Bite Size Review: Don Lino 1989 Connecticut Toro
As the already-bloated cigar market continues to expand like your waistline over the Thanksgiving Day weekend, it’s easy to overlook the many cigars that get little to no press, especially those considered “price conscious.” Ooh, when we hear those very words, we cringe at the thought of the Kind Edwards and Dutch Masters of the world or perhaps those from the Florida guy rolling cigars in his garage. What’s even more difficult to understand is how in the world did some of these “value added” brands have the staying power to survive the cigar boom of the 1980s and 90s, thrive and find their way into our humidors today. Well, the fact is, they do.
Why? Because they do just that – add value. Imagine a good cigar with solid construction, performance and flavor for less than $5. As Linda Ronstadt famously crooned, “it’s so easy to fall in love,” the allure of Cuban and boutique cigars tend to dominate our discussions, focus and psyche and of course we all have our preferred go-tos. We often turn up our noses at anything less and we scoff when a buddy shows up with a 20-pack of Cheap Ass Cigars (yes, this is a real brand and no, we have not tried them). The fact is, sometimes we just need a fix, a dog walker… a quick treat. And, yes, sometimes it would be nifty if it were thrifty.
Need an example? One of my favorite cheap treats is the Punch Maduro London Club, a sub-$4 corona that with 2 years of age, will melt in your mouth. Occasionally, I’ll come across an economical indulgence here and there, but sadly, it’s not very often. A good friend of mine recently turned me onto something new and it was a Connie. And after a bit of research, I learned it was a brand targeting the frugal aficionado. From a personal preference, that’s 2 strikes. We were well on our way to a strike-out when I learned it came from his Cigar of the Month collection. But, in the spirit of breaking down a largely unknown, or forgotten, cigar we decided to jump in headfirst.
While Nestor Miranda was hawking spirits to the Florida crowd in the late 80s, he jumped into the cigar business after a chance meeting with a roller who worked for La Aurora’s Guillermo León. Looking to cross promote his spirits with cigars, Miranda and his wife launched Miami Cigar & company and their first brand was Don Lino. They contracted production with US Tobacco and the cigars were produced in Honduras. Within 6 years, the Miranda’s went from a humble volume of 80,000 cigars per year to over 12 million. Then came a contractual dispute with UST which ended the run. The Don Lino brand survived over the years, through the hands of various production facilities and are currently made by a “prominent Dominican cigar maker” (no confirmation it’s La Aurora, of whom Miranda is the US distributor).
Very little info on the current Don Lino brand exists, except that they’re sold by few retailers with even less availability. Our cigar is from the 1989 line which comes in two flavors: Maduro and Connecticut. Our 1989 Connecticut tops out at around $2, and based on initial aesthetics, that’s about right. With an ugly cap and coloring that would serve as great camo in a desert environment, this dry-looking, veiny cigar feels spongy and that it might disintegrate at any moment. There is a heavy barnyard aroma laced with milk chocolate, but the foot treats the nose to fudge and graham cracker. The cold draw is open and rife with raisin flavors.
What the outside lacks in any measure of beauty, the opening profile is a nice surprise. After a blast of rich cream, caramel and graham cracker, it settles into a toasty background with familiar white pepper notes finishing with lush notes of graham cracker and white pepper. Cedar intonations balance things out as notes of chocolate and black pepper arrive to the party. Transitions are rougher edged with spicy cores of chocolate and cedar with residual graham cracker notes, but in the last leg, it becomes harsh and bitter with about 2” to go.
Smoke production is nothing to write home about, but the combustion is pretty darn good and it can hold a nice ash. The full richness of the flavors is a very pleasant surprise as is the balance for the most part. In the end, flavor and enjoyment fall of a cliff and you’re left with coal dust and bog water. OK, not that bad, but you get the picture. It’s not going to ignite any passions or offer a lot of Zen moments, but the 1989 Connie was a pleasant surprise and at a ridiculous $2 per, deal-seekers and Connie-lovers will rejoice and you can afford to pass these gals out at your next backyard hootenanny. – In Fumo Pax!
Did you Know: Miami Cigar & Company’s Nestor Miranda launched his first brand, Don Lino, with his wife in the late 80s
- Profile: Mild – Medium
- Vitola: Toro
- Length / Ring:6.0″ X 50
- Purchased: Gift
- Origin: Dominican Republic
- Wrapper:Ecuadorian Connecticut
- Binder:Indonesian (Sumatran)
- Filler: Cameroonian, Brazilian, Dominican
- Production: Dominican Republic
- Blade: Xikar Xi1
- Fire: Colibri Firebird
- Price:$2.00 [Box $39.95]
- Humidor Age: 2-3 mo.
- Box: 20
- Other Vitolas: Robusto [5″x50], *Churchill [7″x50], *Torpedo [6.25″x52]
N O T E S
Smoke Time: 1:00
Draw: Mostly open
Construction: Ugly cap; spongy; dry appearance; veiny; seamless; desert drab beige color with greenish tint; mediocre smoke producer; holds 1″, mushy ash; fast burner.
- Wrapper – Barnyard, milk chocolate
- Foot – graham cracker, fudge
- Cold Draw – Lots of raisins
- Initial: Blast of caramel, cream and graham cracker; toasty core; white pepper notes wander in and out of profile and finish; lush finish also features notes of graham cracker; develops cedar intonations late along with black pepper and chocolate notes; flavors are full and rich; light spice; medium bodied.
- Transition: Rougher edged; spice persists; overt chocolate and cedar foundations; dark cherry essence to draw; leathery finish with hints of residual graham cracker; complexity wanes; not as rich.
- Transition: Dusky, sweet draw; spice and white pepper hanging around; cocoa and wood intonations on retro; more coffee/espresso flavors along with cedar on finish; becomes harsh and bitter with about 2″ remaining.
Complexity: Very Good
Balance: Very Good
Touch ups: N/A
Combustion: Very Good
Weaknesses: Unattractive aesthetics; flavor palette falls off cliff
- 5 packer
- Yard ‘gar
- NR [No Recommendation]