In the annals of the modern cigar-making era, there have been many commemorative issues. These would typically celebrate an anniversary of a company’s founding, the year of the founder’s birth, or a milestone achievement, such as 10th Anniversary or Cigar of The Year honors. But none has been quite like The American from J.C. Newman Cigar Co. The American celebrates 125 years of continuous production by the four-generation Newman family, as well as the re-release of the first brand ever produced in their historic El Reloj factory in Tampa, Florida.
The American is the brainchild of fourth-generation manufacturer Drew Newman, who serves as the General Counsel to the cigar manufacturing family. Newman credits the concept for creating an all-American cigar, which would honor the company’s 125th anniversary, to his wife, Ariel. He took the project to heart, and exceeded expectations by not only creating a cigar made entirely from American-grown tobacco, but a product in which every element of the packaging, from the wood for the boxes, the ink and paper for the labels, the cellophane tubes and even the box hinges, is manufactured in the United States.
Once the concept for an all-American cigar was incubated, the Newman family began the search for an appropriate name for such a unique product. That came about as Drew Newman was researching the family’s records and photographs. There he discovered that “the oldest photo we have of our factory, from the University of Florida’s archives, had a flag flying atop of our famous clock tower that said ‘The American’ on it. I did some more research and found the story of The American as this historic cigar brand, the first brand of cigars rolled in our factory, when it opened in 1910.”
He adds: “The American speaks to who we are as a company, which is a fourth-generation, 124-year-old family business, and the oldest family-owned cigar company in America. As an all-American cigar family, we wanted to create an all-American cigar.”
Knowing the cigar was to include only U.S.-grown tobacco, the first logical choice was for Florida Sun Grown wrapper leaf from Jeff Borysiewicz, who, in 2014, revived the cultivation of cigar tobacco in the Sunshine State, nearly 40 years after the last crop was harvested.
World famous Connecticut Broadleaf, used as binder, and more recently revived Connecticut Havana Seed tobacco, blended into the filler, were both sourced from renowned Connecticut leaf grower Jon Foster.
The final element of this all-American blend was filler tobacco cultivated by a cooperative of Mennonite farmers in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
As Newman phrases it, these are heirloom tobaccos utilized to create an heirloom cigar.
The American’s wooden boxes are made in Florida with wood from Ohio, stain from North Carolina, ink from Illinois and hinges made in Massachusetts.
The cigar molds, a crucial element of the manufacturing process, are custom-made by Nick Cutro, whose computerized machinery creates precise molds from American-made plastic, the preferred medium for today’s cigar manufacturers.
Additionally, American artists execute all the artwork, the printing, and the design of the packaging and the illustrations, which bring to life the history and the artisans featured in the booklet included with each box.
None of these details would be of any significance, other than historic, if the cigars they produced were merely a curiosity or a novelty. The materials and means were all aligned to create something truly unique, but in order to ensure that the end product was truly worthy of the effort, all of The American cigars are hand rolled in Tampa by Luis Gonzalez and Yeania Hernandez, two of Ybor City’s top torcedores. They in turn are supported by a large team, which conditions and prepares the tobacco for rolling, in addition to color sorting, banding and boxing each cigar by hand.
The American cigars are a limited edition, currently available in approximately 100 stores nationwide. They are available in boxes of 20, in four vitolas:
Robusto 4 1/2 x 50, Toro 6 x 54, Churchill 7 x 47 and Torpedo 6 1/8 x 52.
While the Newman family manufactures a number of popular and highly rated brands, The American adds a distinctive and unique product to their portfolio. As Drew Newman states, “There are a lot of great cigars out there, but with The American, we wanted to prove that you don’t have to go overseas to produce a world-class cigar.”
The American Toro
|Size||6 x 54|
|Wrapper||Florida Sun Grown, USA|
|Binder||Connecticut Broadleaf, USA|
|Manufactured||in Tampa, Florida|
|Filler||Connecticut Havana Seed; Pennsylvania, both USA|
|Purchasing Info||$18.50 each|
|Smoking time||1 hour, 15 minutes|
When tasked with writing a review of The American by J.C. Newman, this writer was faced with a new and unique set of challenges. Evaluating a cigar is a process of describing the cigar’s origin, components, appearance, aroma, construction and, most importantly, how it smokes. There is also, however, a subtext of how any particular cigar smokes when compared with others of its type, those which may have set the benchmark for how an all-Nicaraguan puro, for instance, stacks up against those which have established themselves in the retail arena. Therein lies the challenge when attempting to appraise The American: There’s nothing else like it on the market. Naturally any cigar can be judged on its own merits, but it helps to have a standard by which to judge. In this case we’re going to throw that concept out the window and dive right into describing J.C. Newman’s groundbreaking all-American puro.
- Appearance: This is a clean, good-looking cigar. The wrapper leaf is a Colorado claro, with a light reddish-brown color. There are a few prominent veins, but the seams are tight and barely noticeable. The head sports a triple seam cap, and the cigar feels firm without having any hard spots.
- Cold aroma and draw: There is an earthy aroma, with a slight, subtle sweetness. A punch cut goes deep into the firm head of the cigar, allowing for a free and easy draw. The cold draw offers up a damp earth taste. Upon lighting, the flavors are of earth and dried fruit.
- Burn: The open draw provides a free burn, but the cigar does not smoke hot or harsh. The char line is surprisingly even, requiring no touch-ups during the first third.
- Transitions: Into the middle third there is a distinct charred-meat-like flavor. That taste combined with the slight sweetness gives the impression of a roasted, or barbecue-like sensation. This is certainly a hearty smoke, with more than moderate strength.
- Burn Line: As the rate of burn speeds up, the burn line becomes somewhat wavy, although it still does not require any touch-up.
- Ash: The ash is gray, dense and a little flaky. It holds on well, but breaks apart easily when tapped into an ashtray.
- Last third: The sweetness of the blend picks up, along with a prickly sensation on the tongue and upper palate. The spice is more noticeable, as the flavors remain fairly consistent.
- Overall Impression: This cigar is an enjoyable smoke. What it may lack in complexity is compensated for by its texture, color, hearty aroma and solid, if not scintillating flavor.
While The American may not be a wild ride of dancing flavors and sensations, it is a well-made, well-burning and good tasting cigar—with its own unique character—as well as the distinction of being the only one of its type. This cigar would pair well with a dark stout or an oaky American bourbon with some “heat.” As it was a bit early in the day for me to consume alcohol, I settled for a Starbuck’s café Americano. The beans may not all have been American, but the name made me feel I was consuming an appropriate beverage. It turned out to be a good choice.