Cigar Previews, Part 1

First off, let me apologize for being completely MIA for the past week. I had blog posts ready to go all the way through my trip to New Orleans, but expected to have some time over the weekend to write up some of the different experiences from the ICPPR show and share them with you earlier this week. After all, if Will Cooper ( can attend the show and post about 150 entries a day (slight exaggeration), I should be able to get a couple done. Unfortunately, reality wasn’t kind…

Being that I was at the IPCPR show to do my job for the cigar shop I work for, I ended up spending just about every available minute of time on the show floor walking the enormous hall, talking to old vendors and potential new vendors, and trying to promote our shop and our Tweetup event as much as possible. When I got done for the day, I would change, perhaps shower (depending on the venue of that night’s activities) and head back out for parties (and more shop promotion). There’s much more to it all, but I’ll save that for next week.

For today I thought I’d start sharing with you some of my experiences with some of the new (or new to me) sticks I picked up at the show. All of these are either coming to Burns in Chattanooga or are being evaluated for later addition. These are all classified as “show samples” so I will not give them a numerical rating, I’ll just be sharing some thoughts on the sticks now and whether I would bring them in at a shop I owned (and I do not own any part of Burns…I make recommendations and the bosses make the final decisions). I’ve got lots of these samples to go through so this could go on for a few weeks.

LaPalina_RedLa Palina Red Label

La Palina introduced the Black Label at last year’s trade show, so it was only appropriate to release a new “sister” brand at this year’s show. Like the Black, the Red Label is made in the PDR factory in the Dominican Republic. While the Black is very full in body, the Red was designed to be milder. It uses Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers, an Ecuadorian binder, and an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. (info from Cigar-Coop)

Red Label banding is as attractive as the Black…in some ways better because it just fresher looking. Goes well with the reddish tinge to the wrapper.

The flavor profile was mostly cedary with a little white pepper and lemon grass. I detected a touch of ammonium on the sample I smoked which could be indicative of the cigar being a bit young. I’ll admit to not being over-the-top on this one right now but it intrigues me and I’ll be interested to see what it’s like in a month or two. For myself, I wouldn’t go deep on these until I see how they mature a bit and how the customers receive them.

Blind_Mans_BluffBlind Man’s Bluff by Caldwell Cigars

While the first wave of Caldwell releases were made in the Dominican Republic, Blind Man’s Bluff is the first of their blends to be made in Danli, Honduras. It uses Dominican San Vicente Viso and Honduran Criollo Ligero fillers, a Honduran Criollo binder and an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper leaf. It will come in three sizes. (again from Cigar-Coop)

Cool band and packing as is par for the course with Caldwell. Hay and manure aroma in the wrapper with a rich earthiness on the foot. On light up, the cigar was medium to full in body. I got wet earth and cedar up front along with a spicy finish.

Ten minutes in I picked up on a pleasant, mild sweetness and the spice mellowed a bit. As I got into the second third the Bluff was earthy with just a touch of spice. The sweet touch was just enough to provide good balance. I think this one has enough buzz and originality to be a good seller and will make a good addition to the Caldwell section.

FreyjaFreyja by Las Cumbres Tabacos

After completing the first two blends from Jose Blanco (Señorial and Señorial 65th Anniversary), the third blend from Las Cumbres Tabacos is from the other partner: Jose’s wife, Emma Viktorsson. I spoke with Emma at the IPCPR and she expressed that although she had been in the tobacco business for a very long time, it wasn’t until she had been with Jose for several years and learned a bit of how he worked with blending that she felt comfortable with the process herself. And she did make sure to work on it without Jose’s help, too, relying only on the factory manager to assist. She went back to her own Swedish heritage for the name and artwork for the blend. Freya is the Viking goddess of beauty and fertility, as well as being chief of the Valkyrie.

The final blend ended up with Dominican Criollo 98, two primings of Dominican Piloto Cubano, and Nicaraguan Estelí leaf. The binder is Mexican San Andres and the wrapper is Dominican Criollo 98. (Cigar-Coop)

I heard one person criticize the band on this, but I have to say I like the Norse-inspired art on the front and the Viking ships on the back of the band. It’s original and eye-catching, which is something we always look for in the retail environment.

