When one thinks of the name Jose Blanco they may be inclined to think of several things, from his tenure with La Aurora, to his more recent stint with Joya de Nicaragua. Jose Blanco has been in the industry for nearly forty years. He’s the man behind what is arguably a cigar that falls in to the top 5 of every veteran smokers favorites – the La Aurora 100 Anos.
It should be no secret that I, as well as the rest of the CK staff, are big fans of Jose Blanco’s work. Toward the end of last year, I had the idea to begin conducting interviews with industry figures for this blog. This stemmed from my interest in getting to speak with these individuals more than anything else; interesting and quality content for the blog were merely a byproduct. Jose was one of the very first people I reached out to, over twitter in fact, to see if he would be willing to do an interview. Much to my delight, I had a response from Jose in mere minutes, saying simply “but of course! Let me know what you need.”
I had been in the business for just over two months at that point, and to have had an enthusiastic response from the man himself was both exciting and humbling. You can read the full interview here.
You, my dear reader, must be asking yourself what it is about interviewing this man that had my interest so piqued. For myself, when I even so much as hear a whisper of the name “Blanco” I think of two things – balance and complexity. Jose has what is arguably one of the most refined and sophisticated palates in the industry, and his emphasis is always on those two magic words.
It becomes difficult to illustrate his talent without landing on the inevitable buzzwords. Rich, flavorful, refined, nuanced, and sophisticated come to mind. All words that have been used to describe cigars so banal that these words risk putting an entirely new definition on the word cliche. Nevertheless, due to the limitations of language (or more likely my vocabulary), my hand is forced toward their use. Woe is me.
Particularly with his work with the 100 Anos, Jose Blanco’s blends define the very things the words in question should represent.
Now, to the facts. This article is a review on Jose Blanco’s newest creation, the Senorial. After parting ways with Joya de Nicaragua, Jose Blanco spent a little over a year playing his cards close to his chest. He kept his palate sharp doing select work at Tabacalera Palma, owned by his cousin Jochi Blanco, which is the factory that produces Oliveros and Boutique Blends products (Aging Room, SWAG). News of his next endeavor largely remained scarce, however. In April came the announcement of Las Cumbres Tabaco, Jose Blanco’s very own company, with their first product slated to be the Senorial.
The Senorial utilizes a Habano seed wrapper from Ecuador wrapped over a Nicaraguan binder grown in Esteli. The filler leaves are piloto cubano and corojo, both grown at Tabacalera Palma in the Dominican Republic. All of the leaves used are said to have at least three years of age on them, and the cigars see an additional 90 days of rest once constructed before they are shipped.
Cigar: Senorial by Jose Blanco
Size: 6×54 Toro Bravo
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Binder: Esteli, Nicaragua
Filler: Dominican, Piloto Cubano and Corojo
Appearance and Pre-Light Aroma:
As far as the visuals of the Senorial go, the cigar uses one of the nicer looking instances of an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper that I can recall seeing in recent times. A medium shade of brown in color, best described as something in the way of a sandy tan. Roll lines are near seamless visually, and the cigar has a feel of having been skillfully constructed. It feels finished, whole, and complete. Oils are moderate, noticeable to the touch, but not enough to give a particularly rich sheen. The band is nice looking, and you can tell that a reasonable amount of time went into its design. Something about it doesn’t strike me eye write though. The word Senorial does stand out enough in contrast to the sheen created by the golden edges of the band. I imagine this is largely an issue for only the nit-picky pricks like myself however.
Aromatically, you can immediately tell the work of Jose Blanco is at hand (flowery language surely lies ahead.) The Senorial smells of a striking array of refreshing barnyard notes accentuated by a deep sweetness. The earthier aspects consist of soft soil, oak and other woods, nuts, and something really only describable as being along the lines of “damp earth” or “rain”. The sweeter characteristics are a blend of several different notes that are easy enough to appreciate but might require a bit of attention to distinguish individually. My nose picks up a rich mixture of sweet tea leaves, raisins, and plum. In addition, cocoa powder is also picked up, and the ‘powder’ aspect of that descriptor seems to be tangible, as it appears to have an effect on the texture when it hits your palate. The dry draw is easier to pin, with notes of oak, raisins, cocoa powder, and plum all being readily apparent. Hay and grass seem to be in the fold as well.
