Review: Quesada Selección España Lancero (Prerelease)
Shortly after launching the Quesada Selección España, Terence Reilly, head of SAG Imports, the distribution arm of MATASA/Quesada, Casa Magna and now domestically Regius, received requests from a few people for a fourth vitola. One of those people was yours truly and the other one was Christian “Tank” Hutson of Just for Him in Springfield, MO, one of the Quesada brand’s largest supporters.
For those unfamiliar with the story, here’s what I wrote last year when reviewing the Corona:
In February of this past year, Manuel “Manolo” Quesada, head of the SAG Imports/Quesada/MATASA (makers of a lot of brands including the Dominican Fonseca and partners with the Plasencias on Casa Magna) made a mistake. (Yes, let’s repeat, Manolo made a mistake. Well, I guess whoever was responsible for handing out the cigars, Terence.) At the annual ProCigar Festival, cigar enthusiasts, retailers and makers were given a chance to sample a cigar that was to be made only for Spain, the Quesada Selección España. Three sizes using a peculiar blend that includes an Ecuadorian Arapiraca (a tobacco normally native to Brazil) wrapper over Dominican & Nicaraguan fillers. See the problem was the cigars were good, really good.
A few Quesada accounts got ahold of some of the unreleased cigars and liked them, a lot. Very quickly, a cigar that was only supposed to be released in Spain was being demanded amongst the top Quesada accounts in the U.S., and by March, the Españas were stateside. There are a lot of explanations as to why the España isn’t supposed to be offered in the U.S., one of them is the formats: Corona (5 1/2 x 42), Robusto (5 x 52) & Short Robusto (4 x 50). Quesada believes that the sizes, combined with the pricepoints, which are a bit higher than your typical stick, are not conducive to the U.S. markets. They are however competitive in the Spanish market, where Cuban cigars are legal and dominant. Still, given the requests, Quesada has given a handful of U.S. accounts access to a few boxes a month, but it’s rather limited and the plan is to keep it that way.
The request was for a Quesada España Lancero and after a bit of resistance, Terence Reilly asked the then MATASA factory, the old one based in Santiago’s free trade zone, to make a few bundles. About a year ago, the 7 x 38 shorter Lanceros were distributed to Hutson, Reilly and myself relatively fresh, making it difficult to gauge the actual quality of the cigar.
As will be announced tomorrow, Quesada will release the España Lancero in ultra limited quantities beginning in 2013.
Every month, Quesada will release a single cabinet of 50 to one retailer. The release schedule is as follows:
Just for Him
Maxamar Ultimate Cigars
Habana Premium Cigars
West Palm Beach, Fla.
New York, N.Y.
The four vitolas of the Quesada Selección España are:
- Quesada Selección España Short Robusto (4 x 50) — $7.95 (Boxes of 20, $159.00) — March 2011 — Regular Production
- Quesada Selección España Robusto (5 x 52) — $8.50 (Boxes of 20, $170.00) — March 2011 — Regular Production
- Quesada Selección España Corona (5 1/2 x 42) — $7.25 (Boxes of 20, $140.00) — March 2011 — Regular Production
- Quesada Selección España Lancero (7 x 38) — $8.50 (Cabinets of 50, $425.00) — January 2013 — 12 Cabinets of 50 Cigars (600 Total Cigars)
And the particulars.
- Cigar Reviewed: Quesada Selección España Lancero
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: MATASA*
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Ariparaca
- Binder: Dominican Republic
- Filler: Dominican Republic & Nicaragua
- Size: 7 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 38
- Vitola: Lancero
- MSRP: $8.50 (Cabinets of 50, $425.00)
- Release Date: January 2013
- Number of Cigars Released: 12 Boxes of 50 Cigars (600 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 11
*As is mentioned below, in late 2011 Quesada left its original free trade zone factory for a new factory.
The prerelease versions were rolled at the old factory, the new cigars are rolled at Quesada’s new factory.
The slightly red Ariparaca wrapper has a beautiful contrast with the two small España bands. There are lots of smaller veins that add to the overall appearance of the cigar, and I can’t but help to wish that this was a traditional 7 1/2 x 38 El Laguito No.1 with a pigtail. Off the wrapper there’s an interesting aged combination of barnyard and mint, a far cry from where the cigars once stood when pulled from cellophane. From the foot there’s a mixture of sweet caramel, earth and leather with touches of cinnamon and pepper. The cold draw of the España Lancero presents a great sweet milk cocoa with touches of citrus, cinnamon, hints of butterscotch and a grassy finish.
