In the spring of 2014, Crux Cigars began what looked like it would be a quick rise to prominence in the cigar industry. The company began announcing its debut lines in February, then announced that the formal launch would happen on April 1. The company and its cigars had been in the works for some two years, the creation of Jeff Haugen and Joel Rogers, the co-owners of Tobacco Grove in Maple Grove, Minn.
Before the company shipped a single cigar, it had five lines announced: Skeeterz, Ninfamaniac, Bull & Bear, Passport and Classic. Not only had they not yet shipped a cigar, they hadn’t made an appearance on the cigar industry’s big stage yet, the IPCPR Convention & Trade Show. That would come in July, and it would be there where Crux would unveil yet another cigar, Sports.
The ultra compact Crux Sports measures 4 5/8 x 35, a petit corona made for shorter smoking times that uses a Nicaraguan habano wrapper from the Jalapa region, an Indonesian binder and Nicaraguan filler, with production handled by Plasencia Cigars S.A. in Estelí, Nicaragua.
Inspiration for the cigar came from the grandfather of Crux brand manager Mark Daum, who was said to have “loved competition and had a reputation as a tough guy,” according to the company’s website. Daum told halfwheel that his grandfather was a frugal, hardworking and tough man, the result of growing up in poverty. He added that his grandfather was likely toughened up as well by the fact that he wasn’t a tall man, standing 5’6”, and while his nickname was M.J., his given name was Menno.
While the story behind the Crux Sports says that M.J. would create his own cigars from remnants of those found in storm drains, Daub admits taking a bit of creative license with this.
“Grandad loved his tobacco; I remember him with a cigar nub in his mouth that always looked as if he chewed it as much as he smoked it,” he said. While he doesn’t have proof that any of those cigars actually came from storm drains, Daum said he wouldn’t be surprised if at one time or another that was the case.
Even with its small size, the Crux Sports isn’t a cigarillo or mixed filler cigar, and it promises to be a medium-bodied smoke that “packs a wallop” and is designed for the “active tough guy.”
- Cigar Reviewed: Crux Sports
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: Plasencia Cigars S.A.
- Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano
- Binder: Indonesia
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Length: 4 5/8 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 35
- Vitola: Petit Corona
- MSRP: $3.75 (Boxes of 30, $112.50)
- Release Date: Jan. 8, 2016
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
In the four samples of the Crux Sports I received—one of which is being saved for a redux review—there were two distinct shades on the wrapper. One of which is a slightly darker than medium brown with a bit of mottling that takes it darker in spots, while the other had a deep red hue to it, resulting in a colorado appearance. Both are attractive in their own right, but the difference between the two was a bit striking. It’s a cleanly rolled cigar with no major issues other than the occasional seam that isn’t perfectly flat, with clean caps on all the samples. There is a decent bit of give to the cigar, not particularly soft or underfilled, but just a bit spongey to the touch. From the foot there is a note of sweet sausage that barely stands out against an otherwise familiar tobacco smell, while the cold draw is nearly as vague, presenting the subtle sweetness as a cross between peppermint and bubblegum that rides closely on top of the familiar tobacco taste.
For a fairly flat pre-light experience, the Crux Sports shows a good bit of vibrancy on the first puffs that is driven by a fairly straightforward taste of tobacco but that has a bit of woodiness and just a touch of pepper and baking spices to help give it some complexity. The black pepper component starts increasingly quickly and makes the first retrohale a strong one, with a bit of heat thrown in as well. The burn line gets off to a fairly even start before getting a bit wavy and revealing a nearly white ash that does a good job holding on to the cigar. With about half of an inch burned, the flavor brightens and lightens up a bit, as there’s a bit of that peppermint flavor starting to come in, though very restrained in its flavor. I’m also getting a bit more of a mineral and chalk combination though with absolutely no aggressiveness or harshness, but rather something that’s perceptible through the texture of the smoke. Retrohales are more forward with white pepper that shows the more aggressive side of the Crux Sports blend. The first bit of ash detaches at about two-thirds of an inch in length and with its departure a bit more pepper is brought into the equation as the second third gets underway.
