After reading a glowing review about these cigars from a popular cigar catalog, I chanced to buy a large bundle of 60 since the bargain was so epic. Yes, yes, the rule of thumb is that bargain cigars equal lawn-mowing cigars, but the eternal optimist in me took the chance. Silly thing, optimism.
First, its good quality. It has a nice, thin, silky Connecticut seed wrapper. This was the part of the cigar most glowingly lauded in the catalog I bought it from, and I must admit that, because of it, it is a wholly pleasant sensation to grip the thing between your lips. It feels fantastic. The drawback is that the wrapper is very fragile, and it tears easily. I have smoked probably twenty or so of these babies so far, and I reckon the wrappers on at least half of them have cracked, split or peeled away during cutting, smoking or removing the band.
Sadly, the taste of the cigar is, well, not very tasty. The moment it hits your tongue you get a certain bitterness that makes the coming hour a tad foreboding. I usually take care of this by dipping the butt in some rum or whiskey at hand, which does help it a bit. Cutting is far more precarious. The filler has, as one reviewer put it, a sort of confetti quality. Do NOT use a guillotine to cut your cigar. If you do, the confetti bits will work their way out as you smoke, and you will constantly be spitting little strands of bitter greasy blackness into your ashtray. I prefer to use my V cutter. This will slice a nice little groove in the butt which allows for easy smoking, and it staves off the inevitable confetti until long after the cigar has expended what little goodness it has.
The burn of the thing is also hardly to be admired. Once you light it, the edges start to fray and ash curls off into all sorts of mean directions. It also has a habit of burning faster in little gaps or pockets on the side, which causes the ash build up to lean like the tower at Pisa, and finally fall off prematurely. I think the longest my ash on this particular cigar has ever gotten has been an inch – maybe an inch and a half.
Once you get past the first few inches of a Churchill, you start to get the full flavor of it. If you like the taste of burning hay sprinkled with peanuts, well, this cigar is for you. At first it really put me off, and so I stored the remainder in my humidor until I felt like punishing myself again. But I must admit, that the more you smoke these things, the more you get used to the taste, and maybe, even enjoy it.
The last few inches are truly awful. Even if you cut it gently, it will start to disintegrate, and the wrapper, having been moistened by your mouth for a good hour, will peel away very readily. The confetti will start to ooze out freely causing you to spit it everywhere, and it gets bitter. The frugal guy that I am, I insist on smoking every last inch of a stick I paid good money for, but I have been forced to make an exception with Free Cubans. I toss the last two inches happily.
I also must note that my first encounter with cigar beetle eggs has been with a Free Cuba. I meticulously keep my humidors at the proper temperature and humidity levels — 70⁄70 — so thankfully the eggs have never turned into pupae. But you know a cigar has had an egg when you’re in the middle of your book, totally engrossed, and then suddenly you hear a sharp — POP! – as the egg explodes due to heat. You stop, stunned, and gaze down at your cigar in horror to see an oval opening where the egg once sat, gouged into your precious stick. I realize that cigar beetle eggs are inevitable eventually, but my first experience with them has forever soured me to this particular brand of cigar.
To be fair, I’ve smoked almost half of the 60 I bought and have only had one egg, so maybe it was just my time. I’ll leave the judgment on eggs to you. But, in my recommendation, buy these cigars if you need a stick every day that you have to learn to appreciate.You can buy Free Cubans here: