Doña Nieves by El Galan
So, you guys should all be familiar with Jeff by now. He’s our honorary Casas Fumando writer, and he kicked out tons of great reviews. If he keeps this up we are going to force him to join us full time. Until then, enjoy his newest “Guest” review.
Back in January, I reviewed the El Galan Reserva Especial and was highly impressed by its combination of great construction, flavors, and price. That prompted me to pick up on one of the other lines from Aroma de Vuelta Abajo, the company that owns the El Galan brand. The Habano wrapped Doña Nieves was blended and named in homage to owner Felix A. Mesa’s grandmother, Doña Nieves Manso and is produced in three sizes. Nievita (5 ½ x 50) was chosen for the name by which Mesa referred to his grandmother. Negra Mancha (5 ½ x 54 box pressed) refers to what Mesa’s father called her – Negra, due to her darker skin hue from prolonged exposure to the sun while working in the tobacco fields and Mancha (shadow), because she was so quick at her work and always in motion, that seemingly all that was visible was her silhouette. Minga (5 1/8 x 58), is what Mesa’s mother called Doña Nieves. Prices range from $5.76 for the Nievita to $6.08 for the Minga, and all come in boxes of 24. Like all of the El Galan lines, this one was blended by Felix A. Mesa and made at his El Galan S.A. factory in Esteli, Nicaragua.
As with the El Galan Reserva Especial, I picked up a handful of these from the great folks at Cuenca Cigars. Oh, and since Sr. Mesa’s response to my inquiry came to me entirely in Spanish, a big “thank you” to Ana Cuenca for translating it for me!
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Size: Nievita 5 ½ x 50
Smoking time: One hour, twenty-five minutes
Pairing: Alpine Beer Company Duet IPA (ABV 7%)
The Doña Nieves Nievita comes garbed in a medium amber tinged brown wrapper with darker splotches scattered throughout. There is a nice oily sheen, a few minor but noticeable veins, slight toothiness, and invisible seams leading to a rounded triple cap. The roll is very firm, with no soft spots. The band features a photograph of Doña Nieves smoking a cigar and what I assume are scenes from Cuba. The wrapper exudes not much more than a slightly earthy natural tobacco, while the foot gives up a much richer scent of tobacco, wood, and herbs. An easy clip of the cap reveals a bit of a snug, but tolerable, draw and natural tobacco tinged with sweet floral and spice notes.
Although the draw is anything but open, the Doña Nieves produces a more than adequate mouthful of smoke. The tobacco is there along with sweet cedary woodiness, earth, herbal notes, and a bit of musk. Pepper shows up in the retrohale to go with the wood and earth. Leather soon makes an appearance to add to the mix. The burn started out at a bit of a slant, but after a quick correction, it is back on track, leaving behind a solid and very light gray ash that lasts for a good inch.
Entering the second third of the Doña Nieves Nievita, bread lightly roasted coffee, and nutmeg notes flit in and out. Black pepper, which was absent on the palate for much of the opening third, is now a definite player. The burn continues to waver, but is easily kept under control with a quick touch-up. The Doña Nieves is reaching to the north of medium in body, and a noticeable but not large amount of strength is making itself felt.
The Doña Nieves enters its final run with much of the sweetness having dissipated, leaving a core of earth, leather, and slightly charred wood, along with coffee bitterness and a bit of toasty bread and spice, although that sweetness does peek back in at times. It has crept up to the brink of medium-full in body and a medium-plus in strength. The nub is warm, but not at all hot, and is still firm.
El Galan has really impressed me with its combination of flavor and quality of construction in the two lines that I have smoked, not to mention the great value that they represent. Doña Nieves would be proud to have this cigar named after her. The two cigars that I smoked previous to this one were spot-on in their performance and flavors, and this one was no slouch either, despite manhandling it a bit for the photos. A few swift touch-ups were all that were needed, and not once did I have a need to re-light the cigar, even after having let it sit untouched for several minutes. Felix A. Mesa is doing some great things with his brand, and I highly recommend checking them out.
It’s not often that I find myself pairing cigars with standard IPAs due to the commonly large amount of bitterness that can overwhelm natural wrapped sticks, but the Duet from San Diego based Alpine Beer Company (do they have Alpine terrain there?) is not your usual IPA. Hoppy, yes, but it combines that with tropical and citrus fruit, caramel maltiness, and a slight sweetness to balance thing out beautifully. Those flavors meld quite well with the ones that the Doña Nieves presents, making for a very nice match, but I would prefer to have a sweeter and less bitter brew to go with it, such as a maltier Imperial IPA or fruity Belgian ale. A sweet rum would also be an ideal pairing for this cigar.