When we first broke the news about the introduction of a blend-your-own cigar kit, known as the G.A.R. Deli, last August here, I was really excited about it and thought it was a really unique and intriguing idea. After talking with them about it for a while, George and Natasha Rico were gracious enough to send me a kit to review for the site, and talk about the experience of blending a cigar using the kit, and later to have the cigar reviewed and see how my blending chops fare. That review will be posted later this week, and I will post a link to it here. This is my experience.
Upon receiving the kit, I was impressed with the presentation, given it’s just the kit and not necessarily something you’re going to keep for a long time. It actually arrives in a cigar box of its own and has the name of the factory, G.R. Tabacaleras Co. and bears the name “G.A.R. Deli Custom Blending Kit” just like a regular cigar box would have the name of that cigar. The aroma that hits you when you open the box is like walking into a Bath and Body Works store, just all over the map and a little overwhelming, but in a good way in this case. After getting everything unboxed and organized, I took stock of the boxes contents. There are 17 “puritos” including 3 wrappers, 3 binders, 3 ligero fillers, 4 seco fillers, and 4 viso fillers. Besides that, I have the ordering book and the box itself, pretty simple. The ordering book is about a dozen pages long with in intro from George, instructions, and descriptions of each tobacco.
The puritos are mini cigars, about the size of a cigarillo, made up of one single kind of tobacco, so you can experience all the characteristics of that particular leaf, and blend and match with the others.
The puritos come is tiny ziplock baggies with hand-written origin and purpose, i.e. Binder, Jalapa. The ordering book has a little description of each type of tobacco with its varietal and origin. There is also room for notes on each leaf.
As I begin smoking through the leafs, I started with the wrappers and binders on the first day. I didn’t want to try to smoke 17 different kinds all in one day, as I felt like my palate would be a little dead by the end. I found all the wrappers to be very tasty, and two of the binders I really enjoyed. As I got further into the note-taking process, I started skipping the descriptions of the tobacco, which offered some tasting notes of its own, as I didn’t want to have any bias in picking out flavors.
On the second day I went through and started smoking through the fillers, starting with the viso, and ending with the ligero, so as to increase in strength as I progressed and not blow out my palate early. The fillers were really hit of miss for me, some I really liked, others I didn’t. I could see how some of the ones I found less tasty would add a layer of complexity to a cigar that is already good. On the third day, I began mixing and matching my favorites and trying to piece together the flavors I wanted to achieve.
Trying to smoke multiple puritos at the same time proved to be quite the challenge, and really ended up being my only complaint of the entire experience. I wish they had included a full or half leaf for each tobacco sample, so you could roll it together with the others in your blend and smoke them at the same time, instead of having to juggle and keep track of 4 or 5 tiny cigars at once trying to draw from each at the same time. It actually turned out to work better to light them and just mix the smokes by hovering over them instead of trying to smoke them. Once I had my blend perfected, I simply went to the back of the book and checked my vitola and tobacco selections, and how many fillers I wanted.
You are given a choice of only two vitolas, a 6 x 50 toro, or a 5 x 54 robusto. I went with the toro, as I tend to go for smaller ring gauges normally, and I really liked the wrapper I chose and wanted that to shine. For the toro, you are allowed up to 3 whole leafs or 6 half leafs for the filler, meaning you can have anywhere from 1 to 6 different fillers and whatever proportion you choose. For the robusto, since it is a fatter ring gauge, you can fit up to 4 whole or 8 half leafs. I really wish there were a few more vitola options, as I probably would have gone with a slightly thinner ring gauge. I would have liked to see at least a corona or corona gorda choice, if not a lonsdale or lancero. I know the logistics of having more choices makes it harder to streamline, but I think somewhere between the two you are given now, and all the standard sizes would be a nice balance.
Maybe someday, if this product catches on, you will be given more options. I also would have liked to see more wrapper choices. You are given three: Habano, Connecticut and Maduro. All three were very tasty, but I felt like corojo, criollo, and sumatra were really missing there. At a minimum, I think they need to add those three as choices, and perhaps someday offer an option for Cameroon and San Andres. For the things I felt were missing, as a customer, I wouldn’t mind paying a few dollars more for a few more choices, or even offer more options as an upgrade to the basic kit contents.
A few weeks later, my box arrived. I was blown away by the presentation and appearance of the cigars, everything looked and smelled amazing. The cigars looked to be very well constructed and were all quite good in appearance. The box is constructed very well and has my name hand-written on the inside. The cigars themselves have two bands, one main band and one at the foot, the first of which also has my name hand-written. I waited less than 24 hours to light one up with my brother as I wanted to see what they were like as fresh as possible, and boy we weren’t sorry. I won’t give any details of the flavors and performance as I don’t want to ruin the actual blind review, but we were both really impressed and agreed I did a pretty good job at my first attempt at blending. Some flavors I was trying to achieve in the blend were there, others weren’t or were very faint, but I think that letting them rest for a few months will allow those flavors to emerge. I was a little worried about sending these out for review so quickly after being rolled as I didn’t want them to go into a sick phase while there were being reviewed. I was torn between sending them out right away, or waiting a few months, so I contacted Natasha and George. George said that they should be good to go, so I sent them out to the group. That review will be coming up in the next few days so be sure to check that out.
Overall, I REALLY enjoyed this experience. It gave me an opportunity to do something that, until now, was only a dream. And the great thing is, anyone can do it. This kit is now available exclusively through cigar.com here. It’s priced at $250 which comes out to $10 a stick, which to have a cigar that you blended yourself, is totally worth it, especially if yours turns out to be good. And really, you aren’t paying for the box of cigars as much as the experience. There are a few things I would add or improve, and hopefully those things will be changed in the future if this becomes more popular. Those few shortcomings are far outweighed by the awesome experience and attention to detail in presentation. I want to thank Natasha and George again for giving me the opportunity to review this product, I really enjoyed the experience and definitely recommend this to all the intermediate and advanced smokers out there.