L’Atelier Imports – L’Atelier Extension de la Racine ER13 Guest Review
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, and the Nomad C-276 Torpedo. Please show him some love! – Tony
L’Atelier Imports is a company co-founded by Pete Johnson along with Dan Welsh (New Havana Cigars), K. C. Johnson, and Sean “Casper” Johnson. The partnership produces the vaunted L’Atelier flagship line, Selection Speciale, and Maduro, as well as the Surrogates and budget oriented El Suelo and Trocadero lines. The Extension de la Racine ER 13 was released at the 2013 IPCPR trade show and reportedly would be limited to those retailers placing orders at the show. This line is said to be an annual release, with each year introducing a different vitola. As can be inferred, “ER 13” refers to the Extension de la Racine 2013 version. With the unveiling of the ER 14 at this year’s show and recent shipments to retailers, I figured I’d better get this review in before it becomes irrelevant.
The L’Atelier Extension de la Racine (French for “extension of the root”) refers to this cigar being a derivative of the flagship line. While researching the components of the cigar, I came across a confusing variety of information as to its makeup. Some sites say that it is all Nicaraguan, but since it utilizes the Sancti Spiritus tobacco, that would not seem to be correct, as that tobacco is grown in Ecuador, at least as far as I know. Since the L’Atelier website doesn’t list the Extension de la Racine, it’s difficult to be precise on this, so I’m just going to go with what I think makes sense. So what I’m seeing is that the filler is a combination of Nicaraguan and Sancti Spiritus, the binder is a double layer of Sancti Spiritus, and the wrapper is a Nicaraguan Sun Grown Criollo. It comes in a single size, that being a 5.875”x52 toro type size called a cañonazo, and is manufactured at the Pepin family’s My Father factory in Nicaragua.
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Sun Grown Criollo
Binder: Double binder – Sancti Spiritus
Filler: Nicaraguan and Sancti Spiritus
Size: 5.875 x 52
Smoke time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Pairing: Fort George Brewery North VII (North the Seventh)
*Note: Yes, the photo with the green paper background is a different cigar than the one being reviewed. Being a forgetful old fart, I neglected to take a shot of it by itself and had to hurriedly shoot another one that I had in my humidor.
The L’Atelier Extension de la Racine ER13 comes draped in an oily, uniformly reddish brown wrapper, showing a few small to medium veins, a firm pack, and the signature neatly wound Pepin triple cap. It is adorned with a striking band of candy apple red, gold, black, and pearl silver/gray which coordinates beautifully with the color of the wrapper. Taking a sniff off the wrapper, I pick up cedar, leather, and a slight grassiness, while the foot mostly shows the cedar and tobacco. After an easy cut, the slightly snug draw displays a light spice and (surprise!) cedar.
The cigar seems to want to take its own sweet time getting lit, but after a nice slow toasting, the first draws lead into an initial blast of cedar, sweet citrus, and Asian spices ( anise, coriander, and cardamom), along with a white pepper sharpness on the tongue. Besides the cedar, the retrohale features a hint of leather and a lot of pepper sting. The burn has started out a bit wavy and the gray/white ash looks to be compact. An inch in, the draw has opened up to a comfortable point, and the pepper has backed off considerably, leaving the cedar to lead the way, with the spice and fleeting glimpses of leather playing in the background. The body is just at the point of medium at this point and there is no nicotine to be felt. The burn has evened itself out and at 1 ½” the ash has taken a tumble into my lap, revealing a small tunnel that, fortunately, doesn’t seem to be affecting the performance or flavor of the cigar.
Getting into the second third of the ER13, the cedar has become very smooth and the leather has all but disappeared, while a savory, somewhat meaty component has emerged. The pepper has returned on the retrohale along with a powdery sweetness. The spice element, meanwhile, has morphed into more of a floral sensation, although I am somewhat saddened to have the Asian tinged facet fade. These flavors weave in and out, providing a nice complexity to the smoke, while keeping the medium bodied experience going.
The powdery sweetness in the retrohale has now moved to the draw of the ER 13, and while the smooth cedar continues to be a major factor of the smoke, it has stepped back to allow more of the floral spice to come through and the citrus tang remains in the mix. The body has climbed above the medium mark to medium-full and there is now some nicotine strength showing, not a lot, but enough to let you know it’s there. A spicy tingle on the tongue and lips, along with some charred toast (hmm, isn’t toast already charred?) has come into play with 1 ½” left, as the body and strength continue to push upward. The ER 13 smokes absolutely cool all the way down to the last ¾”, coming to and end after one hour and forty minutes.
A tasty and relaxing medium-full bodied smoke with low-medium strength – hell yes! I have really enjoyed the several L’Atelier Extension de la Racines that I have smoked, with flavors that are certainly not run of the mill providing a good amount of complexity without pounding you over the head with them. Construction was pretty much spot-on, with just one small correction required and no re-lights. The price is entirely in line with a cigar of this quality, and even more so with the limited availability. My only misgiving is that I only have a couple of them left, as I would love to revisit them in a year or so to see how they develop. Fortunately, even as a limited edition smoke, there seems to be a few online purveyors, such as Smoke Inn and Bonita Smoke Shop, who still have them in stock at the time of this write up. I will look forward to picking up some of the newly shipped ER 14 – supposedly the same blend in a different vitola (torpedo) – sometime in the near future.
The North VII by Fort George Brewery in Astoria, Oregon is a Belgian influenced Imperial IPA that has been aged in bourbon barrels and is a one-off release. With an ABV of 9%, it noticeably displays its Belgian side, complementing, rather than overwhelming, its IPA base. Pouring forth a full and smooth mouthfeel with a load of orange zest and grapefruit, herbs, fruity sweetness, and just a slight hit of vanillan oak, it finishes with IPA bitterness without going overboard with the pine. This beer was a great foil for the flavors presented by the L’Atelier Extension de la Racine ER 13. Be forewarned, however, if you happen to get a bottle of this great ale: a slow and deliberate pour is required, as it will produce an amazingly huge head of foam if you are not careful!
This cigar seems to beg for a Belgian style brew; a light, elegant bourbon such as the standard Four Roses; or a fruity red wine like a Zinfandel, Australian Shiraz, or a Garnacha (Grenache) from Spain.