Alec Bradley Fine & Rare BR12-13 (2017)

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It was six years ago when Alec Bradley announced an ambitious new limited edition cigar that would be known by the name Fine & Rare.

While limited editions have become so common that they have lost much of their prestige and allure, Alec Bradley offered a slightly different proposition; not only would this cigar be limited in production, it would use ten different tobaccos in its blend, something the company believed to be completely unique.

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The first of the Fine & Rare series, known by its factory code of HJ10-i, would appear on Nov. 11, 2011, a 6 x 52 toro with just 1,111 boxes of 10 cigars produced, a total of 11,110 sticks. Their arrival was quite interesting, as the cigars wore unique bands that not only indicated the original rolling date, release date, weekly quantity produced, and factory name, but also bore the signatures of Alan Rubin, president of Alec Bradley; Ralph Montero, the company’s vp; Alex Miguel Artica, the supervisor of the Fine & Rare project; Antonia Baquedano Aluarenga, the roller assigned to the project; and Juan Miguel Rodriguez, the cigars’ buncher. But what really caught people’s attention—and in particular their eyes and noses—was that the cigars weren’t tightly packed into their boxes, often resulting in damaged wrappers, while the boxes themselves had a strong smell of lacquer.

Since that initial release, Fine & Rare has become an annual staple in the Alec Bradley portfolio, generally released in a common toro vitola but occasionally getting both bigger and longer, or taking on a torpedo vitola such as in the BR12-13. In 2013, the company broke its relatively new trend of releasing a new Fine & Rare and returned to the initial version, reissuing the HJ10-I, something it also did in 2016. For the 2017 edition, the company went back to the 2012 release, the BR12-13, which is a Honduran-dominant blend, with some Nicaraguan tobacco added into the filler. It comes in a single 6 x 52 torpedo vitola, with 2,000 boxes of 10 cigars produced and single sticks priced at $17.75.

With the reissue of the BR12-13, the Fine & Rare line now stands at seven releases:

  • Cigar Reviewed: Alec Bradley Fine & Rare BR12-13 (2017)
  • Country of Origin: Honduras
  • Factory: Fábrica de Tabacos Raíces Cubanas S. de R.L.
  • Wrapper: Honduras
  • Binder: Honduras
  • Filler: Honduras and Nicaragua
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Torpedo
  • MSRP: $17.75 (Boxes of 10, $177.50)
  • Release Date: October 5, 2017
  • Number of Cigars Released: 2,000 Boxes of 10 Cigars (20,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

While it’s called a torpedo, the Alec Bradley Fine & Rare BR12-13 reminds me a bit of the 109 vitola due to its rounded and blunt-tipped head. It’s a fairly firm cigar, covered in a mottled and somewhat veiny wrapper leaf with the familiar band that bears five signatures, some dates, and assorted other information. Pre-light aroma off the foot that is surprisingly yet not overwhelmingly sweet, as subtle fruits are the first thing that come to mind, namely red grapes, though the more I go looking for the more I find a heavier aroma marked by earth, granola, and a bit of leather. The cold draw ranges quite a bit in how challenging the airflow is, and while I get a bit of earth and chocolate, both are very subdued.

The second release of the Fine & Rare BR12-13 puts out a good amount of smoke on the first puffs, with a somewhat peppery profile that quickly gets more full bodied and adds in some red chili pepper flakes to deliver some spice and heat, with leather appearing in various quantities. There’s a good amount of white pepper on the retrohales, and the combination has the cigar at a solid medium-body, if not a tick fuller. While it might not be immediately recognizable, the Honduran-dominant blend shows its terroir fairly quickly, and fans of that profile should be immediately pleased by it. Once the ash drops, the cigar takes on a quite rich profile of earth, a bit of leather and nuts, with pepper tying all of them together. While the flavor isn’t creamy, the smoke is abundantly smooth and creamy in texture, coating the palate and leaving just a bit of peppery tingle behind. The combustion, draw, and construction have all been quite good if not excellent through the first third.

The start of the Fine & Rare BR12-13’s second third carries over the rich and complex flavor from the end of the first third, with the smoke holding onto its creamy texture and reminding me just how much of an impact the texture of the smoke can have on the overall experience. The pepper has retreated a bit, now a balanced accent note instead of a dominant flavor driver. The complexity holds through much of this section, and only begins to change at the very end of the second third, as the cigar picks up a bit of metallic bite and chalk, sharpening the profile to a point of being too much for my palate, and certainly a far cry from where it had previously been. Even with the flavor change, the cigar burns beautifully, with no touch-ups needed and plenty of smoke production.

