- Vitola: Toro
- 6” x 50 ring gauge
- MSRP $$12.50
- Purchased at Burns Tobacconist
La Barba started as a partnership of Tony Bellatto and Craig Rossi, two young Americans who were passionate about cigars and with enough ties to the industry to make their small venture work. They originally worked with the Eiroa family’s Aladino factory to put out La Barba Red, but eventually the company ended up forging some pretty tight relationships with Robert Caldwell, which included Tony working with Caldwell on the Lost and Found project, as well as La Barba moving all their production to the William Ventura factory in the Dominican Republic, which is the same place that most of Caldwell’s cigars were made. The last piece of the puzzle clicked into place when Caldwell started distributing La Barba alongside his own cigars last year.
At Burns, we recently got in a lot of new Caldwell merchandise, including refiling the long-empty La Barba SKUs in the shop…and getting the newest release from the company: One and Only. One and Only was announced last year as a limited edition release from the small company and their website shows it as a collaborative effort with Robert Caldwell. News reports list production as limited to 500 10-count boxes but note that filler and binder for the project is undisclosed. The company’s website shows 3 types of tobacco used in the blend: “15 year Ecuador Habano” which is the wrapper leaf, along with “Corojo” and “Pele De Oro.” I’m presuming that should be “Pelo de Oro” but the words could be interchangeable.
Just judging from other Caldwell and La Barba releases, it’s likely that the filler and binder is mostly, if not completely, Dominican. The website also notes that all the tobacco has “15 year average age,” so it has all been extensively aged. I bought several of these sticks from Burns, including this review sample, which is the second one I have smoked.
The packaging of the One and Only has the appearance of “Caldwell meets La Barba.” The “La Barba” name does exist on the box and on a secondary band, while their trademark straight razor appears on the back of the band where one side glues to the other. The box has a safety razor blade featured prominently on it, emphasizing the basic imagery while introducing something new. The main part of the main band has a stylized artistic interpretation of Tony Bellatto, and is reminiscent of Caldwell sticks featuring faces, like Eastern Standard, Savages, and Last Tsar. Overall it looks good and “of a piece” with the other cigars that surround it on the store shelves, both La Barba and Caldwell products.
The wrapper leaf of the cigar was a dark milk chocolate shade of brown with a few prominent veins. It was oily to the touch and had a ripe combination of earth and cedar to the nose. The aroma from the foot of the stick was a mix of wood, hay, earth and yeasty notes. I took off the cap with my favorite Xikar Xi and was rewarded with an excellent draw that tasted of oranges, cedar, and pepper.
Lighting up brought on a chemical taste that wasn’t pleasant, but it dissipated quickly and notes of wet earth and cedar came up rapidly in its place. Black pepper caused a burning sensation near the back of my palate. After a few puffs, flavors of sweet citrus and grass started coming through, as did a tingling sensation on my lips. The tingling and slight numbness lasted for 10 seconds or so with each puff. The retrohale was marked by roasted nuts, more cedar, and a healthy dash of red pepper.
Heading into the second third, the two words that came to mind immediately when I thought about the flavor profile were “tangy” and “sweet.” The citrus notes kept the tang levels fairly high and the sweetness came in the same notes, as well as some sweet hay and a mild chocolate note. Pepper was still hanging around in the background with earthier notes and the cedar notes had all but disappeared.
Earth came back in large measure during the last third, mixing nicely with the sweetness in the profile. The citrus zing died off a bit, about down to the level of the wood notes. Pepper came back slightly, but never to the level that it appeared initially.
The burn line was a little wonky at times, but corrected itself nicely. The draw was near perfection and the ash was as solid as I like.
You might expect a production level of only 5,000 sticks to be pricey. The One and Only was a little higher than regular La Barba sticks, but no higher than most Caldwell Collection lines. Since it was an excellent experience, I judge the price to be well worth it.
The La Barba One and Only proved to be an excellent smoking experience and probably the best thing in the company’s line at the moment. It was medium-to-full in body with a rich, thick smoke and pleasing complexity. I enjoyed the transitions from cedar and citrus to chocolate and tangy, then to earthy, all while there was appropriate amounts of pepper spice. Sadly, this being a limited edition, we may not see these for long…or it could be an example of what I’ve been saying recently: in the days of the FDA regulations, there are no “one and done” cigars. I say, don’t hesitate…buy these now before they disappear.
Total: 9.5 /10