Bodega Reunión Aperitivo and Digestivo by Bodega Premium Blends
Here at Casas Fumando we are always open to guest reviews, and this most recent guest review has come to use from Jeff Oda in Seattle. Jeff has been a long time reader and probably the most active reader/commenter on our site for some time. Over the last few years Jeremy and I have had contact contact with the guy, traded sticks, and even pulled off a few beer trades. You guys should all be well aware of Jeff by now, but if you aren’t, he popped up in a guest review of the cigar that I created when I was in Nicaragua at the Drew Estate Cigar Safari last year and then again with an excellent review of Nomad’s Vagabond, one of EO Brands 601 Green Label, La Gloria Cubana’s Rabito de Cochino, Villiger’s La Libertad, Bonita Smoke Shop’s Time Warp Big Ben, Nomad C-276 Torpedo, and the L’Atelier Extension de la Racine ER13. Please show him some love! – Tony
Bodega Premium Blends is a Canadian based cooperative founded by the foursome of Gino Domanico, Ron Plante, Stephane Barjolin, and Rob Mariani with the goal of merging their entrepreneurial expertise with their love of cigars. Their first release is the Reunión line, consisting of the Aperitivo and Digestivo, was released at the end of 2013, and began shipping at the beginning of 2014. Bodega Premium Blends is a part of the impressive portfolio of boutique brands distributed by the House of Emilio. To learn more about Bodega, visit their website here; but to glean even more info about them and their product – including some interesting info about the distinctive band art – a side trip over to their appearance with our friends Mike and Mike at Stogie 411 is a great place to go.
The premise of the Reunión line is to provide the same sort of experience as a fine dinner, with the Aperitivo taking the place of the traditional aperitif, or pre-dinner drink; and the Digestivo acting as the post-dinner capper. It’s a great concept, and one that seems to be unique in the world of cigars. As such, it’s only natural that one should pair these smokes with what one would normally imbibe as a pre- and post-dinner beverage.
The Aperitivo and Digestivo both come in three sizes:
Corona Gorda – 5.5×46
Double Robusto – 5×54
Toro – 6×52
The cigars run from $9-$11, and true to the before/after concept, they come in boxes of 20 which consist of 10 Apertivos and 10 Digestivos.
Gino (@Cigar_G) was kind enough to get one of their Blogger’s samplers to me for review. This is a really nice boxed set of one of each of the different sizes of each blend. Previously available only to reviewers (and I assume prospective retailers), it is now available to the public for purchase, and is a terrific way to get to know the Bodega cigars.
I decided to do up this review as a dual take, viewing the cigars much as the originators of the blends intended them – the Aperitivo as an introduction to a repast, and the Digestivo as the ending to a fine meal. This format necessarily is a bit truncated for the sake of space, so please excuse me for the lack of more detailed smoking information. Or perhaps readers will be thanking me for not running on…
Bodega Reunón Aperitivo
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Jalapa Habano Claro
Filler: Nicaraguan Jalapa and Condega
Size: Corona Gorda 5.5×46
Smoking time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Pairing: Lustau Los Arcos Amontillado Sherry (18.5% ABV)
The Aperitivo comes draped in a uniformly medium brown wrapper that is smooth to the touch with a bit of oily sheen and a few minor veins. The construction looks to be excellent with a solid pack and nearly invisible seams. A mentioned above, the double band is very distinctive. The primary band on both blends is the same, while the secondary band distinguishes the blends. The unusual colors of deep red, gradations of purple, chrome silver, and white match quite well with the wrapper, and are nothing like what I’m used to seeing on a cigar. It’s simultaneously modern and elegant. The scent off the wrapper is of cedar and slightly vinegary/tart barnyard. Off the foot, I pick up a lot of rich tobacco with a light earthiness. The cold draw brings some sweet spice and cedar.
Right off the bat, an ideal draw produces a copious amount of smoke showcasing rich flavors of sweet cedar and earth with light pepper. The retrohale really focuses on the cedar while bringing the pepper up a notch or two. The burn is a bit wavy and the ash is a solid looking brown-tinged gray. Sweetness comes in strong with the addition of a cinnamon-like spice and a touch of leather. Although the ash appeared to be about to fall at 1”, it took a bit of effort to tap it off. At this point, there are not a ton of different flavors, but the ones that are there are showing an amazing concentration and depth. A little further in, the smoke turns a lot smoother and almost creamy on entry, but the pepperiness on the back of the tongue and on the retrohale remain strong enough to remind you of their presence. The cedar remains the focal point and a syrupy sweetness lingers, while the burn has completely self-corrected.
The body of the Aperitivo has reached the medium-plus range and has been joined by some toasty wood and an uptick in earthiness, while the sweetness has moved to the background although it remains an obvious part of the mix. Wisps of cocoa and cracker/bread now weave in and out along with bit of citric tartness, driving up the complexity. This continues down to the finish, bringing the body of the cigar to the cusp of medium-full. The Aperitivo smoked absolutely cool and without a trace of harshness down to a tiny nub.
