While store exclusive releases are nothing new in the cigar industry, store exclusive releases in another country are quite a bit more rare.
Such is the case with the Alec Bradley Black Market Bootlegger, a 5 1/4 x 54 box-pressed robusto gordo—a first for the line—that is being sold exclusively at Village Cigar Co.’s three locations in Burlington, Oakville and Guelph in Ontario, Canada. As the name suggests, the Bootlegger is based on Alec Bradley’s popular Black Market blend, incorporating a Nicaraguan wrapper, a Sumatra binder and filler tobaccos sourced from Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.
Jerry Filice and Ryan Baker, founding partners of Village Cigar Co., came up with the idea of an exclusive, co-branded cigar early last year and discussed it with Joe and Justin Bondi of Alec Bradley Canada.
“Our intention was to take the Illicit and Esteli projects Alec Bradley had done in the States to a new level where we would not only give our version its own name, but also adorn the cigar and boxes with a new set of graphics, alter the blend slightly, and, for the first time ever, box press this iconic cigar,” said Filice.
The cigars were rolled at Plasencia’s Tabacos de Oriente factory in Honduras and features a band that is similar to the original Black Market foot band, with added logos and details that pay homage to the “Bootlegger” theme, which is based on the legend of a bootlegger named Pine L. Cork who is best known for what is referred to as “The Lost Crates.”
Village Cigar Co. tells the story:
A hero to many, yet known to so few, Pine L. Cork defined what it is to be properly defiant in the face of extreme bureaucracy. Through a story passed from generation to generation, the legend of “The Lost Crates” was born…
It was a full-lit night, well almost full. See it was the fog, the kind of fog that you can feel with your lungs. It was August 1929, and we were speeding toward our last delivery through the unmarked logging trails we’d come to know better than the freckles on our own wives’ faces. We could barely see past the edge of the hood as my brother Pete lit his last cigar of the night, when suddenly we hit something that almost tore the axles clean off of her. We came to a complete halt, me and Pete thrown almost a hundred feet from the truck. I could barely see but for the ember of my cigar when we picked ourselves up to see what could have delivered such an impact. As we approached the backside we realized the rear doors had been blown wide open and it was then I heard Pete “GULP” and I turned to see what was wrong: the entire truck had been emptied, save for a few broken crates and loose jars.
To this day, those lost crates haven’t been recovered. Nothing but whispers of them being spotted up north, in Canada, but no concrete evidence has come. Honestly I don’t expect to ever hear of their whereabouts. It’s one of those things. When you have something so precious and sought after, those who know, keep it that way. As they should.
With this Exclusive Box Pressed Black Market BOOTLEGGER you are indulging in something unlike any other. Something that stares adversity in the eye, and doesn’t flinch!”
The Alec Bradley Black Market Bootlegger is limited to 5,000 cigars packaged in 100-count crates, with each cigar retailing for CAD $15, or approximately USD $11.66.
- Cigar Reviewed: Alec Bradley Black Market Bootlegger
- Country of Origin: Honduras
- Factory: Tabacos de Oriente
- Wrapper: Nicaragua
- Binder: Sumatra
- Filler: Honduras, Panama and Nicaragua
- Length: 5 1/4 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 54
- Vitola: Robusto Gordo
- MSRP: CAD $15 (Boxes of 100, CAD $1,500)
- Release Date: Dec. 2, 2017
- Number of Cigars Released: 500 Boxes of 100 Cigars (5,000 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
Even with the box-press, the Alec Bradley Black Market Bootlegger feels thick in my hand and features a dark, reddish espresso brown wrapper that is smooth to the touch with minimal veins visible. There is very little oil present that I can see and the cigar is slightly hard when squeezed. Aroma from the wrapper and foot is a combination of generic wood, leather, earth, manure and plum sweetness, while the cold draw brings flavors of a huge creamy oak, leather, salted peanuts, straw, bread and generic sweetness.
