Blackbird Crow Gran Toro

The last time I got excited about something fresh and new was when an upstart company introduced a minimalist style of wallet that wasn’t hideous and offered a James Bond kind of cool factor. When it comes to cigars and brands, I think the last one that really got my attention was the “dark elegance” of James Brown’s Black Label Trading Company. And, if I recall, our first outing culminated in a “go to” recommendation. Hmmm, could it happen again?

While not reliable by any stretch, social media has become a proving ground of sorts for all manner of products and services, cigars included. Trends come and go, buzz turns into, well, just zzzzs, but traditions are hard to reshape, especially when someone aspires to do things different, and not just changing lanes different, we’re talking hopping on another highway different.  Sure, there’s no shortage of boutique brands who delight in the campy, bizarre and sometimes just plain goofy in order to draw attention and score some points, and they have their fans, but there’s some new methods to the madness at Blackbird Cigar Co.

First-generation cigar entrepreneur Jonás Santana and his team launched the Blackbird Cigar Co. in 2019 intent on breaking the mold on conventional branding with a brilliantly-colored, ornithological- themed shtick while embracing traditional Dominican cigar craft with a focus on high quality and consistency. In less than two years, Blackbird has launched 6 core lines and together Santana believes he has something for every palate and preference.  Two lines, Cuco and Crow, represent Blackbirds more medium-full bodied blends with Brazilian and Mexican San Andres wrappers, respectively. We randomly selected the Crow for our first outing.

There’s a great write-up on Santana and his new company by Antoine Reid at Tobacco Business.

The Crow is available in 3 vitolas – and this is where Blackbird departs a little from tradition – a standard-size robusto, a Churchill-length gordo and the thick gran toro. The long, bright red band, reminiscent of Camacho’s Corojo, features the large scrawled logo with the company name running lengthwise along the back. The hue from the band complements the chocolate color of the fuzzy San Andres skin. Our gran toro is large but light in the hand and is almost seamless and evenly firm. Lots of tooth and veins course through the wrapper which offers thick aromas that lean towards chocolate dominance. The near-perfect cold draw is highlighted by the sweet tart of raspberries on the tongue.

The opening draw is rife with notes of dried fruit followed by a warm, spicy mix of cinnamon, cocoa and red pepper. The round, nutty finish is lush with toasted almonds. Hints of honey and citrus make occasional cameos on the retro while the foundation matures into a rich palette of nuts, cinnamon and mesquite. The smooth texture and balanced nature are in for the long haul while Crow transitions to fuller bodied profiles anchored by a toasty nucleus and a surprising flavor wheel of tangy pistachio and ginger preceding dense notes of earth, espresso and coffee. There’s a crisp spice which ratchets upward as you smoke without overpowering complexity.

While the ash is fairly weak and prone to random tumbling, Crow delivers great performance as draw and combustion are near flawless and produces copious amounts of smoke. Oh, and the band is super easy to remove – yeah, it’s important, especially after some of the seizure-induced tug-n-pull adventures I’ve had. Crow does lack refinement as some of the core flavors tend to overpower nuances at times, but its not a deal killer and pricing could be a bit friendlier. Complexity of this large cigar is surprising for a first outing and overall exudes good character and manners. The blend is very flavorful, never gets old or stale and is very satisfying. I suspect these young provocateurs may just ruffle some industry feathers. – In Fumo Pax!

Recommendation: Boxworthy

Did you Know: The purposeful coloring and graphics of Blackbird’s cigar boxes and matching cigar bands hint at the strength and attitude of the cigar.

  • Profile: Medium-Full
  • Vitola: Gran Toro
  • Length / Ring: 6.0″ x 54
  • Purchased: Online
  • Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Wrapper: Mexican San Andres
  • Binder: Habano
  • Filler: Nicaraguan, Pennsylvnia, Corojo, Criollo ’98
  • Production: Blackbird Dominicana Cigar Factory
  • Blade: Xikar xi1
  • Fire: Colibri Firebird
  • Price:$9.10 [Box $191.10]
  • Humidor Age: 1 mo.
  • Box: 21
  • Other Vitolas: Robusto [5″x50], Double Toro [7″x60]

N O T E S

Smoke Time: 1:47
Draw
: Open
Construction: Firm throughout with some give; toothy; dark and veiny; shaggy foot; almost seamless; nice cap; fuzzy to touch; Hershey’s chocolate shade; holds weak, 1″ ash.
Aromas:

  • WrapperSweet chocolate, barnyard
  • Foot – Lots of chocolate
  • Cold Draw – Raspberries

Tasting Notes:

  • Initial: Dried fruit on draw; nutty foundation with complements of mesquite and cinnamon; warm, spicy intonations of cinnamon, cocoa and red pepper; also hints of honey and citrus on retro; rich finish of toasted almonds; spice level on palate optimal; silky smooth and well-balanced; medium-bodied.
  • Transition: More body and toasty; spice on tongue maintains; still smooth; tangy; some residual cocoa notes along with hints of pistachio and oak on retro; dense, earthy finish with a complement of espresso and a touch of anise; subdued but robust woody and ginger underpinnings in nose.
  • Transition: Dominant center of dark chocolate, earth and coffee bean notes; rougher edge but maintains decent flavor; more espresso on finish; smoky persona; slight upwrd crank of the spice knob; heavier on palate; warm disposition and maintains balance.

Complexity: Excellent
Balance: Excellent
Touch upsN/A
Combustion: Outstanding
Weaknesses: Core flavors overpower at times; weak ash prone to tumbling.
Recommendation: Boxworthy

Recommendation scale:

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

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