What's interesting here is the blend was one of three created back in 2010 by WIlly Herrera while 'auditioning' for his current gig at DE. One of the other blends became a favorite brand of ours, Herrera Esteli. What we love so much about that cigar is its balance and freshness and impeccable craftsmanship. Considering Pappy Tradition is priced at more than twice as much, it has to at least equal it in our minds.
Size-wise, this is actually more like a robusto with a tapered head at just 5 inches long by a 50 ring gauge. In fact, the whole range sticks to the traditional theme with zero crazy formats. Sadly, the lonsdale and corona are not for sale and only available at special events. Bummer.
Gliding the Belicoso out of its cellophane reveals a perfectly rolled cigar with a gorgeous Ecuadorian Habano wrapper leaf that's extremely smooth; you have to look closely to even see the veins, which are barely perceptible to the touch. All of the samples DE provided had a slightly blunted tip, which we thought looked cool. (Check out the DE propaganda video above for more about the blend.)
Pre-light, the wrapper leaf had an ordinary hay-like aroma but the foot was redolent of fall, specifically forest and leaves and moss. Lighting up, there were notes of hickory, chewy raw chocolate cookie dough and cocoa. This is not a slow starter like, say, Fuente Don Carlos. The cigars quickly gained additional complexity, adding nuts, light leather and a trace of anise to the mix. This is the Willy Herrera we love, showing a Cuban-style balance of strength, flavor and aroma which never overwhelms but still manages to be bold and interesting. Burn and draw were perfect and the solid ash held on a long time.
The cigar seems like it's over too soon, which makes it a success we suppose. Shouldn't a good cigar leave you satisfied but still wanting more? Then again, for those who wish to savor the experience longer, there's the Robusto Grande (5.5 x 54) at $21.60, the Toro (6 x 50) at $23.60, and the Churchill (7 x 48), also at $23.60. All of those are slightly less expensive than the Belicoso Fino, seemingly providing more cigar for less. We tried the Toro and it took just a little bit longer to get going than the Beli, but aside from that we prefer the longer format if you have the time to smoke it. However, the Beli does seem to be a slightly richer cigar overall, packing a lot of enjoyment into 30-35 minutes. If that's all the time you have, this is one of the better ways to spend it.
We'd love to tell you how it pairs specifically with Pappy Van Winkle bourbon or rye, but we don't have any. (Remember the aforementioned Pennsylvania liquor lottery? Snake eyes, two years in a row.) However, it paired nicely with other brown liquors on the slightly sweet side (not so much with Scotch whisky) or even a rum and cola.
At $246 per box of 10, these are expensive by any standard. Part of the price tag is likely going to Pappy Van WInkle for the use of the name, so the question of value can't easily be answered. What we can say for sure is these are at the top echelon of today's premium cigar market. And, for a Pappy drinker who also happens to be a cigar smoker--or vice versa--the pairing might just be priceless.
5" x 50
W: Ecuador Habano Oscuro
F: Nicaragua, Dominican Republic
Beautiful wrapper leaf. Impeccably crafted. Rich, moderately complex and highly entertaining with notes of cookie dough, cocoa, hickory, nuts and leather. And, yes, pricey.