Erik Espinosa has been a part of the cigar world for more than 16 years, at different times owning his own brick and mortar store, other as an independent broker and more recently, partnering up with Eddie Ortega in EO Brands. Last year, Espinosa and Ortega decided to dissolve EO Brands, and Espinosa started his own company named Espinosa Premium Cigars, which are produced in his brand new factory in Estelí, Nicaragua named La Zona.
We broke news of the details of Erik Espionsa and Eddie Ortega parting ways and dissolving their partnership in EO Brands last year:
Erik Espinosa and Eddie Ortega are back in control of the 601, Cubao, Murcielago and more—but EO Brands is officially done. Two weeks after Rocky Patel informed retailers the company would no longer be handling distribution of the EO marks, United Tobacco/EO Brands has been bought back by the duo, divided and dissolved.
Espinosa and Ortega, both of whom have announced new companies in 2012, bought back the 50% stake Rocky Patel took in the company two years ago and then late last week, sat down to divide the brands. The two started EO Brands in 2003 and through distribution and manufacturing agreements have been tied to Miami Cigar & Company, Rocky Patel and My Father Cigars.
As part of the agreement, Espinosa will get the rights to the 601, Murcielago and Mi Barrio brands—the latter of which has spent the last few years as an exclusive to Famous Smoke Shop.
Ortega will get Cubao, as well REO and Vibe—two dormant marks introduced in 2005. Last year, changes in Cubao’s distribution were announced. Ortega admitted for the last few months the brand’s status has been largely in flux, but told halfwheel he wasn’t concerned.
“I have a ton of retailers asking me about Cubao.”
He said he would evaluate the brand and its distribution, but reiterated that the brand would be available for those who wanted it through his new Ortega Cigar Company. He also hinted that REO and Vibe might be back at some later date. Previously, Ortega indicated he expects nothing new form his company at IPCPR.
Espinosa told halfwheel he is now in complete control of the 601, Murcielago and Mi Barrio marks and they will be sold through his new Espinosa Premium Cigars, which is expecting to ship its first orders nationally in the coming weeks.
In separate calls, both Espinosa and Ortega confirmed that EO Brands as a mark is retired.
The first new blends to come out of the new La Zona factory was the Espinosa Habano, a Nicaraguan puro that debuted in two vitolas, but is now offered in five different sizes. Last month, Espinosa announced that they would be giving away a new Corona vitola in both the Espinosa Habano and Maduro lines to attendees of the 2013 Chattanooga Tweet-Up in a special duel coffin, and it is the first time the Habano blend has been released in a ring gauge under 50.
We had the news in a post back in June of this year:
Espinosa Premium Cigars will bringing a pair of limited edition to this year’s Chattanooga Tweet-Up, something that has become a popular trend for the event. In a single coffin, the company will release a 5 x 42 Corona of the company’s Espinosa Habano and Espinosa Maduro lines. It is the first time that the company has released the size for both lines and will be limiting the total amount of coffins to 300. Each ticketed attendee of the August event will receive a two-pack for free.
Last year, Miami Cigar & Co. and Emilio teamed up for a coffin of box-pressed Churchills and the former is once again bringing a special cigar to test at the annual event. Espinosa Premium Cigars told halfwheel the company will treat the Tweet-Up as a test for the Corona, although as of now there are no formal plans for the cigar to be released for full production.
The Espinosa Habano was the first line to debut from Erik Espinosa’s La Zona factory. This past April, the company announced the addition of the Espinosa Maduro.
The Chattanooga Tweet-Up is a joint project between David Jones of Tiki Bar Online and Burns Tobacconist in Chattanooga, Tenn. This year’s event runs from Aug. 1-3.
With the addition of the Corona, there are now five different vitolas in the Espinosa Habano line. They are:
- Espinosa Habano Corona (5 x 42)
- Espinosa Habano Robusto (5 x 52)
- Espinosa Habano Belicoso (6 1/8 x 52)
- Espinosa Habano Toro (6 x 52)
- Espinosa Habano Trabuco (6 x 60)
The coffins that the two Coronas come packaged in look like this:
Cigar Reviewed: Espinosa Habano Corona
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Factory: La Zona
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano
Size: 5 Inches
Ring Gauge: 42
Date Released: August 1, 2013
Number of Cigars Released: 300 Coffins of 1 Cigars (300 Total Cigars)
Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 2
The Espinosa Habano Corona looks to be very well rolled with a pale brown wrapper that has some obvious tooth to it. The triple cap seems perfectly applied and the resistance when squeezed is ideal with not too much or too little give. Aroma emanating off of the wrapper is slight hay, chocolate, oak and earth.
