Inspired by the Solera aging method used for blending Sherry and Port wines, Boutique Blends will be releasing Aging Room Solera next month at the International Premium Cigars & Pipe Retailers trade show in Las Vegas. Like Solera-aged wines, which are blends of different, slowly integrated vintages, the cigars will contain different tobaccos from different harvest dates that have been integrated and packed together in bales for an additional aging stage.
This differs from traditional methods of aging tobacco. Normally, tobaccos are segregated during the aging process, packed by type and harvest date. The tobaccos stay separate in each of their respective aging bales until they are unpacked and rolled into a cigar. Brand owner Rafael Nodal, however, believes that integrating different tobaccos during an additional aging stage will result in a better, more consistent intermingling of flavor.
"Instead of just blending different tobaccos at the time of rolling, we are aging the different tobaccos in bales together for a reusable blend," Nodal explained. "This enriches the aging process by enhancing the blending of flavors, and the tobacco gets some of the characteristics of the other tobacco."
Aging Room Solera will come in four different wrappers: Dominican Sun Grown, Dominican Corojo, Mexican Maduro and Ecuador Connecticut Shade. Only the binders and fillers, which are all Dominican, undergo the Solera aging process.
The brand is debuting in three sizes—Festivo, which measures 4 3/4 inches by 52 ring gauge, Fantastico, 5 5/8 by 54 and Fanfare, 6 1/8 by 57—and are set to retail from $6.95 to $7.96.
The idea to mimic Solera aging came to Nodal after a visit to Spain where he witnessed the technique. The traditional winemaker's Solera method is a fractional barrel-aging process, meaning that wines of different ages are gradually blended together in stages. One row of barrels will contain a wine of a certain age, and, over time, the wine will be slowly blended with another row of barrels containing wine of a different age. That blend will age and integrate until the next stage, when it's combined into another row of barrels containing wines of yet another vintage. This typically results in a uniformly blended product that is aged and consistent.
According to Nodal, the different tobaccos will age together for at least a year during the integration stage before the leaves are rolled into a cigar. It should be noted that although the different tobaccos are aged together in bales, they are not fermented together. The integrated, Solera-style aging step comes after the tobaccos have undergone fermentation.
Nodal said that he first introduced a cigar blended with this Solera method in 2005 as an in-store exclusive for his cigar lounge in Miami Lakes, which he owned with company vice president Hank Bischoff back when Boutique Blends was called the Habana Cuba Cigar Co.
Aging Room Solera cigars are made in the Dominican Republic at Tabacalera Palma, owned by Jochy Blanco.