As mentioned in my in-depth look at J.C. Newman’s Brick House Double Connecticut, the premium cigar industry is froth with iconic stories. Debonaire’s own Phillip S. Zanghi, III has a story that is, in this writer’s opinion, equivalent to Homer’s Odyssey. Like most visionary entrepreneurs, Zanghi’s journey started during his days in secondary education. He befriended the patent owner for Indian Motorcycles and was given permission to make use of the logo. Zanghi began to make t-shirts to sell around town and on the beach of his hometown of Dana Point, California. Within a short time, Zanghi was sold the patent for the whopping fee of $1. Sounds like the beginning of an after-school special, right? Hardly, it took almost one million dollars for Zanghi to claim his rightful property. He then formed a partnership with his father and relocated to Massachusetts (and eventually North Carolina), still moving the Indian brand primarily in apparel, while toying with the notion of cigars.
In 1992, Zanghi partnered With United States Tobacco (UST) and launched his career in the cigar industry. His original cigar was made in Honduras with an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, Mexican binder, with Honduran and Nicaraguan fillers. They never made their way to brick and mortar shelves, however. That’s right, Zanghi never sold them. Instead, the cigars were given away as gifts to some of his best patrons of the Indian brands.
Things took a drastic turn in Zanghi’s life at this time, including a professional and personal fallout with his father, UST backing out of arrangements, and a failed venture with Rocky Patel that ended in Zanghi’s resignation from his own company in 2001. Zanghi later partnered with longtime friend Danny Sinclair and things began to steady, as he and Sinclair settled into making machine-made cigars. This eventually lead to a blossoming relationship with the Dominican-based Reyes family and the Debonaire brand was born.
Debonaire Habano Belicoso Breakdown
- Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano
- Binder: Dominican San Vicente
- Filler: Nicaraguan | Dominican (Piloto Cubano 1961)
- Factory: De Los Reyes (Dominican Republic)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 6″ × 54 (Belicoso)
- Price: $14.00 (MSRP)
In 2012, the Debonaire Habano blend was released in three vitolas, one of which was the 6″ x 54 Belicoso. The blend is comprised of high-grade tobaccos from both Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. The wrapper leaf is a Nicaraguan Habano, with a Dominican binder and filler comprised of Dominican & Nicaraguan tobaccos.
Of the multiple formats of Debonaire’s Habano blend, the Belicoso is considered the flagship vitola. The size was originally rolled alongside the now-retired Solomon format, which comprised the upper tier of Debonaire portfolio.
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Unlike the unique murals that are different inside many of the Debonaire boxes, the label is consistent across all three lines within the Debonaire portfolio (Habano, Maduro and Daybreak). The Nicaraguan Habano wrapper has a terracotta hue with few veins and little tooth, differing considerably from its maduro counterpart.
The wrapper offers rich aromas of cinnamon, earthy cedar, and subtle pepper on the finish. I picked up a technique from my general manager, Tracy Spence, when cutting belicosos, torpedos, and figurados; “Always use a guillotine cutter and cut at a slight angle to create more surface area.” More surface area allows for a better draw without disrupting the construction’s integrity. The peppery, dry draw is balanced with salted caramel, cinnamon and earthy cedar flavors.
I have smoked plenty Debonaire Habano cigars over the last few years, yet I am still surprised at the sweetness that is coaxed from this blend that one would assume to have very little. The Belicoso is the vitola that I have smoked the fewest of, in fact, I’ve smoked less than a dozen in this size.
I elect to light this cigar with my S.T. Dupont Minijet lighter and the foot easily and evenly ignites. The draw is how I like it, a slight resistance, pulling a cool smoke that coats the palate with peppery flavors. One thing I notice is that the retrohale produces a very long, sweet-then-spicy finish. The previously mentioned peppery aromas and favors linger for quite some time after each puff. The dry draw’s sweet notes of salted caramel and cinnamon are still present, as the former now dominates. There is no construction or draw issues with this cigar and I’m able to pull in plenty of smoke easily, enjoying each retrohale’s long finish.
The cool smoke rapidly changes, becoming noticeably warmer as I work my way into the halfway point of the cigar. While there appears to be little evolution in this smoking experience, it is still, nevertheless, quite complex with its subtleties. The dominant flavors of salted caramel, cinnamon, earthy cedar, and pepper dance about, vying for attention and dominance throughout the smoking experience.
I was afraid that the sudden warming of the cigar at the halfway point would lead to a hot, bitter finish; and while it did continue to warm, the direction was much more gradual and less abrupt. The long, peppery finish on the retrohale stayed consistent throughout the cigar, as did the flavors previously mentioned. One interesting new flavor that crept in on the last third was the cinnamon sweetness noticeably became more of a clove-like sweetness. This cigar, from beginning to end, keeps with a medium-to-full body, never increasing or decreasing in strength. As with many cigars that repeatedly return to the retrohale, the flavor builds throughout, going from medium to full quite consistently.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
I can, I have, and I will. Debonaire, particularly its larger vitolas, are not for the daily smoke; however, in my opinion, are easily enjoyed on a weekly/monthly basis (or for any special occasion).
- Any time you pick up a Debonaire, take the label off and check out the roll date for the cigar. The two cigars I smoked for this review were rolled in June 2015. That’s right, these cigars were three years old.
- Admittedly, my early opposition to belicoso cigars was that I ran into so many with poor construction, draw, or a combination of the two. In recent years, I have come around a little, but my philosophy still holds fairly consistent (although this cigar proved to be an exception).
- Flavor: Medium-Plus
- Strength: Medium
- Body: Medium
- Salted Caramel
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Americano, Beligian-style ale, Amber lager, Rye-based bourbon, Orange liquors & almonds
- Purchase Recommendation: 10-pack
- Long, flavorful finish
- Consistent flavor profile
- Intimidating price point
- Rapid temperature change from beginning to middle
- Polarizing vitola