Fonseca Habana Seleccion Black Prince
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Behold the mighty “A” size. It’s the 3 lb. Porterhouse of the stogie world — unwieldy, obscene, and usually pricy. But every now and again, it’s an act of manliness with no equal.
So on this lazy summer afternoon, my agenda is empty but for whipping up a habanero-mango sauce to go with some jerk chicken. Smoke an “A,” chop chile peppers, BBQ… Neanderthal Spa Day!
Fonseca’s Habana Seleccion is a relatively new blend from Manuel Quesada. Developed for Cigars International and released in late 2006, it is billed as a departure from Fonseca’s mild formula. It features an Habana Criollo ‘98 wrapper grown in Jalapa, Nicaragua, a Nicaraguan binder and five year-old Dominican fillers. The idea, according to Quesada, was to marry a spicy wrapper/binder combination with aged Dominican fillers he is accustomed to working with. Nine generations of test blends later, the result is a line of six vitolas including the 8.7″ x 48 Black Prince.
The Black Prince is decked out in a weighty, wooden box of 10. Each is signed on the inside lid by Mr. Quesada. Considering the rarity of wrappers large enough to cloak an “A,” the Black Prince is modestly priced at $80 per box and can be nabbed on C-Bid for much less (I paid $40 for this box).
In my experience, the downside of an “A” size is that they take a while to warm up. Not so with the Habana Seleccion. It begins somewhere in the mild-medium range, but it’s phenomenally complex. It’s immediately identifiable as a Fonseca, with the sweet and tangy woodiness that is a common thread through Mr. Quesada’s blends. Here, that tang verges on fruitiness. There is also a faint hint of clove on the front.
But it’s the long finish that makes this totally unique. There is light toast, cinnamon, and eventually a soft sweetness that reminds me of marshmallow.
It continues in this vein for about 30 minutes, intensifying slightly to a medium-bodied peak. The burn and draw are excellent. It is around the 1/3 mark that the complexity begins to wane, and the finish flattens out by the 45 minute mark. It remains pleasant with a woody core, lingering cinnamon and enough pepper to keep it from turning bland. But the second half can’t compare to the incredible start.
With three inches remaining, I pick up a little funk. I can’t see any tar collecting at the head, but I’m beginning to taste it. I ride it out for another ten minutes before letting it go.
I’m left with mixed feelings. Did I get my four bucks worth? Hell yeah. But after the flying start, I couldn’t help but get my hopes up for a dynamic finish that never came.
CONCLUSION: The Fonseca Habana Seleccion is an outstanding blend, and the Black Prince does it justice. The build is exemplary, and the value is astounding at the auction price. Unfortunately, the final hour doesn’t live up to the tremendous start. As a result, this one’s a little tough to rate. The first 30-40 minutes ranks well into the 90s; the remainder is just ordinary. Even if you’re not ready to commit to the monstrous Black Prince, though, try something from this line. The 5″ x 48 Cosacos is a great format, even if it lacks the cagefighter manliness of the “A.”