The Crowned Heads Las Calaveras 2016
Kicking off my vacation in my backyard is always a good way to start things. Including a incredible pairing is a FANTASTIC way to start things. This week I take a look at the Crowned Heads Las Calaveras 2016 paired with a bottle of Firestone Walker’s Anniversary Ale XX.
The Good Stuff:
2016 marks the 3rd release for the Crowned Head’s Las Calaveras. You can read my review of the 2014 here, and 2015 here. The blend was created to celebrate those who we have lost and each year I think back to those close to me, who are no longer with us. Each year the blend changes. This year the Las Calaveras features a Grade A Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper with a Nicaraguan binder and fillers. As with the last releases the Las Calaveras is being produced at the My Father Cigars S.A. factory in Esteli, Nicaragua. The cigar is released in four sizes: LC50 (5 x 50), LC46 (6 x 46), LC54 (5 1/2 x 54), as well as a sampler exclusive Piramides (6 1/8 x 52). With the exception of the Piramides all cigars comes packaged in boxes of 24 with a total of 4,500 boxes released. There are also 2,000 sampler packs which include the 3 standard release sizes, and the already mentioned Piramides. The Crowned Heads Las Calaveras run between $9.25 and $11.25 a stick. Since these are so limited, and successful in the past, expect them to sell out very quickly, if they haven’t already. I picked up a bunch from out good friends at Smoke Inn.
Size: 6 x 46
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Pairing: Firestone Walker Anniversary Ale XX (American Strong Ale 13% ABV)
The Crowned Heads 2016 Las Calaveras starts out with a gorgeous, incredibly consistent milky-brown wrapper. This is a much darker wrapper than we saw last year. The texture of the wrapper is very toothy and gritty while it sheens brightly due to the large amount of oil coating the leaf. The wrapper is laid over itself seamlessly while there are only a few smaller veins running through the cigar’s body. The wrapper feels very thick and very hard while the cigar itself is incredibly firm and tightly packed. The Crowned Heads Las Calaveras is polished off with a round, double cap and the same band we have seen on the Las Calaveras releases in the past, only with the 2016 changed.
The wrapper on the Las Calaveras gives off a good amount of sharp cedar, espresso, and spice while the foot of the cigar carries a good amount of pepper and natural tobacco aromas. The cap cut like butter using my Xikar double bladed cutter. The cold draw produces a really spicey, pepper-filled flavor profile with a decent amount of cocoa.
Surprisingly the Crowned Heads Las Calaveras doesn’t start out with as much pepper as I was expecting. Instead I am greeted with some bold espresso and spice, vanilla, maple, cedar and musk. The Connecticut Broadleaf leaves behind a nice little tartness on the aftertaste as well. Despite being very tightly packed the draw is very fluid, and easy. Each little puff kicks out the perfect amount of very thick, white smoke while the cigar smokes like a chimney as it rests in my ashtray. The burnline is razor thin, and dead even leaving behind a perfectly compacted trail of light gray ash which held on for an inch before falling into my ashtray.
The flavors in the Crowned Heads Las Calaveras 2016 have really started to balance out and cream together into the second third. While the body remains in the upper medium/full area the leading flavor is now a bold spice and strong vanilla backed by musk, cedar, espresso, and cocoa. The retrohale brings forward a lot of the pepper that I didn’t get at the start of the experience along with a really deep cedar. The burnline is still absolutely perfect while I close out the second third with absolutely nothing in the nicotine department.
The flavors have really started to ramp up in the final third of the Crowned Heads Las Calaveras 2016. The spice and vanilla are still leading the charge, with the cedar, musk, espresso, cocoa, and a bit of berry backing them up. The body is now dead center in what I would consider the full department. It took me 2 hours to smoke this cigar down to the nub and I thought every second was incredible. I experienced no harshness, no extended heat, and in fact this cigar finished off surprisingly smooth and creamy. I close out the cigar with almost no nicotine kick.
Every year the Crowned Heads Las Calaveras is on my list of “must haves”, along with many other cigar smokers. Every year, it delivers. I especially enjoyed this years blend as I am a bit of Connecticut Broadleaf fan boy. The 2016 Las Calaveras is complex and bold without being overpowered by strength and hype. It also makes for a beautiful pairing cigar as it can easily keep up with even the more fullest of bodied beers. As we look down towards the end of the year I need to start making decisions on my favorite cigars of 2016, and the Las Calaveras is in the running for sure. While I picked up quite a few, I am on a hunt to find even more before they completely disappear from store shelves.
Brewed at the Firestone Walker brewery in California, the Anniversary Ale XX is a combination of 5 of Firestone Walker’s rarest, bourbon barrel releases. The blend includes the Parabola, Stickee Monkee, Velvet Merkin, Bravo, and Helldorado. The Anniversary Ale XX leads with a really bold sweetness, chocolate, vanilla, malt, espresso, apple and a good amount of bourbon booziness with a very light mouthfeel before finishing crips with more apple, espresso, bourbon, a good amount of spice, and honey. This is a crazy complex beer that’s much easier to drink than I was anticipating. I find it crazy how often mixing a bunch of different beers actually just works. This is a perfect example of that. It’s also a perfect example of a beer that you probably shouldn’t pair with most cigars as it could easily overpower almost any profile in a cigar. Luckily enough, the Las Calaveras easily holds it’s own and even adds a bunch of spice to the beer’s profile. This was an absolutely killer pairing and I’m glad I picked up quite a few of these beers.