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Written by Puff Staff

Friday, 28 October 2005

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We've all wanted to start our own cigar company. Here's proof it's a tough go.

We've all had the same dream, start our own cigar company and make a little money.  Most importantly, make a great cigar that we can count on every day.  This is a story about one of us who followed through on the dream.  We just wish we could tell you that this tale had a happy ending.

Top25Cigar received an email in June of 2005 from a gentleman named Dennis Wagman.  Mr. Wagman explained that he was starting his own cigar company, and wanted us to try his cigars in a "staff review" format.  Mr. Wagman went on to briefly explain his cigar journey.

"I lived in Canada (Toronto) and love cigars. Canada has very high taxes and cigars are quite expensive. After or during an evening out I would always enjoy a good cigar and the price didn't bother me. Unfortunately, I started smoking more and begrudged the very high cost for a "non occasion" cigar. So I started shopping around for a good $10 (Canadian) cigar. Couldn't find one I liked, so off I went to the DR to make one. I found an unemployed ex cigar factory manager and started experimenting with blends and wrappers. Rest is history."

The result of Mr. Wagman's foray into cigar manufacturing is called Los Santos Cigars.  As he explained, a Dominican made cigar that would satisfy his, and likely many others desire for a good inexpensive every day cigar.  If you follow the industry, you are keenly aware that this is not an easy undertaking.  Many of the major cigar companies are on a similar journey.  In fact they are spending top dollar to make their "good everyday cigar" YOUR "good everyday cigar".

The story takes a turn come the latter part of 2005.  We can no longer raise Mr. Wagman via email or his website.  You see, we did review the cigars, sending them out to quite a few members.  The results were pretty miserable.  So miserable in fact, that out of respect for Mr. Wagman's personal journey, we emailed him saying as much, and giving him the option of not having the review published.  This was a first for Top25Cigar, as we have never given a manufacturer the option of having their review published or not based on the results.  In this case color us a bit sentimental, as we were not interested in making his dream any harder to attain.

When we never heard back we did a little searching, and found the Los Santos website on the web.  We tried to email Mr. Wagman again from his website, and again received no response.  It looks like the website is still active, but one really has no way of knowing.  Their website explains their mission and goals as follows:

"Los Santos Cigars was the brainchild of cigar aficionado, Dennis Wagman. Having smoked and rated hundreds of cigars from all over the world, he noticed a lack of high quality, high value cigars. He set out to develop a world-class, premium quality handmade cigar that could be enjoyed by any cigar smoker, from budding beginner to seasoned aficionado, at a price most people can afford.

Between 2001 and 2003, the search for a great cigar and cigar producer was underway. After much research and travel to various countries in the Caribbean and Central America, we found cigar makers in the Dominican Republic with an excellent reputation for quality and creativity. The Los Santos quality managers honed their skills with some of the Dominican Republic’s most famous names. Our head manager has 26 years in the industry, and his two production managers have similar experience in both selecting and blending cigar tobacco. The unlikely combination of three such highly skilled individuals is a virtual miracle: hence the name Los Santos, the saints!"

Our hope is that the chasing of the dream continues, and Los Santos works on their cigars and creates a happy ending for this little tale.  In the interim, we figured this was an fascinating little story to publish.  Our reviewers thoughts are below.  Some are pretty harsh, but the cigars were as well.

We tried the 7 x 50 Los Santos Churchill.  The Los Santos cigars had a Connecticut wrapper, by what we can tell, the binder and filler were long leaf Dominican.  The cigars look very light and delicate, almost frail.  A couple of our reviewers complained that the wrapper could not hold up to the smoking, and would break and fall apart as it was smoked.

The draw was good, and the construction seemed to be on par with other cigars in this price category.  Nobody had any complaints or direct compliments about construction, and that is usually a good sign.

Unfortunately the flavor of these cigars was unanimously hammered.  The cigars burnt hot, and had very grassy flavors.  We received some interesting comments about taste...

"Why?  What did I ever do to you?  My first chance at a Top25Cigar Staff Review and I get these dog rockets?  This was the hottest, harshest cigar I have ever smoked.  There is no way this is quality tobacco.  This cigar burnt fast, and never, and I mean never even came close to being good."

"I'm not sure what the manufacturer is going for in this cigar?  Perhaps a milder everyday smoke?  My suggestion is to go back to the drawing board.  There is no discernable flavor here.  The cigar just overwhelms you with this weedy bad tobacco taste."

"The first Churchill I tried was so bad that I thought it might be due to not being properly humidified.  I stored the other samples away for 3 weeks in my humidor to see if they would settle down.  Three weeks later...no thanks.  This is a poorly made smoke that has minimal flavor.  What there is is mild, but not what I would call enjoyable.  Please let me know what these are!"

So as you can read, not much positive news.  Our reviewers all received 4 or 5 of the Churchills to test, and all cigars were humidified for three weeks in their box before being sent out.  The dream didn't come true for these Los Santos Churchills.  We wish Los Santos luck, wherever they are.  Remember what our parents told us, "if at first you don't succeed, try try again".




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