Debuting onto the premium cigar scene in 2015, this year marks the fifth anniversary of the now-beloved Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, a New Hampshire-based company that is known for it’s focus on Nicaraguan tobacco, an appreciation for cigarmaking traditions, and most notably, its founder and Master Blender, Steve Saka.
Commemorating the occasion, Saka has not only forgone the compulsion to introduce a fifth anniversary cigar, but has also withheld the introduction of a core-line Dunbarton release for the first time since launching the company. Instead, cigar enthusiasts have been treated to an assortment of limited-edition projects, shop exclusives, brand spinoffs, and tweaked versions of pre-existing lines.
Perhaps the most highly anticipated such release was the Muestra de Saka Unstolen Valor, the fifth addition to Saka’s most personal collection of cigars. Muestra de Saka (MdS) first debuted in 2017 with the introduction of the Muestra de Saka Exclusivo. Since this time, the series has seen roughly one new addition on an annual basis, expanding in the years following to include the Nacatamale, Unicorn, #NLMTHA, and Unstolen Valor. Muestra de Saka translates to mean Samples of Saka, with the overarching theme being a chance for Saka to provide a peek behind the curtain as to his personal blend preferences, described as “[reflecting] the blending machinations of myself.”
Muestra de Saka cigars are crafted in small batches on an ongoing basis. Each cigar in the series is custom blended from the ground up and rolled in a singular size so as to offer the most optimum smoking experience for the given recipe.
Muestra de Saka Unstolen Valor Breakdown
- Wrapper: Nicaragua
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Factory: Nicaraguan American Cigars S.A. (Nicaragua)
- Production: Small Batch
- Vitola: 6″ × 52 (Toro)
- Price: $17.95 (MSRP)
Muestra de Saka Unstolen Valor is the first cigar in the MdS series to be rolled at the NACSA factory in Estelí—the location where core-line Dunbarton cigars such as Mi Querida and Umbagog are made. This is not the only first for the series, as Unstolen Valor brings with it an unusual concept. The cigars are, in fact, not the creation of Saka, instead being the vision of of Raul Disla, production manager at the NACSA facility.
Steve Saka outlines the origin of Unstolen Valor as such:
Almost all the cigars in our industry are actually created by very talented people at the factory level like Raul, but they seldom receive any accolades or credit for their work as it makes the brand messaging very confusing for consumers, but it is very important to me that people understand that this cigar is Sr. Disla’s creation. All I did was challenge him to create without worrying about others, smoked the results and convinced him we should share this blend with others, hence the name being “Unstolen Valor.”
Muestra de Saka Unstolen Valor materialized as a 6″ x 52 toro, featuring an unspecified Nicaraguan puro blend. The cigar’s name alludes to its unusual origin, not being stolen—as it is released with Raul Disla’s blessing—merely borrowed as a means to promote Disla’s name and talents.
Unstolen Valor arrives in the same layout as with previous MdS releases, with seven cigars being individually coffined and packaged in simplistic, stained wooden boxes. Each MdS release boasts a unique logo on the lid of the contained coffins; with Unstolen Valor, this takes on the look of a military medal icon. The cigars themselves are bound in the usual MdS yellow foot ribbon, reading “UNSTOLEN VALOR” front and center. It’s an unassuming look that elicits the feeling that all focus has been placed squarely on the tobacco at hand.
This thinking is quickly confirmed with a pre-light inspection, as the cigar is a striking example of craftsmanship. Standing out first and foremost is an astonishingly geometric, cylindrical shape. It’s what you’d imagine a cigar to look and feel like, had your only interaction with the craft been through Photoshopped imagery prior. This is further supported by thin veins, a fine-grit sandpaper-like toothiness, and a balanced chocolate brown hue. With a light squeeze, the bunch is firm, having a papier-mâché-like rigidity.
