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Cigar Weekly Blind 2009 Review #2

Vegas de Santiago Don Luis Secretos del Maestro Churchill (natural wrapper)
Published Monday, March 23, 2009
Compiled by Doug McGuire (Mad Dawg)
Since taking on the mantle of Reviews Editor for CW last year, I’ve been surprised more than once by the results of the blind reviews I’ve coordinated. In many respects, this review is a perfect example. Prior to being contacted about a review by Lani Kaub Niehaus, Director of International Sales for Vegas Santiago SA (who graciously supplied the cigars for the review), I had never heard of Vegas de Santiago (“VDS”) cigars, or the Santiago de Puriscal region of Costa Rica where the filler and binder tobaccos used in making many of the cigar lines are grown.
According to the Vegas de Santiago web site (, the process of drying, curing, and aging the tobaccos used in their cigars requires a minimum of 3 years. All cigars are made by hand using exclusively long fillers, after which they are aged for 3 months before they are ready for distribution. Also of interest is the fact that all tobacco used in manufacturing VDS cigars is frozen prior to rolling, ensuring that beetles will not be an issue!
The families who own Vegas Santiago SA have been involved in tobacco cultivation and cigar production in Costa Rica for over 80 years. Mr. Luis Santana Lamas was master of production for VDS for several years before his death. “Don Luis” had mastered the intricacies of cigar production during the 25 years he worked at the H. Upmann factory in Havana. The Don Luis Secretos del Maestro line is named in his honor. According to the promotional flyer I was sent along with the cigars, the line features “Caribbean tobacco [fillers], binder from Indonesian and Central America, and a Connecticut wrapper from Ecuador. In further correspondence we got this response “This cigar was named 'Secretos del Maestro' for a reason!!. We did not want the exact blend to be known.
For your article you may say that the blend is a 3 year old Dominican Ligero with an Ecuadorian ligero and a Costa Rican secco. The wrapper is a Habano2000 from Ecuador and the binder is from Indonesia.

Pre-Smoke Comments

Fishin’ Phil: Beautiful Claro Churchill.  No spots or lumps, very light veining.  Draw was perfect, and burned evenly all the way down to the nub.  Aroma was very pleasant.
TommyBB: This was a lovely cigar; a fine double corona with an elegant Connecticut Shade wrapper leaf.  This wrapper was smooth and pretty, with a well-applied cap. It, hopefully, foretold good things to follow.
ronin: A very nice sweet smell out of the cellophane wrapper. Nice cap with a firm bunch. Upon clipping, even though the bunch was firm, I found it to be a perfect draw. I lit it with a soft flame, a nice even light.

Smoke Comments

Fishin’ Phil: Mild, but flavorful,  sweet grassy/wood flavors that build to a slightly earthy ending toward the last third of the cigar.

TommyBB: I enjoyed this cigar, as I grilled/barbecued on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon with a cup of coffee. It’s not particularly strong, but has enough mild/medium flavor to satisfy many smokers.  There are better cigars, and there are plenty worse, too. Judging from the numbers, I liked this more than I thought, but found it something I’d certainly have again.

ronin: The cigar produced ample smoke. Nice even burn with a nice balance between body and flavor. I never had to touch it up. Burn was perfect, The initial sweetness continued throughout the smoke. A very nice subtle aroma.

SLR: This flavor of this cigar is disagreeable.  The flavor profile is vegetal, mineral, and metallic.  Some tobacco flavors are there but it is not very good.

Elk Twin: The flavor of this cigar started out strangely. There were sweet and sour notes that were reminiscent of custard and a vinegary hot sauce. It sounds bad, but actually came across surprisingly well. The burn was superbly straight and there was a dark and oily 2mm ring at the burn line. The finish was a bit unfortunate, with a bit of bite on the back sides of my tongue and a minor oily quality that was a tad unpleasant. As the cigar burned down the flavor became deeper and more well-rounded, with an additional layer of evergreen and citrus tang. The aroma was nice; it had a piquant scent of sweet spiciness that tingled just a touch and carried a depth not often found but greatly appreciated. In the last few inches the cigar developed a satisfyingly rich character that offered balanced flavor and a redeemingly nice, lingering finish.

