Unless you’re an obsessive boutique cigar junky, searching far and wide daily for new brands and smoking everything in between, you’ve probably never heard of La Barba. So let me give you a history lesson (don’t worry, its short). Six years ago, Tony Bellatto and Craig Rossi decided to start their own cigar brand. They were young, fresh out of college, and full of passion for cigars. They began the journey of discovering what they wanted out of a cigar brand, and what they wanted to give to their fans from a brand’s point of view. They came to realize that one of their biggest philosophies is individuality, which led them to the name La Barba—Spanish for “The Beard”—which they believed expressed themselves and everyone around them in a unique way. Also, everyone loves a good beard…
The pair set off to create a brand that focused on small batch production, attention to detail, and the artisanship of premium cigars. Their focus is to get it right, not get rich. And you can tell they mean it when they’ve only released three blends (more on that later) since the company’s inception in 2010, unlike some of the other “trendy” brands out there. Tony Bellatto grew up in the cigar industry, under his father’s trade of owning and running local shops for more than 40 years. Craig Rossi, on the other hand, fell in love with cigars during his freshman year of college. After graduating, he returned to his home town of Warren, Ohio, where he met Tony at a local shop—the Havana House. The two became great friends, both passionate about wine and cigars. A few years later, with the help of Robert Caldwell (Caldwell Cigar Co.) and Christian Eiroa (CLE Cigar Co.), they began making their first cigars at Eiroa’s Aladino factory in Honduras, later transitioning to Tabacalera William Ventura in the Dominican Republic.
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La Barba Purple Breakdown
- Wrapper: HVA (Habano Vuelta Arriba) Ecuadorian Habano
- Binder: Dominican Corojo
- Filler: HVA Habano, Dominican Corojo and Carbonell
- Factory: Tabacalera William Ventura (Dominican Republic)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 5″ × 50 (robusto)
- Price: $9.90 (MSRP)
At the 2016 IPCPR show, La Barba unveiled huge changes for the brand, including new packaging for all three of their regular production lines, a new, limited edition offering, a Dominican-focused re-blending of their original La Barba Red, and a new distribution agreement under Caldwell’s Down and Back LLC. The changes marked a breath of fresh air for the brand, which had appeared to be placed on hold while Tony focused on other projects with his Lost & Found brand (a joint project with Robert Caldwell and Jaclyn Sears).
La Barba Purple underwent slight design changes, as well as moving from 10-count to 12-count boxes.
The Purple has a great appearance, with a classy—almost gothic feel to it. The band is gorgeous, with a straight razor surrounded by a gold wreath and a purple background. The back of the band has the words “La Barba” in gold. The tobacco has a good feel to it as well, sturdy construction and healthy leaves. The wrapper is nice and tight, with one or two loose seams and small veins. The triple cap is well in place, with no major lips or divots. Overall, a decent look with the emphasis on simplicity.
The smell is mild on the nose, a musty tobacco and hay aroma. The cold draw adds a little earth and sweetness, also revealing a decent draw.
The Habano wrapper lights up fairly quickly, with minimal toasting needed. The first light notes are indicative of the cold draw, tasting of oak, tobacco, and a gentle earthiness. The draw reveals a smooth resistance, at medium-firm. The smoke output is superb, however, and I can really get the sense of time spent on detail here.
Burning through the first inch or so, the cigar really begins to open up in the flavor department. A bit of an oak on the draw, as well as a creamy nut and vanilla. There’s a delicate spice on the finish and it’s definitely light—a nice addition that restrains from being overpowering. The retrohale is smooth and easy, and there’s an interesting flavor that I can’t quite pin down—reminding me of a Cuban—a bit of a graham cracker maybe? The ash is burning okay so far, with no touch-ups needed. It is a bit loose however, and the drop off is rather short, only lasting barley an inch at a time.
Around the halfway mark, a subtle sweetness joins the bouquet, fitting in nicely with nut medley. The earth notes continue alongside the oak and graham cracker finish. The body is a solid medium, with a medium strength as well. The flavor is a little more delicate, at just under medium. The feel on the palate is quite satisfying, not dry at all—making a beverage pairing not necessary but welcoming.
The La Barba Purple finishes out much like it started. The sweetness has died away, moving the earth to the forefront alongside a medium roast coffee aroma with a salty nut finish. The body moves closer to full as well, but the strength and flavor remain the same. The construction stays fair, but a steadier pace is demanded by the burn to avoid tunneling or touchups.
Would I smoke this again?
Would I, hypothetically speaking? Easy answer: absolutely. Will I actually? Probably not. The La Barba is a fantastic smoke, and a really great sophomore release for Tony and Craig. It encompasses everything they were going for: slow and steady, attention to detail and quality, and a touch of individuality as well. The only problem: hard to find! This is defiantly a craft, boutique, small batch cigar you won’t find in many brick and mortars. Of course, this is all set to change, theoretically, as La Barba climbs aboard the unstoppable juggernaut that is Caldwell cigars—look for La Barba to start popping up at your local B&Ms throughout 2017.
- Smoke Time: 1 hour
- Paring Recommendation: bourbon, IPA, filtered water, oiled-up beard
- Purchase Recommendation: 5-pack sampler
- Nice draw
- Classy look
- Attention-hog burn
- Low complexity