not often that enthusiasts are treated to a Connecticut offering from Tatuaje owner Pete Johnson. Borrowing from Pete’s love of wine culture, Négociant was originally slated for Tatuaje sister brand, L’Atelier Imports (négociants being those that bottle other’s grapes as their own wine). As for the blend, the cigars feature a Nicaraguan filler, harvested from the famed García family’s fields. This filler recipe is bound in both a Nicaraguan leaf and Mexican San Andrés—a combination not often found under the hood of Connecticut Shade. The finishing leaf is spattered with veins and mottled with dark tones not commonly associated with the silk-like tendencies of Connecticut leaf. But it’s the experience that counts, and Tatuaje Négociant does not care to be pigeonholed… Key flavors include white pepper, caramel, butterscotch, soft vanilla (on the finish), buttered crackers, black tea, and a wonderful horchata-like complexity.
Aganorsa Leaf Connecticut
What do nearly all cigars to come out of the burgeoning TABSA factory share in common? They use Cuban-seed tobaccos grown on the famed Aganorsa farms… EXCLUSIVELY. This is one of the factors that makes the Aganorsa Leaf Connecticut an outlier within the Aganorsa Leaf portfolio, featuring an Ecuador-grown Connecticut wrapper over the company’s famed Nicaraguan binder/fillers. For comparison, this would be like Trappist monks borrowing hops from California to give their old-world ales a modern twist! Aganorsa Leaf Connecticut offers a familiar smoking experience for those that have become acquainted with the Fernández family’s unique tobacco. This includes loads of graham cracker, cedar, and vanilla, but the Connecticut-seed wrapper helps to showcase added cream, salted butter, honey, and touches of white pepper and cinnamon throughout the experience.