Several years ago I remember reading about J. Castañon and his wife settling in York County, PA (which is west of Lancaster where the great PA Broadleaf is grown, and two counties to the west of my home), and having something to do with the 120 year old Hain’s Pipe and Cigar Shop in York and the even older Demuths in Lancaster (some say it’s the oldest cigar shop in the country, “Temporarily” Closed since 2010?). Sadly, I’ve not been to visit either shop, but heard that J. Castañon was launching Casta Cigars with two of their offerings featuring tobacco from some long-lost bales of Cuban tobacco that was found under a barn in Lancaster County, having been “forgotten” for the last 50 years. Tales of lost pre-embargo tobacco have been told since the boom of the 90s, I think Camacho used some allegedly, and there was a brand called Pinar 3000 that I remember from the 90s that purported to contain some pre-embargo Cuban leaf. I always figured if there was such a thing as 50-year-old tobacco it would be in pretty rough shape, and the cigars would have a sprinkling of flakes in them. Casta Cigars are making two cigars with a large portion of what they term “1942 Pre-Embargo Cuban Picadura Seco Volado“, the Fusion and the Puro, both in Corona sizes, retailing for $15 and $20 respectively. Here’s a quote from their website about J. Castañon:
J. Castañon’s legacy first began in Cuba rolling at the legendary Cohiba Cigar Factory. His journey continued in the USA by rolling cigars at the country’s oldest cigar shop, Demuth’s Tobacco Shop in Lancaster, PA. Today, J. Castañon continues to develop wonderful new blends from the Dominican Republic.
Yesterday we had a snow day, and after doing some shoveling, I decided it was a good time to smoke some of these cigars. I was skeptical, I mean, 75-year-old tobacco? So I started with the Fusion, which has a 70/30 blend of the Cuban with Brazilian filler, wrapped in a 10-year-old Brazilian wrapper with Indonesian binder. I like Brazilian tobacco, and I don’t expect much from Indonesian, and when I hear Picadura Seco Volado I think Picadura=scrap tobacco, and Seco Volado=low priming, so again, combined with the fact that it’s 75 years old, expectations are lower. I’ve smoked a premium Cuban cigar from the 80s and it was uneventful, but I’ve had a Cuban Davidoff from the 70s that was spectacular. I have to say, the Fusion was pretty good. Construction was excellent, it burned well, and the flavor was pretty good, tobacco with some sweetness. I didn’t feel like I wasted an hour, and was left satisfied.
After dinner I decided to give the not quite accurately named Puro a try. Also presented in a corona size, which isn’t surprising given the rarity of the 75-year-old tobacco, this was also very well made. These didn’t feel like short filler, as hard as it is to believe that bales of tobacco under a barn for 50 years would be anything but dust. Perhaps picadura and seco volado meant something different in 1942 Cuban parlance. Anyway, it had a decent tobacco flavor and the Brazilian wrapper lent a little sweetness. I smoked both cigars to about a half an inch. I can say I smoked cigars with 75 yer old tobacco, it was a very interesting and unique experience.
Tonight I thought give one of their non-pre-emabargo tobacco offerings a try, so I selected the toro shaped Maduro Brazilian Mareba, with a 10-year-old Brazilian maduro wrapper, Indonesian binder and Brazilian filler. These are rolled in the Dominican Republic, and I’m told that J. Castañon likes to hire Cuban rollers, who use the entubado method that Jesus learned while rolling Cohibas in Cuba. While searching around to see if Jesus was his name, it appears that the Mareba has been around for a few years, although it’s somehow eluded my notice. the wrapper has a nice, oily sheen, with a pigtail cap. This was a very flavorful cigar, with some similar flavors to the other two (they all share the 10 year aged wrapper), with a nice, sweet finish. The smoke had some sweet, earthy flavors and, again, the burn and draw was about perfect. I have a couple more sizes to try, the maduro in the gordo shaped Chuco (which would have been tonight’s choice if the weather had been better) the Sombra corona and the Cuerda which is a panatela sharing the Puro blend with the pre-embargo leaf.
I had my reservations, but I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor that the ancient tobacco had, and I have to believe what I’ve been told and it’s not marketing BS. I’ve lived in Lancaster County, PA, seen plenty of tobacco farms and barns and I suppose it’s a plausible story. I didn’t consider smoking any of the cigars a waste of my time, I’m thankful for the chance to try these. Many thanks to Jacob Hammill, president of Casta Cigars, for answering my many questions, answers to many of which I could have found on the website had I looked closer!
That’s all for tonight, until the next time,