Gatekeeper is the sophomore release from Alec & Bradley Cigars—a boutique-minded sub-brand under the Alec Bradley Cigar Co. umbrella that is spearheaded by Alec and Bradley Rubin. The duo first launched onto the scene in 2018 with the release of a small-batch project known as Blind Faith. And while this cigar was crafted with the mindset of offering a fresh perspective perhaps uncommon from parent brand Alec Bradley, it is the Gatekeeper that drives this concept home. This is due, first and foremost, to a new manufacturing partner for Alec & Bradley (or Alec Bradley, for that matter). Where the Blind Faith (as well as the majority of Alec Bradley cigars) was crafted in Honduras at the Raíces Cubanas facility, Gatekeeper is rolled in the Dominican Republic, partnering with Ernesto Perez-Carrillo and his well-established Tabacalera La Alianza S.A. factory.
Gatekeeper was first announced in June, debuting weeks later at the IPCPR trade show in Las Vegas. The cigars were a primary attraction for Alec Bradley and were later included in Cigar Dojo’s article, 9 Hidden Gem Cigars at IPCPR 2019.
Gatekeeper Corona Breakdown
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua | Dominican Republic
- Factory: Tabacalera La Alianza S.A. (Dominican Republic)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 5⅛” x 42 (Corona)
- Price: $8.75 (MSRP)
Gatekeeper boasts a vague three-country blend, with an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper being the blend’s most detailed attribute. This leaf is complimented by a less-defined core, including a Nicaraguan binder and fillers of Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. The cigars shipped this September, being offered in four sizes:
- Corona: 5⅛” x 42 | $8.75
- Robusto: 5″ x 50 | $10.50
- Toro: 6″ x 52 | $11.50
- Gordo: 6″ x 60 | $12.25
Artistically, Gatekeeper showcases a modern play on Benvenuto Cellini’s bronze sculpture, Perseus with the Head of Medusa, first unveiled in Florence, Italy in 1554. Medusa’s head has been displaced from the remainder of the statue, being prominently featured as the cigar’s band. Additionally, portions of the statue have been replaced with gold highlights, contrasting nicely against the band’s matte black background. Those unfamiliar with the statue may not initially interpret these gold highlights, but they are the fingers of Perseus and the torn flesh of Medusa’s severed head.
The fact that Gatekeeper includes a traditional corona format reinforces the craft mindset that the Rubin brothers seek to bring to the Alec Bradley portfolio. The cigar has a firm feel to it, appearing well-rolled and showing no soft spots whatsoever. Gatekeeper’s Habano wrapper is darker than expected, having a slightly toothy feel and an intricate webbing of fine veins throughout. In terms of aroma, both the wrapper and foot are faint. The wrapper shows subtleties of musk and leather, with the foot adding a touch of cola and generic barnyard. With a cut, the pre-light draw is on the firm side, adding hints of wet wood and the fibrous, wood-like taste of peanut skins.
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The cigar lights up with an assortment of dark spices, igniting imagery of sifting through Grandma’s spice cabinet. There are notes of overly toasted bread (not burnt, but close), raw peppercorn, and a blast of cinnamon. Unfortunately, the snug resistance of the pre-light draw carries into the smoking experience, requiring long pulls or double puffs to bring out a desirable level of smoke; it’s not a deal breaker or overly distracting though.
It isn’t long before the smoke develops a complimentary sweetness, felt as an underlying note through the finish. Upfront are flavors of hickory and dark spice (the latter being more of a flavor than a sharp sensation), eventually building to a roasted chestnut character. As the cigar’s appearance suggested, Gatekeeper is well-constructed. The cigar’s ash is flakey and near-white in color, clinging on in one-inch segments. Overall, the profile is fairly nuanced, offering a pleasant, medium-intensity flavor output, backed by a medium-light strength and medium body.
Crossing the halfway point, the underlying sweetness begins to take over. The nuttiness becomes browned butter, which is joined by a clean and natural sweetness that is reminiscent of Sugar in the Raw. The smoke hits the tip of the tongue first (sweet receptors), followed by the front sides (salt) and a touch on the back sides (acidic). Interestingly, in this, the latter portion of the cigar, the sweetness grows to a point where it is more tangible, being felt on the tongue (against the raw tobacco) and lips following each puff. That is not to say that the cigar has a sweetened cap; these notes come across as a more natural sensation from the cigar’s oils. Moving forward, the sweetness takes on multiple forms, including that of cotton candy, butterscotch, and sugarcane. This portion is joined by a great oily mouthfeel, saturating the tongue like a stick of butter throughout each puff’s finish. The spice makes a return nearing the finale, bringing a zesty black pepper rush through the nostrils. There is also a lingering character of must and leather, like an old chair dug out of a basement. This profile carries through to the end, with the corona never becoming harsh or charry, even up until its final moments.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
Most definitely. Gatekeeper is the most unique and interesting smoking experience from Alec Bradley in recent memory. Having smoked the blend in three of the four sizes (Robusto, Toro, Corona), I can vouch that all are enjoyable; however, the corona offers the most concentrated juxtaposition of spice and sweetness, contrasting factors that helped give this cigar a unique identity.
- Flavor: Medium
- Strength: Medium-light
- Body: Medium
- Dark spice
- Sugar in the Raw
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Syrah wine | Saison | Hot toddy cocktail
- Purchase Recommendation: Start with a 5-pack
- Fun contrast of spice and sweetness
- Corona size feels great and brings concentrated yet nuanced profile
- Great progression of natural sweetness without becoming saccharine
- Draw is on the firm side
- Light smoke output
- Little complexity to find outside of the primary profile of spicy-meets-sweet