Black Label Trading Company La Madonna Negra was released recently to celebrate the company's 10th anniversary. I do enjoy BLTC cigars, and had preordered some of these from Luxury Cigar Club. Allowing the humidor time before lighting up was a test of patience.
The Knob Creek Barrel Select Rye is a VA ABC selection. It was released as part of a VA ABC picks release that happened a couple weeks ago on a Saturday morning. These events typically generate long lines of fans queuing up hours before the stores open, hoping to be one of the fortunate ones to purchase a single bottle of something. The actual stock in the individual stores is not announced until the evening before. Exhibiting their usual level of competency, VA ABC failed at posting the information for this drop until midday on Saturday. For my part, I went shooting instead. Interestingly, even the following morning, many of the stores still showed inventory of the releases from the day before. It appears Virginia bourbon fans may be tiring of treated like Pavlov's dog and being enticed to leap to the state's "bell."
Since the Rye pick was one of the few in the list I was interested in, I stopped by my local store to grabb a bottle. The selection has a barrel date of June 12, 2016. Based on the pick date, it looks like about a 6.5 year aged rye, with a proof of 115. The rye is fairly mild on the nose, with faint cocoa, vanilla, citrus, and spice. However, it really begins to shine in the sipping. I get the expected rye spice, but at a moderate level. Butterscotch, cocoa, along with some spice and nuttiness join it. I found it well balanced, with neither the rye nor the proof taking the lead roll. I take a chance on many bottles I purchase with little foreknowledge. Sometimes I am disappointed, other times most pleased. This was the latter and a purchase I am happy I made.
After some initial tasting of the Knob Creek Select Rye, it was time to cut and light the La Madonna Negra. The Black Label Trading Company anniversary cigar was released in four vitolas. I smoked the 5 1/4 x 50 Robusto. A Connecticut broadleaf wrapper covers an Ecuadorian habano binder and fillers from Nicaragua and Pennsylvania. The cigar shows off with a dark chocolate wrapper and decorative band. Immediately I am struck by the heft of the stick. A few gentles squeezes reveals this thing is packed. It's hard with no give whatsoever and almost feels like a hard rubber prop cigar.
After punching to cap, the draw is very tight but I decided to give it a go as it was. After a few minutes, I accepted that remedial action was necessary and grabbed my PerfecDraw tool. The first insertion brought out a small half inch piece of stem, which did nothing to help the draw. I repeatedly, and very carefully, continued inserting the tool to increased depths. I brought out nothing further except small bits of tobacco. Eventually the entire length of the tool was put through the cigar with only minor improvement. Never before have I used the PerfecDraw to such an extent.
With a slightly improved draw, I was at last getting some smoke and flavor. The flavor is a blend of dark chocolate, espresso, dark cherries. Some pepper and cedar sits in the background. The cigar is not as bold as I expected, coming from Black Label Trading Company. I am not sure if that's the intent, or a factor of the tight draw. The burn was even and never went out, but I did apply a flame to it occasionally when it wavered and threatened to go out. In the last third or so, the draw opened up a bit, but never got to what seemed like its full potential. I will look forward to smoking more of the cigars after they've rested for more time in the humidor. As this is a new release, I suspect the shipments went out from resellers nearly fresh off the shipping trucks.
The cigar finished, I poured myself a wee bit more of the Knob Creek. I will certainly be enjoying this bottle -- while it lasts.