Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust is the much-anticipated, welcomed return to the cigar industry for Steve Saka, the highly-revered, former CEO of Drew Estate. Steve has now made it through the industry nearly full-circle, beginning as a blogger, then writing for cigar retailer JR Cigar as an executive consultant, and eventually taking the prestigious role as President of Drew Estate (finishing as CEO). With this kind of a track record, there’s really only one thing left to check off the list, a dream that many (nearly every) cigar enthusiast shares—creator and owner of a cigar brand.

It was at the 2013 IPCPR show in Las Vegas that Steve made his first post-Drew Estate appearance—a mere civilian—it’s shocking that the trade show didn’t “escort him unceremoniously from the premisses,” seriously, they do this a lot… It was at this moment that a countdown begun—when would Steve make his return? He would deny the idea of it at the time, toying with the concept of calling it quits, sitting back and bass fishing indefinitely, but fans knew (hoped) there was more to it.

Indeed, after a two-year hiatus and a finalized non-compete with Drew Estate, Steve made his return to the industry at this year’s IPCPR show in New Orleans. A striking contrast from his former digs at the ever-popular Drew Estate booth, his new setup offered a humble arrangement of a few couches and chairs, a Marshall amp, and a single pedestal carrying his first product—Sobremesa.

Sobremesa Breakdown

  • Wrapper: La Meca Ecuador Habano Grade 1 Dark Rosado
  • Binder: Matacapan Negro de Temporal
  • Filler: Nicaraguan GK Condega C-SG (Seco)
    Nicaraguan Pueblo Nuevo Criollo (Viso)
    Nicaraguan La Joya Estelí C-98 (Viso)
    Nicaraguan ASP Estelí Hybrid (Ligero)
    USA Lancaster County Broadleaf (Ligero)
  • Factory: Joya de Nicaragua S.A. (Nicaragua)
  • Production: Small batch (1,000 boxes per month)
  • Vitola: 5.25″ x 44 Corona Grande
  • Price: $9.50

Sobremesa is one of three planned releases for the new brand and it is clearly apparent the amount of planning and effort that went into their first offering. The name is a Spanish expression that describes that brilliant timeframe between eating and rising, it’s the discussions that take place over a post-dinner smoke or coffee. After a long day of heavy meals (Thanksgiving, for those reading in the future…), I’m sure most will understand the magic that is sobremesa—I know I had sobremesas in both senses of the term!

For Sobremesa, Steve has tasked the team at Joya de Nicaragua with the rolling responsibilities. No surprise here, as he worked closely with Joya during his time with Drew Estate—though he has stated that following cigars will be made at other factories, pairing each cigar with the factory that suits it best. Sobremesa takes on the look of a pre-embargo Cuban cigar packaging, complete with a rectangular box, sealed by embossed, ornate paper at every corner. There are two box seals, one bearing the Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust imagery and the other showing a nostalgic watercolor painting and embossed with the customary gold coins. It’s the Sobremesa painted artwork (also found inside the box’s lid) that really makes this product feel vintage/Cuban—many would assume it to be just that if uninformed.

The cigars themselves are very impressive, having a simplistic band of a gold, embossed crown and dark brown secondary colors that seem to perfectly match the cigar’s wrapper. Speaking of which, the wrapper is much darker than anticipated; with an Ecuadorian Habano leaf, the look is dark chocolate brown (officially described as Dark Rosado), lacking any sign of wrapper seams or veins. The pack is medium-firm and the cigar feels fairly sturdy (save for a few minor bumps) throughout. When held to light, there is a golden shimmering of the wrapper’s oils—all-in-all one of the most attractive cigars I’ve seen in recent memory.

Smoking Experience

The cigar carries a subtle aroma of chocolate, leather, and tobacco. When lit, there are pleasant notes of toasted wheat—better described as Golden Crisp cereal! The first few puffs open up with nice, full flavors of cinnamon and other balanced spices (though nothing sharp, such as pepper). The bulk of the flavors reside in the retrohale, as the palate experience is more muted, having a distant vanilla creaminess.

The cigar burns nicely, showing lots of smoke on each puff (and even a good amount of smoke between puffs) through a medium/firm draw—it’s a little tight, but definitely manageable. The palate has caught me off guard through the first-third, as I’d expected a more Cuban-esque profile, but found more of a sophisticated maduro experience. Cinnamon plays the major role for this section, with occasional glimpses of fruit juice, chocolate, and malt.



Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust Sobremesa corona grande cigar review

Beverage Pairing
I paired the Sobremesa with a local brew—Oskar Blues (maybe you’ve heard of ’em?) Old Chub Scotch Ale—which can be hit or miss, depending on the occasion. This, being a cold night, with my Sobremesa, happened to be just the right fit! Surprisingly, the two actually have very similar characteristics, with lots of malt, chocolate, added notes of espresso powder (now showing through in the cigar paired with Old Chub), and lots of sweet vanilla—something that was only barely apparent before the pairing. I may have accidentally stumbled into the cigar’s perfect match!

Sobremesa then moves into darker territory, bringing in a good dose of dark chocolate, accompanied by just the right amount of anise in the retro. There is also a thick maltiness, caramel, and molasses. On the downside, the draw has tightened up, requiring a “triple puff” to get the desired smoke output and flavor. The strength has progressed from a light medium to medium-plus, the flavor has slightly pulled back from the start, and the body is around medium-plus. Finishing up, there are notes of earth, charred meat, and a final glimpse of sweetness in the form of vanilla-caramel-creaminess.

Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust Sobremesa smoking cigar review

Would I smoke this cigar again?

I sure would! While I find myself smoking less and less maduros, this is one I’d smoke without hesitation. Compared to the average maduro, this is much more complex, it’s also a great pairing with a dark beer or full-bodied bourbon. I also appreciate the thoughtful vitolas Steve has offered (and I’d expect nothing less), which all seem to cater towards the enthusiast.

In the vein of Cuban craftsmanship, Saka has placed a heavy emphasis on customized blending from size to size in the line. You’ll even find him frequently stressing on social media that consumers not go straight for the box purchase, but instead try a few varying sizes first. And while I haven’t tried every size at this time, I have gone from the small to large spectrum of ring gauges offered, and was amazed at the differences in flavor between sizes! Enthusiasts will want to opt for the corona or lonsdale sizes (even more so than usual). I found this to have more strength and complexity than the larger size (toro), which seemed to be all flavor and no strength. Of course, this is totally subjective and I’m sure many will prefer the larger sizes in the line. It’s just nice to have such variety within a single line.

Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust Sobremesa cigar review and rating

Sobremesa
Sobremesa shows a strong start for the newly-formed Dunbarton brand, with a heavy emphasis on doing things the right way. It is noticeable that a lot of care went into each aspect of this cigar, making for a very enjoyable smoking experience. The boutique market is becoming evermore competitive, and this is clearly a brand that means business—coming onto the scene with guns a-blazin'.
Appearance100%
Burn/Construction93%
Draw80%
Flavor90%
Complexity94%
Price/Value86%
Pros
  • Complex flavors
  • Great smoke output
  • Vitolas for the connoisseur
Cons
  • Tight draw
  • Multiple touchups
  • Last third falls short of the first two
91%"Boutiqified"
Reader Rating: (5 Votes)
92%
  • Great review! All in all its a super great cigar for Saka’s first release. The Corona Grande fit my strength profile much better than the Robusto Largo. I’m looking forward to smoking every size in the line!

    • Thanks for checking out the review Toar, totally agree. Also, had the lonsdale size since this review and it performed even better. Very good smokes!