Like he’s done in recent years, Craig Cunningham of Esteban Carreras approached the 2019 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show with a game plan: release one new line and don’t say anything about it prior to the doors opening.

For the new Unforgiven line, Cunningham got into the world of barrel aging, specifically both the tobacco and the finished cigars. In putting the new cigar together, he acquired and shaved down a number of barrels that previously held Flor de Cana 18, a Nicaraguan rum, saying that by the time he finished prepping them, the majority—but not all—of the rum aroma and flavor is gone, though not completely. However, what he really wanted was the age of the barrels and the spirits within them, feeling it would give the cigars the effects he desired. He also noted that it’s one of the most robust, full-flavored cigars he had released.

In addition, it is also offered it the company’s first 70 ring gauge, one of the five vitolas that Cunningham selected for the Unforgiven line:

  • Esteban Carreras Unforgiven Boolit (4 3/4 x 46) — $5.50 (Box of 32, $176)
  • Esteban Carreras Unforgiven Toro Grande (6 x 52) — $9.20 (Box of 24, $220.80)
  • Esteban Carreras Unforgiven Sesenta (6 x 60) — $10.20 (Box of 24, $244.80)
  • Esteban Carreras Unforgiven Wrecking Ball (6 x 70) — $10.20 (Box of 24, $244.80)
  • Esteban Carreras Unforgiven President’s Own (6 x 46) — $7.50 (Box of 24, $180)

As for the blend, on paper it would lend credence to Cunningham’s claim that it’s one of the most robust, full-flavored cigars he has released to date, with an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper covering a Nicaraguan binder and filler.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Esteban Carreras Unforgiven Toro Grande
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Tabacalera Carreras
  • Wrapper: Ecuador (Sumatra)
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Toro Grande
  • MSRP: $9.20 (Box of 24, $220.80)
  • Release Date: July 2019
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

The Esteban Carreras Unforgiven Toro Grande comes pretty dressed up with a primary band, secondary band, cedar sleeve and black ribbon foot band, meaning that only a small bit of the cigar is visible. It takes a bit of work to get the cigar ready for smoking—more on that in the notes below—but once the cedar sleeve is removed, a uniformly dark brown wrapper is revealed, very smooth to the touch with an almost waxy texture on the fingers. The cigar has some give in spots, but visually it appears rolled well, with the occasional cap leaving something to be desired. There is a surprisingly light aroma from the foot, bright like a freshly cut apple though without quite the same smell, but it’s close. Beyond that, I get a bit of milk chocolate milkshake, but nothing that would suggest this is a full-bodied, robust cigar. The cold draw is pretty spot on in terms of airflow, while the flavor is neutral if almost non-existent at times. I get a bit of cocoa powder but it is very subdued, along with a return of the light apple from the aroma.

The Esteban Carreras Unforgiven Toro Grande opens up shockingly nondescript; having smoked my share of pepper bombs in recent years, I’m wondering if my taste buds have gone to sleep on me for some reason given how light the flavor is out of the gate. By the one-inch mark, there’s a bit of earthiness and some dry woods notes starting to emerge, the latter of which I find my taste buds latching onto given the barrel aging. There is definitely a taste of vintage, dry wood coming through, and the result is that my palate gets drier with each puff.

There’s a part of me that feels like I’m smoking the cigar in anticipation of some big development of flavor and strength, yet it’s not to be found at the start of the second third. In the first sample of the Esteban Carreras Unforgiven Toro Grande, I don’t get much in the way of appreciable pepper until the midway point, and even then it’s pretty familiar in terms of intensity, flavor and aroma. It’s something that carries over into the other two samples, with the third offering a bit more flavor but it’s still a fairly restrained profile. The dryness of the cigar continues into the final puffs of this section, with the barrel wood still fairly dominant in the profile and still drying out my mouth with each puff. The draw, smoke production and burn have all been good and problem-free. 

The Esteban Carreras Unforgiven Toro Grande begins its final third still pushing the barrel wood flavor with pepper contributing about a third of the profile’s makeup. There is now a more concerted push to develop the profile, meaning there’s more dry, occasionally rocky earthiness in the profile as well as black coffee, though they all have to compete with the still prevailing barrel taste. I get my first hints of sweetness out of the cigar right around where the bands would be, though it is hardly enough to change the profile’s direction. The cigar finishes up with some lingering pepper and rocky earth on the palate which provides a lasting tingle on the tongue and helps it finish on a much more engaging and developed note than how it started, yet I still find myself putting the nub in the ashtray wondering if I missed what this cigar had to offer. I never felt much in the way of flavors or a profile that would be described as full bodied and bold, at least not until the very end. The technical performance in each of the samples was very good with no demerits in that category.

Final Notes

  • Somehow, this is just the second Esteban Carreras release to be reviewed on halfwheel, joining the Chupacabra Hellcat Toro Grande.
  • Removing the cedar sleeve is a bit more involved than you might think, based largely on how tightly everything is attached. It was nearly impossible to slide off on one sample, which meant taking the secondary and foot bands off separately, and then the sleeve, which I had to tear as it wouldn’t slide off easily. I bring this up because you might be inclined to try and muscle it off, which would result in damaging the wrapper.
  • I can’t say I picked up much from the cigar in the way of nicotine strength.
  • The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time was one hour and 30 minutes on average.
  • Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar Co. and JR Cigar carry the Esteban Carreras Unforgiven Toro Grande.

Update — After the Unforgiven line was released, the company changed the name to Unforsaken after a request from another manufacturer that had previously used the name. As part of the agreement, Esteban Carreras continued to ship boxes with the Unforgiven name on them until supply was depleted. In August 2020, the company began shipping the cigar under the Unforsaken name.

86 Overall Score

Expectations can be a dangerous thing, something I found to be the case with the Esteban Carreras Unforgiven Toro Grande. Billed as one of the most robust, full-flavored cigars in the Esteban Carreras portfolio, the cigar fell well short of what I was expecting in that regard. It does have a good flavor profile dominated by the barrel wood aspect that seemed to get overlooked in the selling points of the cigar, with decent amounts of earth and pepper in the second half giving it good complexity. It's a profile that is perfectly enjoyable on its own, and one that if enjoyed without expectation, might just surprise with what it offers.

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.