Duran Cigars Baracoa
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.
Duran Cigars introduced the Baracoa line at the IPCPR trade show in 2014, intending it to be an affordable everyday smoke. While the company says that it receives the same attention to quality as its other lines, the cigars come in cardboard cartons for display – and, I assume, for cost efficiency – rather than conventional wooden boxes. These Criollo wrapped sticks, which are named after the home city of the Roberto P. Duran family, come in nine sizes, and since I’m too lazy to type them out, I’m using the size chart from Duran’s website:
Graphic courtesy of Duran Cigars
Prices range from $3.00 for the Robusto size to $4.50 for the Gigante, with the cigars coming in 20 count cartons.
Since the Duran cigars aren’t available in my area, I picked up a handful of these from my friends over at Cuenca Cigars.
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano Criollo
Size: Churchill 7 x 47
Smoking time: One hour, twenty minutes
Pairing: Hops and Grain Alt-eration Altbier (ABV 5.1%)
The Duran Cigars Baracoa comes draped in a dark brown wrapper with darker mottling, fine toothiness, a somewhat bumpy roll, minor veining, and a few stretch marks. It is firmly packed with a couple of small softer spots and tight seams, culminating in a double cap. The scent off of the wrapper is not much more than a musty tobacco, while the foot gives up tobacco with a bit of earth and faint cocoa. Clipping the cap reveals a snug draw that gives up some sweet natural tobacco and wood.
The Baracoa’s restricted draw requires a quick double-puff to get a good mouthful of smoke, but it’s a rather pleasant mix of earth, leather, and wood, with virtually no pepper spice. The burn is sharp, but slanted, leaving behind a tightly layered ash in various shades of gray that lasts for over an inch before easily tapping off. The leather has taken the lead, and I’m surprised that the sweetness I tasted in the cold draw hasn’t yet transferred over to the palate. Near the end of the first third, the leather has stepped back and a nice smoky cedar has moved front, as the draw has opened up a bit more and the burn has almost completely evened out
The Baracoa has by now moved squarely into the medium-bodied range as its flavors continue to brighten. There is now a citrus-like sweetness lurking in the background with an herbal tinge, and sweet cedar has become a major player in the retrohale, along with a nice light savory element.
By the time the Duran Cigars Baracoa moves into its final third, things have evolved quite nicely, as the sweetness is now a definite part of the mix and the leather has long been relegated to the background. I’m finding the mix of flavors to be very complimentary to each other and the draw has been gradually opening up to the point where it is now comfortable, albeit not at all loose. While there is a bit of pepper in the retrohale, it is not a major player, and there is a nice powdery sweetness at the end of the exhale. Other than that, there have been no new flavors to speak of in this section. With a little over an inch left, the sweetness has dissipated, and it’s time to put the Baracoa down, having smoked cool and firm all the way down, and ending at a solid medium-plus in body with little nicotine strength.
True to Duran Cigars’ “EPF” (Evolution and Progressive Flavor) concept, the Baracoa does indeed develop nicely as it goes. Although I found the first couple of inches to be a bit underwhelming, the rest of it was enjoyable and satisfying. Construction and burn were ideal, even if the draw was stiffer than I would like. I’m curious to try some of the other sizes to see if a shorter vitola would provide more of what I liked from the outset, but in any case, for anyone looking for that good affordable smoke, the Duran Cigars Baracoa is a cigar well worth checking out.
Alt-eration Hops and Grain Brewery in Austin, TX is their iteration of the German top-fermented “old beer” style. Of course, as is with anything from Texas or the Southwest, this one came to me courtesy of Casas Fumando’s own Tony Casas. With a medium body, toasty malt, caramel, and faint dried fruitiness, it’s a nice beer, but a lack of overall sweetness made it not an ideal match for the Duran Baracoa. Oh well, live and learn. I’ve had one before, but I guess I had better start taking notes on the beers I drink as well. I think a sweeter beer like a malty Scotch ale or even a DIPA that is more fruit forward would be a better match, as would a sweet rum or light port.