Null

Every once in a while, I’ll run into a term that gets brought up where I have to clarify if we’re talking about the lower case version or the upper case version. It was the same experience I had when I first heard about Culture Blend No.3, a cigar from The Cigar Culture.

Of course, many people talk about the cigar culture, which includes the enjoyment of cigars, herfs, pairings with spirits and other beverages, and all those social aspects that come with cigars. But then there is The Cigar Culture, an online group with a presence on Facebook and Instagram that captures a number of those things and more through the platform’s visual nature.

Null

To quote from The Cigar Culture’s Facebook page:

The Cigar Culture movement wants to bring to the consumer the best criteria about the tobacco and cigar industry, we are committed to give the highest level of education. We welcome the new generation of cigars lovers and specially we value the hard work of our past generations, which leave us their greatest passion and challenges, but above all we inherit something very valuable, THE CIGAR CULTURE.

It is an account co-founded by Adrian Acosta, who has made stops at the Nat Sherman Townhouse in New York City as well as AJ Fernandez in his cigar industry career.

As for the blend, it uses an Ecuadorian habano 2000 wrapper, a Dominican olor binder grown in 2014 in Villa Gonzales, along with five fillers that the company is disclosing both the origin of as well as the crop year:

  • Dominican criollo 98, La Canela 2015
  • Dominican piloto cubano, Mao 2015
  • Dominican San Vicente, Peñuela 2015
  • Dominican San Vicente mejorado, 2014
  • Nicaraguan criollo 98, Condega 2015

“This project is dedicated to my family for the sacrifices made which left me with a good foundation and respect for tobacco,” said Adrian Acosta of The Cigar Culture in a press release. “(This is) A cigar that was imagined and created to be enjoyed by family and friends around the world, that is a harmonious blend of tobacco selected and prepared by artisanal masters.”

Acosta went onto say that it took over 60 iterations to get to the final blend. The cigar is made at Tabacalera El Puente in the Dominican Republic, a factory that also makes cigars for Davtian Premium Cigars as well for its own brands.

Culture Blend No.3 is a limited edition, with 2,500 bundles of 10 cigars produced for a total of 25,000 cigars, each priced at $9.85 per cigar. When they are gone, Acosta said it would be at least five years to see the blend return due to the aging that goes into the tobaccos.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Culture Blend No.3
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: Tabacalera El Puente
  • Wrapper: Ecuador (Habano 2000)
  • Binder: Dominican Republic (Villa Gonzales Olor)
  • Filler: Dominican Republic (La Canela Criollo 98, Mao Piloto Cubano, San Vicente Peñuela, San Vicente Mejorado) & Nicaragua (Condega Criollo 98)
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 50
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $9.85 (Bundle of 10, $98.50)
  • Release Date: Sept. 21, 2020
  • Number of Cigars Released: 2,500 Bundles of 10 Cigars (25,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

The light colors and pastels of the trim of the band are quite eye-catching and give the Culture Blend No.3 a rather festive look, something furthered by the large script text in its shiny gold. The wrapper leaf is well tanned, though its visual appeal comes with a fair number of bumps in the cylinder along with some veins. While it might not be cigar beauty pageant-worthy, it’s not enough to turn me off to it or question its quality, especially considering the wrapper is an Ecuadorian habano 2000 leaf.  There’s also just a slight bit of oil to be found, mainly via touch as it doesn’t have much sheen. As for construction, each cigar is rolled to a firm density with no apparent soft spots or other issues. One sample’s head could be tightened up, but unless it causes issues I’m not overly picky on that aspect. The foot of the cigar has aromas of toffee-coated popcorn, barn wood, with a bit of black pepper behind that. The cold draw has a bit of resistance and flavors more of a caramel corn flavor, not terribly pronounced or vibrant, but discernible. There’s a faint amount of white pepper and dry wood to be found as well, with each cold draw leaving a delayed tingle on the tongue.

The Culture Blend No.3 starts off with a combination of creaminess, white bread or toast depending on the sample, as well as very subtle lumber and a bit of white pepper. It’s generally a very smooth and easy to approach profile; it almost seems to be asking for a latte or cappuccino with which to pair it as a morning cigar. While I might not have picked up on the habano wrapper, the olor flavor from the binder is almost unmistakable but the overall flavor of Dominican terroir is clear by the one-inch mark. It’s a fairly quick build to a medium-plus flavor, and while it’s not overpowering, it can hit the palate a bit awkwardly at times. While the flavor doesn’t have bite to it, it has some flavors that don’t hit my taste buds as smoothly as I might prefer. By the one-inch mark there is a bit of black coffee joining the mix, or more accurately the smell of freshly brewed coffee grounds and a touch of related acidity. There’s also a slight bit of salinity that appears at times, something that has me thinking of the loamy flavors of Dominican tobacco. Creaminess seems to be slowly fading away, replaced by a bit of pepper and a slight shift in the woodiness, which has taken on a slightly damp lumber note. While I have been taking my usual number of retrohales, outside of some white pepper they seem a bit more subdued and not contributing as much to the experience, though they are otherwise fine. Flavor is medium-plus for the better part of this section, body is closer to medium, and strength is medium but can be misleading given the effects of the flavor. Construction is generally good with no issues other than a slightly uneven burn line.

