Cigar Review: Kristoff Premium Selection Natural
The types of cigars found in reviews tend to fall into two broad categories: the legendary and the hyped. The first of course are those cigars that everyone already knows about and wants to own/smoke, but due to either cost or limited availability are out of reach for many. So it is that the lucky reviewer, out of a sense of duty to fellow aficionados, must sacrifice a coveted stick to the fire gods and report back on the secrets of life revealed during the pilgrimage. You will also find those few instances where a particular cigar is reputed to be infamously bad and a review is undertaken as a rite of passage, or perhaps a dark ritual of purification where only the strong and steadfast will emerge unbroken at the end of the ordeal.
This is neither of those types of review.
The second category, the hyped cigar, accounts for the vast majority of reviews whether written or recorded. Most often these are the latest releases from popular brands, or a new company has hit the scene running, or a sleeper has become a hit, but the purpose is the same. The hope of the reviewer is to find the next big thing, a cigar that has the potential to rise to the legendary heights mentioned above. How exciting the possibility to be there at the beginning, an intrepid explorer uncovering a new treasure and shouting the news from atop the mountains. That it is rare to find ‘The One’ is beside the point, because a cigar has been smoked and (hopefully) enjoyed and we are all wiser for the information gleaned.
This is not that type of review either.
Instead, this is a review of the Kristoff Premium Selection Natural Matador, an everyday, run-of-the-mill bundled Toro-sized Dominican Puro that may or may not contain mixed filler. Truly an undistinguished stogie, but there are a variety of reasons and locations to have such a cigar on hand: A sturdy and reliable stick able to survive being left on the tee box during a round of golf. Something tasty to allay the boredom while not catching anything during a fishing expedition. An idiot repellent during a block party. A tool to fend off that sinking feeling when your humidor is about to run dry. Enough justification for ya? Good. Let’s get to it.
Details: Handmade Dominican made of all Dominican tobaccos, including Dominican filler, Dominican binder, and a wrapper from the Dominican Republic. That’s all I got.
Pre-light impressions: Definitely feels like a mixed filler cigar because there’s a bit of flex beneath the fingertips up and down the length, but I’ve run into this with some supposedly high-end sticks so it’s not definitive. It’s consistently formed and not spongy so I’m not concerned about a dud but I do need to be careful not to smoke fast lest it get too hot as can happen with this amount of filler regardless of longleaf or sandwich. Even so I estimate around an hour of smoking time. Let’s see if that holds.
The honeymoon period: Some bits of tobacco on the tongue as I start to smoke, more evidence of filler type, but the draw is good and the flavor pleasing if not overly complex. It’s mostly cedar and cream, with a mild white pepper and just a hint of nutmeg through the nose. No sweetness anywhere, but the fact that it’s a Dominican cigar with a ‘Natural’ wrapper makes this unsurprising. Burn line is straight enough to not require my getting involved, going only slightly askew as I work into the first couple of inches. So yeah, it’s not the kind of smoke I’d normally reach for on an early Autumn evening to savor, but for those times I’d rather not think about what I’m smoking it would have a place.
Houston, we’ve got a problem: There’s plenty of smoke but I’ve started to notice some odd bitter flavors as the second third begins to smolder. It’s almost herbaceous but not in a good way. The ash is a light gray and holding well even if a little flaky (more evidence of filler type?) and the cherry isn’t outpacing the burn line so I’m not puffing too quickly. A mystery and I hope this isn’t going to last because if so I’ll be putting this Kristoff to bed early.
Well past the half: I decided that majority of the off flavors were the fault of my beverage choice, which was a hoppy red pale ale. I should have known it wouldn’t be the best choice because high IBUs can be tricky to pair with cigars, which is why I usually stay safe and go either light and crisp or dark and syrupy depending on the stick. Hops can wreak havoc on a palate. For my next round I substituted a malty and lightly sweet maple ale nearly the same color as the first but with a completely different profile. This decision salvaged the entire affair by creating a nice counterpoint to the touches of coffee and leather I could now discern.
Final impressions: It you’re anywhere on the East coast you’ve been getting plenty wet lately and despite the promising afternoon weather I still got caught in an early evening mist and so the Kristoff Premium Selection gave up the ghost with a good inch and a half left to go. I considered trying a relight but the beer was getting low and there wasn’t any indication I’d be discovering a pot of gold in the nub so I let it be. Still, smoking time ended up being about an hour and ten so I have that going for me. It’s not a special occasion cigar, but it doesn’t have to be. A sturdy standby I found this to be with a straightforward flavor profile, not a ton of transitions and a pleasant amount of smoke to be had. It wasn't overpowering, harsh or as we found it, it wasn't the cigar itself that was bitter, it was the play off the beer I was drinking with it initially that caused the bitter notes to emerge. I’ll stand by my original statement regarding the appropriate places to enjoy on of these smokes. Again, I'll reach for one of these when heading out for the golf course, to hand to one of my mooching friends, when mowing the lawn, or when my humidor is running low on my finer smokes and I'm fearing I might have to set it down due to weather, the spouse calling me in for dinner, the kids needing me for some reason or another or any other such issue, or while puttering around the garage. As it gets colder, in the North, this Kristoff Premium Selection Natural or it's sibling in the Maduro wrapper, might be good sticks to keep on hand when you just aren't sure how long you're going to be able to brave that cold front coming in...