The term sneaky strong gets used a fair amount when talking about cigars or spirits, and in this case it’s applicable in the way the pepper quickly starts to build before really coming to life at the start of the second third. Both the palate and the nose feel the increase, and while it stops short of being a full-bodied cigar, it’s a very enjoyable change that delivers clean and punchy pepper. While it stays prominent for most of this section, the pepper isn’t a lasting change for the Sports, as begins a retreat by the midway point with the chalk and dry peppermint starting to return, giving the cigar a lighter body and an increasingly mouth-drying feel. Retrohales are still where most of the punch is found, though even that has backed off a bit as well. Heat is also beginning to become a bit more of a factor, particularly on consecutive draws where two or three puffs are taken. It’s a friendly reminder to slow down and let the cigar cool off a bit before getting that next puff of smoke. A bit of warm pretzel crust helps the cigar set its path for the final third; a rich, warm and slightly buttery note that creates a quick and tasty bridge.
I’m almost caught off guard by how quickly the final third begins; even for a short cigar the Crux Sports’ burn line seemed to race through the back half of the second third and into the final third. A bit of mellowing out of the flavor didn’t do much to call my attention to the cigar either, as the pepper subsides fairly quickly and what’s left is an enjoyable if slightly nondescript note of tobacco, a plain cake donut of flavor but one that has me routinely puffing on it. The final inch gets a bit of bitterness and sharpness from the heat, and if you want to get every puff out of the cigar, a draw poker is a requirement to keep the fingers and lips from getting too hot for comfort. The cigar continues to burn well and put out respectable amounts of smoke, never needing a touch-up or relight, and if the self-discipline is strong enough not to smoke too quickly, the final inch shows another very enjoyable complexity that keeps a bit of the pepper while offering notes of warm coffee, a bit more peppermint and an almost toffee-like sweetness in the aroma.
- With all due respect to Mark Daum, who designed the band and told halfwheel that the Sports’ graphics were inspired by the memory of his grandfather, the band leaves a bit to be desired for my liking.
- I’ve always been sort of ambivalent about Crux’s logo and design aesthetic, but the execution of the Sports name seems a bit unrefined in this execution. It’s a small, printed band with no texture to it, and the front logo isn’t visually crisp. In addition, there are three visual layers: the background is of four figures that appear to be in some sort of old-time sports jersey, while the second layer is a dark red interlocked C and S in an Old English-style font, which adds a lot of visual noise because of all its flourishes. On top of that is the sports word mark in white and again in that same font. This may look great on a big computer screen or in a printout, but compressing it down to a band that is only 5/8” wide costs it quite a bit of pop.
- This is one of those almost perfect sizes for what I refer to as a car gar, something to light up while you’re running errands or have a bit of a drive ahead of you.
- As with all small ring gauge cigars, I find that it’s imperative to establish a rhythm to your puffing rate that coincides with what works for you and what the cigar needs to keep from going out.
- Also, the rate of puffing really needs to be tempered in the second half, as the small ring gauge doesn’t work with a quick smoking style.
- There is a part of me that thinks I’m smoking a purito at a factory when puffing on the Crux Sports, as if I was trying a certain type of tobacco or a test blend. As such, there’s a side of me that wants to get through it a bit quicker and on to the next one.
- In the current Cuban cigar portfolio, there is a cigar under the Romeo y Julieta marca known as the Sports Largos, a 4 3/5 x 35 short panetela that is just a bit shorter and skinnier than the Crux Sports. It was released before 1960 and until 2002, was a machine-made, cellophane wrapped cigar. Now it is handmade and does not come in cellophane.
- Final smoking time was 55 minutes on average.
- The cigars for this review were provided by Crux Cigars.
With so many big cigars on the market today, smoking something as small as the Crux Sports seems almost—dare I say it—like a bit of a novelty. But don’t let the cigar’s diminutive size fool you, it does offer a good bit of punch and flavor. For those occasions when you want a cigar with some pop but don’t have a ton of time, the Crux Sports makes for a worthy option. If you’re anything like me, you might just finish one Crux Sports and find yourself quickly reaching for another.