CW Review: Astral Grande Reserve Vintage Beso
UST, Inc. is a billion-dollar company known mostly for its smokeless tobacco. Incorporated in 1986, UST is the result of the reorganization of United States Tobacco Company. United States Tobacco Company was originally incorporated in 1911. UST's best know products are the Copenhagen and Skoal lines of smokeless tobacco.
UST, Inc. also has interests in several wineries, such as Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest and Domaine Ste. Michelle produced in the Washington State and Villa Mt. Eden and Conn Creek produced in California.
UST's wholly owned subsidiary, US Cigar Sales, Inc. has owned cigar-manufacturing plants since 1951. US Cigar produces the Don Tomás and Astral brands in Honduras and the new Habano Primero in the Dominican Republic. US Cigar uses tobacco from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Mexico in its cigars, along with tobacco from Indonesia, Colombia and Ecuador. US Cigars, also, grows tobacco themselves in the Talang Valley near Teguciagalpa, Honduras.
US Cigars manufactures and markets six brands of cigars. The Astral line was introduced in 1995: Astral and Astral Grand Reserve Vintage Selection. The Don Tomás line was introduced in 1973: Don Tomás Original, Don Tomás Special Edition, and Don Tomás International. The Habano Primero was introduced in 1998.
Cigar Weekly reviews are blind taste tests conducted by our readers. Reviewers are sent three samples with all identifying marks removed. Reviewers are chosen randomly from the list of everyone that has signed the Cigar Weekly Guest Book. Their comments are below.
Brian Knorr: The cigars were very even in color and texture. The dark brown wrapper was thinly veined and well constructed. I prefer a maduro so I looked forward to smoking them. These cigars would look great all lined up in a box.
David Zeitlin: Had a slight ammonia aroma, but looked nice. good firm feel.
Jack Munthe: Unfortunately, these 3 cigars were received in horrendous condition. Only 1 of the 3 was smokeable, although I gave all 3 the 'old college try'. The wrappers were trashed and 2 of the cigars had large cracks in them. I placed them in my humidor for a week and half to try to get them smokeable. This explains the 0 rating on the appearance and const. portion of this review. The 1 cigar that I patchworked together was actually quite good in its burn and draw, which gave me a better outlook for the tasting.
Mark Blakey: Upon inspecting the cigars upon receipt, I sat and wondered just how long these had sat out before mailing. Two days via US mail does not cause cigars to dry out to the point that the wrapper on one was literally "flaking" off, with the other two not far behind. Even in their condition I could still tell that these were very well constructed. A few minor soft spots, fine veins, nice seams, very minor spotting and the caps done to near perfection. Pre-smoke aroma was a very nice sweet tobacco. Draw was near perfect with a relatively even burn. Smoke aroma was so good even my wife liked it (she normally rates cigar smell equal to that of raw sewerage)! No throat burn. The ash was light gray with darker blotches and had a typical consistency. The coal was a rounded, low profile cone.
Mark Dudick: The cigars arrived in perfect condition. Tightly wrapped with an inviting aroma. They had the appearance of quality cigars.
Paul Lippe: Very nice looking cigar. One was a little dry and brittle.
Robert Malone: All three cigars appeared very consistent in construction. All had a nice even dark brown wrapper and fairly smooth caps. The bunch seemed very firm and I had some concern that the draw may be too tight. That misgiving proved to be groundless as all three had an excellent draw with lots of smoke. All three produced an excellent light gray ash that easily reached 2 1/2 inches (not bad on a Robusto.)The burn was very even, and there were no problems with the cigars staying lit.
Steve St.Laurent: A well rolled cigar. The wrapper was very smooth other than a few veins. It was a little firm to the touch.
Tod Kohl: Nicely constructed, all samples consistent. Dark brown wrapper with moderate veins, not at all oily. Nicely done cap. Cigar firmly bunched, no loose spots, lumps etc. Body yields slightly to touch.
Brian Knorr: The cigars smoked creamy and had a cedar quality about it. The richness was even throughout out the entire smoke right down to the butt. It burned even and the ash was great, I think I could have kept it on to the butt. This was a well made stogie.
David Zeitlin: Slight coffee flavors, built up slightly as it burned.
Jack Munthe: Based on the 1 cigar that was almost smokeable, (large crack in middle and at the head) my expectations were raised. A good peppery bite and nice smooth draw was evident in the whole experience. As the cigar burnt down, it developed more body and the taste was heightened. I smoked this one to the nub and was glad I did as the overall taste rose and did not get hot and ugly.
