Throughout the past decade we’ve seen countless events transpire in the cigar industry. From poor economies, to climate change, to shifts in consumer interests, to threats of FDA regulation, and the advent of social media – the cigar industry has seen a lot. George Rico is one man within the industry that has managed to sail through these changes relatively unscathed. That’s not to say he hasn’t had to adapt, either out of necessity or when deemed beneficial. George Rico, and by extension Gran Habano, have been quick to adopt numerous social media platforms, in an aim to help communicate with consumers and offer a transparency seldom found in the cigar industry.
Back just several years ago in 2012, George Rico opened G.R. Tabacalaras Co. Cigar Factory & Lounge. While this new factory is tied into the greater Gran Habano family, the details in their entirety are unclear. What we do know however, is that this new factory is meant to be a place for George Rico to experiment with new and more fringe tobaccos and blending methods. Being able to work in a smaller and more boutique fashion has allowed George achieve a sense of focus to create purpose driven products. This includes the cigar we are smoking today; the George Rico Miami S.T.K. American Puro. This cigar is one of the big players in the fire-cured tobacco scene. While some have opted to make the fire-cured aspect the most bold and dominant aspect of the cigar, the George Rico Miami S.T.K. American Puro takes a more reserved approach, aiming to have the fire-cured flavors seamlessly blended into the rest of the profile.
Cigar: George Rico Miami S.T.K. American Puro
Size: Corona Gorda 5×46
Wrapper: Connecticut Habano
Binder: Connecticut Habano
Filler: Connecticut Broadleaf, Pennsylvania Broadleaf
Appearance and Pre-light Aroma:
The wrapper on the George Rico S.T.K. is an even brown throughout. The wrapper is coarse to the touch, and is lined with strikingly pronounced veins all throughout its length. The cigar is deeply saturated with dense oil, and will leave a noticeable coating on your fingertips.
Out of all the new fire cured cigars, the aroma on the George Rico S.T.K. is the most distinct. This cigar was passed around and sniffed by numerous smokers in the Cigar King retail location, and the George Rico S.T.K. elicited excitement and curiosity unanimously. Common descriptors of the cigar include “hickory” “beef jerk” “meaty” and “spicy barbecue”.
Good lord, this thing is tasty. The George Rico S.T.K. lights with zero fuss, and starts delivery a plethora of flavors. The overarching blanket term at play here is meaty, but let’s dive a bit deeper, shall we? The flavor is bold and dominant, and leaves an incredibly potent aftertaste. Primary notes consist of smoked hickory and mesquite, with nuances of salted beef and barbecue. Black and red pepper tingles the entirety of the palate, and creates a fiery inferno through the nose. Undertones consist of burnt wood, leather, soft earth, and general tobacco. Despite this brazen display of power in the George Rico S.T.K., the cigar still manages to retain an impressive balance.
Into the second third you’ll find a scaling back in intensity from the George Rico S.T.K.’s initial brazen assault. The flavor profile is largely the same, but has seen a significant shift in what is emphasized. The primary hickory, mesquite, and pepper notes have relaxed, while the notes of wood, leather, and smoke have been given more room to breath. The body as a whole has opened up significantly, and an added tang has allowed the softer undertones to be more accentuated. The first third saw the body as very dense, while the second third has evolved to be a bit less chewy and ultimately more creamy.
The final third, while still very enjoyable, loses most its fire-cured characteristics and tastes much like a traditional cigar. While this isn’t inherently a bad thing, after all, we are in the business of smoking traditional cigars; but given the context of smoking a fire-cured product, one does lament the abandonment of the core attraction. Fire-cured notes aren’t absent altogether, but are mainly only detectable through a retro-hale. This of course begs the question of whether or not this is still an enjoyable smoking experience; to which the answer, fortunately, is yes. The George Rico S.T.K.’s final third is somewhat one-dimensional, but complexity isn’t always a necessity. Primary flavors are that of burnt wood, earth, tobacco, and a poignant tang and salt on the back of the palate. The body is bold and a bit sharp, but hasn’t taken on anything in the way of being harsh or bitter.
Burn and Construction:
Construction of the George Rico S.T.K. is top-notch. Smooth roll lines, packed densely but not overly tight, and topped off with a beautiful triple cap. The wrapper is a bit fragile, but that isn’t the fault of anyone. Just be sure to handle with the care.
Burn is razor-sharp, and self-regulates masterfully. The draw is spot-on; a smooth pull will yield a monstrous cloud with every puff. An excellent smoking experience from a physical standpoint.
The George Rico Miami S.T.K. American Puro is a great smoke, but one that will need to be smoked more than once to fully understand. While this isn’t an amazingly strong cigar purely in nicotine strength, it does offer a uniquely raw and visceral smoking experience that is distinctly its own. While such an invigorating experiencing may be a bit intense for some smokers, but fans of the rest of George Rico’s work with Gran Habano will fare just fine. Out all of the new fire cured cigars to hit in 2013, I would venture to say that the George Rico Miami S.T.K. American Puro is the most balanced of the bunch. A must try for those intrigued by the concept of fire-cured tobaccos, and those looking for an outside of the box smoking experience.
3.75 out of 5