Announced at the 2017 IPCPR, the Alec Bradley Black Market Esteli began shipping to retailers nationwide in October of that year. Alan Rubin, owner of Alec Bradley Cigar Distributors Inc., said, “These cigars are a labor of love. Alec Bradley hasn’t had a global release in over two years. We are all really excited!”
The original Black Market is a fan favorite among Alec Bradley smokers, with its unique Panamanian tobacco featured in the blend. In this iteration, however, that has been eschewed in favor of hearty Nicaraguan tobaccos.
“The Black Market Estelí has a similar feel to its original namesake, but the flavor and experience are completely unique. Estelí is the mecca of Nicaraguan cigars. This line truly represents what the city of Estelí is all about,” Alan noted.
Black Market Esteli Torpedo Breakdown
- Wrapper: Nicaragua
- Binder: Nicaragua | Honduras
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Factory: Plasencia Cigars S.A. (Nicaragua)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 6½″ × 52 (Torpedo)
- Price: $9.00 (MSRP)
A not-quite-fully maduro leaf covers this very pointy cigar. There’s a fair bit of reddish tint in this leaf that reminds me of old rusty cars or fresh, new leather. The cigar’s hue lightens when moving from the foot to the cap, with rough, black-ish splotches in the darker foot area. Otherwise, this is a nice-looking cigar—tight seams, no big veins, no lumps or bumps. There is a rock-hard area where a conventional cigar’s band would be; I hope that it doesn’t give me any issues.
Speaking of cigar bands, the eye is immediately drawn to the lower two-thirds of the cigar, which are completely covered in an oversized paper sleeve. It’s not a band, as the actual band is partially covered by the attention-grabbing sleeve. There’s a black ring around the top that says “Alec Bradley,” with a small AB logo below, and the large “Black Market Esteli” name is set at a lopsided angle. The paper itself is embossed to give it some texture and some faux-aging (in my opinion) is imparted with a color treatment (if you look at the back you’ll see it’s printed on pristine white paper). The art direction here—from the faux texture/aging of the paper to the hand-stamped/stenciled font—tells me that they are marketing this cigar as rough around the edges, rebellious, which makes me feel edgy and adventuresome (not really). Beneath that huge waste of paper is a normal band that is less offensive. The next thing I noticed was that they chose to label this “Esteli” (as opposed to “Estelí”). As I write about this cigar, I will refer to it by the given name, and not the correct diacritic-marked spelling of the city of Estelí.
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Funky barnyard galore from the wrapper. Beneath that there’s a sweetness, like dried dates. There’s not much else of note, other than generic tobacco from the foot. I cut about a half-inch from the torpedo cap, which leaves a draw that has that nice milkshake-through-a-straw resistance; which actually worries me because I tend to experience a closing of the draw with torpedos as the tobacco heats up and moisture accumulates near the clipped tip. Flavors on the cold draw are brownie batter and some sort of rich, vegetal woodiness, with some ripe banana as well.
Starting out, this cigar features a healthy dose of spicy black peppercorn on the palate and retrohale, which stands above the surrounding flavors of bitter espresso, dark chocolate, and a kind of prune-y sweetness. A couple of mild touchups are required early on, but no big deal. Nearing the end of the first third, the cigar seems to be trending in a positive direction, with a kind of botanic root beer flavor beginning to emerge. It’s not so much the flavor of root beer, though, as it is the harmony of tingling spice, herbal bitterness, and darkly sweet flavors combining to become greater than the sum of each part. There’s not much I’ve noticed in the way of strength—as it is neither striking me as mild or strong—while the flavor and body are building up to become what I think will be pretty potent by the end.
The second third is decidedly better than where the first started. There’s some great coffee substance that fades to that lingering botanical-sweet concoction of flavors; and oh, lookey here, a spot of something doughy and savory. That’s pretty dang impressive; I wasn’t expecting complexity like this. This is followed by one of my favorite Nicaraguan flavors—rich, dark, strong licorice candy. Wow! There’s not much change in strength or flavor. Meanwhile, body has decreased a little bit, as the draw begins to tighten around the halfway mark. I trim another eighth of an inch off and the draw gets a little better. I hope this can hold up through the end.
The final third continues the trajectory of the second, as the core flavors continue to build in intensity. The licorice moves into the front, with the root beer following, leaving behind a long finish of chocolate. I gotta say, I was pretty skeptical of this cigar going in, but hot damn, this is good. Right now, this tastes like if you boiled vanilla beans in molasses. The only downsides I can remark on at this point are the snugging of the draw and the constant touch-ups. Black Market Esteli just keeps getting better. The intensity of the licorice as this cigar closes is remarkable. The nub is firm and cool, even after a couple clips to keep the draw going. Strength is still perfectly balanced (medium), while flavor and body are both intensely strong. The finish on this thing lasts forEVER.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
Absolutely! This cigar made me a true believer in Alec Bradley. It’s the best I’ve ever had from this brand. Minor construction issues notwithstanding, this was one of the best cigars I’ve had in quite a while. I was a little skeptical regarding this being placed in the CA top 10 of 2018, but I’ll almost surely include it in mine for this year.
- Flavor: Full
- Strength: Medium
- Body: Medium-full
- Dark chocolate
- Root beer
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 58 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Root beer | Sazerac cocktail | water
- Purchase Recommendation: Box worthy
- Positive progression
- Great flavor combinations
- Torpedo vitola is the perfect vehicle for flavors to concentrate and shine
- Slow starter
- Lots of touchups required
- Terrible band design