When Ventura Cigar Company announced the release of the Pura Sangre Edición 2012 in April 2013, it was heralded as being “the end of the beginning.” A somewhat confusing slogan to say the least, but the cigar was a bold step for the brand that had just been launched approximately a year before as a way for Kretek, a California-based company that had acquired the Philips & King name some ten years prior, to make a splash in the premium cigar market through the release of a limited edition cigar.
Kretek’s best known product, at least outside of the Philips & King line, is its line of little clove cigars called Djarum. In fact, the name Kretek comes from the Indonesian word for a clove cigarette, which in turn comes from the crackling sound made by burning cloves.
Philips & King is a huge company that primarily dealt with convenience stores–supplying cigars as well as almost anything else you can imagine finding in a convenience store. When I visited their booth at the 2013 Tobacco Plus Expo, it was literally like walking into your neighborhood c-store, minus the checkout counter.
Ventura Cigar Company was launched after Kretek’s president and chief executive officer, Dr. Mark Cassar, wanted to make a move into the premium cigar market. Cassar’s family had a long relationship with Nestor Plasencia the well-known grower and factory owner, and it was on a visit that he asked to try a cigar that Plasencia had in his shirt pocket. That cigar became what is known as Pura Sangre, or pure blood.
The name is a nod to the fact that Pura Sangre is a Nicaraguan puro made by Plasencia in Nicaragua. Along with the Estillo Cubano line, also made by Plasencia but at his Honduran factory, it was part of the initial launch of Ventura Cigar Company.
The two lines garnered a bit of attention, but it was the limited edition Pura Sangre Edición 2012 where Ventura Cigar Company seemed to go all in on the line. A slightly tweaked blend was marked by an added leaf of ligero to give the cigar an added kick, while a year of aging was said to help develop “extraordinary body and consistency.” The packaging was stepped up as well, with 20 and 60-count boxes released, both featuring bold, eye-catching graphics that drew from the cigar’s legacy.
Included in every box of the Pura Sangre Edición 2012 is a note that explains a bit of the history of the cigar and the place it comes from:
At the beginning of time, Teotihuacan was bare land and the mountains were only stone. Then Akna, the daughter of the gods gave birth to the hero twins, Hunaphu and Xblanqe, brought down the waters and gave life to the earth.
They created the corn and brought forth tobacco, and this is the Pura Sangre—the pure blood—that flows through us all today. Throughout time, sacred tobacco was reserved for holy rituals, smoked in pipes and great si’kars as they were called a thousand years ago.
The cigar you hold in your hand, Pura Sangre Limited Edición 2012, comes from the fertile fields of modern day Nicaragua. Pura Sangre is the personal favorite of blend of Nestor Plasencia. With his permission and only for this limited edition, we added an extra leaf of Ligero and then crate-aged the run for 365 days, giving the cigar extraordinary body and consistency.
Only 12,000 cigars were made, and you are one of the very few to have a chance to appreciate Edición 2012.
Today you taste history. Today you taste legend. Today you taste greatness.
As has become ever increasingly the case with limited edition cigars such as this, a single vitola was used, a 5 1/2 x 56 Double Robusto. Kevin Newman, the brand manager for Pura Sangre, said that the decision to go with this size was the result of several factors, including cost, how the cigar smoked in this size versus others, and how unique the size is.
Since the release of the Pura Sangre Edición 2012, Ventura Cigar Company has added two new lines, Project 805 and PSyKo SEVEN, which have received the bulk of the company’s attention in 2013.
As such, Pura Sangre has somewhat fallen into the background, but it won’t be for very long, as Ventura Cigar Co. has begun to inform retailers and consumers that the Pura Sangre line will be undergoing a significant makeover in the near future, with the current iteration of the line slated to sunset at the end of 2014.
It will reemerge with “a whole new look and feel” in spring 2015, adopting many of the attributes of the Edición line. The new Pura Sangre will be crate-aged for a minimum of 300 days, and will be limited to a single release per year, with total production yet to be determined but under 100,000 cigars spread across a handful of vitolas. It will also borrow from the blend of the Edición line for its reemergence.
Cigar Reviewed: Pura Sangre Edición 2012
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Factory: Plasencia Cigars S.A.
