Cuban-American and third-generation tabaqcalero Ares (AH-res) Contreras brought the rowdy Old West border towns to life this summer, with Pride Bandolero, his company’s latest boutique premium cigar. Contreras is the president of Pride Cigars, who manufactures his own cigars in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
Four shapes are offered: Billy the Kid (5″ x 50), Pancho Villa (6″ x 60), Butch Cassidy (6″ x 50) and Jesse James (6-1/2″ x 52 Torpedo). Manufacturer’s suggested retail prices range from $6.90 to $7.90. “These sizes,” explains Contreras, “are so-named to let cigar lovers know they’re in for a brawny, full-bodied smoking experience. The rustic-theme artwork on Bandolero’s cedar box carries the image of a six-shooter, and holds 20 cigars in cellophane tubes. You might be interested to know that ‘bandolero’ in Español, especially when referring to an hombre by a señorita, is slang for a ‘bad ass’ … this is a cigar for serious cigar veterans, not greenhorns.” Although the Dominican-grown Habano wrapper is dark and oily, it’s not processed as a maduro, it’s a natural shade. Despite its menacing appearance, don’t think there’s a rough edge on its power.
Contreras states, “Bandolero also features a Dominican binder and triple-fermented Dominican/Nicaraguan filler. Both binder and filler tobaccos are aged a full three years, and the finished cigars are aged in cedar chests for another six months.”
Bandolero’s construction features another benefit to smokers, by eliminating their two most frequently-heard complaints … hard or plugged draw, and off-center burn caused by misplaced ligero leaves. Quoting Contreras, “All Pride cigars are entubado-bunched … each seco and viso leaf is rolled lengthwise, one by one, like soda straws. The buncher then arranges them in a circle around one or more tubed leaves of ligero in the center. Rather than having blockages from folds and twists in the filler leaves … more common in conventionally-bunched fillers …the smoke passes freely through each tubed leaf from foot to head, and the ligero is more easily centered. Though more labor-intensive, the consumer is assured of an easy, uniform smoke.”
The rolling of the wrapper is finished off with a triple-laid (layered) cap. This prevents another annoyance … unraveling of the wrapper leaf in the mouth.
Contreras describes Bandolero’s full-bodied smoke by saying: “The cigar is full-flavored as well, with an earthy, woody profile, having hints of espresso and chocolate. It’s very complex, as one would expect in a limited-release boutique cigar, without acidity or bitterness, thanks to the quality and aging of the leaves, plus the triple-fermentation. The equally-complex finish contains cedar and oak and remains on the palate. The aroma is ‘woodsy,’ full of cedar, and the bouquet is earthy.”
To spot Pride Bandoleros at tobacconists’, Contreras is supplying in-store “shelf talkers” and tent box displays. To optimize knowledgeable, face-to-face customer support, Pride cigars are available only to established tobacconists, not Internet or mail-order discounters.
“Our limited production” reports Contreras, “is evidence that quality is what drives us, not quantity … Bandolero’s first release is only 10,000 cigars, 2,500 per shape. Miguel Francisco, our master blender, and I work side by side. We test and refine each new blend over several months, to get the recipe right … if we’re satisfied, we know smokers will be, too.” All Bandolero shapes join the company’s core “Pride” line of cigars at better smoke shops nationwide, starting August 15.