Review: Viaje Summerfest 2011 Churchill
Along with the Holiday Blend, the Summerfest is part of Viaje’s Holiday Series and is an annual limited release of 6,000 cigars that will see its third installment come out in the coming weeks. The Summerfest made its debut in 2010 to a mixed chorus with a bit of fuss made about the shaggy foot, although others were less impressed with the blend itself.
Andre Farkas addressed the foot on a few occasions, including to CigarExplorer’s Dan Reeve:
Last year the brushed foot on Summerfest was very difficult to smoke due to its length. This year the cigar has been designed to smoke. It gives you the ability to taste the filler alone before getting into the binder and wrapper. Again, unlike Holiday Blends unfinished foot representing the cold of Winter, the brush represents shedding clothing for Summer.
The original Summerfest was intended to be released in a single size, a 6 1/2 x 50 Torpedo, although the factory made Robustos in the blend as well, which Farkas deiced to release. With the brushed foot, the 2010 version was around 8 inches long making it only slightly longer than the 2011 Churchill, although the former looks quite a bit longer because of the differences in the feet.
To date there have been four versions of Summerfest:
- Viaje Summerfest 2010 Robusto — 5 x 50 — 50 Boxes of 30 Cigars (1,500 Total Cigars)
- Viaje Summerfest 2010 Torpedo — 6 1/2 x 50 — 150 Boxes of 30 Cigars (4,500 Total Cigars)
- Viaje Summerfest 2011 Churchill — 7 x 50 — 100 Boxes of 30 Cigars (3,000 Total Cigars)
- Viaje Summerfest 2011 Torpedo — 5 1/4 x 52 — 100 Boxes of 30 Cigars (3,000 Total Cigars)
(All dimensions don’t include measurement of brushed feet.)
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s light this stick up.
- Name: Viaje Summerfest 2011 Churchill
- Country of Origin: Honduras
- Factory: Fábrica de Tabacos Raíces Cubanas S. de R.L. (Raíces Cubanas)
- Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo 99 (Café Rosado)
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Size: 7 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 50
- Vitola: Churchill
- MSRP: $9.35 (Boxes of 30, $280.50)
- Release Date: June 22, 2011
- Number of Cigars Released: 100 Boxes of 30 Cigars (3,000 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 3
The cold draw of the newer Summerfest has a cereal note with a decent bit of sweetness – think Frosted Flakes with the sugar dialed down a touch. Draw isn’t overly loose, but the air moves through the shaggy foot easily. The pre-light aroma at the foot is light but complex, with some fresh mint, some cereal and just the faintest touch of baking spices, while the wrapper has a note of heavy paper or cardboard.
The first third has the most intriguing part of the Summerfest in it, the Brushed Foot. As soon as its lit, an herb garden full of aroma comes alive with a blend of mint, basil, thyme and others leading the way. What appears to be the binder leaf on the first cigar is a bit more resistant to burning, at least compared to the filler. While I can’t see the exact location of the burn line, it certainly looks like it’s into the Churchill with some binder left untouched. The flavor change that happens when the wrapper starts burning is subtle but I certainly picked up on it, as it adds just a touch of spice and just a bit of tartness to the palate.
And then the second third. Flavorless. In addition, one of the three cigars I smoked saw the body thin out. A few notes of chalk come out, but it’s becoming more and more apparent that the wrapper is really hampering the taste of this Summerfest.
The flavor picks up a bit in the final third as the some light pepper comes out in the nose, but it’s an otherwise unremarkable finish to a fairly unremarkable cigar. A touch of bitterness came out in the third cigar smoked; otherwise there just wasn’t much worth mentioning.
- Watching the smoke escape through the bunched leaves of the shaggy foot is a sight. At times is seems to slow to the point where you can see it weaving its way through the folds.
- The anticipation of the flavor change when the wrapper hits occupied my mind in each of the cigars I smoked. Unlike a fully wrapped cigar where you’re not sure where a flavor change might occur, there is a clear line where it will happen, or at least should happen with the Summerfest.
- I’m still puzzled by Andre Farkas’ statement that the Brushed Foot on the 2010 release was “more for show” and that “this year it’s meant to be smoked.”
- The airyness of the smoke in the second third was almost confusing. I saw the smoke coming off the cigars but it was like it disappeared on the palate. It does pick up going into the final third, but it was about as close to a smokeless cigar as I can remember.
- The draw on the third cigar was much, much firmer than on the first two cigars smoked, so much so that it was hard to really enjoy the cigar, let alone pull out any distinct flavors.
- Since I went to the trouble of digging out a 2010 Summerfest, I figured I’d light it up for a quick comparison. Physically it’s a totally different beast, much longer than the 2011 Churchill. Flavor-wise, it’s much better – not a full bodied cigar by any means, but fuller than the 2011 edition. Notes of pretzel dough drive the cigar, with a much more engaging profile. I’d smoke a 2010 any day – while I’m not officially scoring it, I’d unofficially give it a score in the high 70s or low 80s.
- Final smoking time was just shy of two hours.
The Bottom Line: I don’t know what to make of the Viaje Summerfest 2011 – though I’m tempted to just dismiss it by saying that this might just be a cigar that Andre Farkas whiffed on. He’s put out so many good cigars, as well as a number of downright great cigars, that something had to be off when he did this one. Nothing about the 2011 edition was exciting after the first third – the smoke was too airy, the taste too bland and the experience too forgettable. While I’ll still try the Summerfest 2012, I can’t say this did anything to get me excited about it.
Final Score: 67