Size: 5 1/2 Inches
Ring Gauge: 56
Vitola: Double Robusto
MSRP: $12.50 (Boxes of 60, $750.00; Boxes of 20, $250.00)
Date Released: April 2013
Number of Cigars Released: 100 Boxes of 60 Cigars and 300 Boxes of 20 Cigars (12,000 Total Cigars)
Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
The wrapper on the Pura Sangre Edición 2012 is a dark and earthy brown that while not overly oily still has a sheen to it, along with some small veins and a bit of color variance near those veins. The cigar is firm to the touch and doesn’t offer much—if any—give when squeezed. While it might be nitpicky, the fact that the two bands aren’t aligned is disappointing, especially given that this is a special and limited release. What isn’t nitpicky is the sizable patch job that was done to one of the wrappers—pictured below—right underneath the band. There was also a smaller patch job done on the back of the cigar, just above the footband, leading to even more inspection of the cigar and turning up small specks of gold on the leaf near the band that look like they came off the bands for this project. The pre-light aroma didn’t offer much in the way of spice or pepper but rather an enjoyable and familiar note of grains much like Chex mix. The cold draw was fairly open and a faint, tangy Worchestershire note that I had to really focus on to even begin to identify.
As I light the cigar, even before I take a puff, I’m immersed in a rich, flavorful smoke that leaps off the foot as it is toasted. It’s packed with notes of steak marinating in a tangy sauce along with some black pepper and damp earth. The first retrohale is just a bit challenging to process, offering enough pepper and spice to light up the olfactory nerves. While the smoke is plentiful in the first inch or so, the flavors of the Pura Sangre Edición 2012 settle down fairly quickly, dialing back the intensity a bit mainly through the subtraction of the upfront pepper and earth notes. The burn line starts to go a bit awry before the cigar has burned an inch, revealing a tight and layered ash that begins to flower and chip ever so slightly. An earthy chalk notes begins to emerge and provides the first real shift in flavor, followed closely by notes of sharp orange zest, which provides a citrus component to the equation.
While the Pura Sangre Edición 2012 settles into a steady flavor that carries it from first to second third, the aroma is what ends up calling me back to the cigar to give it a few more puffs. Subtle notes of chalk and citrus move to a place that is hard to put words to; the necessity of words leads me to call it a plywood note but with the colorings of distilled floral notes and a fair bit of medium strength pepper that neither overpowers nor hides in the background. A sudden shift to a drier and meatier note starts the transition to the final third and gives the pepper a bit different context to operate within, becoming punchier without the softer background to cushion its blow. The burn line continues to be a bit uneven, ranging from just a bit off to racing up one side of the cigar, while the ash has become much flakier in the second half. Smoke production remains more than sufficient, frequently crossing into levels of abundance.
An uneven burn line is the most noticeable part of the transition to the final third, though it doesn’t seem to be affecting the flavor much as it starts to regain some of its depth once the ash is knocked off and the slower burning side is touched up. In the final two inches, the flavors begin a steady distillation process and become increasingly intense while the strength takes corresponding steps up the strength meter. The pepper note has almost lost its ability to be a distinct component of the flavor and now blends in with the meat and soil notes to create a fairly intense flavor, much more so than has been offered to this point. After being corrected, the burn line goes back to sprinting up one side of the cigar and takes the cigar to the point where it needs to be put down.
- The more I thought about it, I’m not sure that a patch job on a cigar is a total deal breaker for me. I understand that tobacco has to be used, and I’d question just how much—if at all—I would even notice it if I was smoking a cigar blindfolded. But from a visual aspect, it does say something.
- If you didn’t know that Pura Sangre was part of Ventura Cigar Co., you might wonder what the red V on the back of the cigar was about. The connection isn’t often explicitly stated, unless of course you’re at a Ventura event where the cigar is featured.
- Each cigar smoked had some sort of issue with the wrapper, whether it was a patch or chips along the seam lines.
- When I say that this cigar is firm, it’s almost an understatement; some are downright hard.
- The amount of detail in the artwork was very impressive; from box to band the execution was solid.
- Other than a few crooked burn lines, the technical performance on all three cigars smoked was almost flawless.
- If you’re not familiar with the story of Andullo tobacco, which is used in Ventura Cigar Company’s Project 805 line, it’s worth reading this blog post about it.
- As mentioned above, Ventura Cigar Company has been mainly focusing on the Project 805 and PSyKo SEVEN lines in 2013 and for what seems to be the majority of 2014. A new 4 x 40 vitola was announced for he Project 805 line recently, while the PSyKo SEVEN line will be adding a corona vitola in June.
- Final smoking time was two hours and 10 minutes.
- The cigars for this review were provided by Ventura Cigar Co.
When I first smoked the Pura Sangre line during its launch in 2012, I wasn't all that impressed by it, as I recall it being decent if somewhat forgettable. However, that is not the case with the Pura Sangre Edición 2012. After each one I smoked, I kept trying to figure out what was lacking from it, and the answer kept being not very much. The strength is just right for my palate, medium-plus without obsessive amounts of spice and a surprising amount of complexity, balance and aroma, three of the hallmarks of any outstanding cigar. Short of the cosmetic issues with the wrapper and a bit of an uneven burn line, there isn't much to complain about with this cigar. If you can find these, by all means try them, and mark your calendars for spring 2015 when the Pura Sangre line returns after a dormant 2014.