In the realm of small, boutique, upstart, and the token “born in a garage” companies to splash onto the premium cigar scene in recent times, Cubariqueño is among the most noteworthy and entertaining. The company made its debut at IPCPR 2015, showcasing a modest singular blend (Protocol) that had previously been available primarily in the company’s home base of Berkeley Heights, New Jersey (launching in May, 2015).

The year following, Cubariqueño Cigar Company had earned a loyal following due to an active social media presence from brand-runners Juan Cancel and Bill Ives. The company’s growth was undeniable, expanding tenfold in their presence at IPCPR 2016, which included the launch of the brand’s sophomore release—Protocol Probable Cause (as well as a limited lancero vitola extension to Protocol that remains in high demand).

And while Juan and Bill are more than happy to lend their charismatic persona to the face of the brand, other partners, such as William Agathis, have remained behind the scenes. Agathis is a manager at Berkeley Wine Company (associated with Berkeley Humidor, the original home of Protocol cigars), as well as a partner with Cubariqueño, and the inspiration behind the company’s third release—Protocol Themis.

Protocol Themis Toro Breakdown

  • Wrapper: Ecuadoran Connecticut
  • Binder: Nicaraguan
  • Filler: Nicaraguan
  • Factory: La Zona (Nicaragua)
  • Production: Small Batch / Regular Production
  • Vitola: 6″ × 52 Toro
  • Price: $9.89 (MSRP)

Cubariqueño has remained consistent in their methodical additions to the brand, beginning with a Habano-style blend, adding a maduro with the Probable Cause, and now filling the gap with Protocol Themis—a Connecticut Shade-style blend. Each release maintains the original concept, inspired by the company founder’s background in law enforcement. And Themis follows suit, taking its name from ancient Greek mythology, where Themis represents the Titan goddess of divine law and order. In addition, as the cigar was blended in part by William Agathis (working closely with Hector Alfonso Sr., Director of Operations at Espinosa Premium Cigars), the name plays on Agathis’ Greek decent.

Protocol Themis was first announced on Cigar Dojo’s 90th episode of Smoke Night LIVE, with guests Juan and Bill. The brand was then soft-released in May before officially debuting at IPCPR 2017; released in Robusto (5″ x 52, $9.69) and Toro (6″ x 52, $9.89) formats.

Appearance

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Themis continues the same appearance from prior Protocol releases, only the cigar’s signature “P” logo sheds any ornate patterns, etc., instead using a solid color scheme of charcoal, white, and a metallic gold highlight. The cigar uses a similar sub-band and a matching foot ribbon. Personally, this is easily the best appearance from a Protocol cigar to date.

The look intentionally highlights the cigar’s Connecticut Shade wrapper, making the leaf appear brighter than its naked appearance—which is actually a closer hue to a traditional Habano than Connecticut. The wrapper is lightly fuzzy, showing minimal oil, visible seams, and a traditional triple cap. The toro feels relatively sturdy, having a medium bunch and a nice weight in the hand.

On the nose, the wrapper shows notes of petting zoo, hay, and a touch of ammonia. There are added notes of cedar and nutmeg spice on the foot. A pre-light draw offers a medium-firm draw and notes of hay and mustiness.



Smoking Experience

With a light, Protocol Themis opens up to a quick start, zipping through the nostrils with a white pepper zest. Raw peppercorns and corn chip flavors are noticeable on the tongue, and there is a sweet custard note in the finish. The cigar is quite aromatic as well, having a floral/perfume-like atmosphere—reminiscent of the signature fragrances used throughout casinos along the Las Vegas Strip, employed as a subliminal jolt when walking through the various entrances. This is not to say the cigar feels infused, but the aroma is notably sweeter than average.

Protocol Themis Toro cigar smoking

The cigar burns relatively straight, amassing loose stacks of medium gray ash in roughly two-inch increments. Throughout the first third and into the second, the profile rides around medium-plus flavor, mild-plus strength, and just under medium in body. And while the majority of the profile is best detected through the retrohale, there is a great oily texture on the tongue.

The oily smoke imparts flavors of creamy butter, with added notes of salted crackers and toast, as well as a more complex anise tone throughout the retrohale (most noticeable on the finish). The profile hovers around this flavor concoction for a good while, with changes coming in the form of a building dry texture. But sweetness eventually wins out, beginning subtly in the background and eventually becoming more noticeable as honey and sweet citrus/vanilla liqueur (think Tuaca). A quick burst of bubbly champagne and white pepper emerge at the cigar’s finale (experienced on 8 out of 10 samples), just before flavors darken and the cigar is laid to rest.

Protocol Themis Toro cigar ash

Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?

Absolutely, not only have we at Cigar Dojo labelled Protocol Themis as among The Most Exciting New Cigars from the First Half of 2017, but the cigar was eventually awarded our No. 10 Cigar of the Year for 2017 (in the Toro vitola). The cigar stands out for me as a conscious effort not to simply latch onto the surge of “powerhouse Connecticuts,” instead focusing on balance and flavor—letting the strength fall where it may. In the end, the strength happens to fall just under medium—allowing the flavors to shine and the body to support it only as necessary. This is a fine cigar to have on hand, with brunch to early evening being appropriate smoking times, in my experience.


Profile
  • Flavor: Medium
  • Strength: Mild / Medium
  • Body: Medium-Minus
Core Flavors
  • White Pepper
  • Sweet Custard
  • Salted Butter
  • Crackers
  • Floral
Tips
  • Smoke Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
  • Pairing Recommendation: cream soda, wheated bourbon, New England-style IPA, café con leche
  • Purchase Recommendation: full box

Protocol Themis Toro cigar nubbed

Protocol Themis Toro
Based on the notorious party atmosphere of Cubariqueño and the company's outspoken brand-runners (Juan Cancel & Bill Ives), it's a bit of a surprise to find an elegant side to the company, as shown from Protocol Themis. Indeed, the cigar does't flaunt a reinvention of the Connecticut norm, but rather a solid experience that showcases flavor first and decent body for balance. Strong points included a long and custard-like finish, as well as a stellar construction throughout. Sure, there are no standout "it factor" flavors, but the experience as a whole does stand out for its balance of subtle spice, sweetness, and consistency.
Appearance93%
Burn/Construction97%
Draw84%
Flavor94%
Complexity86%
Price/Value91%
Pros
  • Supreme balance
  • Near-perfect construction
  • Long, sweet finish
Cons
  • Flavors are on the "safe" side
  • Draw is slightly firm
91%Balanced

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