Caldwell The Last Tsar – Initial Thoughts
I’ve had this cigar for months now and am just now sitting down to review it. I’ve heard so many negative things about the Last Tsar that I’ve been too chicken to give it a fair shake.
If you know me, you know that I really enjoy smooth, flavorful cigars. To date, I’ve only heard about this cigar’s power. In a recent AMA (ask me anything) on Reddit with Robert Caldwell, he disclosed that the Last Tzar is too powerful even for him.
I believe this is the first time I’ll be reviewing this wrapper and it really is a beautiful sight. I’ll be rolling with Blantons and coffee for pairings this afternoon.
Caldwell The Last Tsar – First Third
Bread, Nougat, Pepper, Creme Brûlée, Bourbon, Cocoa Butter, Brown Sugar
Interestingly enough, my first few puffs are of bready sweetness with a nougat aftertaste. Lots of sweet notes coming together for a complete surprise. After a few moments, pepper begins to roll in like a thunderstorm while the sweetness transitions into a more of a creme brûlée flavor.
The smoke is robust yet surprisingly smooth in a traditional draw. A retrohale, though, packs all of the punch that one would imagine. When paired with Blantons, caramel notes are emphasized with The Last Tsar. Coffee returns a combination of nutty and woodsy flavors.
Wow. After everything I’ve heard from this cigar, I’m simultaneously shocked and impressed.
Looks like my love affair with the sweeter notes is destined to be cut short around the one inch mark. Now I’m pulling straight cedar with a spicy, bourbon finish. Really well done. I’ve intentionally left the bourbon alone for several minutes, and the Last Tsar seems to have subtle bourbon-esque undertones. The Last Tsar and Blantons just want to party!
Another few moments have passed, and now the spice is yielding to a cocoa of sorts. Like smelling the Domestic Engineer’s 100% natural Cocoa Butter. No shit, go give it a whiff. Dead on. With the ash hanging on a little at about an inch and a half, the cocoa butter is even overpowering our cedar notes.
Tapping the ash, sweeter notes return and I’m drawing brown sugar out of this cigar. Dammit this is good.
Added some flame to revive this Beast.
I usually don’t comment much on the strength of a cigar because I don’t trust my ability to determine strength while smoking several cigars a day, but the Last Tsar has strength in spades. It’s the cigar that shows up to the CrossFit Games and makes everyone else do burpees for not being able to hang.
Caldwell The Last Tsar – Second Third
Oak, Leather, Cocoa Butter, Pralined Pecans, Pine Nuts, Honey Grahams, Roasted Nuts
“Second verse, much like the first. Just a little bit louder and a whole lot worse.” If you’ve been in a formation run with the Army, you know that cadence! It’s only applicable for the first sentence though. I’m finding the second third to be a continuation of the first, yet more robust. It’s hearty, meaty, and becoming more savory than sweet as we progress.
Notes of oak and leather are dominating the experience while subtle notes of cocoa butter and pralined pecans round out a rich profile. Full disclosure: I had pralined pecans last night. Not sure if that particular sweetness would’ve occured to me otherwise.
I’ve been enjoying this cigar out on the porch for almost 90 minutes already, and I’d probably pay the $18 again for this experience. Most likely I’d toss this cigar with more than half of it left though, I usually don’t commit to anything much longer than an hour when smoking for pleasure. Trust me, the Last Tsar Churchill is definitely a commitment! I’d be interested in a Corona Gorda and Robusto if Caldwell ever goes that route.
Blanton’s is pulling a nuttier profile out of the Last Tsar now. Walnuts or pecans – I can’t decide. Coffee? I’m at a loss. There’s a unique sweetness present when enjoyed with coffee in the second third. It’s almost too much of a good thing.
At the halfway point, I’ve noticed several things happening. The in-your-face factor of the Last Tsar has mellowed out significantly. This cigar pumped the brakes big time. Likewise, the flavors are descending into an area that I’m not sure I enjoy at the moment. Pine nuts is about as close as I can get to describing it – a bitter, nutty, almost metallic or mineral flavor has been present for several minutes.
Luckily the pine nuts recede and give way to a combination of honey grahams and roasted nuts. Sounds weird? Nope, it’s awesome!
More flame. Dammit.
The Last Tsar – Last Third
Wood nuances, Pecans, Cocoa Powder, Cedar
Different nuances of wood and nuts continue to play off each other in the beginning of the last third. The same smooth, mellow experience that developed in the second third seems to be remaining for the time being.
After further reflection, I believe the nuts to be pecans in the last third. The Domestic Engineer just brought a variety of nuts out on the porch, and I’m now 100% confident in that remark.
The real winner in the last third is Blantons. This pairing is killer and accentuates what I enjoy in the Last Tsar while masking some of my least favorite flavors.
As we wrap it up, cocoa powder and cedar move to the forefront and finish out the last third.
The Last Tsar – Final Thoughts
I usually don’t include a final thoughts section, but in this case I feel it’s necessary to explain the rating. While I would definitely consider the first half of this cigar again for $18, the marathon time of this cigar undermines my overall experience with the Last Tsar. I’m just not a fan of smoking 2+ hours. I’m sure a robusto would be right up my alley.
Conversely, I know a lot of folks would see more value in a cigar that lasts longer. Hence the value score being slightly higher.
Excellent First Third
Balanced strength vs flavor
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