Bill Ives (aka Cuban Assassin) and Juan Cancel are larger than life characters that love, respect, and have a huge passion for cigars and its culture. Together, they partnered up with Erik Espinosa and created the Cubariqueño Cigar Company (pronounced Cuba·ree·ken·yo) to bring you their first release. When both men are not smoking cigars and wearing their fedoras and guayaberas, they work as law enforcement officers. I only mention that fact because their profession is what led to the inspiration behind the name, “Protocol” for their first cigar. If any of you follow either Bill or Juan on social media, you will know they are all about cigars that bring big flavor, balanced with strength. So lets see what the Protocol delivers…

Protocol Breakdown:

  • Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro
  • Binder: Nicaraguan Habano
  • Filler: Quadruple ligero from Estelí and Jalapa regions.
  • Factory: La Zona (Estelí, Nicaragua)
  • Production: Currently a small batch production of 5,000 cigars (Corona Gorda and Toro) available in 10 count soft packs.
  • Vitola Reviewed: 5 5/8″ × 46 Corona Gorda
  • Price: $7.99


The Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro is dark brown and rustic with noticeable veins throughout. The wrapper smells chocolaty and the foot smells of the same. The cold draw has the perfect amount of resistance, with chocolate, earth and floral flavors.

First Third

Once flame hits tobacco, bold flavors of chocolate and sweet, roasted coffee rush over my palate, leaving behind a thick coating in my mouth. The smoke picks up momentum and the flavor profile takes shape, adding leather, toasted almonds and licorice on the back end. There is a steady trickle of citrus and dried, dark fruit notes that add new layers of flavor and complexity. I am completely locked in and fascinated by this flavor profile. The smoke is dense and weighs a bit on my palate, leaving in its wake a long and full finish. The smoke that comes off the cigar is dense and holds a bluish hue.

Retro notes: zesty citrus and spice (clean and bold)

Cubariqueño Protocol Corona Gorda cigar review

Second Third

Coffee and chocolate lead the way into this third and are joined by a nice transition of earth, spice and dark fruit. In this third, what grabs a hold of me the most is that blossoming dark fruit note, taking this experience to the next level! Licorice is becoming more reminiscent of anisette and rounding out the list of flavors is a distant caramelized almond. The flavors in this third have left an image in my head of me sitting in small Italian café enjoying black coffee with anisette and an almond biscotti.

Retro notes: red cayenne pepper, barnyard fire.

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Cubariqueño Protocol cigar review

Final Third

The last third flexes its strength and really captures the Quadruple ligero character. I found that at this point a multitude of flavors come together, some briefly, some linger throughout. Some of the bolder flavors, like chocolate, mineral, spice, molasses, and dark roast coffee, remain constant. Whereas citrus, anisette, wood, nuts, grass, leather and sweet, dried fruit pop up briefly and disappear. The hefty amount of ligero (along with spice) weighs on the tongue like a Mack truck but doesn’t sacrifice any of the flavors because they are big and bold.

Retro notes: mineral, spice, mild chocolate and moss.

Would I smoke this cigar again?

Any day… It is no secret to that I am a huge fan of cigars crafted out of La Zona, and I proudly call myself a La Zona/Espinosa fan boy—it was a treat to write this review on the Protocol. However, I will swear on a stack of bibles when I say that I believe that Protocol is a legitimate Top 5 cigar for 2015 and could easily be a contender for cigar of the year. Buy them NOW and support Cubariqueño Cigar Company!

Cubariqueño Protocol cigar review and rating

Protocol by Cubariqueño Cigar Company
The Protocol is an excellent smoking experience that brings a well-executed flavor profile that is equally balanced to its strength. As with most cigars that feature heavy ligero blends, I would advise you to slow down and savor this cigar, trust me, it’s worth it. Normally I recommend a beer or whiskey as a pairing, but today I am going to throw a curve ball at you… consider pairing this cigar with a black espresso with a shot of anisette.
  • Well priced / great value
  • Long, full finish
  • Well balanced
  • Currently only sold at Berkeley Heights, N.J. as well as Adelphia Lounges in Berkeley Heights, Bernardsville and East Brunswick, N.J. They can also be bought online at
90%Balanced Flavor
Reader Rating: (5 Votes)
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