Three years after debuting Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust at the 2015 IPCPR trade show, company owner and founder Steve Saka realized the company’s foremost objective, launching Sin Compromiso at IPCPR 2018. The term is Spanish, translating to mean “Without Compromise,” and has been visible throughout Dunbarton’s marketing—acting as the company’s mantra—since the very beginning.
In 2016, only one year after Dunbarton’s inception, Steve Saka showcased not only the cigar he’d be releasing that year (Mi Querida), but the names and designs of every cigar to follow in the next two years (no doubt due to the impending FDA regulations that were set to begin only weeks later). Among these “Future Projects” was Sin Compromiso, which was listed, at the time, as being a Nicaraguan puro with a Desflorado wrapper. Of the four “Future Projects” cigars showcased, Sin Compromiso was the last to materialize, a blend that Saka describes as “my best liga ever.”
Creating a cigar brand to manifest this expression into a tangible reality was an incredibly challenging task as this cigar simply had to be beyond exceptional. From the cultivation of distinct and unique tobaccos to the careful working of these prized leaves to allowing only the very best torcedors to hand craft each cigar. Even the box which contains these vitolas had to be extra special – in short, this cigar is the absolute best of everything.
Sin Compromiso Selección No. 5 Parejo Breakdown
- Wrapper: San Andrés Negro “Cultivo Tonto”
- Binder: Hybridized Ecuador Habano “Thin Ligero”
- Filler: Independent Plantation-Grown Nicaraguan
- Factory: Fábrica de Tabacos Joya de Nicaragua, S.A. (Nicaragua)
- Production: Small Batch
- Vitola: 6″ x 54 (Toro)
- Price: $17.45 (MSRP)
Sin Compromiso was first announced roughly three weeks before debuting at IPCPR 2018. The cigars were quick to jump to the top of many critics’ must-see offerings at the show, due to the cigar’s unique blend and status (Saka’s self-described finest work).
The project is as old as the Dunbarton company itself, dating back three years. To begin, each leaf throughout the entire blend has been grown specifically for Sin Compromiso. This includes Nicaraguan fillers from a select plantation, a hybridized Ecuadorian ligero binder, and the blend’s chef d’oeuvre, a “slightly hybridized” San Andrés Negro wrapper that was modeled after Japanese melon-growing techniques 1. In addition, Saka has worked with the Mexican farmers to revive curing techniques used on traditional San Andrés tobacco. While charcoal fires have been used to heat the curing leaves over the past 30 years, the traditional method was to use indigenous woods, which inadvertently caused a subtle “fire-cured” aroma to the tobacco. Saka describes the resulting flavors as “chicory root smokiness,” as opposed to the intense, barbecue-like aromas/flavors of today’s popular fire-cured cigars.
Sin Compromiso is an impressive specimen; with the cigar’s bold band, cedar-lined foot, and soft-pressed shape, it has the look of luxury. The packaging is dark green, using a matte finish and rounded corners on the cigar’s wooden box—it’s simplistic but elegant. I’m not quite sure if I’m fully on board with the cigar’s band; it uses a Hungarian cross, often symbolizing fidelity, faith and passion. But instead of the metallic foils one would expect of a cigar in this price range, Sin Compromiso offers dark green (nearly black) and white, printed on semi-gloss paper with a die-cut shape. Attaching the face of the band to the rear is a thin connector, built like a vine of tobacco leaves that has threaded the two together—this is a nice touch.
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After removing the cigar’s cedar sleeve, I abandoned my usual method of inspecting before sampling the cigar’s aroma 2. Instead, I brought the wrapper straight to my nose, finding a wide assortment of aromas that ranged from fresh mint, to polished leather, cedar, grease (like walking into my grandpa’s old garage, where saw dust, tools, oil, and dust conglomerated into an unforgettably satisfying smell), and campfire smokiness. The foot showed less than the wrapper (usually it’s the other way around), offering notes of chocolate chip cookies, mint, and mineral.
As for the appearance of the cigar, it’s like a solid chunk, appearing like a cartoon-style caricature version of what a cigar should be. The wrapper has a milk chocolate hue and a fine-grit sandpaper-like toothiness. There are visible (but well-placed) seams and plenty of small veins across the leaf, finished at the top with what appears to be a double cap (strange, as I’d expect a triple cap here—though I could certainly have been mistaken). The cigar is subtly box-pressed, feeling solidly bunched from head to toe.
With a cut, the pre-light draw is on the firm side, showing a woodsy smokiness, bitter chocolate, diesel-soaked garage, and a bit of cedar. Applying flame, the first puffs are surprisingly without pepper spice. There is raw peppercorn, but it’s more of a dull sensation on the tongue than a spice in the nostrils. As the profile begins to assimilate, it’s very “of the earth,” showing loads of mineral, fresh soil, oar, and even iron. Interesting, while mineral is a commonly found note, this cigar has such an intense mineral essence that I was forced to delve deeper into the flavor, finding the aforementioned sub-flavors that would normally be grouped together simply as mineral. Despite the dominating mineral, there are also background elements of cold chocolate, heavy cream, and vanilla on the finish.
