Once again, I find myself shaking down a luxury, ultra-premium cigar that costs almost as much as my home internet service. Practicality and value are concepts that go out the window when it comes to these exclusive gems and there’s always the danger of trying to add up all the positive aspects of the cigar in the hopes you can justify the cost and therein lies the illusion. Forget it. This is about decadence. Spoiling yourself. Membership in the Kardashian entourage. And cigar makers like Nelson Alfonso know this.
Alfonso knows a thing or two about cigar blending and branding. Being a key piece of DNA within the Cuban state-run Habanos S.A., Alfonso is the imagery wizard behind the modern Cohiba brand, some of the most sought after, and most expensive, Cuban cigars available. Alfonso’s lineage is also intimately connected to the old Byron brand, which Alfonso revived and now markets as an exclusive, luxury cigar.
But Alfonso desired a luxury cigar brand of his own creation, with equally lavish packaging. The fruits of this labor gave birth to Atabey, a Costa Rican cigar with a classified blend possessing an ostensibly similar look and theme to the Cohiba brand he helped raise to prominence. Officially launched in 2012 at IPCPR, Atabey hit store shelves in 5 vitolas which has now grown to 12 and a foot band has been added to ward of fakes, owing to another Cohiba feature, one of the most faked cigars of all time.
If you’ve ever seen a picture of a Cohiba band, even some of the older ones, you’d be hard pressed to miss the grid of dots and overall band layout, but instead of a profile of Behike, you get the face of the Taino Goddess, Atabey. It has been surmised that the tawny-hued, seamless wrapper is Ecuadorian Habano, though not confirmed. Our brawny Ritos is solid, soft to the touch and offers complementary aromas of peanut butter and dark chocolate and using just a punch, the draw is effortless.
The initial profile offers a lot to unpack. The initial burst of cream and peanuts is sublime complemented by a hearty finish of toasted oats. Rich and leathery, the Ritos settles into a cedar core with notes of salted caramel. Even with a light spice on the palate, it is light and airy with hints of candied pecans on the retro. Sporting a sweet woody draw throughout, transitions become overtly woody with complexity waning in the latter stages. Body and spice ratchet upward as thicker profiles of earth, toast and coffee dominate.
Combustion and burn on this big cigar, again with just a punch, is as perfect as it gets. There’s no shortage of smoke production and the ash is strong enough to hang a towel on. The Ritos likes to be smoked, so no checking your stock portfolio or binging GoT reruns. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the beautiful and innovative packing offered as Alfonso has even patented a novel humidification device for individual cigars dubbed the “Humitube.”
Yet again, I’m tasked with evaluating a cigar that retails for over $30 which means that for most of us mortals, its not going to fall into our “go to” bucket. The cigar is delicious and offers impeccable performance, but outside that wonderful initial profile, any uniqueness is fleeting. Like many trappings of the good life, Atabey could be considered more of an accessory, and “paralysis by analysis” aside, its value rests entirely in the subjectivity of the beholder. That 5-cigar gift box will do just fine.- In Fumo Pax!
Recommendation: 5 Packer
Did you Know: Nelson Alfonso is the former creative director for the Golden Age design firm which handles much of the major branding for Habanos S.A. with Alfonso’s efforts key to the Cuban Cohiba design since 1999.
Vitola: Ritos [Gran Toro]
Length / Ring Gauge: 6.125 “x 55
Origin: Costa Rica
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano (unconfirmed)
Filler: Includes Nicaraguan (unconfirmed)
Blade: Xikar Punch
Fire: Colibri Firebird
Humidor Age: 13 mo.
Box: Wooden humidors and porcelain jars of 25; gift boxes of 5 cigars
Other Vitolas: Hechizos [4″x40], Idolos [4″x55], Divinos [4.4’X50], Brujos [5″X52], Sabios [5.25″x52], Delirios [5.75″X55], Duendes [6″X54], Místicos [6.75″X56], Benditos [7.25″X58], Spiritus [7.5″X40], Dioses [8″X50]
N O T E S
Smoke Time: 1:23
Construction: Lightly oily; tawny hue; uniform feel; triple seam cap; seamless; veiny; soft to the touch; holds strong 1″ salt-pepper ash; voluminous smoke production.
- Wrapper – Peanut butter
- Foot – Dark chocolate
- Cold Draw – Spiced rasin
- Initial: Creamy with peanut overtones followed by long, toasty finish of oats; settles into light cedar profile; rich and leathery with notes of caramel and a light spice; candied pecans on retro; finishes spicier; sweet, woody draw.
- Transition: Woody core; uptick in spice and body; more of a baked finished with underlying nuttiness; oak, black pepper and leather notes on retro; evolves into overtly oaky, cedar profile;
- Transition: Cedar profile with heavy finish of toast and coffee; more spice on palate; warm earthy overtones.
Complexity: Very Good
Touch ups: N/A
Weaknesses: Mediocre complexity after initial profile
Recommendation: 5 Packer
- Boxworthy / Go-to
- 5 packer
- Yard ‘gar
- NR [No Recommendation]