Cigar Review: Tailgate by Karen Berger
Brand: Karen Berger
Vitola: 6×52 Toro
Wrapper: Indonesian Sumatra
Flavor intensity: Medium
What Makes It Special
Bruce Busch is a ‘man for all seasons’, and has created the perfect cigar blend for all seasons, as an extension of his fun persona. His new Karen Berger Tailgate cigar hit the market in July 2023, in its classic American pickup truck box, which opens up at its rear tailgate, to retrieve a cigar. The cigar is “designed to be enjoyed in all four seasons while you and your crew are tailgating outside a ball game or concert and spending time with friends and loved ones.” This is something Bruce focuses on daily, even when on the road as the VP of Sales and Marketing for the Queen of Cigars, Karen Berger. The cigar is produced at Esteli Cigars S.A. in Nicaragua. I expect some spice from the Nicaraguan tobaccos, and nice aromatics from the Indonesian Sumatra wrapper.
Visual / Pre-light Draw
The light brown Indonesian sumatra wrapper is very smooth to the touch with a thin layer of oil and bold floral notes of fresh hay on the side sniff. The dry foot odor is minty with some hints of cocoa, minty enough to clear my sinus, holy cow! The cigar’s black red and gold band displays that classic American pickup truck over “Tailgate” By Karen Berger. There is no spice on the palate when prepping the incredibly smooth head for a nice straight guillotine cut, to experience all the seasons and flavors Bruce’s “baby” has to offer. The dry draw produces nice oat and berry notes. Let’s pop open that tailgate and get this party started!
Immediately the foot smoke odor smells like we threw some fresh burgers on the grill. Some vanilla char and nice Nicaraguan spice over some fruitiness on the first puff. This is a medium bold cigar with a nice medium draw. The retro-hale is meaty with nice baking spices, and that classic Karen Berger graham cracker note perfectly balanced on the finish. I am getting a slight aftertaste of cedar after each puff, which is dry but still enjoyable on the palate. The ash is solid and the wavy burn seems to be self correcting. I did have to switch lighters during light up, due to running out of butane on the first one, so this may have impacted the burn. The first third has some nice flavor but not a lot of complexity to it, as that ash falls off approaching the second third.
Okay now we’re cookin! A nice transition to some floral vanillas. This cigar has great cigar input and output. The retro-hale is creamier now and tastes like s’mores that glide off the tip of the nose. The second third of the cigar experience reminds me of being around a campfire, which is perfect for any season. The burn is now straight and the cigar’s flavors remain consistent, again not much complexity but very enjoyable, and I ‘feel so much better now’.
More char over some sweet citrus saltiness comes to the forefront of the smoking experience. The cigar has me salivating, and now a slight hint of ammonia coats the palate, as the cigar’s nice flavor starts to fade, and its perfect ash again falls off with dignity. I quickly found myself puffing away on the cigar, to salvage any hint of flavor, which only a soft but sweet vanilla note remains. This is the second time I’ve smoked this cigar, and had a very similar experience the first time around. The band slid right off toward the head of the cigar, without disturbing its hard construction. Unfortunately, with an inch and half left of the smoke, my palate had difficulty picking up much flavor, but some faint floral and citrusy wood notes took me to the nub.
This cigar would definitely pair well with a plate of bbq at any tailgate party. It is not a complex smoke, but will bring any cigar lover to a momentary safe place. The loss of flavor in the final third was disappointing, but may be corrected with more fermenting or aging in the humidor. Overall this is a nice blend, with that classic Karen Berger graham cracker note. The experience really takes us on a journey, fireside, through all four seasons, before fading and leaving the smoker stranded, but still in a safe place, especially at this price point.