As the pre-light draw indicated, the smoking draw is firmer than ideal, clocking in around two (on a scale from negative four to positive four—zero being dead medium). The slightly firm draw causes a low smoke output, being a double-puffer on every third draw. There are no complaints on construction though, showing a steady burn line and a flakey ash that lasts up to two inches. Moving from the first to second thirds, Sin Compromiso is about medium in all respects (strength, flavor, body).
Throughout the cigar’s midsection are where the most diverse flavors can be found. While still dominated by mineral, other nuances emerge and retreat, offering hints of medium-roast coffee, cedar, mahogany, fresh pine (a flavor I have found in other Saka blends, usually in his limited Muestra de Saka releases), anise, and a vanilla-infused chocolate that I’ll liken to Swiss Miss hot cocoa powder. When concentrating on the taste buds (rather the more in-depth nuances found by retrohaling), the smoke seems to hit the front sides of the tongue first (salt), followed by a hint on the tip of the tongue (sweetness), and eventually the rear sides (acidity). The latter of these three sensations causes a mouthwatering effect, which I always enjoy in a cigar.
The most interesting flavor component I found in this cigar was a glimpse of mango bubblegum—one of those flavors you don’t need to go searching through your brain’s flavor rolodex for—instead jumping out and pulling with it a nostalgic memory that you weren’t aware you still possessed. This was in the transition phase between the second and final thirds, appearing haphazardly until the cigar’s conclusion. Additional notes are of wet concrete, sour milk, and gingerbread, as the flavors darkened nearing the cigar’s end.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
Yes, though it’d certainly be based on the right mood. This cigar has an old-school, sophisticated feel to it—I get the feeling that when Padrón first debuted their signature 1964 Anniversary Series cigar in the early ’90s, that it had a similar air about it. That being a luxurious product, worthy of sports coats and proper slacks; the kind that’d be lit with intellectual conversation in mind, a warm fire in the background, and, as Ron Burgundy might describe, “the smell of rich mahogany and many leather-bound books.” The cigar shows a refined profile that has a carefully calculated formula and purpose. But it’s the price point and unrelenting minerality that give me pause. In fact, the Cigar Dojo staff was unusually split on this particular cigar (specifically due to the unique mineral profile), though I find myself in the camp that this is a solid performer overall.
- Three samples were smoked for review.
- 1 Steve Saka has described the inspiration for the cigar’s unique wrapper, using a technique that he first learned of (roughly five years ago) from an article about Japanese melon growers. These growers will remove all but one blossom from a vine, directing all of the plant’s nutrients to a single melon; these “extra flavorful” melons then go on to sell for prices up to $100. Steve partnered with Mexican grower Carlos Guzman to perform a similar strategy on tobacco. According to Steve, only the uppermost eight leaves are left on each tobacco plant, removing all other leaves when they are two-to-three inches long and leaving them in the dirt. This is a labor and financially intensive process, as only one-third of the usual harvest is produced. In addition, the final cost includes the neglected leaves that would have otherwise been sellable for the farmer.
- This process has satirically been criticized by some in the industry as being a fancy description of traditional tobacco priming. This is actually incorrect, as tobacco priming harvests each leaf at varying intervals (taking the bottom leaves when they are ready, then the next section weeks later, etc.). The idea is similar, in that the most nutrients make their way to the top-priming leaves, but with traditional primings, the lower leaves are harvested when they are mature and are therefore processed and usable to the farmer.
- 2 In an interview with Cigar Dojo in August, Steve described how he could instantly tell a San Andrés-wrapped cigar—even before lighting—simply by the smell. This is because of the traditional curing style for San Andrés that involves smoldering hardwoods. I must admit that I can’t recall this aroma being very obvious on other San Andrés-wrapped cigars (perhaps because most processors have switched to charcoal fires), but with Sin Compromiso it is very noticeable.
- Contrary to Cigar Dojo’s usual agreement of nearly any cigar, Sin Compromiso was perhaps the most polarizing blend in review history. My personal taste is that it was a solid smoke, while others contended they could find no reason to smoke another.
- Sin Compromiso began shipping to retailers on Sep. 11th, 2018.
- Flavor: Medium-full
- Strength: Medium-full
- Body: Medium-full
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Scotch, Belgian ale, Steak, Chocolate bar, Zinfandel
- Purchase Recommendation: 3 cigars
- Old-school luxury profile
- Great construction
- Good balance of strength and flavor
- Draw on the firm side
- Mineral flavor can become monotonous and offputting
- Inconsistencies between samples