The Fine & Rare BR12-13 picks up a bit more pepper at the start of its final third; the profile is a solid medium-plus, almost dense thanks to its earthy core. I don’t find many changes in the cigar’s profile or strength levels, though it feels near its stronger marks at this point with a good bit of dry earth and pepper at the forefront. In some spots it’s almost dusty, reminding me a bit of riding around the farms outside of Danlí in the back of a pickup truck, but it’s a flavor I don’t find to be off-putting whatsoever. The cigar hits full stride with just over two inches left, as the draw is smooth and near effortless, the smoke is full with creaminess, earth and pepper, with the retrohales offering plenty of black pepper to kick it up to a full overall profile. It’s only because of some increasing heat and harshness from my fervent puffing that I’m forced to slow down, as each puff seems to get increasingly better than the last. It’s a plateau that ends far too quickly as the pepper—both black table pepper and red chili flakes—enter in the final inch to disrupt the balance and shift the cigar into a firecracker of nose and tongue tingling smoke.

Final Notes

  • I mentioned that this cigar reminds me quite a bit of the 109 vitola, which is probably best known for being the size of the Edmundo Dantes Conde 109 Edición Regional México from 2007.
  • You may be wondering about the codes that are part of the cigar’s name; they are said to be the codes used in the factory to identify the cigars. During the blending process, cigars often get codes so as to cloak their identity, or to indicate specific attributes known only to those involved with their creation. While I like the idea somewhat, none of them roll off the tongue, and I’d be hard pressed to say I ever refer to any of the Fine & Rare releases by their codenames. Adding the year on seems to suffice in every situation.
  • In 2014, Alec Bradley released the Fine & Rare Blender’s Edition, which in addition to the finished cigars, came with puritos of each of the 10 tobaccos used so you could taste each component on its own. While I didn’t pick one of these up, I loved the idea.
  • Much like I have found favor with the terroir of Mexican San Andrés tobacco, good Honduran tobacco has steadily inched its way of my preference list, and when it is truly well-grown, cured, and fermented, I find it as enjoyable as any region’s offerings. Fortunately the Fine & Rare BR12-13 offers a number of high points that show off what kind of tobacco the country can produce.
  • One thing about this cigar’s flavor notes: I can’t recall a moment where I wanted to describe it as having sweetness outside of the pre-light aroma. While I wouldn’t call it a huge absence or glaring omission, I wouldn’t have minded there being a bit of sweetness mixed in to balance out the dry earth.
  • If I had to pick one major issue with the cigar, it’s that the lushness and complexity of flavors weren’t as consistent from sample to sample as I’d have hoped. That said, no cigar had a particular low or high point, as each stayed in its proverbial flavor lane from start to finish.
  • All of the notes we had about this year’s release listed it as a 6 x 54 torpedo, though when the cigar made it to me it was listed as a 6 x 52, and a quick slide through my ring gauge chart confirmed it to be the smaller of the sizes. Even the Alec Bradley website has it listed as a 6 x 54, right above a picture of the cigar with the band indicating it’s a 52.
  • While this cigar is medium to full bodied and flavored nearly from start to finish, I didn’t find that it packed a lot of nicotine or left me feeling cigar drunk at the end, which I appreciate.
  • Brian Burt visited the Alec Bradley booth at the 2017 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, where the Fine & Rare was shown off alongside two new releases, Black Market Estelí and Prensado Lost Art, and the return of the Nica Puro Diamond Rough Cut.
  • Final smoking time was two hours and five minutes on average.
  • The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Site sponsor Atlantic Cigar, Smoke Inn, and STOGIES World Class Cigars carry the Alec Bradley Fine & Rare BR12-13 (2017).
90 Overall Score

While I don't think the Fine & Rare series ever reached the cult-like level of desirability that it may have been intended to, there are points where the blend leaves me thinking nothing less than this is a really good cigar. I will be the first to admit that a Honduran-dominant blend might not be up everyone's alley, as the earth notes can tend to be a bit dry and dusty, but when the cigar hits its most complex notes, it really shines. Construction on each of the three cigars was excellent to boot There is a bit of variance in the richness of flavors from sample to sample, as one cigar would have me considering running out to buy a box, while the next garnered a more subdued reaction, which is probably my biggest gripe with the 2017 installment of Fine & Rare. If the price fits your budget and you can find these, I'd recommend picking up at least two and enjoying what I found to be a compelling and engaging cigar.

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Patrick Lagreid
About the author

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.
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