The 23 Year Salute is the toro vitola in the ESG line. The ESG is made at the Fuente factory in Dominican Republic. It also uses a Dominican sun grown wrapper that is exclusive and unique to the ESG line of cigars. ESG was released to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Ashton brand and is a Dominican Puro. The toro vitola was released in 2010. Pricing is around $20/stick, but in my experience this is one of those cigars where the premium price is really worth it.
The ESG looks like a museum piece. It is beautifully made, with a milk chocolate color and a sheen of oil on the wrapper with a medium tooth. The band is one of the most intricate and stunning bands you’ll find. The foot of the cigar has aromas of cedar and baking spice. After cutting the cigar, a pre-light draw has notes of that same spice mixed with some dark honey. The resistance on the draw is perfect.
From the very beginning the flavor profile is complex but very smooth. First light brings notes of black pepper and graham cracker sweetness. As the first third progresses, the notes of honey and baking spice from the pre-light draw start to come through. The smoke output is full and the burn line is sharp with a long and solid ash. Some creamy notes start to come into the mix toward the end of the first third.
In the middle third the smoke starts to gain some deep richness. It is still smooth in texture but has an intense boldness to the flavors. Molasses notes join perfectly with the baking spice flavors that were already present. A Creamy coffee flavor comes in, but only on the finish. The draw smoke is so rich it is almost chewy. A kick of aged tobacco comes in at the end of this third. Just a touch of leather rounds out the profile.
At the beginning of the final third I was already in love with this cigar. The final third just improved in flavor, body, and strength. I was not expecting such an onslaught of strength in the final third, but it was a welcome addition. It is a testament to the bunchers in the Fuente factory that the leaves are placed in just the right layout so the strength increases at the right time. The kick in power at the end is a perfect combination with the flavors already in the profile, and the flavors that enter in at the end. The texture of the smoke starts to smooth back out again in the final third. That is a good combination to have the smooth texture of the smoke along with a bold strength and intensity of flavor. Some dark cocoa and graham cracker flavors add nicely to the palate. The baking spice that still supports the whole profile is the perfect contrast to the sweetness. This smoked down to a tiny nub, with great flavor and complexity all the way.
The cigar market has plenty of special cigars to choose from. If you are looking for a cigar to celebrate a special occasion or you just want to treat yourself, I highly recommend the ESG especially in this vitola. Something about this size seems to be just the right combination for a perfect burn and great combination of flavor and strength. Since these cigars already have a good amount of age, you don’t need to let them sit in your humidor for a long time before they are in the zone. Smoke them now. They are in the zone now. You will be pleased with the refined, smooth, flavorful, intense, complex, and rich flavors that only improve as the burn progresses.
-Matthew T. (A Huge Nerd)