Two years after retiring from Drew Estate (operating as president and CEO for roughly eight years), Steve Saka turned his dreams into reality with the creation of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust. With Steve’s involvement in crafting some of the most highly regarded non-Cuban brands of the modern era, there was much excitement leading up to the launch of his solo venture in 2015.
From the tobacco fields, to the harvested leaf, to the torcedores in the factory, DTT is boasted as a labor of love. And one of Steve Saka’s known loves (besides cigars) is fishing. Therefore, when Steve set out to craft a smoking experience for the everyman, his favorite fishing spot—Umbagog Lake—served as inspiration.
Umbagog Gordo Gordo Breakdown
- Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
- Binder: Nicaraguan
- Filler: Nicaraguan
- Factory: Nicaraguan American Cigars S.A. (Nicaragua)
- Production: Small Batch / Regular Production
- Vitola: 6″ × 56 Gordo Gordo
- Price: $8.95 (MSRP)
Crafted at the Nicaraguan American Cigars S.A. (NACSA) factory in Estelí—the same as DTT’s core-line Mi Querida—Umbagog aims to offer a high value/price ratio by utilizing the Broadleaf wrapper selections deemed “too ugly” for the superior Mi Querida blend. In addition, the cigars showcase simplistic bands and are packaged in kraft paper bundles to allow the premium tobaccos used to be sold at a price more akin to a value line.
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This is a big, hefty cigar. That’s the first thing that springs to mind when I get ready to smoke this. There’s a very neatly-applied, large, double cap that is nearly identical in all samples smoked for review. But that’s about it as far as similarities between samples go. On the first one I smoked, I kept asking myself how the beautiful, evenly-colored leaf would’ve been deemed “too ugly” for the Mi Querida. But other samples were very veiny, with a rosado/dark-brown mottled hue and clearly visible seams. Each cigar had a beautiful, oily sheen with a goodly amount of tooth, although it was certainly more smooth than many comparable blends on the market. The cigars are packed tight with no soft spots.
In comparison to Saka’s Sobremesa line—one of the all-time greats in cigar band design, in my opinion—the Umbagog is much simpler, although it doesn’t necessarily look like a “neglected stepchild”. There’s a design aesthetic used in the coloring, type, and lines that reminds me of a $1 bill or an old map. I like it.
The aroma from the wrapper is barnyard, fresh spicy ginger, and black pepper. From the foot I notice notes of Worcestershire sauce (which, basically, smells like everything), more spicy black pepper, and earthy, wet campfire ashes. From the clipped cap I am wowed by strong black licorice, anise, molasses, raw buckwheat honey, and bitters. One sample had a somewhat tight draw, while another showed perfection.
Before I even get the first puffs, I notice while slowly toasting the foot that the smoke rising up is simply intoxicating. Everything about this cigar is drawing me in. The first draws show sweet tobacco and those interesting wet campfire ashes on the tongue, with a black pepper tingle on the retrohale and an incredibly long, strong black licorice finish—identical to the cold draw. I love the potent tingle throughout the retrohale. An inch into the first third, there’s an intense cola-syrup sweetness with luscious savory elements, like sweet caramelized onions and buttered toast—although the licorice is still dominant. It’s remarkable, to me, just how much the profile mimics the hard and leathery sensation of “Gustaf’s Dutch Licorice Coins” candy. It’s not a “notes of” or “reminds me,” this is a straight-up “tastes exactly like” kind of a sensation. Anyway, the pepper in the retrohale has mellowed, but transformed to a creeping heat that builds and showcases itself on the long finish. The burn is mostly even, but not perfect, with a flakey gray ash dropping off before the start of the second third. Strength is “medium-ish,” with big, full flavors, and a medium-plus body.
Into the second third, I start to get excited as the cigar begins to move away from that very impressive, yet very straightforward licorice-heavy flavor. Now there’s a little bit of complexity happening and I can taste dark, rich blackstrap molasses, pure kola nut bittersweetness, and a wintergreen freshness. Halfway through and this cigar has turned into an early childhood Christmas memory: eating Pfeffernüsse (though I called them “feffer-cookies”). The profile mobilizes in a more complete form: ginger, cardamom, molasses, pepper, and anise, with a sweet butter cookie creaminess. This is a vast improvement over the first third. The strength remains medium, and (somewhat thankfully) the flavor has backed off a little bit to medium full. The burn remains uneven but doesn’t require a correction.
Heading into the final third, it’s touchup time. Strength begins to inch up to medium-plus, while the flavor and body are still firmly medium/full. I’m really enjoying the resting smoke from the foot at this point as, sadly, the flavor profile has lost the wonder of the second third. It’s still good, but the beautiful symphony of mingling, complementary flavors have turned into somewhat of an oboe solo. Licorice candy returns, though there is a decent dose of pepper spice as a compliment (thankfully). I hate to say it but by this point I’m bored of the overpowering, straightforward licorice flavor. The burn becomes downright jagged and uneven, and another few touchups are required. The cigar seems to need a few “primer” puffs before each draw. Body and smoke output decrease and flavor ramps back up into the full range, with strength remaining unchanged. Towards the end this becomes a very one-dimensional smoke and I set it down as the burn line approaches the cigar’s band.
Would I smoke This Cigar Again?
I would smoke this cigar again. I found the overall flavor to be a little boring at the end, but was enjoyable for the most part. The middle third was both complex and delicious. Had the entire cigar been like that, I’d say it’d be time to stock up. But this is still a good cigar. Unfortunately, Umbagog doesn’t come quite far enough into the everyman’s “value” territory that was initially implied, but this is still an affordable cigar for DTT. Grab one of the kraft-paper-wrapped bundles of 10 or, if you can find a five pack, that may be more ideal. Either way, these aren’t going to break the bank. I think it’s interesting how Saka mentions that this is a cigar you can “re-light as many times as you want,” as that’s kind of what the last third required. Given that, I’d recommend enjoying this cigar with an activity that wouldn’t suffer when you have to take a few breaks and pay attention to correcting this cigar (a great golf course cigar). Pair this with a Sazerac cocktail and don’t forget the absinthe!
- Smoke Time: 2 hours
- Pairing Recommendation: Sazerac cocktail, milk stout, drip-brew coffee
- Purchase Recommendation: 5-pack
- Saka style for cheap
- Very flavorful
- Wonderful second third
- Some burn problems
- Too straightforward/monotonous at times
- Final third falls short