El Artista Big Papi by David Ortiz

I consider myself an avid sports fan, but I know more about cigars than I do about one of America’s favorite pastimes: baseball. And like many, I’m more acquainted with the sport’s personalities than with individual teams or their achievements, but that’s not to say I don’t enjoy a ‘dog and a cold beer with friends and family at the ballpark. Throughout history, cigars and sports inevitably intertwine as premium stogeys seem to appear at many a celebration. And sometimes the cigar lifestyle gets plenty of free advertising thanks to a bevy of celebrity athletes including ex-Raven Ed Reed, Billionaire Bull, Michael Jordan and Red Sox phenom, David “Big Papi” Ortiz.

Tabacalera El Artista may be one of the best kept secrets to come out of the Dominican Republic. Like most boutique cigar makers, the Tamboril-based El Artista Cigars is a family affair who have been quietly making a name for themselves since 1956. Owned, operated and managed by the Rodriguez family, El Artista is one of the few family-run cigar artisans to be a veritable “crop-to-shop” enterprise with all business aspects from farming, distribution and sales vertically integrated. El Artista is now led by the third generation of the Rodriguez family, President, Radhames “Ram” Rodriguez.

In 2013, Ortiz desired a cigar for his personal collection and something he could flip to his friends, share at parties and promote at charity events. So, El Artista obliged and they and Ortiz got to work on a blend that would be become Big Papi. El Artista eventually commercialized the line in 2016 with Ortiz’s blessing just prior to his retirement from baseball with the understanding that the blend would remain intact. The line is featured in a single vitola (toro), is packaged in boxes of 20 and comes with an MSRP of $11.50. A follow-up line to Big Papi, The Slugger, was launched in a Louisville Slugger-sized 7”x60 gordo XL vitola for those who crave a little more “power.”

Big Papi is not an easy cigar to find, at least for us, as most online humidors either do not carry the line or were out of stock, sending a bit of a mixed signal. Our toro is a handsome cigar with some heft and an oily, toffee-hued exterior. There’s some lumps here and there and one almighty vein, but the roll appears seamless and this big boy is solid and firm throughout its length. There’s a pleasant amount of leather and milk chocolate aromas from the Ecuadorian Habano skin and a rich mix of chocolate and vanilla at the business end. The cold draw is mostly open, but I think most will acclimate to it, and offers just a tease of raisins.

The opening profile offers a tantalizing, and surprising, level of complexity and balance that begins with a semi-sweet, peppery draw followed by intonations of black pepper, vanilla, salted peanuts and allspice. The oak-laden foundation also sports notes of cedar and a long, nutty finish. Spice lovers rejoice as it is Big Papi’s defining characteristic which helps to complement the smooth texture and body. Transitions are more intense with woody/nutty cores and even as complexity falls away, rich notes of cocoa, red pepper and coffee bean deliver a high degree of satisfying, well-balanced flavors. There’s not much going for it towards the end, but what is there, is just fine.

Big Papi is a 2-hour plus smoke, which should get you through to the 7th inning stretch. Smoke production is excellent throughout and it’ll hold a solid 1” ash, but combustion does get uneven at times though no corrections were needed. The profiles won’t tickle everyone’s palate and I think it’s priced high for just the cigar though probably right on the mark for the line’s distinctiveness. I would definitely smoke one again, especially paired with a smooth bourbon or even a contrasting cognac and due to a combination of above-average complexity, solid performance and unique heritage, a box of these sluggers is a good call. – In Fumo Pax!

Recommendation: Boxworthy

Did you Know: David Ortiz is credited with assisting in the blending duties of his namesake cigar.

  • Profile: Medium-Full
  • Vitola: Toro
  • Length / Ring: 6.0″ x 54
  • Purchased: Online
  • Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano Claro
  • Binder: Dominican Criollo ’98
  • Filler: Dominican, Nicaraguan
  • Production: Tabacalera El Artista
  • Blade: Xikar xi1
  • Fire: Colibri Firebird
  • Price:$11.69 [Box $233.80]
  • Humidor Age: 4.5 mo.
  • Box: 20
  • Other Vitolas: N/A

N O T E S

Smoke Time: 2:05
Draw
: Mostly open
Construction: Solid and firm throughout; oily; one big vein; almost seamless; lumpy; toffee-colored appearance; good heft; holds 1″ ash.
Aromas:

  • WrapperLeather, light milk chocolate
  • Foot – Milk chocolate, vanilla
  • Cold Draw – Light raisins

Tasting Notes:

  • Initial: Semi-sweet, peppery draw; sumptuous intonations of allspice, black pepper, salted peanuts and hints of vanilla; oak core with layer of cedar notes; generous spice on tongue; long, nutty finish; hints of sweet corn on draw; smooth, medium bodied with light presence in nose and on palate; evolves into woody, nutty profile.
  • Transition: salty, savory woody foundation; spice maintains; predominant retrohale notes of nuts, cocoa and red pepper; the spicy finish remains hardy but is more chocolatey, nutty; bolder with more body; well-mannered and balanced.
  • Transition: Smoky persona; earthy core; residual dark chocolate notes; robust intonations of oak, oats and coffee bean; deep, dark espresso finish; spice at its most prominent.

Complexity: Excellent
Balance: Excellent
Touch upsN/A
Combustion: Very good
Weaknesses: Combustion could be better; end profile near one-dimensional
Recommendation: Boxworthy

Recommendation scale:

  1. Go-to
  2. Boxworthy
  3. 5 packer
  4. Yard ‘gar
  5. NR [No Recommendation]

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