Alec Bradley is a brand that continues to grow in stature and quality in the highly competitive cigar market. While some brands are selling gimmicks, some as ridiculous as an 80-ring gauge cigar that’s not much different from cramming an exhaust pipe in your mouth, Alec Bradley is sticking with cigars that cover a range of tastes while still maintaining dignity and great flavor. We sampled their new American Sun Grown Robusto ($5), but not before spending time chatting with brand owner Alan Rubin.
Rubin had a clear inspiration in mind when crafting the brand’s new American series of cigars. “The American line was my vision of a ‘throw back’ line”, Rubin said. “Some years ago I was able to obtain a small sampling of cigars from the ’50s that were made in the U.S. and contained Cuban tobacco. The flavors were clean, simple and satisfying. When I smoked the cigars I could almost picture myself and others sitting in a boardroom in the 1950s in suits and fedoras smoking cigars and toasting a deal. That inspired me to create a line paying homage to simpler times: a good cigar at a modest price with a touch of Americana in the band art.”
The American Classic, the first cigar in AB’s American line, used a Honduran-grown Connecticut shade wrapper for an even draw and a pleasant, mild- to medium-bodied smoke. But sun-grown wrappers, like the one used in the American Sun Grown line, tend to have a more robust taste and a fuller body. Because the American Sun Grown’s wrapper comes from the Jalapa region in Nicaragua, it’s darker than sun growns made elsewhere, though that doesn’t necessarily make it a stronger smoke.
“A good cigar at a modest price with a touch of Americana in the band art.”
– Alan Rubin
The Robusto isn’t a big cigar at 5 inches long and a 50 ring gauge, but don’t let its size fool you. The whole-leaf filler is made with Nicaraguan Esteli tobacco, and the binder comes from the same region. The three Nicaraguan tobaccos found here (filler, binder, wrapper) make up a puro cigar (a cigar with components that all come from the same region) that has a rich flavor without punching you in the mouth with overpowering strength. In this case, according to Rubin, the puro status is a coincidence. “It’s purely a byproduct of the blend we picked. There was no intent on making it a puro. The American Sun Grown Blend and the American Classic Blend were created to give cigar enthusiasts a lot of satisfaction in an everyday cigar — cigars that people are happy to pick up and can still explain the purchase to their spouses.”
This is a good-looking cigar, something that does matter in the smoking experience. Sun-grown wrappers are often veiny, but for the most part ours was smooth. The slightly oily sheen and the colorful band enhance the aesthetics of this dark cigar. This robusto is also well-rolled: it’s not too tight and not too loose, free of tunneling and producing just the right amount of draw. Alec Bradley certainly took the time to issue a cigar that speaks to a high level of quality. And for around $5 a stick, that’s impressive, even before it’s lit.
Once it is burning, pleasant cedar aromas leads to an initially sweet flavor. The ash is a dark grey that holds up well despite a slightly uneven burn. The draw is perfect, allowing the rich smoke to permeate through the stick throughout the entire smoke. Some sun-grown wrappers can beat up the palate, but the Alec Bradley has a noticeable but not overpowering strength; it’s smooth without any bite or bitterness. It is, quite simply, a pleasurable smoke that is a couple of rungs up on the strength meter than the American Classic, with more body while remaining consistent from first light to finish. We thoroughly enjoyed it, and if you’re game for more than just a beginner, light-bodied smoke, this should be your next choice.