December 22, 2019

Cigar Review: Leaf & Bean by Oscar (Connecticut, Corojo, Maduro and Sumatra)


Some may call it City of Bridges, some may call it City of Champions and some may call it Steel City, but whatever name you call it, you are referring to Pittsburgh, PA. In that large city is an area northeast of downtown called The Strip. This area began as a large industrial development area, but by the 1970's it was turning more into retail locations than industrial centers. Today it is known for its restaurants, coffee shops, ethnic food stores, retail stores and Leaf and Bean in the Strip. Leaf and Bean, which is located at 2200 Penn Ave., is a colorful cigar shop that is owned by a man of Jim Robinson. He goes by the nickname Island Jim, and if you ever saw photos of him you would understand why. When I first saw a photo of him I thought, is this guy a parrothead? Either way, Island Jim has a lovely cigar shop and has currently been teaming up with some smaller manufacturers in making a lot of in house blends. He has teamed up with the crew of RoMa Craft Tobac, Noel Rojas and a man by the name of Oscar Valladares.

With Oscar, Jim has created a blend with four different wrappers. Each cigar is rolled like your standard cigar, and instead of being left out of cellophane or in cellophane they used a tobacco leaf and wrapped it around the cigar. What you are left with is a cigar that is covered with a tobacco leaf, and to get to the cigar you have to unravel the tobacco leaf protecting it. It is very cool in presentation and is one of the most unique things I have seen done. The extra leaf protects the cigar, but is much cooler than cellophane. Packaging is probably a pain in the ass, but who cares if it looks good. For this review I am going to be covering all the blends as these were samples I smoked back to back. Each are unique and very enjoyable. Enough of this though, let's get down to business.

Made in Danli, Honduras, all Leaf & Bean by Oscar smokes are toros, and measure 6" with a 50 ring gauge. All cigars have Honduran tobacco in the filler and binder, but the Connecticut features an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, the Corojo an Ecuadorian Corojo wrapper, Maduro a Nicaraguan maduro wrapper and the Sumatra features an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper. Each cigar has a band over the tobacco leaf covering the cigar that classifies the wrapper underneath, and when you take off that leaf you see the standard Leaf by Oscar band. All the cigar were rolled well and had a nice firmness to them and a solid cold draw. Oscar Valladares is a guy who I have not head of before this cigar, but he is producing his own line which will be a Honduran puro. I am interested to see how this cigar will be, as I love good Honduran puros, but these cigars will be helpful in seeing what he can do.
Connecticut
The Connecticut is a cigar that shows that wonderful creamy flavor you get with a Connecticut, and has a nice cedar flavor profile present with that as well. From beginning to end there were subtle changes and I was getting bits of spices, earth and nutty notes. To me it is a solid cigar to begin the day with and it has a great balance. The flavors are not overly complex, but they are enjoyable and provide a nice bit of depth so that smokers of all levels could enjoy it. I would find myself smoking this cigar more often than not in the morning, but I could light it up in the afternoon as well. The construction on the cigar was terrific and it produced an even burn line with a lovely white ash from beginning to end. It was definitely a cigar that I could sit back with and not worry about having to relight or anything along those lines. I would say the body was at a level between mild and medium, and the strength was right there as well. I would give this cigar a solid 91 and smoke many more of them. I bet these do well at Leaf & Bean, and they go great with a cup of coffee.
Corojo
The Corojo is a cigar that really speaks to me. It shows the greatness of the Honduran tobacco, but also that Ecuadorian Corojo wrapper. The wrapper was silky and oily, while showing that beautiful Colorado coloring. There were a few veins throughout and it is an example of a beautiful cigar. The cigar showed wonderful flavors throughout the cigar and it was very rustic. To me the cigar was old school in that sense, and it had a lot of leather, wood, hay, earth and even some metallic flavors. There were some spices present as well with the cigar and it is a cigar I could smoke back to back. I call it an old school cigar because it does not have some of those rich characteristics that a lot of modern cigars have, and it was not over the top when it comes to strength. The cigar had balance from beginning to end and a lot of depth and transitioning. The cigar has immaculate construction from beginning to end, and it was always producing that lovely light charcoal ash along with that. This was clearly my favorite of the four, and it is a cigar I would pick up frequently and smoke. To me it was a modern take on the Gran Habano Corojo #5. I am giving this cigar a solid 93 and think they have a hit with this stick.
Maduro
The Maduro offering showcases a beautiful Nicaraguan maduro wrapper that has practically no veins and is silky and smooth to touch. There are some light oils present and it has that solid maduro coloring. It really looks like a chocolate bar and it has a nice aroma of spices, licorice and rich earth. Throughout the smoke the cigar grew in terms of complexity and I was getting a steady flavor of wood, leather and chocolate. There were some spiciness notes here and there, but I never found the cigar to be to peppery. In the final third I began to pick up some definite licorice notes, and there were some clove aspects there as well. I wouldn't say the cigar was ever a full body cigar, but it was smoking right at a solid medium full level throughout. The strength was not overpowering as well, and that was between medium and medium full. In terms of construction the cigar had a razor sharp burn line from beginning to end and a lovely ash that had nice light gray and dark charcoal colors. Looking back on the maduro I was impressed with the cigar and would love to see how it smokes from stick to stick. I would give this cigar a solid 91 without question.
Sumatra
The Sumatra offering is the final offering in the line and very different than what I was expecting. The wrapper was very smooth and light in color, but there were areas where it did not possess that Ecuadorian Sumatra characteristic that I have found on many other cigars that possess the same wrapper. The cigar showed some light aromas on the wrapper and foot, and I picked up bits of cedar and tobacco. Overall I did not find this cigar as complex as the other cigars and I was a little surprised and disappointed. I am a big fan of Sumatra wrappers, but they have to be amazing. I felt this cigar showed some classic cedar, tobacco and spice notes throughout, and while it was not overly complex it was an entertaining cigar. The construction was amazing from beginning to end and the cigar showed a razor sharp burn line with a solid gray ash. I found the body and strength to be a solid medium level from beginning to end, and this is a cigar I could have at anytime of day without worries. Right now I would give this cigar an 89, but I need to smoke more to fully assess the cigar.
presentation
These were solid releases for Leaf & Bean and I know they are going to do well in the store. We all love options and house blends are something a lot of guys reach out for. I  think selling four packs like I received would be great because you could get someone a four pack and they could find out which one they like the best. I did not expect myself to like the cigars in order that I did, but that is the beauty of cigar smoking. I thought the Corojo was the best of them all and it is going to be a major success with a lot of smokers. The Connecticut will do well in reaching out to a lot of smokers today and the same is for the Maduro. I can't judge the Sumatra yet, but I was a little disappointed with the smoke, it was really the least favorite of them all. I will say that the construction on each cigar was terrific and you could not ask for more in that department. If you are ever in Pittsburgh you need to stop by Leaf & Bean and pick some of these cigars up. I think you will be very impressed with the Corojo, but try them all out to see what speaks to you.

Seth's Humidor Rating: 93, 91, 91,89

presentation
* cigars for this assessment were provided to me by George Rodriguez