Cigar Hunter: ‘Tempus’ devours everything, said the Romans

David Martosko | Executive Editor

Note: There’s just one day left to register for a chance to win a 25-pack of mixed cigars from CheapHumidors.com, plus 5 “Dea” stogies from MD cigars. A winner will be drawn at random on Friday, Sept. 14 from among readers who have signed up for the Cigar Hunter email list.

“Time, you devourer of things,” the line from the 15th book of the ancient Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses, goes:

Tempus edax rerum, tuque, invidiosa vetustas,
Omnia destruitis vitiataque dentibus aevi
Paulatim lenta consumitis omnia morte!

Oh time, you devourer of things, and you, envious old age,
Together you destroy everything. And slowly gnawing at them with your teeth,
You consume all things, little by little, in lingering death!

Okay, that’s dramatic as hell. But Ovid was making a point by having Pythagoras, of all people — yes, that triangle guy — give a lengthy speech about the constantly changing universe and all the things in it.

Everything must change, nothing stays the same. He may as well have been writing an R&B song. Helen of Troy gets wrinkles, Hercules gets flabby in geezerhood, and so on. And time is the universal leveler: We all croak in the end.

Then again, Pythagoras was also a vegetarian and droned on and on about not eating animals because we’re all reincarnated and you might be dining on your Uncle Phil. So perhaps we should put a steak on the grill and take the whole thing with a Lot’s Wife-size pillar of salt.

What does this have to do with cigars? Simple: Our tastes change as we age and our palates mature. I was a huge fan of Macanudos when I was in my 30s. Not any more. The taste of a Hyde Park just doesn’t appeal to me anymore. These days I like more intense flavors, darker wrappers, earthier profiles. But that doesn’t make my old fave a bad cigar. You might love it, and more power to you. (RELATED: Burning the midnight maduro)

Give in to the instinct to evolve. If you haven’t explored your own shifting cigar tastes in a while, there’s never a bad time to try new things. And new cigar brands have been cropping up like kudzu in the last few years.

Cigar Press magazine’s current cover story is about six amazing entrepreneurs who are changing the face of the industry: Jonathan Drew of the truly prolific Drew Estate, Jon Huber, formerly with CAO and now running the new artisanal Crowned Heads brand, Pete Johnson, with his wildly popular and biker-chic Tatuaje (“tattoo”) line, Dion Giolito of the well-regarded new-ish Illusione, George Rico of Gran Habano and Matt Booth of Camacho’s off-beat Room 101 blend — about the last two of which I know next to nothing.

But that’s the fun of it. I’ll bet I try them in the next month or two. And there’s no reason a new brand can’t become my new stand-by. (RELATED: Litto Gomez and the Rocky Mountain haircut)

Right now my default smoke is the Drew Estates Undercrown, a medium-bodied cigar that bears a clear family resemblance to the far more expensive Liga Privada line. I highly recommend them both.

But right now I’m warming up to something new: The Alec Bradley “Tempus” line. (See what I did there?) Cigar Insider, a publication of Cigar Aficionado, gave the Tempus a “94” rating, making it one of the best-regarded cigars out there this year.

Alec Bradley, by the way, is named after founder Alan Rubin‘s two sons. He named the cigar, however, after the lengthy amount of time it took to craft and perfect it.

“Back in 2001, while visiting a small farm tucked away in a valley on the Honduran-Nicaraguan border, I was shown a wrapper leaf being harvested in very limited quantities,” Rubin told Cigar Weekly in 2008 when Tempus hit the market.

“Grown on just a few acres and not intended for commercial production, I knew this wrapper was something special. Over the next several years, I worked very closely with the farmer and purchased only the best wrapper from each harvest. … These harvests have been small and not mass-produced by the ‘commercial’ growers usually tapped for such a project.”

Only the best 20 percent of old-school rollers at the Raices Cubanas factory in Honduras get to participate in making this cigar. It’s the same factory that produces Illusione cigars, for what it’s worth. And the construction is extra robust, with a triple cap to finish the wrapper.

The “Quadrum” Tempus vitola is a box pressed, square-shaped masterpiece with lots of punch and a peppery finish. I picked up a 5-pack at Cigars.com for less than $20.00, which is better than half off the retail price.

The Alec Bradley website says the Tempus line’s wrapper and binder leaf, and half of the filler, is sourced from the Las Trojes region on Honduras. (The rest of the filler blend is Nicaraguan.) But many cigar marketers report that it’s made with an Indonesian binder — which would make sense since it’s among the more neutral binder leaves in the world. I’m assuming the Tempus began with the Indonesian binder and no longer uses it.

In my opinion, it’s hard to find a better smoke right now — although the Alec Bradley Prensado line is getting a lot of amazing press too.

The Tempus is smooth, creamy and earthy with a late-onset cherry flavor and a nutty finish that matures into full pepper in the last third. I had to re-light it once near the end, but I’ll take the blame for that since I was so busy editing our reporters that I forgot about the cigar for about ten minutes. I’ll note that it was a long smoke — 90 minutes for a 5.5-inch x 50 longish robusto.

Its construction is near-perfect, with a non-toothy but moderately veiny wrapper, rock-solid visible seams, and that triple cap that make it easy to cut and easier to smoke. If you need a visible demonstration of how a cigar roller “caps” a stogie, see my video from the JC Newman Cigar Factory in Tampa. (RELATED: Cigar Hunter: ‘Hecho a mano’ in Tampa)

The box-press shape adds to the experience, since it’s unusual and both easy to hold and impossible to roll away in an ashtray — especially one perched on your dashboard. (Don’t judge. You probably do this too.)

None of Ovid’s poems talk about tobacco, of course, since he died about 1,500 years before the plant found its way to Europe. But his stuff is fully of heady themes like love and betrayal, punishment and reward, fate, and the folk-tale origins of everything from laurel wreaths and crow’s feathers to ancient Rome itself.

If that doesn’t sound like the stuff of a creative cigar marketing campaign, I’ve been reading the wrong magazines.

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