The 2019 IPCPR trade show has now come and gone, leaving smokers with some partially answered questions (the IPCPR is dead, long live the PCA), enough new cigars to stay preoccupied—at least for another month or two, and perhaps a new cigar-related box to check off looking into the 2020 smoking season (yes, consumers will be invited to one magical day of the trade show next year). It’s a bit of a mess, but that might just be where this wonderful industry thrives…
We’ve already detailed 11 of the most buzz-worthy cigars from the show, but now it’s time to delve in a little further and discover some of the deep cuts (because, if my album collection is any indicator, that’s often where the juiciest tracks lie). Personally visiting nearly every booth at IPCPR 2019, we’ve gone back and listed our picks for the top nine hidden gem cigars to add to your rotation moving forward.
Prior to IPCPR 2019, J.C. Newman had effortlessly captured the attention of American cigar smokers, announcing The American—described as the first truly all-American cigar. Apparently the old company still has a few tricks up its sleeve, as a little sleight of hand revealed a peculiar last-minute offering known as Yagua. The cigars arrive with intentionally imperfect shapes—some may be hexagonally pressed, others may be octagonally pressed, etc. This is due to the lack of molds, as the cigars are wrapped in palm leaves and strung tight, meaning no two cigars should arrive identical in appearance. The technique dates back to Cuban tobacco farms, where the style was employed by the farmers, who lacked the proper tools that the city-based factories used for the more uniform-looking cigars we know today. Yagua is a Nicaraguan puro in blend makeup, being rolled at the company’s Nicaraguan-based PENSA factory. Through our brief sampling with the cigars, they offered a soupy texture, with flavors of earth, natural tobacco, sourdough, campfire, and punchy spice through the nostrils.
Despite introducing a total of six different blends at IPCPR 2019, perhaps the biggest draw for La Familia Robaina at the show was the company’s recent name change (formerly known as White Hat Cigars). The new name signifies the company’s influence from famed artisan Hirochi Robaina (i.e. the grandson of the “Godfather of Tobacco,” Don Alejandro Robaina). Of the six blends showcased, three fall under the Ilegal brand (that’s no spelling error—being the Spanish spelling of Illegal). As with other La Familia Robaina (LFR) offerings, all three Ilegal cigars are made at the La Corona factory in Estelí, made under the guidance of owner, Omar Gonzalez, and his son, Luis Omar Gonzalez. Ilegal takes a unique approach, with all three cigars being blended by various members of the LFR team and close acquaintances. This includes an Ecuadorian Habano-wrapped blend, crafted by Sales Manager, Adrian Acosta (who’s father was once the head agronomist for Davidoff’s TabaDom facilities in the DR); a Connecticut Shade-wrapped cigar, blended by LFR owner, Spence Drake, and Omar Gonzales; and a Mexican San Andrés-wrapped blend that was spearheaded by Esteban Disla, co-owner of Fabrica de Tobacos Nica Sueño (of RoMa Craft fame). All three cigars showcase an undisclosed filler/binder recipe, being priced in the $10–$12 range. Made to honor those that have guided the relatively new company since its beginnings, the brand stakes the claim, “It’s so good, it should be Ilegal.”
#7 Luciano The Traveler
One of the most talked about new players at IPCPR 2019 was A.C.E. Prime. Apart from the company’s star power—with former NBA all-stars Dominique Wilkins and Tiago Splitter hosting free-throw competitions at the A.C.E. Prime Booth—the company also boasts an impressive ensemble of tobacco talent, including third-generation tobacco agriculturist Don Eradio Pichardo and tobacconist and sommelier Luciano Meirelles. A.C.E. Prime represents the coming together of Pichardo and Meirelles’ Nicaraguan-based factory with distribution company A.C.E. Prime. While the company kicked off with more than enough brands to hit the ground running, it was the peculiarly shaped Luciano The Traveler that best caught our attention. At 7″ x 46, the cigar is described as a crossover between a corona gorda and a Churchill. But it’s the blend that’s most exciting, featuring the rare Pelo de Oro tobacco varietal throughout the entirety of the cigar’s filler/binder. Pelo de Oro is an ultra-premium leaf that is known for its unique flavor qualities; it is also traditionally quite expensive, due to its low yield rates (a varietal prone to blue mold in the growing stage). Luciano The Traveler is a limited offering, blended by Master Blender Luciano Meirelles to showcase a nuanced, highly complex experience.
#6 Ten Plus Two And A Half Anniversary
With a constant stream of increasingly boutique-ified brands flooding the market of today’s burgeoning craft cigar scene, sometimes it takes the trail-blazing pioneer to keep the genre in check. This was the vibe from Viaje at IPCPR 2019, launching a trio of limited-edition cigars that seek to honor an oft-forgotten achievement—yes, the frequently under-acknowledged 12-and-a-half-year anniversary. It’s a jocular concept that oozes with craft beer inspiration; and it’s a fitting tribute, as Viaje was originally launched by Andre Farkas with the intent of porting the craft beer mindset over to the world of premium cigars. Viaje Ten Plus Two And A Half Anniversary arrives in three formats: Silver, Gold, and Red. Each cigar is unique, primarily showcasing all-Nicaraguan blends sourced from the revered AGANORSA tobaccos throughout Nicaragua. Staying true to Viaje’s highly limited aura, the celebratory cigars have been limited to only 350 boxes of Silver and Gold, with 200 boxes of Red in circulation.
