In 1638, a wing of the Palazzo Dandolo in Venice, Italy was converted into a gambling house at the bequest of the Great Council of Venice. The wing was four stories tall and was located near the San Moisè church. This new enterprise was named “Il Ridotto” (Italian: “The Private Room”) and is historically recognized as the West’s first legal and public casino. While technically open to all, the original charter required that its gamblers wear three-cornered hats and masks to play at the casino’s tables, virtually limiting access to anyone except nobility and those that could afford the high-stakes and the formal costumes.
Two games were played at Il Ridotto—birbi and basetta. Birbi was similar to a lottery, where players placed bets on seventy possible outcomes. A casino employe would then draw a number from a bag and the winners would divide the pot. The most popular game was basetta—a cross between blackjack, poker, and gin rummy—with winning payouts sixty times the original bet.
Three hundred and sixty-eight years later, MoyaRuiz showcased the national roll-out of a new blend at the 2017 IPCRP Trade Show in Las Vegas (first introduced at IPCPR 2016 but later delayed until 2017). Following their tradition of naming cigars after gambling terms, they called this blend the Il Ridotto. Previously, the company had released The Rake—named for the scaled commission-taking by a card room operating a poker game—and La Jugada—which translates from the Spanish to “the move” or “the play,” as used in dominoes and poker.
Il Ridotto Biribi Breakdown
- Wrapper: Brazilian Habano
- Binder: Nicaraguan
- Filler: Nicaraguan
- Factory: La Zona (Nicaragua)
- Production: Small Batch / Regular Production
- Vitola: 5” x 52 Robusto
- Price: $8.00 (MSRP)
The MoyaRuiz Il Ridotto is the most recent addition to the company’s portfolio of blends named after gambling terms. This new line of cigars is offered in two sizes— the Biribi (5” x 52, $8.00 MSRP) and the Basetta (6” x 52, $8.20 MSRP). Individually wrapped in cellophane, the vitolas are shipped in twenty-count wooden boxes with an enlarged and enhanced reproduction of the cigar’s band on the underside of the hinged lid.
Rolled at Eric Espinosa’s esteemed La Zona factory in Estelí, the cigars are composed with a Brazilian Habano wrapper, a Nicaraguan wrapper, and Nicaraguan filler leaves. The company has elected not to disclose the specifics of the Nicaraguan tobaccos used in the blend’s construction—such as primings and regional growing areas.
Click images below for full resolution
The MoyaRuiz Il Ridotto Biribi is a parejo-shaped cigar with overall dimensions which typically receive the robusto classification. Its Brazilian Habano wrapper is true to the type—with discrete veining, fairly tight seams, a touch of tooth, and a triple cap. The color of the cigar is a mixture of Coyote brown and copper, with the few protruding lumps a bit darker. There is an overall smoothness to the wrapper when rolled in the palm of the hand, leaving a residue of oiliness on the fingertips.
The Birbi is encased with an embossed die-cut band printed in the colors of black, gold, and white. Residing in the centermost portion is a graphic interpretation of the facade of the historic Venetian gambling room with the words “IL RIDOTTO” and “THE PRIVATE ROOM” printed beneath. Additionally, a series of six traditional cigar-band medallions is embossed near the bottom edge. In a golden scroll on the left-hand side of the band lies the words “MOYA RUIZ CIGAR COMPANY.” On the right is another scroll containing the words “EST. 1638 VENICE, ITALY.” The combination of the wrapper’s color and the intricate band produces a cigar that is quite photographable.
The cigar is sporadically packed, producing a sponginess at the foot and a tightness in the area beneath the band. The wrapper aroma tosses off notes of assorted spices, light floral, and natural tobacco, while the foot smells of bailed hay, damp earth, and light manure. After the cap of the Birbi is opened with a double guillotine cut, the initial cold draw is just a touch too open. Flavors of cedar, dried bramble, and lightly-roasted coffee immediately touch the palate.
After toasting and lighting the cigar with a soft double-flame lighter, the first few draws produce a blast of hard-packed earth, hay, must, and natural tobacco. These initial notes become subdued after the first half-inch into the burn, delivering a slightly creamier profile which gently coats the tongue. The draw of the Birbi is open, producing bountiful amounts of smoke from both the cap and the foot of the cigar. Subtle aromas and flavors of apple, cinnamon, and hardwoods appear with intense concentration from the smoker, while delicate notes of cedar and white pepper are dominant on the smooth retrohale. The smoking experience is dry, requiring large sips from a bottle of San Pellegrino—my preferred beverage when reviewing cigars. Overall, the profile is rather bland but serviceable.
Room aroma is a faint combination of assorted minerals and smoldering tobacco. The burn line is sharp with just a minuscule waver, holding over two inches of Gainsboro gray ash highlighted with streaks of Davey’s gray between the tightly compressed stacks. Indicative of its above-average construction, the ash holds until it reaches the bottom of the cigar’s band and then falls to the floor in a single clump. The robusto is perhaps a contender for a long ash contest.
As the cigar enters its second half, the Birbi displays the following general characteristics—mild-to-medium in body, mild-to-medium in flavor, and medium in strength. The rather mundane aromas and flavors present in the first half continue to dominate the profile, while the retrohale is enhanced with the addition of coffee and black pepper. During this phase, with many samples, the draw becomes very open and normal puffing tends to overheat the cigar—producing doses of bitterness on the back of the tongue and harshness at the top of the throat. With an inch left to burn, the Il Ridotto is placed down in an ashtray and allowed to naturally extinguish itself.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
The answer to that question is, “Probably not.” While I was impressed with the company’s creativity in developing this new blend—historical research, nomenclature development, banding, and packaging—they should have paid much more attention to the tobacco. At the end of the day, the MoyaRuiz Il Ridotto Birbi is an average-tasting and fast-burning cigar which cuts a swarthy figure in social media posts. And that is just not enough to warrant its price. I will stick to two of their very outstanding cigars—the La Jugada Habano and The Rake.
- Smoke Time: 55 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: think sweet – espresso with sugar cubes, Mocha from your favorite barista, Ballast Point Victory At Sea, two Old Fashioned cocktails
- Purchase Recommendation: try one
- No touch ups
- Fast burn time
- Lack of complexity
- Harsh finish