Sunday, October 24, 2010

DOUBLE REVIEW: Ashton ESG? Someone pinch me!

The fellows at Cigarsdirect have done it again.  They have given me two more opportunities (more on the second opportunity later) to review some particularly immaculate cigars:  the Aston ESG series.  I was allowed to sample the 20-year and 22-year vintages and give some opinions and thoughts.

Kevin (right) showing off some of his and colleague's
works at Arts Goggle 2010 in Ft. Worth.
It had occurred to me since my arrangement with Cigarsdirect was born, that I was in a pretty unique position.  Not only could I sample the best of their amazing selection, but it seemed almost hypocritical of me to cut my sharing experience short with just words.  Thus, I decided some of my friends and peers to help aid in the reviewing process.

Today, I introduce Kevin McGehee, an amazing glass artist who recently helped found SiNaCa Studios in Ft. Worth, Texas.  Kevin's girlfriend is one of my wife's colleagues and an upstanding gentlemen with some awesome ink.  His description below is a pretty accurate account of how I came to ask him for his help with this Ashton ESG review.

The Ashton ESG series is a tribute to Ashton's amazing success as a line in the last 20+ years in the industry.  Backed by two of the cigar world's two powerhouse personalities (Carlos Fuente, Jr. & Robert Levin), Ashton has become a household name along with the likes of Fuente, Cohiba, and, yes, Davidoff.  The wrapper on this particular blend is incredibly unique, as it has never been used before and the entire blend was concocted by master blender, Fuente, Jr.. 

On with the reviews.

By Kevin McGehee

Kevin, helping construct a
sunflower made entirely
of hand-blown glass.
A few months ago my girlfriend and I hosted an event at our house. We had a great group of people over and perfect weather as well. The majority of the evening was spent out on the deck playing Catch Phrase. I was already enjoying an Ashton when Bear arrived and inquired what I was smoking. He gave me a knowing nod and joined the crowd. 

Fast forward to the middle of September. I received a call from Bear saying that he remembered the Ashton that I had smoked and if I would be interested in helping him review the Ashton ESG. Without hesitation I agreed. As the designated day drew near I began to wonder what I was about to get myself into. Would I be able to give a good description of my experience? Would I try to over analyze the experience? I usually smoke cigarettes, but that being said I do enjoy a good cigar.

I wanted to provide a good account of my experience with this cigar. I read over Bear’s posts and made a mental outline of what to notice and when to do so. At Bear's suggestion I paired my Ashton ESG 22 Year Salute with a pint of Negro Modelo (an excellent choice any time). With that being said here are my impressions of the next hour and a half of excellence. 

My starting point was the initial inspection of this 6 x 52 crafted greatness. It revealed a rich walnut color, and a wonderfully mild sent with hints of oak and possibly nutmeg and coriander. It had a good solid, but not ridged feel to it as well. So I got to the cutting and lighting of the cigar… I had some nagging questions in the back of my head. I’ve always used a guillotine cutter, but had never taken much consideration to where I cut the cigar. How deep do I cut? I didn’t want to cut so much that the wrapper started to fray. I also didn’t want to have such a small cut that I would end up passing out trying to get a decent draw. I made my choice and thankfully chose well. Lighting up. Yet again, an area of cigar smoking that I really had never given a lot of thought to. Generally my routine would be strike the lighter and give a few puffs to get started. Well thanks to reading Bear’s posts it dawned on me that I was taking the wrong approach. So, I attempted to use just the flame to get things underway. If only it were that easy. I’m not sure if it was a lack of patience, but I wasn’t very successful. In the end, I went back to my normal routine and got it lit. As I would find out through the smoke the Ashton would correct my crappy lighting techniques for me. 

The initial draw was clean and I was able to again distinguish the hints of oak, nutmeg and coriander. I truly enjoyed the flavor that the cigar provided. I picked up the draught Modelo and was wonderfully surprised by the change in its flavor, due to the taste of the Ashton. It went from a “traditional Munich Dunkel Lager” to having a cream ale flavor similar to a Cafferys or a Smithwick. 

For my personal preference this was the perfect sized cigar. It felt good in my hand and its diameter wasn’t overwhelming. As I moved toward the middle of the stogie I took a couple of deeper draws and was greeted with the same flavors as the beginning of my journey. Although, I did notice a slight spicy tingle on the tip of my tongue. 
My best description of this might be a white pepper taste. Pleasant and an interesting surprise. Towards the end of the Ashton I was very pleased that there was no excessive warmth on a deep draw and the flavors maintained themselves very well. 

I found this to be a wonderful smoke from beginning to end. Great consistent flavors and a very forgiving burn even with my tragic lighting technique. Thank you Bear for the opportunity to enjoy a truly great cigar!

Kevin's Rating: 90
Kevin (center) with (from left) Mark and Cliff, two of his partners posing in
front of their finished project.

By Bear

I have had the fortunate opportunity to smoke some Ashton ESG Salutes in the past and have enjoyed each and everyone of them.  The following smoking experience was no different than my previous endeavors.  If one should read anything into that statement, it should start and end with the conclusion that Ashton produces nothing but consistent excellence. 

The cigar felt good in hand and its flawless wrapper had a wonderful bouquet of earth, white pepper, and notes of nutmeg.  The pre-light draw was consistent of the initial bouquet.  I ditched my traditional cool lighting method and went with some matches.  The smell of sulphur stung my nose a little, but it did not harm the palate or scent of the cigar.

The draw on the first few puffs were excellent and proved to be a welcoming kickoff of things to come.  The smoke was cool and plentiful as my palate was coated with nuts, tea, earth and nutmeg.  Although, just as consistent as other Ashtons, the ESG proved to be surprisingly complex. 

I decided to smoke this cigar dry (no beverage accompaniment), as to give an honest virgin review.  With my previous ESG experiences, I had elected to pair the cigar with a variety of different beverages.  I wanted to give an honest effort to make this a unique and new experience. 

Unique it was, as this being my first cigar of the day, I was truly able to savor the fine nuances and quality of this gem to the cigar world.  Fuente, Jr. certainly did an unbelievable job in blending this series.  Although, when you start with leaves from the Chateau de la Fuente farm, it seems difficult, in my experience, to miss in terms of quality product. 

The finish for me was clean, crisp and lingered just the right amount of time.  Pick up a box of these to celebrate a wedding, new baby, or to celebrate a beautiful Saturday afternoon.  Whatever you do, be sure to look them up at

My Ratings:

Appearance - 10
Pre-light taste- 8
Construction - 10
Draw - 9
Burn - 9
Aroma - 9
Flavor - 8
Balance - 10
Finish- 9

Total Rating: 9.2 

Whenever you smoke an Ashton remember you are in elite company, smoking some of Fuente, Jr.'s finest.  For Kevin and myself, remember, there is nothing wrong with knowing you are the best.

1 comment:

  1. I like the double review. Sounds like a good one. :) Thanks again for the Ashton that you gave me at my bachelor party!