For its headline offering of 2016, the team behind the Saga brand decided to turn to a packaging format that is occasionally but certainly not often seen, books.
The brand launched the first in what promised to be a 10 installment offering called Saga Short Tales, with the debut cigar called Tales of High Priming, a short and stout cigar that promised to deliver a punch of strength and flavor.
In late 2016, the brand unveiled the second cigar in the series, Tales of the Land Cotuí. Like the first release, it comes in 10-count boxes that are designed to look like books, complete with worn pages. Similarly, the name of the cigar offers a glimpse into its origins.
You will find the city of Cotuí in the Cibao region of the northern part of the Dominican Republic. In particular, you will find it among the Sierra de Yamasá, a mountain range with a name you might recognize by way of one of the lines in Davidoff’s Discovery Series.
In addition to Cibao being the most populous region in the Dominican Republic with a population over three million people, it’s an area that it known for being one of the most fertile area of the country thanks to sitting below the split of the Yuta River, which makes it an ideal place to grow tobacco.
The cigar gets its wrapper from the Cotuí region by way of a farm owned by Monika Kelner, daughter of Henke Kelner. The binder is an Indonesian Sumatra leaf while the filler is made up of Dominican negrito and piloto fillers along with Connecticut broadleaf.
This second release comes in a single 4 7/8 x 52 short torpedo vitola and is designed to be lighter in nicotine than its predecessor.
- Saga Short Tales: Tales of High Priming (4 x 58) — $8.50 (Boxes of 10, $85)
- Saga Short Tales: Tales of the Land Cotuí (4 7/8 x 52) — $8.50 (Boxes of 10, $85)
- Cigar Reviewed: Saga Short Tales: Tales of the Land Cotuí
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: De Los Reyes
- Wrapper: Dominican Republic (Cotuí)
- Binder: Indonesian Sumatra
- Filler: Dominican Republic (Negrito, Piloto) & U.S.A. (Connecticut Broadleaf)
- Length: 4 7/8 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 52
- Vitola: Short Torpedo
- MSRP: $8.50 (Boxes of 10, $85)
- Release Date: November 2016
- Number of Cigars Released: n/a
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
An interesting vitola that I don’t see all that often; it looks like a short Cuban belicoso fino, with each sample rolled quite well. For the most part there aren’t many veins on the somewhat dry, toffee colored wrapper, though it seems like when there is one in tends to be fairly prominent. The roll is clean and the cylinder uniformly firm, with only the slightest variance showing in how the head gets wrapped. There’s a very mild prelight aroma, a bit of bread and pretzel but little else, and certainly no pepper. The cold draw offers just a bit of resistance on the air flow and again little in the way of distinct flavors, other than a bit of generic peanut.
The almost bland aroma and cold draw do a good job hiding what this second Saga Short Tales opens with once the foot gets toasted, as there’s a dry profile that has a good bit of pepper through the nose that gets complemented by a woody and slightly salty profile on the tongue. Depending on the sample I also get a bit of unsweetened graham cracker and dry soil. The draw tends to be a bit firm in the early going, but I’d certainly rather have it where it is as opposed to being a bit loose as it was in the third sample. After starting out medium in both strength and body, the cigar has taken steps into the medium-full range before the first clump of ash has broken off, with the pepper becoming brighter and more potent in the nose, which seems to be the sense getting most of the attention in the early goings. The strength backs off just a touch after the first inch with a bit of creaminess entering the equation and meshing well with what’s left of the pepper. Smoke production drops off and the burn rates slows a bit heading into the second third, something I try and alleviate by knocking the ash off but find a relight does a better job rectifying.
Knocking the ash off helps things a little, but I still sense that things are slowing down as I try to find the rhythm of this second Saga Short Tales release in the first sample. Once that first clump of ash departs—something that happens right around the transition between first and second thirds—the cigar’s flavor goes on a fairly sudden hiatus and leaves the palate searching for flavors until some char and pepper come back a few minutes later. It starts bringing back the pepper, laying it on top of a toasty wheat bread note that has good presence in the mouth as it’s thick and chewy, while dry wood lingers in the background. More pepper returns towards the end of the second third, stopping just a bit shy of where it was at the height of the first third.
