Size: Rico Grande (Torpedo) (6 x 54)
In the world of cigars there is always a passion and love for tradition. Heritage and craftsmanship are the hallmarks of a strong line. When it comes to new lines and companies, there is often a sense of wariness attached to the viability of the new cigar product. It’s the old axiom of the young go-getter having to earn their stripes. Ascendancy to the pantheon of cigar greats is not guaranteed; it’s earned.
George A. Rico is one such heir apparent. He is probably best known for his 3 Siglos cigar, which was a blend he put together for his family line of Gran Habano. It received a warm initial reception and planted the seed (no pun intended) for him to branch out and start his own company G.A.R. G.A.R. are the initials of his name, George A. Rico, and it has the added affect of having a sonorous quality about it, that produces an edgy appeal.
Everything about his line is appealing to the younger generation, from his aggressive name and branding which is a faded heraldic shield enshrined by victors leaves, to his trendy webpage which encourages a life and culture of a life aggressively, and well lived. With all of this swagger and style, one question immediately comes to mind…
“Does his cigar deliver, or is it simply a case of style over substance?”
Construction: Every cigar lover knows that the key to a great smoke is great construction. The G.A.R. Vanguard has the beginnings of great construction, and falls short in only a few areas. The binding of the vanguard is tight, and the filler was packed in a pattern that allowed for maximization of a smooth draw. I would say the chief downfall of the cigar construction is in its wrapper. The wrapper at both ends was unraveling, and this caused for some initial burn problems. Another deficit with the wrapper is its generally pronounced veins, as this was the cause of the unraveling and tears that I and my compatriot experienced while smoking the vanguard. To be fair to G.A.R. though, the cigars were a day or two off the truck, and Arizona climate can be a tough acclimation process for any cigar. Regardless the binder and filler are well crafted, but the wrapper could use some work.
Draw: The draw of the G.A.R. Vanguard has an amazing profusion of smoke that pours through the channels of filler effortlessly. Throughout the process of smoking the Vanguard I had no relights or troubles with the draw, which is a testament to its solid craftsmanship.
Burn: The burn of the Vanguard brings up mixed emotions. For the first part of the cigar the ash was loose, and tended to dust off without encouragement from the smoker. Upon20reaching midpoint the story changed and the cigar had better ash construction that was solid and grey. Another aggravation of any cigar smoker is when they have to perform “surgery,” surgery is the process by which a smoker creates an even burn, when an uneven island of tobacco begins to form. The initial unraveling created an environment out of the gate that made for an uneven burn; upon a few microsurgeries I was able to obtain an even burn for the rest of the stick.
Flavor: The flavor of the G.A.R. Vanguard was consistent. Consistency is good, especially for the beginnings of your own line. The Vanguard is definitely a cigar of leathery notes and subtle initial spice. At first the palate is greeted with a hint of spice, but that quickly takes a back seat to the leather tones, as is reminiscent of walking into a men’s fine shoe store. There is a pleasant association rooted in a man’s psyche with olfactory smell that is wafted into his palate when greeted by a fine leather product. Perhaps it goes back to his hunter instinct, but whatever it is it speaks to a primal place, that makes a man feel right at home.The Vanguard does that well, but unfortunately where it falls a little short is the end.
A race is not told in the steps, but rather in the finish, and unfortunately just like with good writing, a good cigar wants to leave its audience with a strong finish. The vanguard burns hot at the end, and creates a singed palate, which in return compromises the taste previously developed in the earlier smoking experience. So while the cigar is a strong consistent flavor for the majority, it falls short in the endgame.
Overall Opinion: I appreciate young blood, and heir apparent scenarios. George Rico is carving a niche for himself in the cigar world one stick at a time. The Vanguard is a great start to what will inevitably be a bright future, but there are hurdles to overcome. The Vanguard is a great consistent cigar with a handful of areas to improve upon. Anyone who likes consistency will appreciate this cigar, and anyone who likes a cigar with distinct leathery notes will also appreciate what this stick brings to the table. While this is not the finest stick I have ever smoked, it is a work in progress and a good first step. So the final verdict is that it is good, but takes some work to truly enjoy it, and is ultimately a cigar that could benefit from a little redesign.
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