The second third of Culture Blend No.3 keeps the flavor relatively mild, though the density of the smoke and some building black pepper keep things full and engaging on the palate. It’s still in medium territory, but compared to some other cigars I have smoked lately it is definitely a reprieve for the palate. The departure of the creaminess is almost complete just a few puffs into the second third, leaving a smoke with a bit less body to it, still a good amount of the olor, and not quite as much of the Ecuadorian habano 2000 as I might have expected. There is some woodiness and pepper, but given the seven tobaccos in the blend I am wondering if it isn’t getting overshadowed just a bit. Right around the midpoint, an interesting sweetness comes along that captures my attention, almost a smoky maple syrup, though it’s nowhere near as thick of a flavor as the real thing. After the burn line gets across the midway point, the flavor gets smokier with a bit more black pepper, which helps give the cigar a bit more robustness, though it’s not as earthy as other cigars that earn that descriptor. Things are a bit more flavorful than they were in the first third, either medium-plus to medium-full depending on the puff and sample. Body is consistently medium-plus, and strength is closer to medium. Construction is generally good, though it seems the cigar isn’t fond of being at rest for too long, but otherwise, combustion, smoke production, draw and the burn line are all very good.

The final third of the Culture Blend No.3 sees the flavor move away ever so slightly from the robustness of the pepper and into a drier lumber note, still with some pepper in the mix that tingles the tip of the tongue. There is some creaminess returning to the profile, though I find more variance in the progression after the midway point compared to before it. When that creaminess returns, the profile is quite good, both balanced and fairly complex as well as stimulating to the senses. Most importantly, it seems that all of the components are working in harmony, which given the number of fillers is impressive. As noted above, the retrohales seem to be more complementary rather than distinctive and while that continues into the final third, the net results are a bit more significant. White pepper picks up a bit in the homestretch, and on the occasional puff the creaminess stands out and lends more complexity and balance to the overall profile. Flavor is more medium intensity with occasional ventures into medium-plus range, while the body is in the same range and strength is just under medium. Construction is very good and problem-free, assuming a fairly regular puffing rate.

Final Notes

  • The wrapper on the first sample began splitting just ahead of the band coming off and then continued to develop that split up towards the head of the cigar.
  • One of the three samples tasted fine but seemed to leave me with a slight bit of irritation in the upper chest, which is interesting on its own, let alone in the context of aged tobacco.
  • While I was hesitant to put this in the flavor notes, there are some puffs of the Culture Blend No.3 that are reminiscent of some Davidoff White Label blends, particularly those with a predominantly Dominican blend I didn’t get any of the muskiness or mushroom notes that are often found with those, but it wasn’t too far off at times.
  • This appears to be the first cigar from Tabacalera El Puente that has been reviewed on halfwheel.
  • I didn’t get much in the way of nicotine strength from the Culture Blend No.3, but one cigar definitely left me with a less than ideal physical reaction. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, other than feeling a bit of tightness between the throat and upper chest. Neither of the other two samples even came close to giving me this feeling.
  • The cigars for this review were provided by The Cigar Culture.
  • Final smoking time was one hour and 50 minutes on average.
88 Overall Score

Not knowing a thing about what kind of cigar The Cigar Culture or Tabacalera El Puente would be offering beyond the blend components, I found myself quite impressed by the result. The three samples aren’t shy with flavors that might be considered more typically Dominican, which may or may not be appealing depending on one’s preferences but generally worked for my palate. The Ecuadorian habano 2000 wrapper’s contribution is probably the biggest variable to things, and as someone who generally likes the varietal, I’d probably welcome a bit more defined role. In two of the three cigars, I’d say the overall profile works quite well, while one sample left me trying to resolve a physical feeling that didn’t seem like nicotine but still left my upper chest feeling a bit funky. Construction was very good, and as long as regular puffs are taken, it should be a problem-free experience. The Culture Blend No.3 has me impressed both by The Cigar Culture team and Tabacalera El Puente, and I’m certainly interested to see what else they might be able to deliver in the future.

Null

Patrick Lagreid

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.