On May 26, 2010, a new cigar blended by TABADOM’s Hendrik Kelner for alcohol importer Eric Hanson debuted at Club Macanudo in New York City. Second Growth is a 7 7/8 inch x 54 cigar that uses a blend that was originally intended for use in a cigar to commemorate Hendrik Jr.’s 36th birthday. It is meant to be paired with Bordeaux wines, which inspired the boxes the cigars come in, which are made from French wine barrels.

Talking about the blend in an interview with Stogie Guys, Owner Eric Hanson said:

We were at the factory on other business and decided to show Henke Sr. and Jr. the box and concept for Second Growth. Both were fascinated with the concept and immediately we started discussing the type and aging of the tobacco one would need to execute an elegant project like this. For the next few hours we smoked several cigars and reviewed many bundles of unique hybrid tobaccos. Then, like a bolt of lightning, Henke Jr. said he had the perfect cigar for this project. Earlier in the year Alladio (master blender) and Henke Sr. came up with the blend for Henke Jr.’s 36th birthday. What type of cigar do you get for Jr. for his 36th birthday? A Cuban? No! The best filler, binder, and wrapper ever grown from the aging room at Tabadom that is never to be in regular production. We all smoked the cigar and had some Chateau Gruaud Larose and we all realized we had found the perfect cigar. Father and son agreed to let us use HMK 36 and Second Growth was born.

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There were only 1,000 boxes of Second Growth produced, and of those, only 300 boxes of 20 were released to the American market.

As mentioned above, the Second Growth boxes are quite unique, in that they are actually made from used wine barrels. Each box is individually numbered and also has a brass plate engraved. The Second Growth website explains the process they go through:

Each Second Growth cigar box is hand furnished by Irish master craftsman James Rowe in Portsmouth, New Hampshire from wine barrels used during the maturation of a renowned Second Growth Chateau from the historic, award winning Saint Julien appellation of Bordeaux. The concentrated fruit aromas emanating from the barrel staves envelope each cigar imparting a timeless elegance and accentuate the beauty of the wine-stained woodworking.

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The boxes look like this:

Second Growth Box 1

Second Growth Box 2

Second Growth Box 3

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But enough of that, let’s get down to business, shall we?

Second Growth 1

  • Cigar Reviewed: Second Growth
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: Occidental Cigar Factory
  • Wrapper: Hybrid Ecuadorian Habano
  • Binder: Hybrid Dominican
  • Filler: Honduras & Dominican Republic
  • Size: 7 7/8 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 54
  • Vitola: Churchill Grande
  • MSRP: $32.50 (Boxes of 20, $650.00)
  • Date Released: May 26, 2010
  • Number of Cigars Released: 1,000 Boxes of 20 Cigars (20,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 2

The Second Growth is monstrously large, but also a little light, considering the size. It has a light brown wrapper that is bereft of any oil, but is also totally smooth to the touch. When squeezed, it has a tiny amount of give. There’s a strong aroma from the Ecuadorian wrapper of nuts, sweet cedar and citrus. The woven band is huge, although proportionally is a bit small.

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The Second Growth starts out quickly with flavors of aged oak, bitter chocolate, leather and a small amount of black pepper on the retrohale. There’s little to no spice at this point and the finish is extremely dry, which is concerning given the early stage of the cigar. The draw is perfect from the outset with a wonderful amount of resistance. Strength is non-existent, which isn’t exactly shocking given who made these cigars.

Second Growth 2

Coming into the second third, and the Second Growth shows no signs of any major changes profile-wise. There does seem to be a little creaminess that I notice from time to time that was not in the first third and there is definitely a flavor of sweet vanilla that comes and goes, but the dominant notes are still oak, chocolate and leather. The pepper is long gone by the halfway point and as predicted, the strength is still firmly on the fuller end of mild. However, the construction, burn and draw continue to be the shining light, all 100% perfect as the second third ends.

Second Growth 3

The final third of the Second Growth has almost no shifts at all with the profile and flavors remaining pretty much the same until the end of the cigar. Chocolate, wood, leather, a slight sweet creaminess and perhaps a small nutty note on the retrohale. No pepper and no spice, which makes the Second Growth extremely smooth in that regard. The strength ends pretty much where it had been since the halfway point, a little stronger than mild, but not even close to medium. It never got hot at the end and never gets bitter.

Second Growth 4

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Final Notes:

  • The term first growth is a wine term,and actually refers to a classification of wines mostly from the Bordeaux region of France.
  • This cigar is just unnecessarily large. It is too large in the mouth and too large when held in the hand. Every time I took a puff, I had some variation of the thought, wow, this thing is HUGE, I wonder why they made it so big? It really does not lend itself to a relaxing time.
  • It is hard to escape comparing the band on the Second Growth with the band on the original Oliva Red and Blue Bold cloth-banded releases. Both bands are made of cloth and both are woven, but the Olivas were released about 10 years before the Second Growth. In my opinion, the band on the Second Growth is also the wrong color (dark brown details on a cream background), as it shows no major contrast between it and the light brown wrapper of the cigar it is wrapped around.
  • Second Growth is distributed exclusively worldwide by Victor Vitale of The Cigar Agency.
  • I actually just happened to have a French Bordeaux to pair with this cigar, as recommended by the manufacturer (Chateau Dauzac Margaux 2009, for those wondering) and tried it with the second one of these I smoked for the review. While I honestly did not notice any major differences in the flavors I tasted, I have to say, the two did pair together quite well.
    Second Growth 5
  • As cool and unique as the band is, it seemed to almost be glued to the cigar wrapper, so when I tried to take it off, it actually ripped pieces of the wrapper off with it. Despite my best efforts, this happened both times. I am not sure if they just never thought anyone would smoke it that far down or if it was just because of too much glue when applying the band.
  • The final smoking time was just under two hours and 15 minutes for both samples, about what I expected when I saw the cigar for the first time.
  • If you would like to purchase some of the Second Growth cigars, you can find them for sale at various retailers detailed here.

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The Bottom Line: I have the say, the construction, burn, draw and smoke production were all phenomenal on this cigar, none of them could be any better. Unfortunately, the joy I felt in those regards just does not carry over to the flavors that are present. As with most cigars blended by Kelner, I found the Second Growth to be overly simplistic in terms of flavors and profile. Add the absolutely monstrous size, and you have almost two and a half hours of wonderfully constructed monotony. Is it a bad cigar? Not by any means. In fact, if you like the profile I described above and are willing to pay the price, you will probably love it, as that is really all there is too it. But I seemed to constantly be hoping for more complexity, more flavors and more shifts in what I was tasting, and unfortunately I was constantly let down.

Final Score: 76

Brooks Whittington

I have been smoking cigars for over eight years. A documentary wedding photographer by trade, I spent seven years as a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I started the cigar blog SmokingStogie in 2008 after realizing that there was a need for a cigar blog with better photographs and more in-depth information about each release. SmokingStogie quickly became one of the more influential cigar blogs on the internet, known for reviewing preproduction, prerelease, rare, extremely hard-to-find and expensive cigars. I am a co-founder of halfwheel and now serve as an editor for halfwheel.