The crossover between celebrity and premium cigar is something of a no-brainer. Due to their celebratory correlation, sports figures become easy targets. Ray Lewis has the Legends 52 cigar, Dominique Wilkins has the M.X.S., David Ortiz has multiple Big Papi cigars, and Mike Ditka has released more blends over the years than many cigar companies as a whole.
But Hollywood doesn’t shy away from the leaf either, despite the healthier-than-thou facade you’ve come to expect. Not all Hollywood celebs are out to reprimand you’re meat-eating, gas-guzzling, tobacco-burning lifestyle. Rob Weiss partnered with Davidoff in 2014 for the BG Meyer brand, Jeremy Piven enlisted the talents of Illusione’s Dion Giolito in 2021 with the PIV Robusto, and now, after years of palling around with some of the most beloved figures on the boutique side of the industry, Guy Fieri joins the fold, teaming with Espinosa Premium Cigars for the Knuckle Sandwich.
The brand was formally announced in January, including both the Knuckle Sandwich Habano and Knuckle Sandwich Maduro. This was followed up by multiple events with Erik Espinosa and Guy Fieri, including Espinosa’s La Zona Palooza, Smoke Inn’s televised The Great Smoke, and even TV appearances here and there, where Guy can be seen smoking the Knuckle Sandwich.
Knuckle Sandwich Habano Toro H Breakdown
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Factory: San Lotano (Nicaragua)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 6″ × 54 (Toro)
- Price: $13.50 (MSRP)
As has been the theme in recent years with Espinosa’s headlining releases, the Knuckle Sandwich cigars are being crafted out of A.J. Fernández’s northernmost San Lotano factory in Ocotal, Nicaragua. Each version includes all-Nicaraguan tobaccos throughout the binder/filler, with the lighter of the two using an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, while the darker features Ecuadorian Sumatra. The cigars are rolled in the same three formats, though the Maduro is soft-pressed, while the Habano is a traditional parejo. Finally, pricing is roughly the same between the two, with the Maduro coming in at about three percent higher in each size.
- Corona Gorda R: 5⅝” x 46 | $11.50 (Box of 20 cigars | $230)
- Robusto J: 5″ x 52 | $12.50 (Box of 20 cigars | $250)
- Toro H: 6″ x 54 | $13.50 (Box of 20 cigars | $270)
The Knuckle Sandwich has a collaborative feel from the outset, being packaged in familiar Espinosa boxes and donning the red Espinosa “E” throughout the design. Meanwhile, Guy’s Knuckle Sandwich branding—which has formerly emblazoned many a shirt and knife—takes center stage, with the toque-wearing skull and crossbones setting the look apart from your conventional Espinosa.
The cigar has a clean look to it, with the Habano leaf showing off the prototypical shade for the given style, as well as a nice-looking red-orange hue. The leaf is surprisingly thin, having fine veins and smooth seams. This also heeds caution, as some samples showed wrapper cracks and nicks. The cigar feels well rolled, as a sturdy bunch (medium-firm to firm) allows for a springy feel when gently squeezed.
The Habano wrapper gives off notes of tangy musk and sweet cashews. Meanwhile, the foot has zestier aromas of barnyard, cedar, and white pepper. The pre-light draw has a medium-firm resistance, with intriguing flavors of cedar, mint, and nutmeg.
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Differing from Espinosa’s signature zesty retrohale ignition, the Knuckle Sandwich Habano Toro H lights up with a clean and restrained demeanor. The clean sensation comes across primarily on the palate, gaining a subtle retrohale pinch with each passing moment. Tangy buttermilk sits upfront on the palate, with something along the lines of slightly sweet cashews coming through the finish. The toro shows a near-perfect draw and a medium smoke output. The cigar is fairly tame for Espinosa standards, offering a medium-light strength, medium-plus flavor, and an overall medium body.
The retrohale is typically the star of Espinosa’s Habanos, and the Knuckle Sandwich really highlights this quality as the blend begins to breath. There’s (what I would consider) a perfect spice intensity, providing a consistent buzz, but not stinging or overwhelming the olfactory receptors. At the inch mark in the burn, flavors in the retro are spicy-sweet, coming across like Redhots candy. The experience is particularly enjoyable with small draws—which I always enjoy in a premium smoke. This allows for a cool smoking temperature, long-lasting flavor through the finish, and added nuance in complexity. This is where I find subtle sugar sweetness, somewhere in the range of Cuban pastry or coffee cake.
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Balance carries through with the Knuckle Sandwich Habano, offering precisely divided attributes of cleanness, spice, and sweetness, as experienced through the palate upfront, retrohale, and finish. Caramel and cola syrup flavors stem from the coffee cake of before, and the spice and sweet elements eventually come back together for a gingersnap cookie vibe. Some samples also hover around coffee-like flavors throughout the late middle of the smoke, which can come across as espresso powder or flat white coffee, depending on the level of sweetness you’re picking up.
The cigar does darken entering the final third, increasing in strength (medium-plus to medium-full) and introducing cayenne and red pepper flakes. But the sweet and/or refreshing qualities of the smoke never fully go out, bringing fleeting moments of juiciness—like mango gum or cotton candy. Anise, dark toast, chestnut, and underlying sweetness finish off the profile, with the body ending around medium-plus.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
It’s clean from start to finish. There aren’t any harsh off-notes to be found. It buzzes the nostrils in all the right ways. It’s equal parts clean, spicy, and sweet. Its body and intensity could just as easily be smoked in the morning or late evening. It’s what you imagine a Habano to taste like (with far too many unfortunately falling short of the expectation). Yes, the Knuckle Sandwich Habano is on the pricy side for Espinosa, but the experience speaks for itself, offering a long and enjoyable smoke time, a near-perfect draw, and loads of clean, balanced flavor. I’d love to smoke this again.
- The Knuckle Sandwich cigars had been under development for 18 months prior to their announcement in January.
- Each of the three sizes have the letters “R,” “J,” or “H” following the vitola name. These represent Guy’s sons, Ryder and Hunter, as well as his nephew Jules, all of whom reside at the Fieri residence in Santa Rosa, CA.
- Erik Espinosa has mentioned his cautious approach to the project, noting the lack of engagement by many such celebrity projects of the past. He and Guy agreed that Knuckle Sandwich could only succeed with Guy’s full commitment to the project and involvement with the cigar community. This seems to be the case, with Guy attending many events—big and small—throughout the industry since the cigar’s debut.
- Those that have spent time with the Espinosas know that they do not use traditional cigar cutters, instead opting for the “Cuban style” of a gentle bite and twist. Guy seems to have adopted the strategy, and can be seen promoting it at events such as La Zona Palooza 2022.
- I’ve smoked each blend and, while I enjoy them both, I prefer the Habano over the Maduro.
- The Knuckle Sandwich Habano currently ranks 219 out of 3.7k cigars on Dojoverse, with a rating of 100%.
- Flavor: Medium-Plus
- Strength: Medium-Light / Medium
- Body: Medium-Plus
- Coffee cake
- Buttered toast
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Belgian saison | Medium-roast coffee | Kentucky mule cocktail | Old fashioned cocktail
- Purchase Recommendation: Start with a box
- Clean palate and even distribution of spice/sweet
- Virtually perfect draw
- No harsh or off-flavors whatsoever
- Fragile wrapper had splits on some samples