I’m in the middle of fall in the Pacific Northwest. Which means that it’s mostly rainy and grey … and my opportunity to get out and smoke a great cigar is pretty slim. Last week and next week are travel weeks for me and that makes it even more difficult. You have to take advantage of any break in the rain this time of year, but if you’re on the road that’s difficult. Fortunately, Saturday was a beautiful fall day in the Northwest. It was cold, but crisp and clear.
The day was so beautiful and the opportunity so prime, that I had to break out a cigar from my the bottom shelf of my humidor. The top shelf, easy to get to and visible through the glass top, has my sort of daily smoking, not so prime cigars. The bottom shelf has the Montecristo Churchills and Oliva Serie V in it. And something very special, as well. I figured today called for the Graycliff Casillero Privada. I bought a mazo of 10 a few months ago. They’ve been in the humidor ever since.
I love Graycliff cigars. And these promised to be special. Casillero Privada, in Spanish, means Private Locker. These are the cigars that the famous Graycliff hotel in Nassau keeps locked away for their VIP guests. But they released a few mazo’s to be sold publicly earlier this year and when they did I grabbed one without hesitating.
All in all, a perfect excuse to light one of these guys up and see if it lives up to expectations.
Bottom line up front in case this post is tl;dr for you …. This is an absolutely fantastic cigar, but may not be approachable for a novice. If you haven’t smoked much, I would recommend choosing something else. But if you are a cigar enthusiast who enjoys robust, complex, premium smokes then this is the cigar for you.
On to the review
This is a Graycliff Casillero Privada PG 5×52. At first sight, the cigar is decent sized with a shaggy foot, giving it a rustic “old school” appearance. The wrapper is dark brown, lightly oily and looks like old leather. It had no obvious cracks, bubbles or other blemishes. The seams in the wrapper and cap are very tight, almost invisible and very few veins are apparent. The unlit aroma was of exotic spices, pepper and black tea, with an underlying barnyard odor that I suspected would turn to a very deeply earthy aroma once lit. The cigar is clearly rolled by hand and does not use a form for assistance. It is not as dense and firm as a form rolled, mass manufactured cigar would be.
Lighting the cigar, in spite of the shaggy foot, was easy. I use a Bugatti lighter with 3 jets, which allows for a wide, even lighting. Toasting the end of a cigar is easy with the Bugatti.
As I said, it lit easily and very uniformly. The first taste was medium bodied and complex, the smoke was cool, the flavor was peppery with a bit of earthiness. The draw was very easy and smooth. The cigar produces a lot of smoke and burns quite clean. First impression was excellent.
I’m drinking Bulleit Rye and soda and this seems like a good choice to start. The rye, with its spice, fruit and hints of maple syrup sweetness should really compliment the earthy, peppery cigar that I’m anticipating.
During the first 1/4 of the cigar I found that the initial complexity was not a fluke. It kept building, with notes of leather in addition to the spice and earth. It is very robust, definitely not for the faint of heart. Within the first inch all sense of the barnyard is gone, replaced with a very lovely earthiness that I am really enjoying. The cigar burns quite evenly and draws very smoothly.
Middle of the Cigar
As I work my way into the cigar I find that I was right, the rye and soda is a great choice and really compliments the dry leathery notes in the cigar. The ash is white and even and one inch of ash is not a problem whatsoever. As I move further into the cigar more becomes apparent. Toasted nuts, leather, earthy, peppery. This cigar is very masculine. At the halfway mark the pepper has built to the point that I am getting spice in my nose.
Moving into the second half of the cigar it still burns cool and even and the draw remains smooth. Hints of oak and vanilla begin to appear and the the leather and pepper build even further. This cigar is really amazing. I have yet to find anything negative about it. This cigar is clearly very special, among the elite of cigars.
In the last 1/3 of the cigar, if it is possible, this cigar blossoms even more. It becomes very robust and much more complex and full bodied. I can taste earthiness overall, but quite a bit of spice, pepper, toasted nuts, leather and coffee, even a bit of cane sweetness. It is clearly hand rolled. The cigar is light in the hand, almost fragile feeling compared to cigars rolled in forms and made in factories. Clearly it is not a mass made cigar. The head has gotten slightly soggy, but not enough to detract from the overall experience.
First, the score. This cigar absolutely deserves a 95 or 96 score. Definitely on top of the game. This is a cigar for a smoker that appreciates being challenged. Matching it with the right drink is imperative. A bourbon or rye will be a much better choice than wine or a scotch, where the alcohol will vie with the cigar rather than compliment it. I cannot recommend the Casillero Privada highly enough. It really is among the great cigars I have ever had. I have 9 more in the humidor and will be enjoying them over the coming years, seeing how they age and improve over time.
Avelino Lara was one of the greats of the cigar industry. Born in 1921, he was the creator of Cohiba and contributed materially to the Davidoff line of cigars. At one point, Lara was the personal roller for Fidel Castro. After retiring in 1996, he moved to Nassau. There he rolled a few cigars for guests at the Graycliff hotel. This did so well that the Graycliff and Lara joined forces to create the Graycliff line of cigars, which are considered by most to be among the finest in the world. As I understand it, the Casillero Privada was the continuation of the original starting point at Graycliff, where Lara was just rolling cigars here and there for guests. After the Graycliff line was started, Lara’s hand-rolled cigars were kept in a private locker, a casillero privada, for the VIP guests.
So, if you want to smoke a cigar that celebrates the heritage and craft of one the greatest cigar makers of all time, this is the one.