#5 Cuevas Reserva
We at Cigar Dojo were fully prepared to embrace the first limited-edition cigar (La Mandarria) from Casa Cuevas since the company’s devastating burglary earlier this year. Surprisingly, it was the brand’s core-line Cuevas Reserva that stuck with us after the smoke had settled. The brand was originally launched in the early 2000’s, but was later shelved as the company turned their focus toward their Tabacalera Las Lavas factory efforts in the Dominican Republic. Cuevas Reserva is now ready for a full-scale launch, being introduced in both Natural and Maduro variants. Ranging from mild/medium (Natural) to full (Maduro) in body, Cuevas Reserva brings loads of complexities in both formats, showcasing a signature-class blend from the four-generation tobacco family.
#4 Tyrannical Buc
Riste Ristevski and his seemingly unstoppable force that is Jas Sum Kral (aka JSK) may have been banned from showcasing the bulk of their latest offerings at IPCPR 2019 (read: JSK Nuggs, JSK Nuggs Maduro, and JSK Nuggs Kine Puro Selection—all being infused with various levels of CBD or THC oils), but the brand made an impact nonetheless. JSK’s latest non-cannabis-inspired cigar is dubbed Tyrannical Buc, drawing cues from Ristevski’s “Riste Buc” nickname to showcase the fullest smoking experience from the company to date. Available in both Maduro and Connecticut varieties, Tyrannical Buc transitions from the traditional appearance of former JSK offerings, now boasting an edgier, artistically geared look and feel. Each blend features high-priming tobaccos from Nicaragua and Pennsylvania, a Nicaraguan (Jalapa) binder, and either a gritty Broadleaf maduro or smooth Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper varietal. It’s a fun concept that delivers loud and vibrant flavors throughout—be it Maduro or Connecticut.
Alec and Bradley Rubin—sons of Alan Rubin and foreseen inheritors of the Alec Bradley empire—introduced their sophomore release under the Alec & Bradley brand at IPCPR 2019. The cigar is dubbed Gatekeeper, following 2018’s Blind Faith cigar with an Ecuadorian Habano-wrapped blend that is backed by one of the industry’s biggest heavyweights in the realm of tobacco-blending prowess. Indeed, while Blind Faith was produced at the same Honduran factory that handles the majority of AB cigars, Gatekeeper transitions to the Dominican Republic, being crafted under the watchful eye of Ernesto Perez-Carrillo at his Tabacalera La Alianza factory. The cigars are primarily influenced from Nicarguan and Dominican tobaccos and are rolled in four sizes (including our favorite, the 5⅛” x 42 Corona). Gatekeeper is unlike anything in parent company Alec Bradley’s range, bringing a classic profile with amped-up components of graham cracker, caramel, roasted nuts, and a backing floral sweetness.
#2 Daughters of the Wind Lancero
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Hand rolling a cigar requires knowledge, skill and practice. Hand rolling a lancero takes even more skill than that – a little too much filler leaf and the cigar will not draw, a little too less and the cigar will burn hot, especially in the last third, and the complexity disappears. Only the most skillful and experienced are trusted with this vitola. Meet Luis of the IGM boutique factory – the designated roller of Cremello, the lancero of the Daughters of the Wind Line. Another batch is currently being rolled to make it to the market in Autumn. #casdaglicigars #daughtersofthewind #cremello #lancero #costaricacigars
One of the hottest names in boutique circles as of late is Bespoke Cigars. This is no longer the case—not due to a change in consumer outlook, but instead a change in nomenclature—as the company is now known as Casdagli Cigars. The company has made a name for itself by partnering with leading talents in the industry, such as Hendrik Kelner Jr. (Kelner Boutique Factory, Dominican Republic) and Don Olman Guzman (Tabacos de Costa Rica factory, Costa Rica), showcasing rare and diverse tobacco blends, often aimed to emulate Cuban-made bespoke cigars. Casdagli’s latest entry is Daughters of the Wind Lancero, a custom-tailored 7½” x 39 lancero that has been tweaked from the brand’s existing DOTW line to best suit company owner, Jeremy Casdagli’s personal preferences. Produced in Costa Rica, the cigars make use of an atypical range of tobaccos, including Dominican Caramelo and Peruvian Pinar throughout the filler, a Costa Rican binder, and a new Costa Rican wrapper ingredient (replacing the Ecuadorian leaf seen on prior DOTW cigars). The cigars are built for finesse, showing a complex and nuanced experience designed for the sharp palate.
#1 Kudzu Lustrum
It’s not often you’ll come across a cigar with a ligero wrapper. It then goes without saying, a medio tiempo wrapper is practically unheard of. And yet, this is the wrapper classification designated to Southern Draw Cigars’ Kudzu Lustrum—a special, commemorative blend that has been crafted for the company’s fifth anniversary in 2019. Medio tiempo is a mystifying tobacco classification—a high-priming leaf that is often said to be a mutant-like offshoot, sprouting above the corona leaves on one to ten percent of tobacco crops (depending on who you ask). While the rare leaf has been increasingly used in filler blends of many of today’s most limited cigars, Southern Draw has worked closely with A.J. Fernández to carefully ferment the tobacco so as to be suitable for the Lustrum’s wrapper ingredient. The remainder of the Kudzu Lustrum is comprised of a Nicaraguan Ometepe binder and vintage Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. The end result is more flavor-forward than expected, showcasing a medium to medium-plus body and concentrated complexities of roasted nuts, aromatic florals, fiery spices through the nostrils, sweet brown sugar, and hickory. Southern Draw has clearly been hitting their stride as of late, and the Lustrum serves as an appropriate icing on the cake—a promising indicator of the brand’s innovative spirit that consumers should expect throughout the next five years and beyond.