Sancho Panza Non Plus - Cuban Cigar Review
One of the scarcer brands from Cuba, the Sancho Panza Non Plus is a small Cigar that should give you around an hour smoking time. I sat outside a warm but windy Sunday afternoon to enjoy this little smoke.
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Sancho Panza seems to be one of those brands that don't really get that much fanfare. Along with other lines such as the La Gloria Cubana and Rafael Gonzales, specific vitolas of each brand are slowly being discontinued. For example, the Sancho Panza's smaller brother, the Ballieries, was discontinued in 2006. Currently there are only three regular production Sancho Panza cigars available. Along with the Non Plus is the Milanos, a Lonsdale that doesn't get much publicity, and the Belicosos. Actually, the Belicosos is quite respected within the Cigar community and if that got discontinued... well there would be an outcry.
I'm sitting outside The New Conway, in the trendy Pontcanna district of Cardiff, on a warm but windy Sunday afternoon. It seems to be one of those days where if you're in the sun, it feels as if it's the height of summer, but if you are in the shade, the biting post-winter wind is there ready to pounce on the unfortunate soul who is in his or her T-Shirt. (and that person for today is me!)
I've just had my Sunday lunch consisting of Roast Beef with Potatoes and Vegetables with a Jus sauce. Just a quick mention, the lunch at the New Conway is not bad. Not spectacular; I actually still felt a little hungry after the meal which was a disappointment. I'd score the lunch 5.5/10 or so. For £9.95 I think I would have expected a bit more. Maybe I should have gone for a starter or a sweet that would have rounded the whole meal. However I did notice that the Conway did sell a bunch Romeo y Julieta tubos and possibly a tubed Non-Cuban Churchill, so there are some plus points right there.
Pairing the Cigar this afternoon I'm drinking Vale Of Glamorgan's Fee Fi Fo Fum. This is the first time I've tried this particular Ale from this Brewery. The beer is particularly light, with some bitter notes that would make it a particularly good session ale. There's nothing too exciting with the Fee Fi Fo Fum, I'm inclined to class it as a medium bodied Real Ale for the person who wants something a little fuller bodied than an Indian Pale Ale and can drink it any time of the day. I was surprised that I couldn't find any information regarding this Real Ale on either the Vale of Glamorgan Brewery website or any of the Beer review sites. Possibly this is a new release or I just made the whole thing up!
The Sancho Panza Non Plus is marketed for the mid price range Cuban Cigar Market. The construction and presentation of the Cigar is not brilliant, but just enough to give it a pass. The Cigar is made well enough for there not to be any issues. There are a couple of veins and the wrapper isn't much to look at, but it's not going to concern you enough for you to go back and complain to the retailer that you bought it off.
The band is very rustic and simple. It looks like that the Sancho Panza bands haven't been changed or updated in any shape or form since they were first concerted. The two tone brown and white design is very plain.
As usual, cutting the Cigar is swift, but the wrapper split in the process that was quite disheartening. Maybe the Cigar was a little too dry or something - but I managed to take some of the wrapper off that made it acceptable to smoke without being uncomfortable. The draw is a little firm, but overall fair. With the sporadic winds, I find it somewhat of a chore to light the Sancho Panza. But after two to three minutes wrestling with the elements and my limited supply of short matches that want to go out every two seconds I somehow in the end managed to get the Cigar lit.
In the first few minutes I start to understand from the flavour profile what kind of Cigar this is going to be. The Sancho Panza begins with medium Tobacco tones with a light sugary sweetness.
The ash is quite murky and grey and not much of a sight to look at. The ash gives away the quality of the Cigar - flicks of ash slowly crumble away without any help that indicate that the quality of the packed tobacco is mediocre at best. The wrapper issue thankfully is not a problem and seems to not causing any problems.
I'm finding the Cigar a little difficult to control with the sparodic winds that means many touch ups are needed. The main tobacco profile is still there, but instead of the sugary notes of molasses, there's a twang that reminds me slightly of the Montecristo range of Cuban Cigars. The Vale of Glamorgan Fee Fi Fo Fum seems to be a decent pairing with the Sancho Panza. The beer doesn't seem to be altering the flavour too much; I don't think I would be finding any different, interesting flavours if I was drinking any other kind of beverage anyway. The true test, to pair a Cigar with water might be fairer but sometimes when you have a bad Cigar you know that it will be bad any which way you look at it.
Towards the final third and I'm starting to drift away from concentrating on the Sancho Panza and more towards finishing up my lunchtime chill outside the Conway and go home. With the blustry wind and ever changing temperature it's not much fun hanging outside with a smoke that doesn't demand you stay outside and puff if there's nothing there to reward you.
I'd say other than the Cigar getting a little harsher due to getting to the finishing line, there's no other temperature change. With the last sips of my Vale of Glamorgan Fee Fi Fo Fum it's time to wrap the whole thing up. It's been forty five minutes. Enough is enough.
Unfortunately there are Petit Coronas that are better than the Sancho Panza Non Plus. The flavour profile of the Cigar didn't do enough to excite me that which was a shame. It's true time and time again in the Cuban Cigar industry as well as any other that you get what you paid for. The Sancho Panza, like the Fonseca KDT Cadettes I had a month or so ago are cheap, cheerful, and that's about it. I don't expect any kind of Cigar find of the century.
In terms of marketability, it's difficult to know where the Non Plus fits amongst other Cigars of this size. The Sancho Panza is not a bad Cigar, but not a great one either. There are other Cigars in this vitola, such as the Bolivar Petit Corona, El Rey De Mundo Petit Corona and Juan Lopez Petit Corona that fit the market they were given and do so very well. Unfortunately the Non Plus seem to be in no man's land and therefore the smoking experience is somewhat mixed and indirect.
I'm a big supporter of some of the smaller Cuban brands but the Sancho Panza profile has never done anything for me. I get the feeling that the tastes for these have dwindled radically in recent years and that's probably one of the reasons why the brand has been in decline for such a long period of time. In terms of repeat purchases, I'm inclined to give these a miss. I've had a Sancho Panza Ballieres a few years ago and that one didn't impress me either. Like I said earlier in this review, the Belicosos have a very good reputation amongst Cigar Aficionados and therefore probably in the next few years probably going to be the only Sancho Panza left in regular production.
It's a shame that this brand doesn't have anything much going for it other than the Belicosos. A real shame.
- Appearance: 10/15
- Draw & Burn: 16/20
- Flavour & Complexity: 14/30
- Overall: 26/35
- Total: 66/100