The time was 2010 and reinventing Connecticut was all the rage. That trend has happened a few times since and each time as companies wave the banner of “Connecticut wrapped cigars for the modern smoker,” I shake my head and think to myself, haven’t we already done this?
For me, there are three cigars that stand out as precursors to the trend: Tatuaje’s Cabaiguan, released in 2004; 601 Black, released in 2006; and the Oliva Connecticut Reserve, released in 2008.
I remember when news broke the 601 Black was discontinued, people on forums were vocal about the discontinuation. But ultimately, you don’t discontinue a cigar unless the numbers tell you to and like so many times in the comments of cigar blogs and forums—the people complaining online weren’t enough to drive sales.
And so when Thompson Cigar Co. announced the 601 Natural was back as a private label for the Tampa-based retailer, I thought of the 601 Black. The cigar is actually based on, at least according to the folks at Pantone,1 the exact opposite of the 601 Black—the 601 White. In 2011, EO Brands—the original owner of the 601 brand—introduced the 601 White (Natural) as a replacement for the 601 Black.
I’m not sure how long the 601 White was actively offered because a year after its introduction, EO Brands was dissolved and Erik Espinosa, one of the two original partners in EO, moved the 601 brand from the García family’s My Father Cigars S.A. to Espinosa’s own La Zona Cigar Factory.
This version is said to be a different blend from the original 601 White, which itself was a different blend from the 601 Black. Regardless, things seem pretty familiar: an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper over a Nicaraguan binder and Nicaraguan fillers with the same 601 White band as before, at least to my eye.
Thompson sells the cigar in 15-count boxes across three sizes: Robusto (5 x 50), Toro (6 x 50) and Churchill (7 x 50).
- Cigar Reviewed: 601 White Label Toro (2016)
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: La Zona Cigar Factory
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Length: 6 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 50
- Vitola: Toro
- MSRP: $4.80 (Boxes of 15, $72)
- Release Date: July 1, 2016
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
I think this is the third consecutive review where I’ve found myself reviewing a cigar where I mention blue bands, albeit they are more teal in this instance. I like the subtle hints in the band and it contrasts well against the extremely uniform brown mustard color of the wrapper and the sea of white surrounding the rest of the cigar band. It smells like a typical Ecuadorian Connecticut-wrapped cigar: hay, nuts, some mild acidic leather and sweetness. The cold draw is quite different with chocolate liqueur, some nuttiness and a familiar acidity. Of note, one sample—the one photographed—explodes upon cutting, though the other two are fine.
Things start off with a mixture of toastiness and breads with a touch of spice on the end, though the flavors exit my palate very quick. While there isn’t much pepper on first puff, pretty early on it becomes a fixture on the finish. As for the flavors upfront, it’s still got the bread characteristic and fortunately the flavors are starting to lengthen themselves out after starting very quick. In addition, there’s some saltiness, a mild honey pecan praline and some creamy coffee. If I push the 601, the pepper takes a much larger role, but it seems to do very well with lengthier breaks in between puffs. The flavor is medium, body is medium-full and strength is very mild.
The pepper is reduced from where it was in the first third, something that is hard to pinpoint exactly given there’s also an increased in creaminess that certainly masks the pepper’s own change. In addition to the creaminess, the 601 White provides some dry pasta, a variety of woods and some acidity. Through the nose I get some mild raspberry and the finish tastes like my mouth just consumed three Ritz crackers. While the bread and salty characteristic is great, it does leave my mouth a bit drier. One cigar has issues with the wrapper splitting, but the other two 601s give me no construction faults worth mentioning. Strength is still mild, body is still medium-full and flavor is medium-plus.
While the 601 White Label Toro sees an increase in earthiness in the final third, it’s not the normal muddled flavor that earthiness provides. Rather, there’s a detailed flavor with a mixture of toastiness, dry leaves, hay and a hint of barnyard. Through the nose, there’s a more generic damp earth, saltiness and some bell peppers. The pepper picks up a bit, but it’s solely restricted to the back of the throat and relatively limited to the finish. In addition, the finish adds some nuttiness along with some creaminess. Rather surprisingly, there are sporadic puffs with a lot of nicotine, but otherwise the 601 White remains relatively mild.
- Davidoff is the most synonymous brand with the term “white label,” but the company doesn’t formally use it in any of its marketing.
- Outside of those random puffs in the final third which deliver a hefty dose of nicotine, the strength is mild.
- I’m not entirely sure why one cigar decided to unravel upon cutting it. All the cigars were stored the same, cut with the same cutter and smoked in consecutive days. That being said, I got through the damaged cigar—no matter how ugly it ended up looking—without too much trouble, other than having to cover a hole towards the head with my finger during the final third.
- As for the other two cigars, I did a somewhat precautionary touch-up around the final third to help with smoke production and an even burn, but I imagine I probably could have gotten through it without a relight, albeit, probably with less satisfactory results.
- Of all the “new” or “modern” Connecticuts, the Oliva Connecticut Reserve remains the most under appreciated in my opinion.
- I was never terribly enthralled with the 601 Black. It was a good cigar, but certainly not a go-to of mine at any point.
- There’s a case to be made that EO Brands at one point had one of the most underrated portfolios. Mi Barrio and Murcielago were two fantastic cigars that never seemed to get the attention of 601 and Cubao.
- On a similar note, I’ve been really impressed with some of the new products coming out of Espinosa’s La Zona Cigar Factory of late. Laranja remains a fantastic cigar two years later, Probable Cause was a pleasant surprise and the Espinosa Especial is a solid cigar.
- For those wondering what the meaning behind 601 is, I’ve always been told there wasn’t one.
- As you can see, I had some issues with the wrapper on one cigar. This is something that happens probably once per month at halfwheel, although this is now twice in less than two weeks.
As Patrick Lagreid stated in his review when it happened to him, our reviews are text and visual documentations of our experiences with the cigar. Obviously, if I drop the cigar on the ground, I’m not going to use that cigar for scoring, photography or tasting notes; but if the cigar develops issues on its own, it’s fair game and it should be.For most reviews, I don’t have a DSLR camera next to me. I randomly decide which cigars get photographed based off of my schedule, the availability of the camera/lens at the office and I just photograph what happens. Sometimes that means the cracks get photographed, other times, they don’t—in which case I mention them.
Our goal with reviews is to call it like we see it, each and every time. We go through an immense amount of work to make sure every cigar is treated the same which means sometimes there are three photographs to document the issue, sometimes there are not. I’m not going to make a decision to photograph or not photograph a specific sample because of what takes place.
For those wondering, more often than not, we do hear from manufacturers when we photograph a cigar that has visual issues.
- Cigars for this review were provided to halfwheel by Thompson Cigar Co.
- Espinosa Premium Cigars advertises on halfwheel.
- My recommendation is certainly to smoke slow and I found the cigar best at around two hours start to finish.
- If you’d like to purchase the 2016 version of the 601 White, it’s sold exclusively through Thompson Cigar Co.
Connecticut wrappers are not what I gravitate to, and yet, this sub-$5 Thompson exclusive is one of the better cigars I’ve smoked in the last couple months. Reinventing Connecticut or not, this is a very good cigar at an even better price. It’s an extremely methodical flavor profile that doesn’t have the most predictable of progressions, but in the end, I really enjoyed it start to finish. As for the inevitable question of whether this is better than the 601 Black? It certainly is for me.