Pleasure / September 2016

Holy Smokes: Aging Room Solera Fantastico

In a bid to prove that the tobacco blending scene is not all about Cuba, The Rake’s smoking specialist indulges in a superior cigar from the New World.

There are a few who call me a Cuban cigar snob because of what I do but, in reality, I'm more open-minded than many British smokers. It has taken me a while to adjust my terms of reference and palate to learn and begin to understand the complexities of New World cigars. I'm only just starting to make inroads into the myriad of New World cigar brands available. Every time I pick up a copy of Cigar Aficionado or Cigar Journal, I recognise maybe 25% of the cigar brands tested. What I did learn early on, was that the tobacco blenders outside of Cuba have so much more to work with and have an even more difficult job bringing together tobaccos from all over the world. And let's not start with construction. Hands down, the New World brands have much better quality control and far fewer problems with plugged cigars.

I've decided to review a cigar which is new to the European market. It was only released at the IPCPR show in Las Vegas in July and at Intertabac in Dortmund in the middle of September. Ladies and gentlemen, I have the greatest pleasure of presenting to you The Rake readers, the Aging Room Solera Fantastico!

Before you say, it’s just another big New World cigar with a big cigar band, cool your jets and let me explain.  Aging Room cigars are produced by Boutique Blend Cigars, which is owned by the extremely talented Cuban born Rafael Nodal (no, not the famous tennis player but, it's surprising how many hotel upgrades he gets when people make that mistake). Rafael is a true artisan in every sense of the word. Not only does he have a multi-award winning boutique cigar brand but, he's also an accomplished musician. Music influences many of his brands, names (La Boheme, Espressivo, Major, Forte, etc.) and designs. Aging Room are well known for making small batch releases; once they’re gone, that’s it.

The concept of Solera (translates to “on the ground”) ageing is not new; sherry has been made this way since the 18th century.  However, it’s never been applied to tobacco maturation.  The concept was conceived over a dozen years ago, after Rafael and his wife Alina visited Andalucía, Spain. Rafael said that he was intrigued by the Solera system and as he learnt more about it, he decided he wanted to apply the same principle to the ageing of tobacco.  It took many experiments, but the result is a filler made from 1, 3 and 5 year old tobaccos which have been “sandwiched” together in a pile.  The 3 tobaccos are changed around when necessary.  Rafael found that all the tobacco had an effect on each other and helped age it quicker. Fast forward 12 years and numerous failed experiments,  Rafael proudly released this Solera cigar brand to the trade in July 2016.

“The ageing of tobaccos from different vintages,” said Rafael Nodal, “ensures the marriage of flavours and characteristics from different tobaccos, creating a unique cigar.”

Another fun fact about the Solera range is that Rafael has decided to make four different lines, but they will have the same filler and use different wrappers, a bold project to say the least. Four wrapper options are available for this line:

  • - A Dominican Sun Grown leaf (yellow band)
  • - Mexico San Andrés Maduro (white band)
  • - Dominican Coro (red band)
  • - Ecuadorian Shade Grown (orange band)

There are 3 vitolas to choose from:

  • - Festivo 52 x 4.7 with Pig Tail head
  • - Fantastico 54 x 5.6 with Pig Tail head
  • - Fanfare 57 x 6.125 Semi-Belicoso head

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Contributor

Mike Choi

These views are my personal views and you are welcome to yours and I respect that. They come from my experience of both smoking and managing a cigar shop. I have my own vintage cigar company called Casa Puro, I am a Master of Havana Cigars, Runner Up Habanosommelier World Championships, Winner UK Habanosommelier Championship and also won Cigar Journal’s World’s Best Cigar Lounge Award.