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Dante Canto II: Short Belicoso

Midway on their life’s journey, Punch and Draw find themselves in a dark woods — the right road lost — and light up a Dante Canto II to help find their way.Dante Canto II Short Belicoso cigar Blend: Medium to Full Body
Wrapper: San Andreas
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler:  Nicaragua

Draw: The Canto II, produced by Dante Cigars, has a deep, dark wrapper with a few medium sized veins at odd angles, and the dark aging of the wrapper reveals a fine fretwork of veins which suggests the glowing and crackling of rocklight from that lowest of places. Any imperfections can only be viewed as supporting this overall plunge into despair.

Bevel cut, and I must have done something wrong, as I tweaked a part of the wrapper near the cut. Cold draw is forest-funk, like dirt and mold and mushrooms. A light toasting reveals seaweed, shrimp, and sesame seeds: salt. Otherwise it amplifies the base flavors. It wants to light up; it greets the flame and greedily embraces it.

Punch: I, too, made a bevel cut and the draw is a perfect medium. The wrapper has an alfalfa hay aroma, like the fodder for the steeds we had to leave behind as we entered this God-forsaken realm. The cold draw reveals mild plum and dusty straw from this 4–1/4″ x 52 stick.

D: According to SparkNotes, in Canto II (the second “chapter”), Dante relates that as he and Virgil approach the mouth of Hell, his mind turns to the journey ahead and again he feels a grip of dread. Having smoked two of these in prep for this evening’s review, I can share a similar feeling.

From the first drag: whammo! The war of 1812! It’s all attack, mostly over by the middle, and the finish is non-existent. After several tokes, the ravages of war begin to scar my palette; there is a little jalapeño left laying on the front of my tongue, and some is recognizable in the aftertaste, barely. Three of these sticks, and I still don’t know a better way to describe this flavor. Inside a diesel engine…on a locomotive? I dunno.

P: So, Dante is that large, reddish man with the cut-off horns and a massive right hand?

D: That is Hell Boy.

P: Watch your language or I’m tellin’ mom.

D: I was just talking about this shaft! It’s hell, boy!

P:  I agree with the “fire and brimstone” of the first few puffs – a distinctive harshness on the attack right after lighting, leather and green pepper which, for me, is soon joined by a jalapeño pepper finish. A quarter-inch in and the pepper attack has turned to an acridity which dominates the flavor at this point – still kind of harsh, but different, and there is an occasional mild flash of sweetness with the jalapeño aftertaste.

After a half-inch this Dante Canto II is starting to simmer down. Using the beveled cut to direct the smoke to the roof of the mouth and away from the tongue on the draw diminishes the harshness, as looking heavenward in the throes of anguish gives strength to endure.

D: In the first third, the draw on these is excellent, right where it should be, symbolizing the ease with which man enters into sin. On all three review sticks, a peninsula-come-canoe has formed during the first inch. I tried remedial smoking strategies and eventually touched it up. Otherwise, the burn creeps randomly but consistently toward the infernal cherry.

P: On our journey to the second third we have traveled from the deepest depths of the Evil One into the more temperate region of purgatory as the initial assault has steadily ebbed (or our taste buds have burnt out).

D: Agreed. As the flavor assault ebbs, the draw tightens up, signifying the increased difficulty for Man to reach Heaven. My cigar requires regular work, a discipline if you will, to maintain any progress at all.

Here in purgatory, the middle and finish has a roasted-pepper taste. There may be some bay leaf, and overall it is salty. Full-to-medium flavored. The ash held on for almost an inch-and-a-half until it dropped during a purge-fusillade, which was performed to resuscitate a poor idle.

P: These produce a generous, very satisfying, amount of smoke. And the foot smoke is pleasantly aromatic, calling to mind the censures of holy ritual.

At half-way there is now a sweetness on the attack and slight cedar in the middle. The aftertaste is still strong pepper in the back of the throat, trying to incite some hiccups.

D: Wandering through purgatory, I’m finding an unidentifiable sweetness in finish/aftertaste. Toke-middle has a sudden injection of a green taste. And now it’s suddenly oily – shoe polishy. Brake fluidy. An example of Dante’s intertemporality: bringing the modern into the classical context.

P: Huh?

Thus far the Dante Canto II has seemed not to be so concerned with flavor nuance, as with a progression of body from intense to placid. Though it is hitherto loathe to forsake its peppery finish.

D: As I slip the band, I slip the bonds of purgatory into the heavenly realm. Hard boiled egg and green grass greet me. I am also greeted with a liquid tar spot; re-trimming, I cut away the last of sin’s stain, and also open the draw considerably. It is no longer difficult to maintain the burn, and the smoke rises as my spirit. …metaphorically.

P: Approaching the nub the flavor is an indistinct heaviness, no discernible sweetness or pepper anymore, symbolizing the igneous formations which remain after the magma cools.

D: I’ll note that during this review, I’ve also been enjoying a Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale from Boulevard, and that it is a fair pairing. The cigar and the beer have similar strengths which reinforce each other pleasantly.

Burn it or spurn it?

D: Burn these. A ridiculously intense flavor to start, mellowing nicely with interesting transitions, and a complex flavor overall. Medium-to-full strength. Modestly-tight draw, tightening over the duration of the smoke. Great construction. A worthy tribute to its name-sake. My only detraction is repeated evincing of liquid tar in visible quantities at the head; I am learning to associate this with a young cigar or possibly with smoking in cooler environs. Having the remainder of a box-split, I’m looking forward to smoking these as they age, and also looking forward to other blends from Dante Cigars.

P:  The Dante Canto II gets a “burn” rating from me, too. This is the first cigar I’ve had which has such a dramatic change in intensity as it progresses — making it a novel experience which is almost fun to partake. Earthy, leathery, and definitely peppery, with occasional sweetness. I’m looking forward to seeing if some age will take the edge off of the harshness detected in the early stages. Even though the flavors are strong at times, I didn’t notice any effects of nicotine strength.

This review was based on the smoking of three sticks each, which we purchased from Cigar Federation, two months ago. We first learned about Dante Cigars in an interview of the founder, Michael Huff on the Cigar Chat podcast, hosted on the Cigar Federation community web site.

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