Lighting up, I got a medium-bodied smoke with notes of hay and a light earthiness. A few minutes in, I picked up some pepper notes, especially through the nose, and a bit of a citrus zing. This continued on into the second third, when the earthiness started to take a bump up and the body climbed into the solidly medium body zone.

I found the Freyja to be fairly complex and very well-balanced overall, but I wasn’t blown away by it. Then I remembered that I had felt the same about Jose Blanco’s Señorial in the Robusto vitola, too, and had to concede that the Freyja was better than the Señorial in this size…and I remembered that the Señorial blend only really came alive for me when I smoked the Corona. So now I want to smoke a Freyja in a similar size. As far as how I’d treat the brand in my hypothetical “own shop,” I’d get a couple boxes of several sizes to start with and see how my customers reacted to it. I think it has tremendous potential, but might take “just the right” type of customer to be really successful in any given shop.

La_MissionLa Mission by L’Atelier 

The full name is “La Mission du L’Atelier” and it is a cigar line inspired by one of Pete Johnson’s other passions: wine. The name is an homage to “Château La Mission Haut-Brion,” a French winery. The vitola names are references to vintage years that wines from that winery received a 100 point rating by Robert Parker.

As with other L’Atelier releases, La Mission contains Sancti Spiritus tobacco in the blend, although this is the first time a L’Atelier has used a Mexican San Andres wrapper leaf. (Cigar-Coop)

This cigar starts out fairly stout and spicy with a good mix of earth and semi sweet chocolate. As I smoked along it developed a little dried fruit flavor and the spice died down a little.

Overall I would call this the best use of Mexican San Andres wrapper I’ve ever had from the folks at the My Father factory. It was smooth and sweet with just a touch of coffee for a bitter note and not an overwhelming amount of pepper spice. This is a tough one…it’s got great flavor, but the L’Atelier brand has been waning a bit over the past year after a strong first year, at least in our shop. Back to it being a great smoke, though…it could really take off.

David Jones

David has been smoking premium cigars since 2001. He is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Leaf Enthusiast. He is a full-time retail tobacconist, working for Burns Tobacconist in Chattanooga, where he has also organized the Chattanooga Tweet-Up for the last four years. He is also an independent graphic designer and typesetter. Twitter: @dmjones1009

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  • Mark VanSledright

    This is some great information. I was excited about the La Palina Red and now I know to let it rest a bit. I had the same response to the Senorial robusto versus the #5, so, I will be looking for the Freyja corona.

  • BlackBetsy1919

    Thank you for the information. Was totally unaware about the La Palina Red and La Mission. Will try the Freya, though seemed a little disappointed by the review.

  • Swede214

    Like some one said, better late than never, good reviews.

  • foozer6976

    thanks for the info, cat wait to try all the new stuff comig out!!!

  • bob langmaid

    I would say I’m most excited to try the Blind Man’s Bluff and the L’Atelier La Mission, but can’t wait to try ALL these!!

  • Texican

    All sound pretty good, but lookin forward to Freyja & Blind Mans Bluff.

  • Miguel Rocha

    Looks like an amazing bunch to go through! It must be rough as a retailer to take a risk on something that is new to the scene. My local B&M owner was surprised by how aware I was of new brands and I was amazed of how much he didn’t know.

  • MattyBlayze

    Great post – thank you. I’m eager to try the Red Label, and I’ve heard the other 3 are some of the best cigars from the show. I actually heard that the Freyja was better than anything Jose has ever blended (and people were letting him know it!).

  • Craig

    Looking forward to trying all of these, especially the Red Label and Freya.

  • Aaron

    Refreshing to hear about your experience with the overwhelming aspect of the show and how much time investment it took. Helps to give perspective to the people thinking that media is there for a good time when we’re actually working. Media is an important aspect to the show and deserves to be there. Just like any attendee, there may be some good ones and some bad ones, it’s the organizations job to figure out who should be there.