Augie754: The start had some strong spiciness and a woody flavor. The spice flavors were the dominate flavors throughout, with touches of cedar and leather, and at times a hint of tea. The flavors were not light, I would say medium to full, with the body being medium. The flavors weren’t thick or rich, but they were pronounced.

wavescrashing: Decent amount of smoke with a woody flavor and coffee undertones after lighting. Started off woody with no spice and minor hints of coffee and nuts. The coffee undertones caused a bit of a harsh aftertaste. The burn became quite uneven shortly after lighting revealing a nice light-gray ash with a dark, thin burn line. At the second third, the coffee flavor started to pick up, unfortunately it wasn't a smooth taste as it increased the harsh aftertaste. The second review stick had a smoother aftertaste with a grassy flavor. The burn evened out on the last third. The draw opened up a bit more, but was still tight throughout the entire cigar. The first stick had some construction issues as the wrapper began to unravel right where the band would be. The woody flavor was still dominant until the end and a hint of spice jumped back into the mix. The aftertaste improved immensely at this point, leaving behind a toasty wood flavor.

Summary Comments

Fishin’ Phil: An excellent mild cigar.  Well made, flavorful, and elegant.  If you are someone who can appreciate a mild cigar, I urge you to try these.

TommyBB: None.

ronin: WOW!! I really liked this cigar. This was an outstanding smoke. Great flavor, body, burn. Whoever makes this cigar has a winner on their hands. You will be a winner also if you get some. Two hours of pure enjoyment.

SLR: It is a good looking cigar but the flavor profile is terrible.

Elk Twin: I was impressed with the construction and overall experience this cigar offered. It was pleasant and satisfying. The cigar was never overpowering and capably harmonized the various flavors of its components into a delightful medley. A very fine effort that bears further exploration.

Augie754: This was a surprising smoke, I thought the light wrapper was Connecticut and the flavors would be very mild. I was wrong because the flavors were plentiful and quite good. Typically I’d like a richer, more robust smoke, but this would make a great early afternoon or morning smoke. I wouldn’t mind having a few on hand.

wavescrashing: Overall, this stick was a bit complex, but the unbalanced flavors that added to the complexity, left an undesirable aftertaste. The most flavorful part of this smoke was during the last third, and even then, it was average at best. The burn was consistently uneven and the draw was tight throughout. I'd definitely say the second helping of this review cigar helped the overall final score, which is still only average.

Reviewer Fishin'Phil TommyBB Ronin SLR  ElkTwin Augie754 WavesCrashing Averages
Appearance and Construction (0-5) 5 4 4 3 5 4 4 4.1

Burn (0-5)

4 3 5 4 5 5 2 4
Draw (0-5) 5 4 5 5 4 4 2 4.1
Aroma (0-5) 4 4 5 3 5 4 4 4.1
Flavor (0-10) 8 7 7 1 9 7 6 6.4
Taste and Aftertaste (0-10) 9 7 10 1 7.5 7 4 6.5
Overall Quality (0-10) 9 6.5 10 1 8 7 5 6.6  
Total 44 35.5 46 18 43.5 38 27 37.6  

Review Results

Final Score: 37.6 out of 50 – 4 Stars – Excellent

I found this cigar to be well made, with an excellent draw and burn throughout. Towards the mild side of medium in body, it offered a pleasant flavor profile that shifted through various combinations of woody and earthy flavors, with subtle notes of citrus and spice. A really nice morning cigar when paired with a big mug of coffee.

The Vegas de Santiago Don Luis “Secretos del Maestro” line comes in five sizes: 

Cañonazo (6x52)

Churchill (7x50)

Torpedo (6x52)

Robusto (5x50)

Corona (6x42) 

Presentation for the review cigars was in cedar boxes of 10; prices for that presentation range from $32 to $42. A variety of other packaging options are available, including bundles of 50, which range in price from $128 to $150. All sizes are available for purchase directly from the manufacturer at the following web site: 

All information in the Cigar Weekly Blind Reviews database is copyright the authors and Cigar Weekly. Unauthorized use is prohibited without express permission of either.