The first third of the España Lancero begins with a great candy and nutty aroma. It starts with subtle sweet candy notes before the earthy and nuttiness begin to dominate with hints of twang, black pepper and an oak that is so reminiscent of Cuba. And then there is the lemon that hangs beneath the flavor profile placed ever so precisely. Unfortunately, the Quesada eventually recedes in complexity as the nuttiness is replaced by a more generic-like earth joined by creaminess, cedar, leather and a bitter dark with a touch of harshness at the back of the throat. While the draw is ideal for a Lancero, the ash and smoke production leave a little bit to be desired.
Into the second third and there are less flavors, but more complexity than the end of the first third. The earth remains at the core, but there’s citrus, dark cocoa and touches of harshness. While the flavors are less numerically, they actually are able to break free from the mundaneness that seemed to be picking up in the first third. Once again, construction isn’t perfect. The ash is short for a Lancero, barely making it to chunks of a third of an inch, smoke production is above average in the mouth, but it’s a struggle to figure out when the right time to puff on the España Lancero is and the cigar punishes you for going too quickly. In addition, a touch-up seems customary in the middle portion, despite an even burn up until then. Strength-wise, the Quesada is getting close to medium-full, noticeably up from the medium in the beginning.
The final third sees the earthiness begin to subside in favor of a defined cedar note, raisins, coffee, vanilla and some creaminess. For the first time there is a strong presence of pepper up front, while orange peel joins the finish. Overall though, coffee is the takeaway note. Unfortunately, my issues with the construction are mounting as touch-ups are needed to save the cigar. Eventually it goes out, I look down and decide leaving an inch is okay.
- I absolutely love the bands on the España. The Quesada Q logo is one of my favorite in the industry, and unlike the Q d’etat Molotov, the secondary band works.
- The cigar has a tendency to go out at the one inch mark if you aren’t careful. While it didn’t happen this time around, about half the España Lanceros I’ve had have suffered from this. As such, I rarely smoke this cigar when around others as talking is the kiss of death.
- The state of the cigar industry is such that a cigar like the España Lancero is noticeable in terms of its non-superior construction, particularly amongst the sample of cigars we deal with at halfwheel. The construction isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it requires a lot more work than is seemingly normally required for results that aren’t spectacular.
- The cigars that will be released in 2013 were rolled in July of 2012, this is crucial as the cigars really seemed to turn around the seven to eight month mark. There was no doubt the España Lancero was smoking better for me three to four months ago than it is now.
- Yes, I’ve formally requested a Jalapa Lancero. As of now, they don’t exist.
- In January, the Quesadas opened a new factory. The cigars used for the review were rolled at the old MATASA factory in Santiago’s free trade zone. As of now, the new factory is going by the name MATASA as well, which is where the production Lanceros were rolled. The blend is the same.
- In case you can’t see, this isn’t the easiest cigar to photograph.
- Strength never quite gets to be a solid medium-full, really medium plus throughout. Body is medium-full.
- The draw is perfect on the España Lancero, one draw and a plethora of smoke enters the mouth. Unfortunately, the cigar puts off little smoke externally making it difficult to judge when it goes out, which it’s somewhat prone to doing.
- Noted fans of TheCigarFeed will note that I joked about there being an España Lancero when reviewing the Corona. At the time there was no Lancero. Fans of SmokingStogie will note that Brooks mentioned Just for Him when reviewing the Short Robusto. Just for Him will be the only store to have the España Lancero in January and the first in the world to carry the vitola.
- The plan now is for just 12 boxes this year, more on that tomorrow. 2014 is still not decided. It’s hard to imagine there being a smaller release than that, particularly given it’s not a single shipment.
- SAG Imports distributes another non-El Laguito No.1 they call “Lancero,” the Casa Magna Largo Delgado, which measures 8 3/4 x 40.
- The cigars for this review were provided by site sponsor SAG Imports.
- Final smoking time averages one hour and 50 minutes.
The Bottom Line: It took a few months, but this became my favorite España. The line itself has never been my favorite fresh and I don’t love it as much as Brooks, but that shouldn’t take away from what is my ideal vitola of a favored line. If you like the España profile, I find it difficult to argue there is a better example of it than the Lancero with eight months on it. However, it’s not all butterflies and roses, as there are some construction problems that have been present in the majority of the cigars I’ve smoked in the past year and that’s an issue reflected in the score. This is the line that helped the recent resurgence of the Quesada brand, and this is its finest example, slightly besting the Corona, but in my opinion it falls short compared to the Quesada Jalapa. It will be impossible to get these in 2013, but that’s not going to stop me from trying.
Final Score: 91