Cigar Review: Members Only Habano by PDR Cigars

  • MembersOnlyHab_straightVitola: Robusto
  • 5” x 50 ring gauge
  • $6.49
  • Purchased at Burns Tobacconist

Background

A month or so ago, Abe Flores and his current regional representative stopped by Burns for a small midweek event. It was the first time I had met Abe and it was nice to hear a new and fresh perspective (to me anyway) on the industry and some of the expectations of the “FDA Era” we have entered (and may continue to live in). Before he left he told me and the store owner about a program he does called “Members Only”…and it has nothing to do with vintage jackets.

Basically, the PDR factory in the Dominican Republic rolls a lot of cigars for their own brands, plus a lot of brands you would immediately recognize, like La Palina and Gurkha. They are also a great resource for small batch cigars from a relatively wide variety of companies. But after commissioning cigars, those companies don’t always purchase the entire run…so what to do? Originally, Abe was selling these to members of a group he ran on Facebook (hence the name he adopted), but later he decided to make them a bargain-priced offering for a small number of retailers. Depending on what is in the aging room, the exact blends may change from time to time, but the Members Only name will continually signal small batch production using all long-filler tobaccos for a bargain price.

The first batch we got into Burns had “Habano” and “Maduro” versions, with several sizes of each wrapper type. For the Habano I decided to go with the Robusto. I can’t tell you exactly what is in this cigar…because we are not told. Suffice to say it is a Habano wrapper, probably Ecuadorian. PDR uses a lot of Dominican tobacco so it would be safe to say there is some in the filler/binder core of this stogie.

This review is based on my second smoking of this blend and I bought both of them at Burns.

MembersOnlyHab_bandPrelight

In keeping with the ethic of keeping the price of the cigars low, the bands are fairly simple, using a dark brown background with white lettering that says “Members Only Exclusive” and a tiny “PDR Cigars” logo where the ends of the band meet. That is framed by silver foil and white trim, with the addition of a touch of embossing. Simple but effective and not really cheap-looking.

The Habano wrapper leaf was a dirty golden color that could easily be mistaken for Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade in certain instances. It had some smudging on it and some medium-sized veins, but the triple-cap looked really well done and everything else about the visible construction seemed great. The wrapper had a clean earthy aroma to it with a touch of cedar. The foot of the stick had a more barnyard note, mixed with hay and a slight vegetal note.

The cold draw of the cigar was good; the flavor cold was of grass and cedar mostly.

Flavor

Prelight, the cigar presented itself as if it would be a mild-bodied smoke based on appearance, aromas and flavors. When lit, though, the cigar immediately started on the milder side of medium-bodied. The flavors were a complex mix of hay and earth, citrus sweetness with a touch of lemon zing, and a cedary finish. The retrohale had more cedar, loads of short-lived pepper burn, and more citrus. It truly outplayed its price point right from the opening.

The citrus increased in the “zing” department as I got into the second third, while there were also increased notes of pepper and cedar. The earthy and grassy notes faded to the background and the retrohale continued with wood and pepper. The body had increased to a solid medium at this point.

This Members Only Habano got a little less complex in the last third, breaking down to just an earthy, woody profile with a touch of sweetness and a little residual pepper spice.

MembersOnlyHab_bandbackConstruction

The ash was a little flaky, shedding on me a bit and crumbling apart completely when I tapped off. The draw was just about perfect and the burn line was even enough to not need touching up.

Value

A very good complex Habano for $6.49? Yes, please!

Conclusions

For most of the cigar the Members Only Habano was a tour de force of flavor complexity, with lots of different notes hitting my palate and nose on each and every puff. While it settled down a lot at the end, it doesn’t change the fact that this $6.49 smoke performed like a $10 or more cigar in almost every way. I thoroughly enjoyed this PDR release and plan to buy several more before they run out. It’s impossible to say what’s ahead for this line, but this particular release is well worth the money.

By-The-Numbers

Prelight: 2/2
Construction: 1.5/2
Flavor: 4/5
Value: 1/1
Total: 8.5/10

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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