Starting off, the Black Market Bootlegger features a very obvious and dominant creamy oak note interspersed with lesser flavors of toast, leather, hay, fresh brewed coffee, cocoa nibs and earth. A nice bready graham cracker sweetness is noticeable on the retrohale where it combines with some black pepper that is also present, while there is a significant amount of spice on the finish that seems to be getting more aggressive as the first third burns down. The draw is a bit loose after a v-cut—albeit well within the normal range—and the burn is razor sharp so far. Smoke production is massive off of the foot and shows no signs of letting up anytime soon, while the overall strength starts off fairly mild but ends up close to the medium mark by the time the first third comes to a close.
The graham cracker sweetness begins to become more dominant in the second third of the Alec Bradley Black Market Bootlegger, combining nicely with the creamy oak note and spice, both of which are still very obvious in the profile. Other flavors of leather, baker’s chocolate, black pepper, espresso beans, hay and gritty earth flit in and out, along with a slight floral note on finish that is gone almost as soon as I register it, although it is strong enough to throw off the balance of the profile a bit. Construction-wise, the draw continues to be a bit loose for my tastes and I am forced to correct the burn once just before the halfway point to prevent it from getting out of control. The overall strength easily hits the medium mark by the end of the second third, although it seems to be content to stay at that level for the time being.
Although it is never a major part of the profile, the floral note on the finish of the Black Market continues to pop up now and again throughout the final third. The dominant flavors continue to be a very distinct creamy oak note combined with spice on the finish, while other notes of fresh ground coffee beans, earth, barnyard, cocoa nibs, dried tea leaves, nuts and a touch of lemongrass are obvious at different points. There is still a nice amount of graham cracker sweetness brought over from the first two thirds that is present on the retrohale, while the black pepper on the finish has all but disappeared. The burn evens up nicely again, while the draw continues to be a bit loose and the smoke production is thick enough to almost be characterized as overwhelming. Finally, the overall strength does increase noticeably compared to the second third, pushing just past the medium mark before settling down for good, and I put the nub down with less than an inch to go.
- The packaging on this release is visually quite impressive: a massive 100-count crate made of dark wood adorned with a graphic that tells the story of “The Lost Crates” on the inside lid.
- This is not the first Alec Bradley Black Market to be sent exclusively to Canada, as the 4 1/4 x 60 Black Market Chunk was shipped to the country in 2015.
- There are actually two different bands on this particular release: a black and white smaller band is under the main band that takes up a little more than half of the real estate of the cigar. You have to remove the main band to actually smoke more than a third of the cigar, so the secondary band is in place to have something on the cigar after you take it off, ala La Sirena cigars.
- Speaking of the bands, I removed the main one from the bottom where it originally was and put it closer to the top of the cigar in order to make the photographs slightly more interesting.
- This thing puts out smoke like a house on fire—even when sitting in an ashtray—so be warned if you are smoking inside. Having said that, it is the perfect cigar to blow smoke rings with.
- The cigars smoked for this review were sent to halfwheel by Village Cigar Co.
- The final smoking time for all three samples averaged one hour and 52 minutes.
- If you would like to purchase any of the cigars, the only place to get them is at Village Cigar Co.’s three locations located in Ontario, Canada.
I have smoked a number of the Black Market releases over the years and have found them to be an enjoyable—albeit fairly linear—blend. While the Bootlegger shares some similarities in both profile and flavors compared to what I remember of the original blend, there is a noticeable increase in spice on the finish, as well as more sweetness on the retrohale. Although I did have to touch up two of the samples a couple of times, construction overall was quite good and if you like cigar that put out a lot of smoke, there are very few releases that can beat it in that regard. In the end, I found the Alec Bradley Black Market Bootlegger to be very nice cigar in just about every aspect, although people in the U.S. may not find it different enough compared to the more readily available Black Market releases to warrant the larger price and having to have it shipped from our friends to the north.