Alec Bradley Project 40 Maduro 05.50

It could just be coincidence, but I’ve noticed there seems to be more and more premium cigar choices under $10. Good cigars. Half of the last 10 cigars we’ve reviewed feature sub-$10 price tags and one was right at the $10 mark. Most of these were not only boxworthy, some also managed to pull in impressive 90+ ratings from the review community and make various Top (enter number here) lists. That’s value at work and really good news, considering I’ve personally experienced a rash of 4-5 disappointing outings with cigars priced between $10-$15 in the span of just a couple of months.

That value is basically knowing, or at least the perception of knowing that, we got the better end of the deal, which is very satisfying and yes, adds to the level happiness and zen as we unplug on the patio, our favorite nook or lounge. The science, or study, of happiness and how we can maximize it is actually a thing and it’s a research-based initiative called Project 40. The “40” aspect refers to the percentage of our happiness we can control. Alec Bradley Cigars has seized on this principle recognizing that for some of us, cigars make up some part of the 40% as Alec Bradley owner, Alan Rubin, opines “A proper blend, price, and experience has been developed for your enjoyment. Take control of your happiness.”

The result of this inspiration was the creation of Alec Bradley’s Experimental Series and the birth of the Project 40 line. In 2019, the initial Project 40 release, with its Nicaraguan and Brazilian blend, made an immediate splash amassing numerous accolades including the #24 spot on Cigar Aficionado’s Top 25 Cigars of 2019. This is truly remarkable for a cigar that costs ($5.50) little more than a Happy Meal. The follow-up to this success is the Project 40 Maduro, outfitted with a lush San Andrés wrapper and a blip in price to $5.75, which began shipping in late 2020.

TThe Maduro is available in 3 common vitolas and we scored several robustos. Aesthetically, the cigar projects an earthy hue offset by a matte texture and the brilliance of the gold and maroon band. While cap application seemed sloppy, the veiny, lumpy body is almost seamless and very firm. Unfortunately, the draw on this cigar was almost completely blocked. After a second, shallow guillotine cut, the draw did not improve. We do not use artificial/mechanical means to clear a draw other that kneading the cigar with our fingers. That too didn’t help, so we went with a second cigar, which sadly seemed to suffer the same malady, but at least I was able to make it work.

Fortunately, the happiness meter started climbing as the opening profile unfolded to provide a nutty undercurrent coupled with a delicious draw of toasted almonds. A rich, creamy medley of vanilla and dried fruit intonations preceded hints of cinnamon followed by more toasted almond notes on the satisfying finish. A combination of cocoa notes appearing later on the retro and a rich finish of coffee bean and graham cracker made good arguments to overlook any draw issues. Our Maduro maintained a mild-medium body initially with a smooth texture.

Transitions feature a cedar core which becomes heavier over time, but at least initially it served to complement a toastier profile swirling around a mix of rich breadcrust, gingerbread and dried berry notes. A light spice appears late along with a more medium-plus body and while the draw opened up a bit, the cap area surprisingly began to come apart. But the cigar held together into the last leg which provided a major increase in spice and an ending with dense coats of dark chocolate, wood and espresso. A metallic aftertaste appeared as our robusto began to get hot with about 1 ½” remaining.

For a cigar with a poor draw and what appeared to be a packed body, it was a burner, finishing in just a click over 45 minutes. Smoke production was limited due to the draw, but it holds a good 1” ash and combustion was spot on. Clearly, there were construction issues in both cigars, but like most, these are usually not the rule, but the exception. The strength of this cigar is in its simple, delicious flavor palette, balance and variety, key aspects that help to counteract its structural issues. Did I mention the ridiculously low price? This has “go to” in its DNA and we hope the draw issue is an anomaly. Still, a box of these is cheaper than your HOA dues and you have 24 chances to max out your 40%. – In Fumo Pax!

Recommendation: Boxworthy

Did you Know: Alan Rubin’s two sons, Alec and Bradley Rubin, who are the namesakes of the Alec Bradley brand, have started up their own cigar brand similarly dubbed, “Alec & Bradley.”

  • Profile: Medium-Full
  • Vitola: 05.50 [Robusto]
  • Length / Ring: 5.0″ x 50
  • Purchased: Direct
  • Origin: Nicaragua
  • Wrapper: Mexican San Andres
  • Binder: Habano Brazil
  • Filler: Nicaraguan
  • Production: J. Fuego Cigar Co. De Nicaragua
  • Blade: Xikar xi1
  • Fire: Colibri Firebird
  • Price:$5.75 [Box $138]
  • Humidor Age: 2 wks.
  • Box: 24
  • Other Vitolas: 06.52 [6″x52], 06.60 [6″x60]

N O T E S

Smoke Time: 0:46
Draw
: Tight
Construction: Matte texture; earthy hue; very firm and even throughout; veiny; almost seamless; lumpy; sloppy cap; holds 1″ ash.
Aromas:

  • WrapperLight barnyard
  • Foot – Muted milk chocolate
  • Cold Draw – N/A

Tasting Notes:

  • Initial: Notes of toasted almonds on draw; Nutty core; intonations of dried fruit, vanilla and wisps of cinnamon; toasted almond notes on initial finish which later becomes more dominant in graham cracker and coffee notes; creamy and very light on palate; mild to medium bodied; character be becomes more woody with notes of cocoa.
  • Transition: Cedar core; intonations of dried berries and a warm breadcrust flavor that lingers in the nose; toasty of finish of coffee bean; light notes of gingerbread linger on tongue; cap begins to disintegrate; draw loosens midway. more body and a light spice develops.
  • Transition: Next level spice and more robust; dominant cedar foundation; hardwood finish mixed with notes of dark chocolate; develops metallic aftertaste; dense layer of espresso engulfs profile; gets hot with 1.5″ remaining.

Complexity: Excellent
Balance: Excellent
Touch upsN/A
Combustion: Excellent
Weaknesses: Restrictive draw despite attempts to mitigate; little going on in final third and hot; weak cap.
Recommendation: Boxworthy

Recommendation scale:

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

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