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Staff Reviews

San Cristobal Quintessence Churchill Staff Review

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

Just last week, San Cristobal Quintessence scored a coveted ranking in Cigar Aficionado’s annual ‘Top 25 Cigars of the Year,’ taking home ‘#3 Cigar of the Year’ honors with a 95-point rating from the critics for a 7 by 49 Churchill. And today, I’m going to smoke it.


San Cristobal cigars are blended by award-winning father-and-son cigar-makers Pepin and Jaime Garcia at their famous My Father Cigars S.A. factory in Estelí, Nicaragua. The Garcia family is renowned for producing several of today’s highest-rated Nicaraguan cigars, including the My Father, Flor de las Antillas, and Tatuaje. San Cristobal and La Aroma de Cuba are the two brands they make for the Levin family who are the Philadelphia-based owners of Ashton cigars, an iconic Dominican brand blended by Carlito Fuente.

San Cristobal debuted in 2007 as the Levins began to broaden their cigar portfolio with a series of Nicaraguan releases. Five core blends comprise the San Cristobal line, and we’ve previously reviewed the other four: the original San Cristobal, Elegancia, Ovation, and Revelation. Consistent hallmarks of fine cigar-making distinguish the San Cristobal brand, which is noted for its robust and resonant flavor.  

Quintessence premiered in 2016 and is handmade in six classic shapes, including the traditional Churchill I’m about to fire up. The cigars are packaged in wooden, chestnut-colored boxes adorned the brand’s intricate logo, a colorful parrot rising from the same tropical landscape found on the cigar bands. Beneath the band, an oily Habano wrapper cultivated in Ecuador embraces a mature blend of premium Nicaraguan long-fillers the Garcias grow themselves.

An aroma of molasses and baking spices casts a tangible preview of the flavors I get in the cold draw. Quintessence entices with a uniform complexion of burnished leather when I hold the cigar in my hand. Moderate hints of spice cut through but become more apparent as I pull the first few draws in, rotating the Churchill over my soft-flame lighter. Creamy and rich notes of cocoa, cedar, and syrup inhabit the palate, while streams of peppery smoke arouse the nose.

Quintessence is loaded with the luscious signature of Pepin Garcia throughout the first minutes, but it’s not overbearing or spicier than it should be. Notes of pepper, molasses, and coffee harmonize with creamy vigor as the first half of the cigar displays a firm white and gray ash that lands in my ashtray in predictable intervals with a gentle tap to the band.

I’m pensive before removing the cigar band as the middle third of my Churchill expires, but that’s only because the bands on San Cristobal cigars are worthy of preserving when they’re unfurled. They’re printed in the Netherlands by Vrijdag, a company that produces high-end packaging for several luxury products, including perfume and fine chocolate, as well as many of today’s coolest cigar bands.    

San Cristobal Quintessence brandishes notes of brown sugar and spice in the final stretch. Its chewy texture makes it an ideal cigar to pair with a mojito or a premium bourbon like Angel’s Envy. Fans of rum or cognac with cigars will be impressed too. Quintessence achieves a versatile, medium to full-bodied finish rivaled by few cigars, and that’s why it merits 95 points in my appraisal. If you’re not convinced, add our bestselling ‘Royal Flush’ Super Sampler to your humidor, and taste how Quintessence stacks up against other legendary blends, including Arturo Fuente Anejo, Ashton Symmetry, Padron 1964 Anniversary, and My Father Le Bijou 1922. You’ll wish you had done so years ago.


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