When I first heard that Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust was releasing a line of premium cigars blended with pipe tobacco, my interest was piqued. As a fairly regular pipe smoker, I have always sought out pipe tobacco-blended cigars in hopes of finding the nexus creation that melds both worlds into the perfect hybrid cigar. Yes, some have been enjoyable, but more often than not the product tends to be a lesser expression of each; so, “cautiously optimistic” would be a good classification of my thought process as I proceeded into this review.
Owner of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, Steve Saka, is well aware of the poor reception these hybrid-type cigars have gotten in the past, and has stated himself that the StillWell Star cigar line would be “the most controversial cigar release in 2021,” even though he himself is an avid pipe smoker and has blended cigars with pipe tobacco for his personal consumption for many years. When he had mentioned this practice to Jeremy Reeves, head pipe tobacco blender of Cornell & Diehl, a spark was lit and the collaboration on a luxury cigar line featuring both premium long-filler tobaccos as well as pipe tobaccos began. Dunbarton has stated that no expense was spared in the curation of the finest tobaccos available for the StillWell Star line. This is bolstered by the fact that Cornell & Diehl has been in operation since 1990, focusing on small batch, high quality pipe tobacco—seemingly providing the yin to Dunbarton’s yang in this unexpected yet somehow entirely logical uniting of the most respected tobacco-burning hobbies.
The StillWell Star brand currently has four blends available, each offered in a singular 6″ x 52 toro vitola. However, when interviewed, Steve Saka has referred to them as the “first releases,” indicating that more could possibly be in the works. This includes the Aromatic No. 1, English No. 27, Bayou No. 32, and Navy No. 1056.
StillWell Star Aromatic No. 1 Breakdown
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
- Binder: Mexican San Andrés Negro
- Filler: Nicaragua | Black Cavendish | Golden Virginia | Burley
- Factory: Fábrica de Tabacos Joya de Nicaragua, S.A. (Nicaragua)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 6″ × 52 (Toro)
- Price: $15.30 (MSRP)
Each StillWell Star cigar shares the commonalities of size (toro), wrapper (Grade-A high-priming Ecuadorian Habano), binder (Mexican San Andrés Negro), and tweaked Nicaraguan fillers to accommodate the various pipe tobaccos of each blend. This allows the different pipe tobacco styles to be more easily compared from blend to blend, with the core cigar tobaccos and size used as somewhat of a control in this unique experiment. This makes for a range from mild-medium to medium-full in intensity, with the StillWell Star Aromatic No. 1 being the most mild of the bunch.
“An experienced pipe smoker can clearly discern the flavors typically associated with the classic style of each pipe blend, while the cigar smoker can enjoy these nuances in their preferred smoking format,” states Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust in a recent press release.
I have to give credit to Dunbarton on the banding for StillWell Star. The navy blue base with gold foil accents and lettering give it a clean and regal appearance, nicely accenting a backdrop of the deep brown (almost coffee-colored) Habano wrapper. The star on the main band gives me an authoritative, “you know what cigar this is” vibe. Aside from the sweetened cap (and foot aroma, if you really know your pipe tobacco), the small foot band is the only way to distinguish which variation of StillWell Star is at hand.
The wrapper itself is smooth, with what I would describe as a chamois leather texture, having just a hint of oil to an otherwise matte appearance. There is a slight mottle to the color, with veins being noticeable but not disruptive to the overall roll and appearance. The seams go almost unnoticed, and are placed evenly, leading to a smooth finished cap.
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Things get interesting as I pass the cigar under my nose. The smell of sweet, aromatic pipe tobacco is immediately noticed on the foot; flavors of chocolate-covered cherry, vanilla extract, and crème brûlée dominate. This cigar is one of the few that strikes my sweet tooth, and I find myself wanting to go to the cupboard and raid my children’s candy stash. But a distinctly different scent than the foot arises when you pass the wrapper under your nose. An earthy, almost vinegar-like note—not unlike the smell of a freshly tilled garden in the spring—covers almost the entirety of the pipe tobacco influence. Had I not already inspected the foot of the cigar, you almost could have fooled me into thinking this was nothing more than a traditional premium cigar.
I give the head of the cigar a snip with my guillotine cutter and reveal a draw that has only a slight bit more resistance than I prefer, but is still a solid 8/10. The cold-draw notes stay consistent, with chocolate-covered cherry, vanilla extract, and crème brûlée, though now are accompanied by the sweetness from the cabeza dulce (i.e. sweetened head), as it is called by the team at Dunbarton.
