Two initial thoughts: first, does anyone else think of Hermes Conrad’s wife LaBarbara (à la Futurama) when the try to think/write/say La Barba? Second, it’s about time that, as a straight-razor shaver, I get to review a La Barba cigar!
La Barba Cigars began taking orders for its third core-line (joining the Red and Purple)—called “Primitivo” (rebranded as “Ricochet,” see below)—at this year’s IPCPR show in Las Vegas. La Barba Cigars, a somewhat fresh face in the industry, has only been around since 2012, when the company launched with just one primary blend. In addition to a partnership with Robert Caldwell (in the form of the one-off-focused Lost & Found company), Tony Bellatto—co-founder of La Barba—has brought a number of new cigars to market, although this is the company’s first maduro. With this project, there was a certain theme in mind.
Not only is this La Barba’s first maduro, it’s also the company’s first full-bodied blend, which Tony says has “hints of leather, coffee, chocolate, white pepper, cream and a dark richness.” Talking about the
Primitivo Ricochet, Bellatto said, “The goal is to keep challenging ourselves, and keep pushing to offer our customers new and different things.” Primitivo Ricochet 5.75 x 46 Breakdown
- Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés
- Binder: Indonesia
- Filler: Nicaragua | Dominican Republic | Pennsylvania
- Factory: Tabacalera William Ventura (Dominican Republic)
- Production: Regular
- Vitola: 5¾” x 46 (Corona Gorda)
- Price: $8.60 (MSRP)
Primitivo Ricochet will be available in four sizes, each sold in 25-count boxes and distributed by Down and Back LLC, which also distributes Caldwell Cigar Co. and Room101.
- 5.75 x 46: $8.60 (MSRP)
- 5 x 50: $9.60 (MSRP)
- 6 x 54: $10.60 (MSRP)
- 6 x 60: $11.60 (MSRP)
Nothing looks as tidy as a tightly rolled, shiny EMS wrapper, but I gotta say, this thing makes Mexican San Andrés look classy! Sure, it’s got a few veins, some pubescent fuzz, and a toothiness that sucks light into it—absorbing any hint of shine—but the seams are as flat and tight as can be. There is also a goodish amount of oil that, along with the fuzz, gives a velvet-like appearance. The cap is expertly applied: small, neat, triple. The wrapper is dark—the color of an old rusted bridge with black striations.
The bands are pure class. A beautifully saturated shade of orange, with elegant gold printing of the intricately detailed razor, surrounded by the very lightest line-weight concentric circles. “LA” is printed on the left, and “BARBA” on the right, and a secondary band stating “PRIMITIVO” (actual release should simply replace text with “RICOCHET”) sits below. An expertly executed design, in my opinion. I did wonder about the color choice at first, as the name Primitivo calls to mind a deep, dark shade of reddish-purple; but there’s already a LB Purple, so I guess they needed some distinction.
Click images below for full resolution
I get a pretty big heap of zinging spicy pepper on the cold draw, along with an equal amount of sweet chocolate, cream, and coffee… lots of coffee. There’s an expected strong presence of barnyard and a grassy note to the wrapper. Smelling the clipped cap and foot brings a fruity note to the mix. All of this culminates in a sensation that I think of as chewy.
Right away there is a flavor explosion. The pepper is a beautiful warm burn, without any sharp or stinging edge, making the retrohale a joy. The coffee is so deep, like the muddy sediment from the last pour of a french press. The sweetness rides along with the fruity flavor that is kind of grape-like. The fruity sweetness gives a wonderful mouth-quenching, juicy component to the overall experience. The draw is a little tighter than what I would like, but I’m letting it go from here without futzing with it. I had no problems on the other samples, which were flawless. The burn line on this thing is, dare I say, razor sharp. The smoke from the foot is extremely copious and, even outdoors, gives it’s own heady aroma of sweet chocolate and cedar. The first third ends at 27 minutes, with the profile already showing signs of being a heavy hitter. Strength is medium, flavor and body are both medium/full and I expect this will increase.
The second third doesn’t stray too far from the first, which is honestly fine. The sensations are so dense and compact that enjoying the long finish gives an unraveling of the flavors; chasing moments of pink peppercorn, wine from volcanic soils redolent in deeply black grapes and cherries, chewy coffee, hints of star anise, hickory… all swirling around the thick smoke on the tongue. I get lost with this for about a half hour, as I near the end of the second third. Strength may have gone up a tic or two (around medium-plus), and flavor and body are just below full. The cigar still shows a perfect burn, with nary a waver.
Once I’m into the final third, the draw improves to a manageable level. The cigar is now performing flawlessly. The juicy, chewy fruitiness is still the star of the show, and still I can’t shake the similarities to a spicy, earthy, inky, black-red wine. A potent, spicy, herbal peppermint joins the flavor profile, being felt as much as tasted, like taking a breath after having a snort of peppermint schnapps. The spiciness of the peppercorn is back, still without any unpleasant sharpness. All the flavors seem to have picked up in intensity, without anything overstepping or taking over the experience; it’s as if they are becoming concentrated. I don’t know how I managed it but once I put the nub down I’d been given nearly 50 minutes throughout this final third. The strength was around medium/full, with both the prodigious smoke output giving a full body and the concentrated, dense flavors being full as well.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
Absolutely! By far the best La Barba I’ve tried, and, for that matter, the best I’ve had from any of the brands under the umbrella that also distributes Caldwell, Room101, and Lost & Found. As far as new cigar releases go, this is surprisingly inexpensive and a great value according to my highly scientific (dollars to delicious) ratio. This is a powerful cigar that has a wonderful balance and maturity, showcasing a depth of flavors that surpassed my expectations of what San Andrés maduro can deliver. With this release, I have no doubt that Tony Bellatto is here to stay. There is only one caution I have with this cigar: This shouldn’t be your first cigar of the day, as it is pretty powerful (and where do you go from there?). It probably shouldn’t be smoked on a crispy palate after a long day of smoking either, as you won’t really appreciate just how much it has to offer.
- Flavor: Full
- Strength: Medium / Full
- Body: Medium / Full
- Juicy black grapes
- Ripe cherries
- Spicy earth
- Chewy coffee
- Potent peppermint
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: I suppose you’d want to try some Primitivo with this, right? How about Gianfranco Fino ‘Es.’ I also think this would be amazing with a Fentimans Cherrytree Cola, or an Old Fashioned cocktail made with Rittenhouse Rye and Heering Cherry Liqueur with smoked bitters
- Purchase Recommendation: Maduro lovers should have a box, everyone else should have a fiver, at least
- Great value
- Lots of depth
- Mature and balanced
- One sample had a slightly tight roll
- Not a great first smoke of the day