The word sobremesa, translated from Portuguese, means “dessert.” But in the Spanish tradition, sobremesa refers to a period of repose after dinner and dessert are finished—a time when family and friends enjoy a convivial hour of togetherness over drinks and cigars. Then there is the word brûlée, which, translated from the French, means “burned,” but in popular usage evokes images of a sweet burnt-cream custard recipe. Steve Saka, founder and president of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, has unified these concepts in his latest cigar line, the Sobremesa Brûlée. We must declare that, in both taste and appearance, the cigar’s moniker is apt.
Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust of Hooksett, New Hampshire, is a fairly new player in the premium cigar business, but Saka is an old hand in the industry. He spent eight years as president of Drew Estate, and is regarded as a guru in the art of cigar blending.
To date, Saka has been building the Dunbarton name primarily on the strength of full-bodied cigars, but then he decided to make his own unique statement in a Connecticut-wrapped smoke. Saka says the Sobremesa Brûlée is “a recreation of the milder, shade wrapped ligas of my early years. Somewhere over the last three decades many of the classic shade cigars have become wispy, uninspiring and rather dull to my palate. I wanted to share with others the way I remember these blonde cigars being.”
Conceived, then, as a mild cigar with complexity, the Brûlée is Dunbarton’s first Connecticut-draped offering, using an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper that is bale-aged for two years to ensure an extra measure of consistency and natural sweetness.
Saka originally conceived the Brûlée blend in 2015, so it has taken a few years to get the product to market. Finally, in the summer of this year, it began shipping from the Joya de Nicaragua factory in Estelí, and it immediately found high praise among American consumers.
Luis Rodriguez, cigar manager at Stateline Cigar Lounge in Newark, Delaware, says the Brûlée is selling well in his shop. “Some people say they think it has a sweetened tip,” says Rodriguez, “and the first one I tried I thought I tasted some sweetness. But then the second one I smoked I didn’t taste that sweetness.” He adds, “The price of the Brûlée is a little steep, but it isn’t out of line for a primo cigar made by Steve Saka.”
Kurt Kendall, owner of Twins Smoke Shop in Hooksett, New Hampshire (hometown of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust), agrees, saying, “The price is on the money for the premium quality. Our customers have received it very nicely. It’s an exceptional example of a mild cigar with good mild and rich creaminess, and it has a very pleasant room aroma.”
Alayna Myers, assistant manager at Havana Manor in Longmont, Colorado, says, “We actually had an event back in September, and Steve Saka came out and introduced the Brûlée. Our customers say it’s amazing—very flavorful, especially for a Connecticut. We think it would be good as a light after-dinner cigar, sort of a dessert cigar.” Myers reports that the Brûlée is “selling pretty well,” although she adds that for Havana Manor “the Brûlée is so new that I think it has yet to find its audience here.”
We at PCA The Magazine, having smoked the Sobremesa Brûlée, believe it is likely to find a much larger audience quite soon. The cigar is available in 13-count boxes, in three vitolas: a 6 1/4 x 60 Gordo, a 5 1/4 x 52 Robusto and a 6 x 52 Toro. Merchants can reach Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust through the company website, dunbartoncigars.com.
Sobremesa Brûlée Robusto
|Size||5 1/4 x 52 ring gauge|
|Wrapper||Ecuadorian Connecticut (officially, Grade 2 Brown)|
|Binder||Mexican San Andres Negro|
|Manufacturer||Joya de Nicaragua in Estelí|
|Filler||selection of Nicaraguan leaf varietals|
|Purchasing Info||$12.59 per single, purchased from Corona Cigar Co.|
|Smoking time||1 hour, 10 minutes|
First impressions always set the tone for any new cigar experience, and it must be said, the Sobremesa Brûlée is a dapper cigar to feast the eyes upon. Clearly a deliberately premium product, this cigar features a firm pack draped with a shiny blonde wrapper with minimal veins and seams that blend to nothingness unless you look closely. The triple cap is beautifully formed. Construction is, in short, impeccable.
- The scent out of the cellophane is faintly of leather, not unlike the fragrance that greets you when you walk past a store rack full of cowboy boots. The primary cigar band is a beautiful gold crown, and there’s a gold and brown Sobremesa secondary band protecting the foot. Artwork and packaging evince a real investment here.
- As the pack seemed quite firm, and because I wanted to give this cigar every good chance to produce an easy draw, I went with a guillotine cut, which proved ideal. The cold draw elicits recollections of sweet hazelnut liqueur.
- Dunbarton owner/founder/driving force Steve Saka insists that the Brûlée is in no way sweetened. He says that just bale-aging the Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper leaf for two years can cause it to leave a sugary impression on some palates. I do believe him on that count, despite detecting what I thought was a hint of sugariness on the cap just as I lit up.
It made me wonder if perhaps the cap glue brings its own surreptitious touch of sweetness. In any case, within seconds that ghost of sugar vanished. The smoke itself then takes over the sweet fest.
- By outward appearance, and by reputation, this cigar offers promise of being a veritable cream bomb. (I had hoped so, for I love creamy cigars.) The first few minutes of puffing thick, chewy clouds confirm that prognosis. The draw is perfect. The retrohale offers the same creaminess, with light white pepper and earth. The Brûlée is indeed a straightforward Connecticut cigar, but it falls decidedly on the sweet end of the smoke spectrum, exhibiting caramel and cream and mocha throughout. At times the smoke and the aftertaste reminded me of butter cookies.
- This is not a wispy, vaporous Connecticut. There’s something extra here—a certain … something in the leaf blend underlying and supporting the top notes of cream and coffee, lending the Brûlée an added heft and complexity, beyond what one normally expects in a prototypical Connecticut premium. Yes, there is also a bit of the expected Connecticut tartness, and some conventional citrusy notes, but down deep one senses a darker bass hum as the cigar cruises to the midpoint. Whatever recipe Saka put together in constituting this blend, it totally works, rendering a mild smoke that brings a very interesting element of complexity. Mild cigars of this genre can by their light nature permit any defect or weakness in the flavor profile to shine through, so just a smidgen of body does wonders for giving a mild cigar line a delicious consistency. Saka appears to have achieved exactly that in the Brûlée.
- At 25 minutes I popped the ash off into the ashtray, not wishing to tempt fate. But suffice it to say (not to be cliché), great ash. And the burn line is one of the straightest I’ve encountered in a long while. A half-hour in, I figure I’m about halfway through. As is often the case with any Connecticut cigar, I do experience a touch of throat tickle once or twice, but not enough to be off-putting. The flavor finish lingers on the palate in an agreeable afterglow that only invites the next puff.
- It’s always a moment of drama when the burn line approaches the band, and it’s time to get that band off. Will it cooperate, or put up a fight—or even pull off a tag of wrapper leaf? No problem here: The self-adhesive band pops right off with almost no effort and absolutely no damage. Overall, this is a zero-maintenance smoke, with nary a touch-up ever needed. (Look at that burn line on the nub photo!) Exquisite.
- At 70 minutes the nub of the Brûlée is getting a bit too hot for me to handle, so at last I set it down. But for 20 minutes afterward, I am still enjoying a very nice iced mocha aftertaste. Overall body is medium-light, and nicotine is medium.
- The Brûlée would make for an ideal introduction to cigar newbies wishing to experience an ultra-premium smoke. It is well worth the price.
CONTACT Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust through their website dunbartoncigars.com to look into adding this worthy blonde beauty to your humidor.