The Senorial fires up to life with little fuss and gets right down to business. Flavor potency starts off strong. A hearty blend of the same sweet notes found in the pre-light aroma enlivens the upper registers of the palate, with sweet tea leaves and raisins holding strongest through the finish. Sweeping the bottom ranges of the palate is a deceptively strong dose of spicy nutmeg.* The mid-range is diverse, creamy peanut butter thickly coats the palate, with slightly more faint notes of buttered toast in the mix as well. The whole mid-range of flavor has a distinctive ‘muskiness’ to it: a characteristic which when done right can be a great addition. Retrohaling requires some vigor, being largely dominated by black pepper, spice, and cayenne pepper. Toast is also fairly apparent through the nose, delivered with a floral touch. Another interesting feature worth mentioning is the mouth-feel of the Senorial: it’s super oily, which makes for both a relatively unique and pleasurable sensation. The oily-ness seems to also take a bit of the edge off the spice, which is nice, and yet another example of the balance Jose Blanco is so famous for achieving. There appears to be a slight hint of harshness to the smoke, but you can, and should, dismiss this quickly.
- The use of the word ‘deceptive’ may seem a bit ambiguous, so do allow for an elaboration. Thus far, the Senorial has very slyly carried itself as a medium + in terms of body and flavor, but the intensity of the nutmeg/spice, even at this stage of the cigar, is usually indicative of a substantial bit of nicotine hitting the system.
Into the second third, the Senorial opts for changes that are evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Flavor stays full, while body sits a bit more towards the medium + mark. Strength, however, has mellowed a bit; settling into a comfortable medium. Spice and nutmeg has died down, arguably in correspondence with the decrease in nicotine strength.
The profile transitions the emphasis from sweeter notes onto ones that are more earthy. The mouthfeel remains oily, and the musk that seems to exercise clout over the whole profile continues to grow. Jose Blanco’s Senorial has taken on much more floral tone all around. The high-profile notes in the second third are oak and general woodiness, mixed nuts, especially peanuts, and light soil. General barnyard notes sail at a less prominent level, as do raisins, hay, and a pinch of lemongrass. Hidden in the depths you can still detect a foundational presence of the same deep plum sweetness that has been in play since the start.
Balance, as one might suspect given the Senorial’s creator, is nothing short of superb. Through the nose, things are considerably more relaxed as compared to earlier on, as much of the pepper and spice is now absent. More importantly, nearly all trace of anything resembling any sort of harshness has vanished.
As the Senorial transitions into its final third, the proverbial reigns are loosened, allowing the cigar to exude its full breadth. Flavor, body, and strength all have intensified to their fullest. This comes at the slight expense of balance, or rather, it becomes a bit more difficult to digest as a whole, but the Senorial manages to largely keep its composure. Think of it as the Senorial after a few drinks, if you will. It’s neither sloppy nor undignified, but it is a bit more zealous in a playful way.
In terms of flavor, the profile has become dominantly earthy. Lots of soil and oak notes, as well as cedar. Oily musk still shamelessly pervades throughout and lasts well into the finish. Overall, the profile has developed into being significantly more leathery, a characteristic that certainly makes its mark on the palate. Most of the sweeter notes have receded, offering a tangy lemongrass as a substitute. There’s also plenty of rich peanut butter, as well as toast, in play. The retrohale sends a rather…lively dose of cayenne pepper through the nose, along with plenty of leather and butter to go along with it.
Burn and Construction:
Construction was quite good. Smooth roll lines, neither over or under filled, and never had any issues. The burn was a required more attention than you may be used to. You’ll likely need to keep a bit quicker smoking pace to keep this thing going. Aside from that, there weren’t really any issues.
The Senorial is a good cigar now, exceptionally good even, but I’d wager its finest hours are yet to come. When these first hit the shelves five months ago they seemed just a bit out of sorts, but this quickly sorted itself out. I think the Senorial will likely see it’s finest hours in another year or so. Make no mistake, this cigar is worth smoking now, but I think it will be something truly special in a year or so. It’s the same concept as aging a fine wine. The potential is off the charts with this one.
As it stands, the Senorial has a brilliant set of core sweet and spicy flavors and a near endless range of nuance and depth augmenting the blend should you choose to look for it. While I won’t say it’s the next 100 Anos quite yet, I am fully anticipating this to become something all its own. Knowing Jose Blanco, the Senorial may very well go on to transcend words like good and great.
*Note – I will certainly be revisiting the Senorial for a review in a year. I am very interested to see how this cigar develops.
9 out of 10