A common mantra frequently attributed to Thomas Jefferson:

I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.

Is it possible we’ve found the Thomas Jefferson of the cigar industry with Tim Wong, owner/founder of California-based Pier 28 Premium Cigars? Tim certainly doesn’t hold the franchise on luck or hard work alone. However, he certainly seems to be the best at enjoying the combination of the two.

I could do a deep dive into the history of luck. I could dig into Wong’s Chinese heritage and how the Chinese culture acknowledges continuously throughout their history the existence, belief, and dependence on luck. But, right now, I simply don’t have the strength. Warning: this review is about to get extremely personal. You see, I’ve been sitting in an airport off and on all day. My quest? I’m trying to get home. Two flight cancellations, three re-schedules, dozens of delays, and yet, here I sit. We all have horror stories like this. So, why choose to delete my previous introduction? Inspiration struck.

As the saying goes, “No good deed goes unpunished.” I flew home this week to care for my parents who are both ill. I pushed myself at work all week to ensure that I got my week’s work done by Wednesday. I scheduled a flight well in advance to ensure that I got back home in time to get to work at Michael’s Tobacco (my second job). I worked on notes for this review and a couple of others and I booked two upcoming guests for my podcast.

Yet, here I sit.

The luck wasn’t there for me today. As American author Edmond Mbiaka says, “We are all blessed, but the problem is that some of us count their blessings while others count their struggles, challenges and obstacles.”

My blessing? I get to write the occasional cigar review. So, here we go.

Pier 28 Oscuro Robusto Breakdown

  • Wrapper: Brazilian Oscuro
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Factory: La Zona (Nicaragua)
  • Production: Regular Production
  • Vitola: 5″ × 52 (Robusto)
  • Price: $7.99 (MSRP)

Each year since 2016, Pier 28 has introduced a new cigar blend, patiently expanding the brand from a singular habano offering, to later include a maduro in 2017, and a Brazilian oscuro—Pier 28 Oscuro—in 2018.

Considering the Pier 28 Oscuro’s surprisingly light wrapper (at least for a blend dubbed “oscuro”), I asked Wong if the choice was deliberate. He told me no, “It was the darkest grade of Brazilian Habano available.” The factory termed it “oscuro” and he decided to roll forward with it. The remainder of the blend is comprised of the quintessential La Zona signature tobaccos, featuring a Nicaraguan binder and fillers throughout.

Pier 28 Oscuro Robusto cigar

Appearance

There are many things I like about Wong and Pier 28 Premium Cigars. There is a lot of tribute, homage, and symbolism that goes into almost every part of the cigar—right down to the labels. Wong hails from the San Francisco Bay area in California and, being a local sports fan, each of his lines (Habano, Maduro, and now Oscuro) boast color schemes from his local teams. The Oscuro’s dark orange and black could only mean one thing—the San Francisco Giants. The emblazoned “Pier 28” is colored orange with a black background. Additionally, a Chinese symbol of the company’s name is stamped and represents the owner’s family, as it translates to “Wong.” The label sits on top of a smooth, latte-colored wrapper. Nearly toothless and almost velvety to the touch, the wrapper sports some light oils.

Click images below for full resolution

Smoking Experience

The cold draw brings in distinct almond notes, accompanied by cedar, pepper, as well as faint hints of leather. The aroma off the wrapper and foot brings in peppered wood, ginger snap, and leather. Toasting the cigar’s foot, notes of blackberry, cedar, and pepper fill the air.

At the initial onset, the first few puffs bring in lush and rich notes of cream, plum, honey, and caramel that is balanced with a punch of black pepper. Each puff has its own distinct stage. There are precise cedar notes with the initial draw. This is followed by the sweet richness of the aforementioned fruit/honey/caramel flavors coating my palate. Each puff is concluded with the entrance of pepper that keeps the sweetness from becoming too cloying. The draw is superb, bringing in copious smoke and, much like the texture of the wrapper, is quite velvety.

Pier 28 Oscuro Robusto cigar smoking

As the cigar progresses, the measured and complex puffs seem to fade. Caramel rises above the other sweet notes from the early onset to take command of the flavor palate. The pepper remains consistent on the finish as well. However, there is the arrival of ginger on the retrohale, as the cigar’s finish is very long, with lingering notes of cedar and almond. The ginger is familiar to me, as it was very present (and in a more dominant fashion) on a previously smoked vitola of this blend. Nonetheless, ginger is one of those spice notes that I rarely find in a cigar, but thoroughly enjoy when I do. I like ginger when I cook because it brings so much to a recipe. Ginger has sweetness, spice, and brightness all in one ingredient. The emergence of ginger definitely overshadows the noticeable fading of those first sensationally flavorful puffs.

The Pier 28 Oscuro Robusto concludes, in my opinion, too soon. I usually can enjoy a robusto for at least an hour, but in both samples, for this review, I was done in 50 minutes. This isn’t a glaring criticism, it just means I smoked it quickly, with the ease of the draw and construction aiding in the speed toward its completion. The finish to the cigar matches the retrohale, as the flavor is long and lingering. This left me feeling the same way as my current flight predicament; I keep looking wishfully at a status that inevitably reads “DELAYED.” One HUGE difference—I don’t ever want to experience the perpetually delayed flight status again.

Pier 28 Oscuro Robusto cigar ash

Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?

I would, I have, and I will. This cigar is priced to move. And the flavor will make you move it, move it.


Profile
  • Flavor: Full
  • Strength: Medium
  • Body: Medium
Core Flavors
  • Caramel
  • Ginger
  • Cedar
  • Almond
  • Black pepper
Tips
  • Smoke Time: 50 minutes
  • Pairing Recommendation: Macchiato | Añejo tequila | Softly peaty scotch | Pear and brie | Smoked almonds
  • Purchase Recommendation: Box

Pier 28 Oscuro Robusto cigar nub finished

Pier 28 Oscuro Robusto
"The Rabito is smoking incredible right now, get that!" This was the answer that Pier 28 owner Tim Wong gave me when I asked him which vitola of the Pier 28 Oscuro to purchase. I obliged him in his advice. In retrospect, I can say this: HE WAS WRONG. As much as I enjoyed the Rabito size (and I did), the Robusto is—at least at this time—superior. While the cigar leads off exceptionally, it does fade a bit. Despite that observation, one could argue that it benefits the cigar, keeping it from being too much. Ultimately, even though the cigar smokes quickly, there is plenty of time and flavor to enjoy this vitola. So, here's to Wong's quest to follow in Jefferson's footsteps. May his hard work lead to continued luck.
Appearance90%
Burn/Construction87%
Draw87%
Flavor92%
Complexity90%
Price/Value93%
Pros
  • Home run of a beginning
  • Complex, yet balanced
  • Terrific price point
Cons
  • Brittle ash
  • Slight flavor fading from start to finish
  • Smokes a tad quickly
90%Lady Luck?

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