On the nose, the wrapper gives off notes of mineral and clean cedar. The foot shows deeper aromas of mineral, chocolate chip cookie, cedar, and pepper. With a cut, the pre-light draw has a virtually perfect resistance and flavors reminiscent of a fresh rain, as well as oak, peppercorn, and corn chips.
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Unstolen Valor lights up with a vegetal sensation and bitter pepper on the palate. It isn’t long before the pepper quality travels into the retrohale, adding a more zesty component to the experience. There are touches of anise and clove lingering in the background, although no individual flavor component attempts to lead as the smoke begins settling into its comfort zone. Other elements materialize as unsweetened cream (which I appreciated, not attempting to wow with a cloying sweetness that is often overdone, instead aiding in texture and balance), a touch of salt, and a caramel note that lasts well beyond what is conventionally expected. But the overall takeaway in the cigar’s beginnings is that of pepper. This is an ingredient that is often overused with Nicaraguan blends—sometimes to the point where it can have an off-putting, overly charred characteristic—but this is not the case with Unstolen Valor, having a balanced and pleasant raw peppercorn quality.
As the pre-light draw hinted, the smoking draw is essentially perfect, having enough resistance to let you know you’re accomplishing something, while not being straining or requiring double puffs. This produces a medium-plus amount of smoke with each draw, offering up a medium dose of flavor, a medium-light strength, and an overall medium body. The construction lives up to the pre-light experience as well, producing a straight burn and a soft ash that builds in two-inch chunks.
The texture is that of melted butter, with the profile remaining largely similar, though picking up a chocolate flavor along the way. While being loaded with pepper and mineral, the retrohale is surprisingly smooth and clean, having enough zip to let you know it’s there, but being far from aggressive. Sticking with the theme of cleanliness, there is a crisp, refreshingly sweet cinnamon note that weaves just below the surface. The chocolate component builds to become one of the primary ingredients, standing out as a strangely specific Chocolate Fudge Pop-Tarts flavor.
While medium in body in the cigar’s beginnings, it evolves to full-bodied in the final moments; this is accompanied by a near-full strength and medium-full flavor output. Black pepper leads backing nuances of black licorice, allspice, and peppered steak. The cigar is dark and hearty, lacking sweetness or cream from its earlier self. The toro remains balanced until its last puff, continuing a steady profile established early on and managing to avoid unwanted flavors in the final stretch.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
Absolutely. Unstolen Valor proved to be supremely balanced and showcases Nicaragua’s famed pepper characteristics without taking it over the top. The cigar clearly differentiates itself within the MdS collection, earning a spot in the humidors of those seeking higher levels of body without sacrificing refinement.
- Raul Antonio Disla is the brother of Esteban Disla, factory manager and co-owner of Fabrica de Tabacos Nica Sueño, of RoMa Craft fame.
- He has worked with tobacco since the age of nine, being associated with a wide range of companies (Davidoff, Dunhill, British American Tobacco, A.J. Fernández) within the industry before settling in as production manager at the NACSA.
- Steve Saka challenged Disla to create a blend to fit his own preferences without the constraints of price or others’ opinions. He presented Saka with four blends, of which Saka selected the blend codenamed “U” as the Unstolen Valor.
- Dunbarton shipped Unstolen Valor in early May 2020.
- Saka has noted that the cigar provided a vehicle to introduce Raul as a blender to a wide audience, potentially opening the door for him to launch his own brand.
- Saka has also experimented with the blend himself, creating a tweaked version known as U Boat, which he notes “will be released in the future.”
- Flavor: Medium-plus
- Strength: Medium-full
- Body: Medium-full
- Unsweetened cream
- Chocolate Fudge Pop-Tarts
- Black licorice
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Steak dinner | Bottled-in-bond bourbon | Zinfandel | Milk stout
- Purchase Recommendation: Box
- Knows what it is and sticks to its strengths
- Extremely balanced
- Construction and draw
- Clean flavors dwindle in later stages