Tell someone that the bat is returning, and they may think there’s another Batman movie in the works, but tell a cigar smoker who remembers a certain cigar released in the late 2000s and they may very well remember a popular line from Erik Espinosa and Eddie Ortega that came from the My Father Cigars S.A. factory under the watchful eye of Jose “Don Pepín” García.
Launched in 2009, the line was one of many that helped bring the United Tobacco/EO Brands portfolio to national prominence, along with 601, Mi Barrio, Cubao, REO and Vibe. In 2012 though, EO Brands began to unravel, as Ortega resigned as president in January, Espinosa launched his own line in March, Rocky Patel Premium Cigars ended its distribution of the portfolio in July and later that month the pair began splitting up the brands.
In October 2012, Espinosa told halfwheel that the Murcielago was moving in part to his La Zona factory, while some production would remain at Tabacalera Villa Cuba S.A. (TAVICUSA), the factory owned by Amilcar Perez Castro and Rocky Patel. While the line was still active, it certainly seemed to fade into the background as Espinosa built up his own portfolio of eponymously named cigars as well as grew the 601 La Bomba line and launched Laranja as well as the limited edition Warhead line.
Just as it seemed like the Murcielago line might fade away, in May 2015 Espinosa announced that the bat was back with a new look and a blend that had been reverse engineered with the assistance of Perez Castro to recreate the cigar’s original blend. Perez Castro had previously worked with the García family as the factory manager when EO Brands’ cigars were being produced by My Father Cigars S.A.
While the original Murcielago came in five sizes: Robusto (5 x 50), Toro (6 1/8 x 50), Churchill (7 48), Belicoso (5 1/2 x 52) and Toro Grande (6 1/2 x 54), the relaunched Murcielago is being released in three sizes, all box-pressed and all in 20-count boxes: Noir (5 x 52, $8.50), La Lune (6 1/2 x 54, $8.95) and Nocturne (5 1/2 x 56, $9.50).
The cigars debuted at the 2015 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show in July and began shipping shortly after.
- Cigar Reviewed: Murcielago Noir
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: La Zona Cigar Factory
- Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Size: 5 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 52
- Vitola: Robusto
- MSRP: $8.50 (Boxes of 20, $170)
- Release Date: July 2015
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 3
Fans of the original Murcielago brand will most certainly notice the rebranded band that is familiar yet updated and with a black and red color scheme that reminds me a bit of the Bacardi logo. The cigar itself gets a very hard press that turns it into a candy bar shape, with the shoulders and curve of the cap that much more pronounced. The cap is the next item of interest as each one has its imperfections, either not laying flat or having some sort of crease or indentation. It’s a shame because the Murcielago is an otherwise very good looking cigar with very few veins on the wrapper, and the texture is a bit unfamiliar; it doesn’t quiet have a velvet feel or any grit to it, yet there’s a tactical sensation that makes me think of parchment. The foot of the first cigar offers little in the way of pre-light aromas, while the second is dry and almost fractured in the way that small kindling is; it hits the nose in a number of directions without as much of a unifying cohesiveness. The third cigar is much sweeter, offering notes of cranberry and pepper and is the best of the bunch. The cold draw errs towards being a touch firm and doesn’t show much either on the first cigar, while the other two have a bit of coffee and pepper, and the third once again shows the most sweetness.
After an initial hit of sourness, subtle but flavorful notes of coffee and espresso begin to stand out in the first inch while a bit of pepper begins to emerge on an earthy base. The retrohale has a much more pronounced and blunt black pepper note, and it quickly becomes clear that getting the smoke through the nose will become imperative in getting the most out of the Murcielago. Once the first clump of ash drops off, I get my first taste of harshness from the black pepper as it goes after the back of the throat and tongue. The burn line through the first third has been a bit uneven but never overly problematic, while the ash is a bit on the flaky side and has a slight liver hue to it, similar to that of old newspaper, and holds on through the majority of the first third.
The pepper backs off just a bit at the start of the second third, and while the Murcielago is palatable I find myself struggling to pick out any particularly specific or outstanding flavors from the stew of earth, coffee and pepper. There’s a slight uptick in strength around the midpoint, with the pepper beginning to open up just a touch and becoming brighter and more distinct. The burn line begins to show that it won’t be perfectly even; it veers off course in some samples while on the first cigar the wrapper seemed to stop burning while the binder and filler kept going. Just as the final third is about to begin, the pepper moves up in prevalence and strength and offers just a touch of back of the throat harshness, while the ambient aroma is also fuller and punchier.
There’s a bit more variation from sample to sample in the final third than there is in the previous two thirds, and when it’s performing at its best, it’s by far the best of the three sections. The third sample, the one that showed the most sweetness before lighting the cigar up, brings that same cranberry sweetness in to give the cigar a great complexity thanks to the still present earth and pepper. A retrohale with about an inch and a half left reveals plenty of pepper and an almost hot smoke; which further ups the effect it has on the senses. There’s a touch of chalk on the finish in the final inches, and the flavor becomes a bit unhinged as notes start to veer off in their own direction as opposed to maintaining the cohesion they had a bit earlier, though it’s not a total loss as the cigar is finally put down with under an inch left.
- Noir is French for black.
- As of this review being published, the previous Murcielago is the one featured on the Espinosa Cigars website.
- On the first cigar, there was a spot at the end of the first third where the wrapper wouldn’t burn, but the rest of the cigar seems to be just fine, and it sort of lifted the wrapper up:
- Had the burn issues not been a consistent part of the second half, the Murcielago would have picked up a point or two.
- I can’t remember a cigar that showed as little on the pre-light aroma and cold draw as the Murcielago did on the first sample.
- There’s a suborder of bats called the Megabat, and I’ll just say nope to ever wanting to encounter one in person, as they can have wingspans up to 5 1/2 feet.
- Brooks Whittington visited the Espinosa Premium Cigars booth at the 2015 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show in July.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 45 minutes on average.
- The cigars for this review were provided by Espinosa Premium Cigars at the 2015 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show.
- Site sponsor Atlantic Cigar has some of the original Murcielago.
There are a handful of points where the relaunched Murcielago Noir really worked for my palate: there’s a spot in the first third where everything comes together for the first time that is almost magic, and a few more in the second and final thirds where the Mexican San Andrés wrapper sings with a solid backup from the Nicaraguan binder and filler. Yet there were also a few spots where it didn’t work for me: right out of the gate the sourness was off-putting, and there are a few spots where nothing really stands out except for a bit of harshness. I haven’t smoked an original Murcielago in some time, and even if I had it would be unfair to compare this new version to one with several years of age on it, but this 2015 relaunch does a decent job standing on its own and will hopefully shake off its few rough spots by the time you get to them.