Gran Habano introduced the Black Dahlia in the spring of 2017 under the company’s S.T.K. (Stay True Kid) collection. The series includes some of the brand’s most popular releases in recent years, cultivating a boutique feel with releases such as G.A.R. Opium, S.T.K. Barracuda, S.T.K. Zulu Zulu and S.T.K. American Puro.
The Black Dahlia name stems from the rare flower of the same name—tying into the floral graphics seen throughout Gran Habano’s recently updated presence—a term that shares many cultural references as well. For Gran Habano, the cigar is seen as an effort to modernize the brand, which has long been known for its value-centric offerings (Gran Habano Corojo #5, Habano #3, etc.).
S.T.K. Black Dahlia Robusto Breakdown
- Wrapper: Shade Grown Corojo (Nicaragua)
- Binder: Double Habano (Nicaragua)
- Filler: Nicaragua (Habano | Cubita) | Columbia | Costa Rica
- Factory: G.R. Tabacaleras Unidas S.A. (Honduras)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 5″ × 52 (Robusto)
- Price: $9.50 (MSRP)
While much of the boutique-style S.T.K. cigars have been produced at the company’s factory in Miami, the Black Dahlia is rolled at Gran Habano’s primary factory in Honduras. The cigar’s blend is notably more diverse than the company’s traditional offerings, using a double binder (both from Nicaragua) and unique filler ingredients from both Colombia and Costa Rica.
From Gran Habano:
Gran Habano’s S.T.K. Black Dahlia has an elegant burn and sophisticated draw, making this a creamy, coffee, and spicy full-body delight. It’s slightly nutty and woody distinctive type of flavor makes the cigar perfectly well-balanced. Black Dahlia’s packaging features 20 cedar wrapped cigars in a chic black lacquer box, preserved with Boveda humidity control.
This cigar sports a large and bumpy double cap. The café au lait-brown wrapper is bulging with veins, being slightly rustic in its overall appearance. It’s a darker brown near the foot, and a concentrated spot on the cigar’s back looks as if it were brushed with a smudge stick. Meanwhile, the head looks more like a classic Connecticut wrapper.
The robusto is mostly rock solid, with a notable soft spot near the foot. Despite the density, it is also very light in the hand. I like the label and the retro/art-deco-inspired art, which has some outstanding interplay between matte and gloss gold embossing—really quality work.
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When I take a big whiff from the foot of this cigar, I’m transported back to Albuquerque. This smells like delicious, savory, pork-laden red chile—spicy, fatty, cumin and garlic. The draw on these cigars tends to be fairly loose, with one being so open as to negatively affect the smoking experience. This cold draw gives more of a sweet, floral inclination, with little of the aforementioned Burqueño burn or savory elements present. Interestingly, this review cigar is giving a different experience than my previous samples. Previously, I had noted a lack of spice (in stark contrast to the promotional blurbs I’d read) with a light, sweet, floral and honey profile dominant. Coupled with the much-too-loose draw, it struck me as thin and very light-bodied. This cigar is showing me something else, although not entirely different. With a draw that, once lit, would be only a tic away from perfect, there is substantially more body. The spice is pretty prominent (particularly in the retrohale) in the first inch, with the floral notes in the background, leading into a mild cedar-like finish.
Moving into the second third, there’s a minor increase in the body, and we can probably stretch this into medium territory in terms of flavor and strength. Something is out of balance here. There are clearly great flavors to be found—I love the honey sweetness, the creaminess, the toasty baked goods, the bitter walnut—but if you like to retrohale a lot (I do), then the spiciness is going to knock all those flavors back. It’s as if there’s something under-cured—too dry and piquant—or perhaps the wrapper leaf is simply too bold. When retrohaled fully, this cigar is unharmonious, discordant, and jarring. Black Dahlia was billed to be full-bodied and spicy—which it certainly seems that way if you retrohale—but in that regard, I think you’d be focusing on the negative aspects of the smoking experience. From a technical standpoint, this cigar is doing fine, whereas the other samples were disappointing. From a flavor standpoint, however, those earlier samples were much better than this one. I do pick up moments of those earlier enjoyments—Bit o’ Honey candy, buttery croissant, lightly perfumed tea—but they are playing second fiddle to the spiciness. But when I forget to avoid the in-depth retrohale, it’s like I’m back in the 9th grade, snorting black pepper to get attention.
As I get into the final third of the cigar, I will say that it has become more cohesive, both from a decrease in the pepper and an increase in the background elements. If this cigar had started where it finished and continued on this trajectory, who knows, it could’ve been something truly great (at least in terms of its category). As it stands now, with an inch to go, it’s nearly perfect. Sweet nuts, cedar, nougat, tea, and cream all come alive with the electricity of the pepper, which is finally serving a more suitable purpose: a compliment of the experience, rather than a detraction. The body, strength, and flavor all come to a harmonious medium-full conclusion.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
One sample of this cigar, with its extremely thin and airy draw, left me wanting much more. It was delicious, but unsatisfying. Another sample left me wishing that it wasn’t so in-your-face with its intense pepper flavor in the first couple thirds. The final third of that cigar, though, won me over. I’d definitely like to have some of these squirreled away to revisit in another six months to see how age would affect them. But even if age didn’t change the experience significantly, I’d still say they are worth having around.
- Oddly, there is nothing to be found on Gran Habano’s website about this cigar. The latest update to their “News” section is from October 2013.
- Recently, I wrote that I couldn’t remember smoking a cigar with Costa Rican tobacco in it (La Palina LP01 review), and here I am again. Is the universe telling me I need a Costa Rican vacation?
- In Gran Habano’s original description of Black Dahlia, the cigars were listed as being cedar-wrapped, but photos of the cigars in the box do not incorporate cedar sleeves, nor did my samples.
- Pricing appears to have increased by 50¢ per cigar since the brand debuted in May 2017.
- Flavor: Medium-plus
- Strength: Medium-plus
- Body: Medium-plus
- Floral tea
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Bourbon on the sweeter side (to calm the early spice), Arizona green tea with ginseng and honey, Lavender latte
- Purchase Recommendation: Fiver
- Good value
- Fantastic finish
- Aging potential
- Draw issues
- Overly spicy beginning
- Inconsistencies between samples