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In February 2014, the cigar news, reviews and social forum website Cigar Federation announced that it would be releasing its first branded cigar, a creation coming out of Casa Fernández’s Miami factory called The Collective.

The cigar was created as a way to “pay homage to New Media and the online cigar community,” according to the press release detailing it’s particulars. It was released in a single vitola, a box-pressed 6 1/2 x 52 prensado size, one that has become increasingly common for single-vitola releases as a way to appeal to a wide array of consumers, as well as for being one of the easier sizes for a factory to produce. The cigar was blended by Kyle Hoover and Chris Kelly, both the founders of the site and two of the three people behind the creation of Ezra Zion Cigars. The third, Alan Fonseca, has since left the company.

Here’s what I said about Cigar Federation’s The Collective when I reviewed it in March 2014:

To say I was underwhelmed by the first two samples of The Collective I smoked would be a fair assessment, and had it not been for the final cigar delivering a much better draw and pronounced flavors, I don’t know if the score would have been what it is. The Collective earns favorable marks for the sweetness that was plentiful in one cigar but not as much in the other two, while the earth notes seemed to overstep their bounds at times and brought a touch too much roughness for my liking. It’s a cigar worth trying, though when held in comparison to some of the other projects that Ezra Zion has released, seems to fall a bit short.

Kelly, Hoover and Fonseca launched cigarfederation.com in October 2011 as a way to bring together news, reviews, forums and social networking in an effort “to create a multi-dimensional cigar themed site that featured the best parts of other sites that they enjoyed.”

he site gained a steady following, as did their cigar brand, eventually joining up with House of Emilio for distribution, and the trio needed someone to manage  the site’s day-to-day operations. For that, they found Logan Lawler and Rob Rasmussen, known for their weekly online show CigarChat.

Since the time when The Collective was released, Kelly and Hoover sold Cigar Federation to Lawler in July 2014, a move that freed them up to focus on Ezra Zion as well as their Blessed Leaf project. In addition, the site has released its second cigar, The Buckingham, which was made for them by Crowned Heads and the My Father Cigars S.A factory.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Cigar Federation The Collective
  • Country of Origin: USA
  • Factory: Casa Fernández Miami
  • Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés Café Claro
  • Binder: Nicaraguan Corojo & Nicaragauan Criollo
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Size: 6 1/4 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Box-pressed Prensado
  • MSRP: $10.99 (Boxes of 20, $219.80)
  • Release Date: Feb. 10, 2014
  • Number of Cigars Released: 250 Boxes of 20 Cigars (5,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked for Redux: 1

At first glance it would be easy to mistake The Collective for a box-pressed toro, but as noted above it’s just a bit longer and girthier, and as such gets dubbed a prensado vitola. The Mexican San Andrés leaf is a bit on the dry side with small veins on top of another network of colors, as upon closer inspection do I find not only a bit of tooth but several shades of brown on the wrapper. It’s a fairly firm cigar with no soft spots, and the roll is smooth and even, with the box press holding its shape after nearly a year in the humidor. When I take the foot band off, I see a bit of staining on its backside and there’s some of the goma left behind on the wrapper. From the foot of the cigar I get a light and syrupy cherry sweetness, while the wrapper itself is fairly neutral. The cold draw is on the firm side but not a struggle, offering a fruit-cup sweetness with hints of peach and apricot on top of dry wood with no appreciable pepper or spice.

While sweetness was the leading theme of The Collective before it was lit, it certainly doesn’t transfer over once the cigar is burning; instead it’s on the milder side of medium with light touches of pepper on top of dry wood and what I’m starting to sense is a bit of dry earth, though it’s not immediately apparent in the early goings. The ash is as dark of a gray as I remember it from my original review, some of the darkest ash I can recall seeing on any cigar, regardless of where the tobacco inside came from. The pepper steadily starts to pick up in the first inch and is the leading note in retrohales, while I’m also getting touches of cherry sweetness in the resting aroma, making for a distinct experience based on how the smoke hits my senses. The earth notes start to step forward as well just as the first clump of ash drops off, bringing out some of the standard San Andrés terroir flavors. I’m a bit surprised by slowly the cigar is burning; it certainly doesn’t seem over humidified, just that it’s choosing to take its sweet time progressing, and there haven’t been any burn issues to report to this point. In its second third and shy of the midpoint, a bit of cranberry juice sweetness starts to come out along with the associated tartness, an unexpected shake up in flavor that adds brightness to a flavor profile that was becoming increasingly earthy. Retrohales continue to be packed with a very sharp and aggressive pepper note that is a bit too much for my liking other than in small amounts.

Cigar Federation The Collective

Right around the midway point, a wonderfully rich, sweet and complex aroma wafts off the cigar, calling me back to it with smells of warm apricot backed by a bit of wood and soil. The pepper—at least in the nose—has relented just a bit, while there’s still a good amount for the palate, but it too feels a bit more restrained than it did in the first half. I can also feel the strength of The Collective starting to pick up past the midway point as the cigar starts to deliver a touch more nicotine than it had earlier, or than I recall it doing in my original review. Heading into the final third, I can feel the flavors starting to stabilize with a medium-strength earth note leading things and pepper more in the background; sweetness has also disappeared and the overall flavor profile is engaging if not terribly complex. It’s also in the final third where I begin to have my first issues with The Collective’s combustion, as it requires a couple of relights to keep things on track. The burn line and smoke production remain solid though. While the cigar has been fairly smooth and balanced up to the final two and a half inches, it’s here that I begin to get a fleeting bit of harshness as the pepper gets rough and there’s the makings of an awkward sourness striking the palate. With more than two hours invested in the cigar and not many signs that I’ll see a favorably flavor change, it’s time to call The Collective a wrap.

84 Overall Score

While I initially found Cigar Federation’s The Collective to be a bit underwhelming, I have to say it’s matured into a much better and more rounded profile in the 11 months it has been resting in the humidor, at least in the first two thirds. The construction on this particular cigar seemed to help immensely, as two of the three samples in the original review were noticeably loose, something which didn’t bode well for the cigar’s original score. The final third on this rested sample wasn’t a help to its new score and was a disappointment from what seemed to be getting setup by the earlier sections. Time has certainly done some interesting things to this cigar, and if you have some that you haven't smoked in a while, I'd highly suggest doing so sooner than later to see how it has changed since its release.

Original Score (March 2014)
85
Redux Score (February 2015)
84
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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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