After a slow and deliberately extended toast—due to the varying densities of tobacco in the cigar—I begin my smoking experience. The sweet tip masks the overall flavor of the cigar slightly, and only the generic sweetness of aromatic pipe tobacco coats my palate. Though not distinct, the aroma is quick to bring me back, flooding my senses with memories of my grandparents house—the smell of aromatic pipe tobacco wafting through the air as my grandfather enjoyed his evening pipe. The smoke is light and balanced, allowing for easy retrohaling.
As I get further into the first portion of the cigar, flavors begin to come to light. Vanilla pudding and cherry cordial flavors are easily picked up, along with a nice light black pepper on the finish; it’s not potent, but enough to make sure the cigar is not flat. The draw has maintained at a slightly snug 8/10, and the burn line is wavering slightly, but not requiring a touchup as of yet. The room aroma is very pleasant and aromatic enough that my wife asked what I was smoking, as she could tell that it was something outside the norm. The overall experience so far is very dessert-like and relaxing, causing my mind to drift (which is not a bad thing, especially at the end of the day).
Halfway through, the StillWell Star Aromatic No. 1’s flavors have shifted in a noticeable yet subtle way. The sweetness is still there, but now a milk chocolate note replaces the vanilla and cherry cordial and is joined with floral black coffee. The black pepper remains on the finish and has maintained intensity. The cabeza dulce is fading, and while the cigar has an overall traditional premium cigar profile, there is a light aromatic tobacco sweetness that floats in on every draw. The ash is holding on for at least an inch—remaining quite solid—which I am pleasantly surprised with, as the difference in density of pipe tobacco when compared to premium long-filler tobacco can lead to a flaky and loose ash. The draw has stayed constant at an 8/10, and the body is a constant and balanced mild to medium.
As I come down to the last portion of the Aromatic No. 1, the sweetened tip is completely worn off, with only the pipe tobaccos now separating an otherwise traditional profile. Earthy black coffee notes (like the kind of coffee you get when the grounds get past the filter and settle into the bottom of your cup) are in the forefront. There is still a fleeting sweetness of dark chocolate-covered cherries that is present, leaving me wishing for more. The main theme at this point is dark and earthy—almost slightly bitter. The black pepper finish has remained through the entirety of the smoke, but now seems to detract rather than add to the smoking experience. The last few puffs I take are very heavy, and have a wet coffee ground flavor mixed with black pepper. Only the slightest hint of the sweet, aromatic flavors remain, leaving me with what I would call a lackluster finish.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
I most certainly would. I enjoy cigars of all varieties on the regular, and I must say that this toro walks the tightrope between traditional and infused cigar worlds with keen dexterity. Balanced is the word I kept coming back to throughout the smoking experience. While this is not the type of cigar that would be a regular in my rotation, the unique profile of the StillWell Star Aromatic No. 1 lends itself to be a great first cigar of the day. The strength stays nice and low, while the flavors pop up only slightly higher, making it an easy and approachable smoke. I would want to have a fresh palate with this one, so as to not miss the nuanced and balanced flavors that meld well together with the slightly sweetened tip.
- The following descriptions for each of the StillWell Star blends as described by the Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust Website:
- Aromatic No. 1 — The finest of aromatic Black Cavendish, Golden Virginia and Burley pipe tobaccos added to a mild, Nicaraguan puro to provide a delightfully smooth and room-pleasing smoking experience. Each cigar is delicately finished with a cabeza dulce.
- English No. 27 — A quintessential mix of Burley and Turkish leaf with a generous portion of Cypriot Latakia pressed cake paired with Nicaraguan cigar tobaccos. Rich and decadent, this is a Latakia-lover’s puro worthy of being smoked in an English Manor House.
- Bayou No. 32 — A combination of Bright and Red Virginia leaf with the most select St. James Parish Perique pipe tobacco added to a medium-bodied Nicaraguan puro. It rewards the smoker with a classic yet entrancing, any time of the day relaxing experience.
- Navy No. 1056 — A crumble cake of stoved Red and Golden Virginias with a touch of “Naval Rations” combined with Orientals and Latakia expertly blended with dark air cured black cigar leaf, this puro rewards the smoker with a unique, aromatic indulgence.
- Flavor: Medium
- Strength: Mild / Medium
- Body: Mild / Medium
- Vanilla pudding
- Cherry cordial
- Black coffee
- Black pepper
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Medium-roast coffee | Cappuccino | Earl Grey or English breakfast tea | Aged rum
- Purchase Recommendation: A five-pack of each blend will guide you to your favorite
- Balanced smoking experience
- Slow burn
- Unique flavors
- Aromatic tobacco flavors fade at the end
- Price point is a little high for an “outside the box” concept such as this
- Heavy earthy flavors in the final portion