“Vote early and vote often”
— Al Capone
How ironic that a life-long criminal poses advice that we should all follow? Yet very few Americans do actually exercise their right to do so. And it is with that apathy that our beloved industry has had a great crime exercised against it. Tobacco, a legal product—and the only ingredient in premium cigars—is now illegal to purchase until you are at least 21 years of age. Since you’re asking, the answer is no, the legal age to be considered an adult has not been changed. An 18-year-old can still vote, consent, buy a home, purchase a firearm, and serve in the armed forces. Literally overnight, adults all over this country had their rights stripped away.
So, it’s appropriate that this is my next review. At the 2019 IPCPR Trade Show, Spence Drake had some big changes in mind of his own. And while his newest brand dealt with the matter of legal overreach, it’s perhaps safe to assume that he didn’t realize at the time just how fitting his latest cigar offering would become.
Nevertheless, the first major release from the newly named La Familia Robaina is the Ilegal. You read that right, a cigar that embodies the spirit of defiance. The spirit of civil disobedience. The spirit of showing the world that Dean Koontz got it wrong.
“Civilization rests on the fact that most people do the right thing most of the time.”
— Dean Koontz
Ilegal Habano Breakdown
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
- Binder: Undisclosed
- Filler: Undisclosed
- Factory: La Corona Cigars S.A. (Nicaragua)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 6″ × 50 (Toro)
- Price: $11.95 (MSRP)
Sporting the tagline, “It’s so good, it should be Ilegal,” Ilegal (pronounced “ee-lay-gal”) takes a unique approach, with all three cigar varieties offered under the brand 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 (whose 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).
“That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today, we look at the Habano blend. With undisclosed binder and filler, it’s difficult to do a deep a dive on the tobaccos. However, Drake and Acosta certainly aim for a unique experience with the cigar sporting a closed foot. All three versions of Ilegal (Connecticut, Habano, Maduro) are offered in identical sizes (Robusto, Toro, Gordo), with prices ranging from $9.95 to $11.95 MSRP per cigar.
As previously mentioned, this cigar sports a closed foot. And while that attribute usually lends to a cigar looking more rustic, that is not the case with the Ilegal. The toro is short on tooth, but has a decent sheen to it. The label is very intricate, with tobacco leaf and vine imagery and the words “Ilegal Tabaco” in white script on a orange background.
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I cut the cap with my guillotine cutter and light the cigar with my XIKAR stratosphere. The flash from the closed foot catches ablaze and sets off aromas of charred cedar and pepper. I was in a recent discussion with someone who didn’t approve of the shaggy foot aesthetic. “It’s too messy and it sets the burn off,” this person exclaimed. I couldn’t disagree more, especially in the case of the Ilegal. The foot didn’t “make a mess” and the burn remained consistent throughout. A few puffs in, the Ilegal brings forth flavors of bread, pepper, and star anise.
Star Anise is a unique flavor that I don’t get in many cigars. The bittersweet nature of the spice can be off-putting to some, but I feel its unique flavor offers extraordinary balance in the beginning of the cigar.
However, as the cigar progresses, the bittersweet star anise becomes overwhelmingly prominent towards the middle of the cigar. The flavor is actually quite pungent. There’s a nice counter of pepper and lemon zest on the retrohale, and the finish is delightfully long. The retrohale is amazingly complex and really saves the middle of the cigar.
The finish is another story entirely, brilliantly combining the best parts of the cigar. The retrohale continues to give off amazing, complex flavors of pepper, lemon zest, and a sweet cream note. Star anise continues to shine, but as it did in the beginning, offering balance to bread, pepper, ginger, and almond notes. This cigar’s lengthy finish allows for a satisfactory end to a balanced and complex experience.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
Absolutely. In fact, I believe I even remarked this very line to La Familia Robaina’s own Todd Vance. His signature grin as a sign of approval aside, I am always humbled by how much a single person’s opinion matters to the folks that make and sell these cigars.
- Flavor: Full
- Strength: Medium
- Body: Medium
- Star anise
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Stout beer | Ouzo | Espresso | Italian sausage | Marzipan
- Purchase Recommendation: Go for the box
- Balanced retrohale
- Extraordinary finish
- Excellent burn
- Overpowering middle
- Tight draw at times