Saint Luis Rey Serie A
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Though I smoke more robustos than anything else, the corona gorda is my favorite size. I’m not talking about the 6″ x 50 that is occasionally referred to as a corona gorda, but the real deal at 5.62″ x 46. Perfectly comfortable in the hand. Thick enough to offer some complexity, yet thin enough that the wrapper flavor always comes through. And a perfect duration for impatient smokers, clocking in at 45 minutes to an hour.
There’s no shortage of storied Habanos in this vitola — the Punch Punch, H. Upmann Magnum 46, Hoyo Epicure No. 1, and so on. It’s no wonder the Saint Luis Rey Serie A is overlooked.
According to more experienced smokers, age is everything with the SLR Serie A. Some suggest that smoking them with less than five years of rest is to waste them. Others say the “sweet spot” is 3-5 years. I won’t be able to confirm either view (yet), as mine are relatively green with a box date of FEB07.
These aren’t bred for looks. The wrappers are uniform in color, but some are lumpy and most are veiny. The start is unassuming but nice — an earthy core and a distinct peanut note on the finish. It is medium bodied, though it becomes rich with the addition of powdery cocoa flavors after an inch. It is slightly dry on the palate, so keep a beverage handy.
If this description sounds familiar, it should. The first third of the Serie A tastes remarkably like a few smokes that my fellow Pepin Garcia fans will know well — the DPG Series JJ and the Habana Leon.
The construction is only average. The draw is slightly firm, I had a few minor runners, and the burn required touchups. Nothing I couldn’t live with, but this hardly smokes itself.
It’s on the second half that the benefits of age become apparent. When I first sampled these close to a year ago, they were reasonably strong, earthy and nutty from start to finish. Fine, but one-dimensional. Today, the strength is dialed down a notch, while the complexity has improved.
The third quarter of this stick is particularly impressive. The base flavor is now a balanced mix of trademark Habano earth, cocoa, coffee with cream, and nuts. Occasional meaty notes add interest. The early dryness has mostly disappeared. It finishes largely as it started — more earth and nuts — but predictably stronger and richer. In all, this is an excellent stick with obvious aging potential.
CONCLUSION: The Saint Luis Rey Serie A is a good smoke when fresh. It’s a very, very good one after a year. Odds are I’ll be touting its greatness a year or two from today. Its flavors haven’t yet achieved the seamless complexity of greats like the Bolivar RC or RASS, but the Serie A has the goods. Spotty construction will always be a limiting factor, but otherwise consider a cab of these ($300-$350) to be a can’t miss investment.