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Staff Reviews

Ashton VSG Staff Review

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

Ashton VSG is a far cry from an ordinary cigar. The brand’s lengthy, well-deserved reputation has redefined the notion of what a rich, handcrafted premium smoke is for the past two decades. VSG stands for “Virgin Sun Grown,” a reference to the cigar’s lustrous, decadent, and rare Sumatra-seed wrapper which is harvested from the cloud-covered, volcanic soils of Ecuador. The wrappers are grown by the Oliva Cigar Company (different from–and not to be confused with–the Oliva brand of cigars) for the Fuente family who have been blending and manufacturing the Ashton brand for more than thirty years.

When Ashton VSG debuted in 1999, the blend represented a genuine shift toward a more full-bodied, full-flavored profile, the likes of which had not previously been realized in a Dominican cigar. Ashton VSG was an immediately coveted brand, at first only available in an allocated fashion due in large part to Carlito Fuente’s insistence on utilizing the richest, most prized stores of Dominican binder and filler tobaccos. Over the course of the past twenty years, superior consistency has continued to define Ashton VSG as a classic with its highly selective recipe of well-aged harvests. Numerous appearances in Cigar Aficionado’s ‘Top 10 Cigars of the Year’ and routine top ratings contribute to the brand’s legendary appeal.

Today, I am treating myself to the generous dimensions of Ashton VSG Spellbound, at 7 1/2 inches by a 54 ring gauge. Visually, the cigar is nothing short of stunning. It echoes the look of an expensive and mouthwatering bar of chocolate with its soft box-pressed edges and dark, toothy exterior. The iconic VSG band, embossed in gold, black, and deep-red colors against a creamy eggshell background, appears destined to embrace the monumental tobaccos beneath.

A tender bouquet of cedar, coffee beans, and leather emanates from the unlit foot. After delivering a clean straight cut to the cap, the cold draw shows off a magnificent mix of sweetness and zest. The moment I light up, Ashton VSG lives up to its pedigree with approachable, extravagant, and staggering flavors. A superb draw carries an intoxicating amalgam of leather and fresh ground coffee notes with a lingering caramel-like sweetness. The creamy, silky texture burns perfectly and is accompanied by milky aromas loaded with depth. The first third of the cigar is characterized by a tangy density that’s prominent, but never bitter or too strong.

As the cigar transitions past the halfway mark, chewy notes of raisins, cedar, and nutmeg tantalize. The stark-white ash stays perfectly intact despite a nudge or two against the ashtray – a sign of the cigar’s unflinching integrity. At easily an hour-plus investment, Spellbound unfolds as a benchmark for the best possible way to indulge an extended chance to relax. Boisterous and balanced, Ashton VSG concentrates without polarizing the taste buds. Its vintage flavors reveal an ideal companion for any top-shelf dark spirits, but because the profile is on the luscious side, as opposed to dry, I often prefer it with an aged port, or even a rare, special-occasion Bordeaux.

As the conclusion nears, it’s readily apparent the cigar must be relieved of its band. Leaving any course from VSG on the table is a tragic proposition. Its smoky resonance delivers residual flavors of raisins and wood while poignant spices emerge through the nose.

The Ashton portfolio offers a number of diverse, award-winning cigars. VSG, however, stands out. For me, smoking an Ashton VSG is equivalent to cranking up my favorite Led Zeppelin or Stones album. No matter what you’ve heard before or since, nothing can change the way you hear a classic that’s already stood the test of time. Likewise, VSG can seamlessly sit beside the many successors it has influenced. Leave it to Ashton VSG when you’re in the mood to ruminate over the meat on the bones and a flash in the pan is simply not on the menu.

96rated

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