The Bandolero is a 100% Ligero filler cigar and one of the newer offerings from The Pride Cigar Company. The company is aptly named to emphasize the ‘Pride’ that President Ares Contreras has his in family and his family’s cigar history. The tradition comes from his grandfather working as a manager in a tobacco company in Cuba. Ares is an American born Cuban, and he wanted to honor his grandfather and bring the art of Cuban cigar rolling and blending to the USA. He got together with other Cuban ex-pats and set up a factory in the Dominican Republic. To keep the tradition of rolling in the Cuban style cigars, he decided to use first generation Cuban-seed grown plants to recreate the cigar of his grandfather’s time. The proprietary curing process and triple fermentation of the tobacco along with a Cuban master blender’s expertise, he expertly combined Cuban filling, binding and rolling techniques to create what they believe is the closet thing to actual Cuban cigars without being made in Cuba. Check out their full story at - pridecigars.com. I smoked four sizes of the Bandolero for this review – Petit Corona, Corona, Robusto and Churchill.
Draw and Construction
The first cigar I smoked was the Petite Corona, and right out of the box that I was sent (no aging in my humidor). These cigars are very firm with an easy draw. The cut was sort of dusty. What I mean is that when I cut the end, the cut generated lots of cigar dust and small bits. I knew right away that the cigar was too dry, and I was going to have to let the others rest in my humidor for a while. My non-torch cigar lighter did not work too well either. These cigars will need a torch lighter to get lit properly. I had to relight the Petit Corona 4 times and still could not get it to burn past ½” without the cigar going out. The next cigar I tried was the Robusto, and it sat for one month in my humidor. Sadly, it was the same as the first, so I decided these cigars will need a lot more humidor time. The third cigar was the Corono Gordo, and at least it lit after resting in my humidor for another month. We are now at two months of additional humidification at 70%. The draw was okay, and it stayed lit for a bit longer before requiring relighting, a full 2”. The burn was still uneven. There was not a lot of smoke and no ash to speak of. The uneven burn required that I keep using my torch lighter to even it off. Finally the last cigar of the bunch, the Churchill, became a good cigar – good draw, even burn. It certainly needed to rest. It was about 3½ months. This is a cigar that needs to be smoked. Yes, constant puffing, not like puffing on a pipe, but you cannot let it sit idle for too long or it will go out. How long is too long? I would say based on my previous smoking experiences, no more than one minute, and probably more like 30 seconds. That’s right, puff this stick every half a minute. It does seem a little like work at that point. The ash did fall off at one and a half inches, which is about average for most cigars. The burn was slightly uneven throughout the cigar, but that did not take away from a decent smoking experience.
Aroma and Flavor
All of the cigars had a pre-lighting aroma that smelled like a barn full of fresh hay. The first two cigars I smoked (Petit Corona and Robusto) were very bitter, and I needed to let them rest for a couple of minutes before relighting and trying again. The bitterness of the cigars and overly spicy wrapper never went away on the first two cigars. The last two cigars (Corona and Churchill) were still very spicy and the bitterness went away. At least these were more normal now. I still did not like the taste because they were very leathery, and I know I have said it before that I don’t like leather tasting cigars, but there are many who do. Beyond that I would call them palatable. I should mention that the last cigar, the Churchill, sat in my humidor for 3 ½ months, and the best thing I can say about it is that the aroma was very typical of Cuban style cigars. I am sometimes surprised by these types of phenomena, but Gary (About.com's Guide to Cigars) has always told me that there are many cigars which will need to take a long rest before smoking them. Gary wrote some great articles on aging cigars. Here is a link to one of them - Aging Cigars in a Humidor.
The Bandolero is definitely a full bodied cigar that challenges the palate. And according to the manufacturer, if you leave the cigar down for more then 4 to 5 minutes, the cigar most likely will go out. I found that to be no more than a minute. The great thing about cigars is that 10 different people could all smoke the same cigar, but have all different opinions on that cigar. The Bandolero has been one of Pride Cigars best new introductions since they launched the line 4 years ago. The initial production of 1000 boxes sold out in 3 months, so there must be something people like about them. I am guessing it's the aroma. The cigar can be purchased at local retail shops from $6.00 - $8.00 a stick depending on the size. Is it a good value? For me it was an average cigar at an average price.
Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.