S.T.K. stands for “Stay True Kid” and has been a moniker for several blends coming from Rico’s factory in Miami. Other blends using the S.T.K include the Barracuda (natural/habano), Zulu Zulu, George Rico S.T.K. Miami American Puro, and Opium lines.
Country of Manufacture: U.S.A. (Miami, FL)
Rolled: Tabacaleras Co. Cigar Factory
Size: 5×52 Parejo
Wrapper: Pennsylvania Broadleaf
Sample: Sent by Gran Habano
Quantity smoked: 1
Age: 1 Week in humidor
There is no doubt about it. The sample I was given of the Barracuda by George Rico is an ugly cigar. The splotchy wrapper is a mash-up of 3 or 4 color variations splattered across the length its surface. Prominent veins criss-cross the wrapper landscape while cracks, imperfections and loose seams are readily apparent. The the cap is a bit sloppy and wraps around to a tiny nipple protrusion of filler. With all that being said, the extremely rustic look produces a certain kind of charm.
Just about the only redeeming qualities from inspecting this sample are the well packed foot, the nice oils present on the wrapper and the fact that there are no soft spots. The cracks were most likely a product of being poorly handled while shipping.
The wrapper smells of leather, cedar and a touch of peppercorn. The foot was much more leathery, but still provided cedar. The cold draw had a perfect resistance with flavors of leather, cedar, pepper, and a very faint charcoal-like quality I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
Things started out surprisingly smooth with a nice easy draw and very little pepper. A vanilla cream developed quickly and coated the mouth which transitioned to a naturally bitter tobacco note on the finish that reminded me of orange zest. The interesting combo provided a pleasant balance to the first third. Eventually the pepper rose up after the first 1/4″, coming to a stop at about medium. The profile was rounded out with leather, which hovered right below the cream and a touch of wood. I had an issue with a slight crack near the head which was pulling air into the cigar. It created a scenario where I felt like I couldn’t get a good draw at times and had to kind of position my finger over the crack while smoking. The retro-hale was creamy, coating the sinuses in wood, pepper and orange peel. Not the prettiest burn line, requiring some touch-ups. Body medium to medium-full. Strength medium.
The pepper smoothed out, producing a light tingle on the tongue 5-10 seconds after a puff and a steady tickling of the sinuses on a retro-hale. The Barracuda went into its most creamy phase here, literally coating the mouth in a creamy film. The tongue was now dominated by the zesty orange peel on the finish while bits of leather, wood and a newly arrived earth kept things interesting. There was a definite sweetness to the smoke but the cigar continued to lean towards the sour and bitter, which reminded me of an IPA. While bitter and sour aren’t words that usually connote good flavor it was actually an enjoyable combination that made the Barracuda Maduro unique. Moving towards the half, the wood took on a slight charring, which unsurprisingly paired well with the leather notes. The aromas were rich with that same oily, leathery and woody combo. The draw seamed to improve as it no longer felt like a struggle to get a solid volume of smoke but burn continued to favor one side of the cigar. Medium-full bodied with a small rise in the strength.
The crack near the head became an utter mess as the cigar continued, becoming an annoyance. The main flavor on the palate continued to be the orange peel flavor that smacked of hops and sat on the back of the tongue. Otherwise, leather was the key undertone but it didn’t linger on the finish and was mostly present on the nose. A faint cocoa arrived to pair with the woodsy background notes. In the final inch, the flavors got deeper as the cocoa intensified and the leather became meaty through the nose. Interestingly, the cream took on a more nutty quality and a dash of salt entertained to the nub. Strength settled on medium. Body medium-full to full.
While the host of undertones weren’t exactly wild or unique, the ever-present orange peel/hops combination that held steady on the finish was different enough for me to stamp this a Wild Card. The other most dominant characteristic was the cream flavor coupled with a creamy coating on the palate.
This particular sample of the Barracudo Maduro was ugly to look at, yet still provided some charm in its own way. The same thing could be said about smoking it. The delivery of the flavors was unique and the excellent sweet cream provided necessary balance to the bitter hoppy finish yet the crack near the head of the cigar made for an annoying smoking experience that affected smoke production and burn. Without these flaws I would have no issue awarding a III. Satisfying ranking because I truly enjoyed the flavor. Hopefully its problems were mainly caused by mishandling during shipping and they aren’t a regular occurrence.