The cigar starts out the first third with strong notes of oak, leather, sweet chocolate and coffee beans. There is a excellent vanilla sweetness that is interspersed with some black pepper on the retrohale that only gets stronger as the first third burns down. The draw is effortless so far and the burn is razor sharp, while the smoke production is well above average. Strength-wise, the Espinosa Habano Corona ends the first third at a mild medium.
The Espinosa Habano Corona begins the second third with a noticeably reduced amount of sweetness, although it seemed to be replaced by an interesting floral note that comes and goes on the retrohale. Interspersed with those notes were flavors of creamy oak, leather and coffee, along with slightly less black pepper compared to the first third. The burn and draw are still excellent, and the smoke production remains quite high. The strength of the La Zona product bumps up to just below the medium mark by the end of the second third.
Into the final third of the Espinosa Corona, the profile shifts to become even more woody, while the floral note from the second third proves to be fleeting, replaced by the vanilla sweetness from the first third. Other flavors of earth, creamy nuts, espresso and chocolate remain in the background, while the amount of black pepper on the retrohale raises ever so slightly. There is no change in the construction with both the burn and draw impressing me still, while the strength reaches a solid medium by the end of the cigar.
- As mentioned above, the Espinosa Habano and Maduro Coronas is being tested at the Chattanooga Tweet-up. I wouldn’t be shocked if we see them soon.
- Officially, these Coronas were not sold as a separate item, but were given away to the first 300 people who registered for the Chattanooga Tweet-Up and Cigar Festival as part of their registration fee.
- I have smoked a couple of the Espinosa Habanos in the larger ring gauges while in Nicaragua, and to me, there is no comparison between them and the smaller size. While the larger vitolas are good enough, the flavors in the Corona are quite noticeably more distinct and complex to me.
- Do not smoke this cigar too fast, or it will punish you. I took a few puffs too fast on my first sample, and learned real quick when I was rewarded with strong, bitter notes immediately. After I slowed down, all was great again.
- The smoke production was huge, a surprisingly large amount for such a small vitola.
- Construction-wise, both the burn and draw were effortless for both samples that I smoked, and the ash was extremely well-formed. Just a joy to smoke in that regard.
- The Chattanooga Tweet-Up and Cigar Festival was started in 2011and according to their website, “is all about the online cigar community gathering. Whether they find a home on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, a Blog, or some other form of online social media, there is no mistaking that cigar smokers are thriving online.”
- Espinosa Premium Cigars took third place for Top New Brands in our 2012 Consensus Awards.
- I hate to say it, but the logo on the band seems a bit cartoony to me, perhaps because of the color scheme that is being used. Having said that, I really love the coffin that these two Coronas come in.
- Earlier this year, I visited La Zona in Nicaragua, and smoked a few cigars with Erik Espinosa on the patio on the second floor overlooking the streets of Estelí. La Zona is a smaller factory, but it was extremely clean and seemed very efficiently run.
- The burn time was also surprisingly slow, and it took me an average of one hour and five minutes to finish the two samples I smoked.
- Although you can’t get the Espinosa Habano Corona anywhere other that the Tweet-Up at the moment, site sponsors Atlantic Cigar (800.887.7877), Famous Smoke Shop(1.800.564.2486), Tobacco Grove (763.494.6688), Cigar King (800.669.7167) and Superior Cigars (800.733.3397) all carry the other Espinosa Habano vitolas.
I don't mind saying, I was a bit surprised by how much I enjoyed this cigar. The construction is excellent, the smoke production is copious and the vitola has long a been a favorite of mine. Complexity of the flavors in the profile of the Corona was fairly high, and was consistent for the two samples I smoked. Overall, the Espinosa Habano Corona is a well-blended, very well-constructed cigar, a joy to smoke and hopefully a cigar we see in regular production in the future.