The day was ideal, if not perfect. I’m coming up on my 9th anniversary of living in Florida, and with each passing year I find myself wishing for cooler weather, especially in the winter months. Its almost as if I need to experience a cold, dreary winter in order to appreciate summer again. Now that I’ve been through my fair share of Florida summers, they can be equally as annoying as Midwest Winters: Extreme heat instead of cold; Air Conditioning blasting as opposed to the Furnace; Wishing for rain to water the yard only to realize your commute now takes triple the amount of time just like snowy conditions. However, most years from Thanksgiving until Easter, the weather conditions make Florida one of the most ideal places to light up a cigar.
For the first time since August, this was a Saturday with no Football, which meant that I really didn’t have a whole lot to occupy my time with. The light morning overcast had been burned off by the early afternoon, and the sun was warm despite the wind gusts that would kick up from time to time. Normally these are two things that tend to dissuade me from smoking a cigar, but even the sun couldn’t warm up this January day enough to make me uncomfortable so I busted into one of the cigars I had been dying to try.
I purchased a Viaje sampler pack before Christmas, to get my hands on their Edition Limited Candy Cane cigar, and the Thanksgiving Leftovers White and Dark Meats were considered bonus’ in my book. First I tried the White Meat, which I felt was smooth yet underwhelming. It was an enjoyable smoke (as almost every cigars is), but there was nothing that made me want to light up the next one using the butt of the first because I couldn’t get enough! I waited another week or so before trying the Candy Cane, thinking that the 21 days I let the cigars acclimate in my humidor was not enough, but the distraction of the NFL Playoffs didn’t allow me to fully appreciate the beautiful peppermint notes that showed up throughout the stick. More on this later.
So I found myself on this ideal day, in the middle of my back yard embracing the January Sun (as opposed to hiding under the shade of the roof covering the screened in porch), lighting up my third cigar from this sampler with no distractions. Allowing myself to concentrate on the flavors and experience may have been the difference this time around. While there is no doubt that the flavors were much stronger than the previous two (full disclosure, I had just gotten off of a cold when I had the Candy Cane), this stick was in a different league.
I immediately picked up on a sweet aroma as I removed it from the plastic, which was a perfect match for the profile I was looking for. Once outside, I quickly found my spot between the shadow of the trees, used the punch cut, and lit the stick with little thought about the wind gusts circling the yard. Out of the gate I felt like I had just bitten into one of the peppercorns that grandma uses in her stews, you know the one you always unexpectedly find before anyone else. This intense pepper flavor had me worried that I had made a bad decision, since I’m not a huge fan of cigars with overpowering pepper flavors. Luckily, just like grandma’s stew, the pepper acted like more of a palate setter and quickly mellowed out after three or four draws into a hint of the peppermint that I had tasted throughout the Candy Cane. It was nowhere as intense or long lasting, but those few draws were the perfect gateway into the stout, leather, and earthy notes that followed.
These flavors matched the scent that I had picked up prior to lighting and all of my expectations were being met and then some. I had recently smoked a CAO Consigliere from a box I purchased in June 2017 and found this cigar to be equally as enjoyable only without 18 months of age. About halfway through the cigar some milder pepper started to creep back into the picture only to be mellowed out by a much stronger peppermint flavor. Just as I was beginning to wrap my head around what I was experiencing, a much intenser mix of stout, leather, and earth reappeared and lasted until I was on the verge of burning my fingertips.
Most cigars I’ve been smoking recently have had three acts, which made this two trick pony a nice change from what I’ve grown accustomed to. Wash, rinse, repeat. So simple, so brilliant. I didn’t try to pair this with any liquids because I like trying new cigars by themselves to avoid a poor pairing, but I think a smokey rye would accompany this cigar very nicely. Also, for anyone who enjoys wine with a cigar, a peppery pinot noir would do this one justice. Side note, I’m not a huge fan of most wines with most cigars, but I do enjoy a bold pinot noir with a CAO Consigliere, which further strengthens my belief that these two cigars have a lot of similarities.
Luckily, I purchased two of the sampler packs, so I will give these another try sometime between Thanksgiving and New Years. This will be the ultimate test to see if an additional 11 months of age enhances any of the flavors I found or brings new ones to the table. Or maybe I will see what Viaje releases for Thanksgiving/Christmas 2019, buy multiples again so I have some to smoke this time next year, and age the rest of this haul into 2020 or beyond. Either way, my Viaje expectations are now higher than they were prior to this purchase, and I expect they will be met going forward.