Is it obvious that I loved this cigar? Damned right! I smoked each of the sizes and this was by far my favorite, although the others were very nice in their own right. The corona gorda just brought a better concentration of flavors to the table while not throwing off the balance at all. Add to that ideal construction, burn and draw, and this makes for a cigar that I can easily recommend to anyone, even taking into account what would normally be for me a somewhat borderline price, which will certainly not deter me from getting my hands on more of these.
Since this cigar was conceived as a before dinner smoke, I decided to go with a classic aperitif, an Spanish Amontillado sherry. The Los Arcos Amontillado from Lustau (18.5% ABV) is one that hangs out on the drier side of the breed, with dried fruit, nuts, and a little smoky wood, finishing up somewhat tart and very clean. It proved to be a great combination with the Bodega Aperitivo, helping to bring out an extra level of sweetness while interweaving complementing flavors, although I can see this cigar going equally well with a number of other beverages including a Valencia Martini (3 parts gin to 1 part Amontillado sherry) which I enjoyed with the toro; a malty Imperial IPA, a Reposado tequila, or a bourbon or Scotch concoction.
Bodega Reunion Digestivo
Wrapper: Mexican San Andres Maduro
Filler: Nicaraguan Jalapa and Esteli
Size: Toro 6×52
Smoking time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Pairing: Symbole National Brandy de France XO Extra Old (40% ABV)
The Bodega Reunion Digestivo sports a dark, marbled San Andres wrapper with a couple of minor veins and a tidy double cap. It is very firmly packed and wears the same primary band as the Aperitivo, with the secondary band identifying it as the Digestivo. Some fine tooth can be felt on the wrapper, as well as a bit of oiliness. The aroma off the wrapper is earth and hay, while the foot shows barnyard and deep tobacco scents. The cold draw has a nice bright sweetness to go with a light earth and tobacco.
Lighting the Digestivo toro up reveals a snug draw that requires a double-puff to get a good amount of smoke, and offers up some dark, unsweetened chocolate and earth at the forefront, with pepper and oak lurking in the background. The retrohale is surprisingly smooth and almost delicate. There does seem to be a bit of a knot just above the primary band, and rolling and massaging it seems to have helped release more flavor from the cigar, which is now showing some sweetness and hints of baking spice. The Digestivo has been burning at a slant, which may be affected by the damp and chilly conditions I’m smoking in today, but the ash is solid, with just a few flakes. So far, it is medium in body as it continues to get sweeter, and the burn appears to be correcting itself. The dark chocolate has turned to more of a cocoa powder, while the pepper has re-appeared on the tongue, and the sharp burn line has nearly evened out.
At the halfway point, the Digestivo seems to have hit its stride, with much less effort being required to produce a mouthful of smoke that effuses elements of chocolate, earth, and sweet and savory nuttiness. The burn is dead even, and while the cigar has softened up, the smoke has been absolutely cool as it has climbed into the medium/full range. Despite not having eaten in about five hours, I’m not feeling much in the way of nicotine. There are not many more change ups for the rest of the experience, but the flavors are focused and satisfying, as I take it down to the nub after 1-1/2 hours of smoking.
The Bodega Reunion Digestivo proved to be an enjoyable smoke despite the initial tough draw. The double robusto I smoked previously also had a fairly snug draw; not as tight as the toro, but still a little more effort inducing than I prefer. Although I have not yet lit up the corona gorda, the unlit draw on it seems to be perfectly normal, so I would have to chalk up the tight draws on the others as a bit of an anomaly, especially since I experienced nothing of the sort with the Aperitivos I had. Once I got past that, though, the flavors took off.
In keeping with the “spirit” of the intent of the Reunion lines, I decided to go with a brandy that I had recently picked up on. The Symbole National is produced by the 200 year old Cognac house A. de Fussigny, and seems to be sold mainly by the Total Wine chain. Displaying a nose of caramel, raisins and dried apricots, and wisp of smoke, it enters smooth, rich, and fruity with a touch of a floral note. While it’s a bit sweeter and not quite as sophisticated as a true Cognac (it apparently doesn’t meet the requirements of an AOC designation), it’s a hell of a deal for twenty bucks, and married very well with the flavors of the Bodega Reunion Digestivo. Of course, a number of post-dinner drinks would also go well with this cigar, such as a nice reserve porto, a sweet/fruity bourbon, a single malt Highland Scotch, an Imperial Stout, or just a good cup of dark roasted coffee.
I have to say that I love the concept that the Bodega guys have come up with here, creating a dual line that reflects their idea that the pre- and post- dinner experience, especially in the company of friends, is something to be savored. In my mind, they have accomplished what they set out to do, even though either of these blends can be thoroughly enjoyed out of context. The construction of the cigars is exemplary, despite the initial draw problems I experienced with the larger Digestivo samples, and although the price is a little on the brink of comfort for me, it won’t preclude me from picking up more. Personally, I preferred the Aperitivo as a slightly more complex and versatile blend, but I would certainly not bypass the Digestivo. As stated above, the Blogger’s Sampler is a perfect way to see how either blend and different sizes fit into your wheelhouse, and I highly recommend picking up on one of those to decide. As for me, I will definitely be getting more of each blend, but probably in the corona gorda size.