Sindicato Cigars was billed as “a milestone happening in the cigar industry” and a “cigar evolution” that was being led by some of the country’s top cigar minds who have listened to consumers day in and day out and were now embarking on a mission to create top quality cigar brands based on their feedback. It was first announced under a veil of secrecy, with an SEC filing on October 25, 2012, then a CigarBrief.com article that shed a bit more light, and then an official press release that came out in early March and confirmed that Jim Colucci, the former Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Altadis USA had been hired at the President and CEO of this new venture.
Then on July 11, Sindicato announced what they would be showing off at the IPCPR Convention and Trade Show, a trio of cigars called Hex, Casa Bella, and Affinity.
Heading into the 2013 IPCPR Convention and Trade Show, Sindicato was one of my top stories to watch because of its new model and the uncertain response it would get from manufacturers and other retailers. Indeed, there was some reaction: manufacturers wondered if their cigars would be the ones pushed out to make room for Sindicato, especially among the significant group of retailers that Colucci calls the company’s shareholders. Certain retailers, especially those in areas where a member of the Sindicato group has a store, seemed reluctant to bring in the cigars because they saw it as putting money in their competitor’s pocket.
Sindicato certainly seemed to have a lot going for it at the show with a solid network of retailers that would carry the cigars, an experienced cigar industry executive at the helm and a good bit of buzz that would at least have people talking about them. But as with all new product releases at the show, the final verdict rests in the cigars themselves.
The Sindicato Affinity line is launching in six vitolas:
Affinity Corona (5 1/2 x 46) – $5.95 (Boxes of 21, $124.95)
Affinity Robusto (5 x 52) – $6.50 (Boxes of 21, $136.50)
Affinity Toro (6 x 54) – $6.95 (Boxes of 21, $145.95)
Affinity Gran Toro (7 x 54) – $7.30 (Boxes of 21, $153.30)
Affinity Belicoso (6 1/4 x 52) – $7.30 (Boxes of 21, $153.30)
Affinity Churchill (7 x 56) – $7.30 (Boxes of 21, $153.30)
Made at Omar Ortez’s factory in Estelí, Nicaragua, Affinity uses an Ecuadoran Connecticut wrapper over a Nicaraguan binder and filler from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Sindicato’s marketing materials promise a “rich, flavorful and complex taste profile that will satisfy the smoker seeking a medium bodied Connecticut wrapped cigar.”
Cigar Reviewed: Affinity Corona
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Factory: Casa de Ortez Estelí
Wrapper: Ecuadoran Connecticut
Filler: Nicaragua, Dominican Republic
Size: 5 1/2 Inches
Ring Gauge: 46
MSRP: $5.95 (Boxes of 21, $124.95)
Date Released: October 1, 2013*
Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
*Jim Colucci of Sindicato anticipates the Affinity will ship during either the last week of September or first week of October.
The Sindicato Affinity has the look of a mild cigar: a smooth golden brown Connecticut wrapper with just a few small veins is certainly attractive, and the slight box-press offers a bit of width to the Corona vitola. It’s not overfilled, showing a slight bit of uniform give, and despite its relatively small size, has a decent amount of presence in the hand. The pre-light aroma is very light and reminds me of dry, microwaved popcorn and a bit paper, while the cold draw is easy and very mild, showing little if any flavor. What does pop out is a bit of flour in a very subtle manner. The wrapper, like many Connecticuts, is on the thin side, and I worry about it chipping and splitting, particularly in hot, dry areas, or with drastic swings in humidity.
The Affinity takes its time developing any real flavors or strength, as it’s almost three-quarters of an inch before I feel compelled to write anything specific down. That’s not to say there isn’t some flavor in the first few puffs, it’s just not terribly distinctive and the bit of pepper that is there seems largely on its own with no supporting cast. The ash breaks off about an inch in, with a bit of white pepper starting to show through in the nose. There is also a touch of creaminess to the smoke, reminiscent of a small cup of half-and-half on the table at breakfast.
Moving into the second third of the Sindicato Affinity Corona, I’m surprised just how mild and subtle the flavors are, and at some points it’s only the nose that is getting any real output from the cigar. At the midpoint, notes of pretzel dough are prevalent in the smoke, soon to be replaced by bread crust and a touch of chalk. The smoke is plentiful and fairly thick, while the burn line stays clean and sharp. There is a slight uptick in strength heading into the final third, though it is still a fairly mild cigar.
The final third is where the Sindicato Affinity starts to shine, with the bread notes becoming fuller, the white pepper picking up just a bit, and the body continuing to build to what I would call a medium-minus level, though as always that can be a subjective comment. There is little to no nicotine kick and the flavors are fairly clean on the palate, save for the final inch or so when the heat meshes them onto the tongue a bit more securely.
- The big controversy with Sindicato at the trade show was that many manufacturers were upset that a group of bigger retailers were going to be behind a cigar brand, and that it might be a bit unfair. The following brands have ownership in or other financial relationships with retail stores:
- 7-20-4 (Twins Smoke Shop)
- Altadis (JR Cigars)
- Arturo Fuente & Ashton (Holt’s)
- Berger & Argenti (Cuban Crafters)
- Davidoff (Davidoff)
- General Cigar Co. (Cigars International)
- Illusione (Fumare)
- Pinar Del Rio (Don Leoncio)
- Rocky Patel (BURN by Rocky Patel)
- United Cigar Retailers/Atabey/Byron (Two Guys Smoke Shop)
- If Sindicato is going to stick with the Affinity’s current bands, they need to be moved down at least half an inch. The flourished A was hitting my lip as I smoked it, and had it not been for the photos, I would have taken it off before lighting the cigar.
- Sindicato debuted two other lines at IPCPR, the Hex and the Casa Bella.
- The Casa Bella will be the first to ship, with the week of August 19 as the currently scheduled date. Hex is slated to ship in the first week of September, with Affinity scheduled for the end of September or early October.
- All retailers, both Sindicato members and not, will receive the cigars at the same time.
- The current production projection for Affinity is 250,000-300,000 cigars in the first year.
- As one of our commenters pointed out, some people might have an issue with how the Sindicato logo looks.
- Sindicato’s CEO, Jim Colluci also told us that the first true Sindicato branded cigar will be coming out in January 2014 and will be limited to 100 retailers for the first six months. They will then look at adding an additional 50 retailers. It will be a box-pressed Nicaraguan puro with an unfinished foot and will debut in at least three sizes, with a Maduro version in the works as well.
- The cigars for this review were provided by Sindicato Cigars at the 2013 IPCPR Convention and Trade Show.
- Final smoking time is about one hour and 35 minutes.
I was a bit let down by the medium-bodied billing of the Affinity, as it seemed to fall much more into the mild, breakfast cigar category. The notes of cream, dough and bread seem to call out for a light or medium roast cup of coffee or latte to be paired with it on a warm sunny morning as you sit out on the patio reading the paper and getting ready for your day. It's not the most flavorful cigar you're going to find, but for a well-constructed, smooth, mild cigar to start your day out, it's a pretty good option.