Review: Felix Assouline Ego Red
You know, it’s not at all unusual how a well-placed review and/or a high rating from a respected source can increase exposure and grow awareness for a particular cigar. This is certainly true in my case as many of the critically acclaimed cigars I’ve tried over this last year have come from the pages of magazines and websites. Case in point: While already a fan of LFD, their Andalusian Bull 2016 Cigar of the Year honors from Cigar Aficionado was hard for me, and many others, to ignore.
One thing is for sure: there is a veritable sea of cigar choices out there but only a handful end up being the beneficiaries of such coverage. Enter social media. It’s difficult to ignore recognizable brands and trust something new, particularly with the explosion of new releases from a cornucopia of boutiques. Conversely, it’s all too easy to overlook unheralded brands people are discussing and enjoying. Who makes that? Wow that really looks good.
I think I started paying more attention after I tried a few private-label sticks from my local humidors as well as some retail-store branded cigars. They weren’t anything to write home about but they did offer a different take on flavors, good construction and decent performance. The point is, these events reminded me to take notice that there are a lot of solid smokes out there and the lesson is to let the cigar convince you, not the marketing machine.
Until I jumped into the sea of social media, I had not heard the name, Felix Assouline. It didn’t take long before I was gawking at these delicious-looking sticks many folks of all ilk were showing off. After a month or two, I couldn’t take it anymore. I not only decided to order a sampler pack, but also started to learn more about Felix and his unique story.
To say Felix is just another cigar maker is a slight against his passion, his purpose and his beliefs. Like many, Felix was introduced to cigars through a family member and like many of us, it ignited a life-long vocation. In 1997, Felix got his chops selling cigars first in California, then in Florida where he grew his business, Cigarros Del Mundo, to 4 locations. In 2004, he cranked up his own factory in Danli, Honduras. Unfortunately in 2007, Felix’s family experienced a bit of a crisis and he did what few would – he sold everything off to focus 100% on his family, his first passion.
“All these words are quite meaningless at the end of the day. The true test of any cigar claim is to light one up, put in your mouth and draw. Only then will all these words take true meaning.” – Felix Assouline
After several years, Felix rekindled his cigar passion and jumped back into the fray, this time putting all his energies behind blending and producing his own line of premium cigars as well as private-label premium handmades for an international clientele through his factory, Omega Tobacos in Esteli, Nicaragua. Once mentored by an industry icon, Felix is considered a master blender and takes what some insiders consider an avant-garde approach. To understand Felix’s methods you must first appreciate his simple mantra: to make some of the finest cigars for his friends and customers. Felix takes great pride in providing the finest tobaccos and demanding the highest quality in construction and bristles at those who think he should resort to industry gimmicks.
Did you know: Felix Assouline is one of only a few blenders who have mastered the use of Indonesian binder tobacco, a very difficult mix to get right.
- Profile: Full
- Vitola: Passion [Box Press Torpedo]
- Length / Ring Gauge: 6.5″/ 58
- Purchased: Cigars2me.com
- Origin: Nicaragua
- Wrapper: Habano Criollo ’98
- Binder: Indonesian
- Filler: Nicaragua, Honduras
- Cutter: Xikar Xi1
- Lighter: Colibri Firebird
- Price Range: $10.30
It has been said that the Ego Red is what put Felix on the map and many of Felix’s cigars are boxed pressed. I’ve said it before – I’m not the biggest fan of box pressed cigars; however, I will gladly stipulate that the vast majority of the best cigars this writer has smoked have been box pressed. Felix has also mastered the use of Indonesian binder tobacco, something many industry insiders have tried talking him out of due to the difficulty in mixing it well with other tobaccos.
What many do not know is that the tobaccos used are ALL aged a minimum of 5 years. Yeah, 5 years. That blew me away. Add that to the fact the Ego Red is swathed in a zesty Habano wrapper and my drool-o-meter redlined. I also love that this vitola is aptly named “Passion.” Perfect. Made at the Omega Tobacos factory in Esteli, Nicaragua, the Ego Red comes in 6 vitolas including a tasty looking short perfecto (5’x52) and are packaged in boxes of 30.
All the filler tobaccos come from Felix’s farms in Honduras and Nicaragua. The firmness of the shaft is as perfect as it gets as it is not squishy but not a baseball bat either. It has a couple of large veins and the seams are almost invisible. The triple cap and torpedo treatment is perfect. The caramel-colored, Criollo ‘98 wrapper is semi-oily and exudes notes of chocolate and hay. The foot is awash with an awesome floral bouquet and some earthiness. All I needed was a ¼” cut on the tapered cap to get a perfect draw which rewarded me with hints of chocolate and raisins.
The initial light and puffs on this torpedo provided large volumes of rich, smooth creamy smoke dotted with pepper, nuts, leather and baking spice. There was also a nice spice in the finish. The flavors never waver or disappear during the initial third and the strength is medium-full. Theres never any harshness and the Ego Red is off to a delicious start with perfect combustion and an even char line. A perfect pairing to a cool afternoon.
There is a nice transition to some new flavors in the penultimate third and this turned out to be my favorite part of the Ego Red. Still rich and smooth, the Red became more leathery and woody in its profile with a bit more strength and espresso on the finish. This money shot continues with notes of black tea and allspice! Just when I thought the experience couldn’t get any better, the Red rocked my world. At one point, combustion was off a tad causing the char line to become uneven, but a quick touch-up rectified it.
The final third is where I figured I’d get the full Monte with regards to strength and I was right. Still maintaining a nice rich texture, the Red’s profile becomes more earthy with a nice tang of cedar in the background. There’s not a hint of harshness down to the nub and yes, the allspice notes are still swirling in the background giving the Red an awesome balance. The Red’s combustion was back to flawless this round with nary a touch-up even close. Oh Yeah, and she’ll hold at least a 1″ ash without blinking. Mind blown.
I don’t give numerical ratings to cigars, I’ll let the pros and self-proclaimed aficionados do that. Instead, I try to focus on a cigar’s strong points and in the end make an informed recommendation. Let me start out by saying this: The Ego Red is box worthy. The only problem I can find with this cigar is that you’re going to need to buy a bigger humidor.
The construction is near flawless, it looks absolutely delicious sitting still and best of all provides a truly unique smoking experience. Why? First, of the 10 or so cigars I’ve recently smoked, only 1 was aged even close to 5 years. Second, this is Davidoff- and Padron-like quality only you’re not going to spend $20 a stick. Next, the complexity and balance never get out of kilter forcing the cigar to become one-dimensional. There is never any harshness and the best part is the Ego Red will continue to surprise you.
I’ll say it again: The Ego Red will continue to surprise you. This is only the first cigar I’ve tried from the sampler I purchased…I cant wait to try the Ego Black, II Saints and Felix’s famed Connie-wrapped, CSB. The Ego Red embodies the very essence of the spell the cigar Gods put upon me years ago – Felix simply read my mind. – In Fumo Pax!