The pendulum of strength has definitely swung back to the full side by the time the final third gets underway; black pepper is prevalent in the nose while the palate is left longing for something a bit more significant. I find myself retrohaling fairly frequently to get more out of the cigar than I would if I didn’t force the smoke through my nose, though there is a bit of chalk and sourness on the palate that is detectable. There are also touches of rough char and pepper in one sample that are more irritant than stimulant of the senses, which seem to force me back to the relatively cleaner retrohale. In the first sample, I find myself struggling to keep the cigar lit as it seems to go out a bit quicker than I generally expect, while the second stays lit better but struggles to get through certain spots in the wrapper and thus necessitates a touch-up. The final inches see the pepper take yet another step up in strength, and retrohales become punchy while staying very clean, not feeling weighed down or heavy on the nostrils. The burn and technical performance of the cigar are good if not quite great in this section; there is plenty of smoke but the burn line wavers from time to time.
- I was on the fence about whether or not to drybox the third sample for a bit to see if it would help with the burn, but decided against it after the second sample seemed to burn a good bit better than the first.
- The third cigar also had a more open draw than the other two, which helped both with combustion and in reducing smoking time. That said though, it also had mellower flavors than the other two, though the progression and profile was identical.
- The Saga Short Tales finished in the top five for our annual packaging awards in 2016.
- As Charlie Minato noted in his review of the first Saga Short Tales release, Tales of High Priming, in August 2016, the bands do leave a bit to be desired, particularly in comparison to the effort put into the boxes. There also doesn’t appear to be any difference in the bands from the first to second release, so you’d better make sure you note which one is which if you are buying singles and putting them in a humidor.
- While I haven’t had the chance to smoke Tales of High Priming and as such can’t compare the two cigars’ strength, Tales of the Land Cotuí seemed to keep the nicotine fairly restrained.
- The Cibao region is also home to Santiago de los Caballeros, which is where numerous cigar factories are based. It’s also the city where the bulk of the annual Procigar Festival is held.
- Speaking of Procigar, attendees at this year’s festival got treated to sneak peeks at three new sizes in the line by way of the cigar boxes that are given out during the event, though with little information given out about them. Tomo III (tomo means volume) is a 4 1/2 x 42 vitola that is said to be “a classic combination of tobaccos from three countries whose passion for work and life are renowned throughout the world. A delicate balance of flavor and strength makes this medium bodied demi-robusto a cigar for the ages.”
- Tomo IV is a 4 x 44 vitola, and the unnamed third cigar measures five inches long with a 34 ring gauge. No information was included about either of these two cigars. These cigars are expected to appear on shelves after the IPCPR Convention & Trade Show in July.
- Some estimates I’ve seen put the population of the Cibao region at upwards of six million people.
- The Cotuí region spans just under 1,200 square km, while the entire Cibao region is just over 19,000 square km.
- Cibao is also the home of the Águilas Cibaeñas, one of the six teams in LIDOM, the Dominican Republic’s professioal baseball league. The team plays at Estadio Cibao in Santiago, which has a capacity of 18,077 fans, the biggest stadium in the league. I saw a game there in December 2015 and had an absolute blast.
- For those not fluent in Spanish or wanting to use Google Translate, the team’s name in English is the Eagles.
- The cigars for this review were provided by De Los Reyes Cigars.
- Final smoking time was about one hour and 45 minutes.
Tales of the Land Cotuí might be billed as a lighter cigar than Tales of High Priming, but don't let that fool you into thinking its a pedestrian cigar; once lit the cigar offers a good amount of flavors, aroma and strength for the senses to dive into, and those who retrohale frequently will be rewarded with a more complete experience from this cigar. I'd love to see more flavors for the tongue as there are spots where it feels a bit ignored, though thankfully there are a good number of spots where it gets treated to some clean, dry flavors that play well with the abundance of pepper that the nose gets. I haven't had the chance to smoke the first Saga Short Tales release, but I can safely say that the second is a solid addition to the collection.