Mark Blakey: These cigars start out rather mild with a somewhat sweet cocoa flavor mixed with a little bit of a peppery aftertaste. After about an 1 1/2" down, the taste characteristics change quite abruptly with the pepper taste taking over, but not to the point of making it unpleasant because just enough of the sweet tobacco flavor is there to balance it out nicely. It does change from what I consider mild to a more medium strength cigar. The volume of smoke disappointed me because it was a bit thin. The finish begins about 2" from the end and starts out rather spicy and gets stronger rapidly (I attribute that to the dried out condition).
Mark Dudick: A fantastic even burn with a relatively easy draw. I always use the ash structure a good indicator for my cigars. These did not disappoint in that aspect. I had no problems with any of my smokes and the aroma was very refined.
Paul Lippe: Smoked very well - one was harsh - other two were great the last of the three was great.
Robert Malone: While these cigars produced lots of smoke, it was fairly one dimensional. There was a bit of spiciness throughout, but it never developed into anything very complex. To me these were medium body, fairly mild smokes. The flavors that came through were very subtle, leather predominated with hints of earthiness.
Steve St.Laurent: Draw was a little tight although smoke volume was good. The taste was mild-medium. A good middle of the road cigar. One of the cigars burned a little uneven, but the other burned perfectly. The ash lasted through 1/2 of the cigar and was perfectly shaped and beautifully white.
Tod Kohl: Easy to light. All samples had a slightly uneven burn with a gray, average ash. Draw was nearly perfect on all samples. These smokes had a very subtle aroma, with no throat burn and little lingering odor. Mild enough aroma that my wife didn't ask me to take it outside...Sort of a nondescript smoke. Flavor got better as the cigar burned down, but remained mild enough to smoke clear to about 1 1/2". Not a terribly robust smoke for a robusto.
Brian Knorr: This cigar looked great and smoked even better. The taste was full and satisfying, I could have burned my finger on this one. This just might be my new everyday smoke.
David Zeitlin: Not bad, wish it had a little more flavor & complexity.
Jack Munthe: Certainly would have enjoyed this smoke more even if it was received in fair to good condition. In order to give it the optimum benefits, I picked the best envirornments I had available to increase my experience. My score indicates a total of 31 but I'm sure a cared-for cigar would have been close to a 36.
Mark Blakey: In doing this review I wanted to be careful to be fair both to the cigar and to those reading it. Because of the condition of the cigars I gave the most weight to the last one smoked because it had the longest to rejuvenate in the humidor. The first cigar was smoked about four days after receipt, and the smoking comments applied except that I had considerable trouble getting an even burn and it was a bit sharp on the tongue. The second I smoked while fishing and I enjoyed that one more. The last was smoked just days before this was written. When I find out what the cigar actually is, I am planning to get a couple and pop them into one of my humidors for 2-4 months so I can see if I would want to add them to my regular rotation. I think with a little aging this could be a really nice smoke.
Mark Dudick: An excellent cigar. I would not hesitate to make these a regular in my humidor. I would recommend these to a friend. A distinguished smoke.
Paul Lippe: Overall great cigar. Good everyday cigar. Rich, peppery and very good burn. Just what I like in taste.
Robert Malone: All in all, these were agreeable somewhat one dimensional smokes. They are more suited to working in the yard or a round of golf than as an accompaniment to single malt scotch, or a good micro brewed stout. I wouldn't add these to my smoking rotation, but I would recommend that those folks who appreciate nice construction, lots of smoke, and mild body give them a try.
Steve St.Laurent: Overall a good cigar. I would recommend it to others.
Tod Kohl: A well constructed cigar, a smooth, even smoke, but kind of lacking in character. I like a little more flavor & strength, myself.
| To achieve the final score below, we throw
out the high and low total scores then average the |
remaining scores. For more information see the link for Review Methods below.
*If Jack Munthe's review cigars had not been damaged in shipping, he would have given them an overall score of 36 instead of 31. Since a score of 36 would not have changed the rating (it would still be a 4 star cigar) we left his score as submitted, even though the problem was caused during shipping and not by a lack of quality from the manufacturer.
Final Score: 35.3 out of 50
4 Stars - Excellent
Many cigar manufacturers are releasing vintage versions of their cigars and US Cigar is no exception. The Astral Grand Reserve Vintage Beso uses a delicate wrapper from the 1992 crop which unfortunately, doesn't respond well to the hardships of shipping and handling. To protect their cigars, US Cigar packs their vintage cigars in glass tubes inside beautiful mahogany boxes. Of course, we remove all that wonderful packaging in order to ship naked cigars to our reviewers and some of the cigars were damaged in the process. With that in mind, I'd say the Astral Vintage Beso scored well. The overall and flavor scores were quite high and if the construction and wrapper scores were higher, this would have been closer to a 4 1/2 star cigar.
Find out more
Other US Cigar Reviews: