Much to the delight of seasoned Room101 followers, the company turned back to one of its most famed releases in 2021, debuting a reimagined version of the Namakubi cigar at the 2021 PCA trade show in Las Vegas.
The Namakubi was originally released in 2011 as Room101’s third brand, then being rolled by Camacho’s former Agroindustria LAEPE S.A. factory in Honduras. It also helped establish the look and feel of the edgy, atypical persona that many hobbyists associate with Room101 today. This includes a Japanese influence that has crept its way into a decent chunk of Room101 cigars over the years, as seen on the cigar’s name (translating from Japanese to Freshly Severed Head) and well-known oni (Japanese demon) logo.
Room101 would later followup Namakubi in 2012/’13 with back-to-back releases that are now considered classics: Room101 OSOK and Namakubi Ecuador. When combined, the trio of releases placed Room101 on center stage for die-hard cigar enthusiasts, essentially cementing the brand’s status as a top player in the craft cigar space to this day.
In 2017, company owner, Matt Boot, departed from the industry, returning later that year with an all-new lineup, distribution, and manufacturing. This meant that fan favorites such as Johnny Tobacconaut, OSOK, Uncle Lee, The Big Payback, and Namakubi were left to the humidors of collectors, with Room101 instead focusing on new core lines such as FARCE and Doomsayer. But the affordably priced The Big Payback was eventually reintroduced to the lineup in 2019, signaling Booth’s consent to form a bridge between the two eras of Room101.
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Namakubi Ranfla (2021) Breakdown
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
- Binder: Honduras
- Filler: Dominican Republic | Honduras
- Factory: Tabacalera William Ventura (Dominican Republic)
- Production: Limited Edition (1,102 boxes of 10 cigars)
- Vitola: 5½″ × 50 “Ranfla” (Perfecto)
- Price: $25.00 (MSRP)
Enter the Room101 Namakubi Ranfla (2021), a limited edition that piqued the interest of new and old-school Room101 devotees alike. The cigars were launched in two packaging arrangements, both of which swapped the familiar black/red scheme for purple/silver. This included a large rectangular box of 10 coffins, as well as more traditional boxes (also 10-count), both of which were tissue and paper wrapped—most closely resembling the Namakubi Ecuador.
As you may expect, the blend remains the same (at least on paper), boasting an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, Honduran binder, and fillers of Honduras and the DR. Logically, the factory has changed, moving from Honduras to the DR (Tabacalera William Ventura), where the bulk of Room101’s cigars are now made. Only one size was rolled—Ranfla— which is a small perfecto that has been included in many Room101 releases since its 2012 debut with OSOK.
While the highly limited crate-like box of coffined cigars looks like a purple, elongated version of the original, the more common box feels bold and contemporary, simplifying the “Namakubi” font and blowing up the oni logo to expose only a portion of the demon’s face. The palette change was done not simply to distinguish the new release from the original, but also to bring attention to Alzheimer’s, with a portion of proceeds reportedly going to the Keep Memory Alive charity based out of Las Vegas, which is dedicated to Alzheimer’s research and care.
There’s always a special anticipation with figurados, and the Ranfla seems to elevate this feeling with a good dose of nostalgia tossed into the mix. After unwinding the tissue paper, the cigar is unveiled as having a muted, clay-like texture, coming in on the dark end of Colorado in shade. There are somewhat loose seams throughout, being especially noticeable at the tapered head. The wrapper leaf itself shows medium-fine veins and a good amount of toothy grit. In terms of shape and construction, the cigar looks true to form, having an overall solid feel—save for a portion in the center that’s a touch on the soft side.
The wrapper is surprisingly not very aromatic, with some samples coming across as pencil shavings and cedar, while another was more in the medicinal range. The foot is a bit more pleasing, with zesty notes of nutmeg and cabinet spices. The pre-light draw is on the firm side—which can be expected from perfectos—bringing out light flavors of barnyard, raisin, and some cinnamon.
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Red pepper flakes kick off the experience on the fiery side, being backed by dry earth and barely salted sunflower seeds. But the dry/fiery elements seem to make their way down the back of the throat, causing a harsh reaction that lingers with ammonia. This doesn’t last long, pulling back to a generic dryness, and bringing about added flavors of burnt citrus and sun-dried vegetation.
Unfortunately, the draw is more firm than even the pre-light intimated, leading to a wispy smoke output and frequent puffing. But the construction fares much better, producing a clean burn line and non-flakey, chalk-like ash. There is a very subtle sweetness on the palate, especially with smaller draws. And the smoke can be felt primarily on the center (umami), back (bitter), and tip (sweet) of the tongue. All in all, it’s operating in the medium range in terms of strength, flavor, and body.
Nearing the halfway mark, I’m clueing in on the proper attack for the blend/shape, with smaller puffs bringing out significantly more complexity. This is where sweetness can be found, including an enjoyable berry note that could easily be missed with full draws. Only, this is made somewhat tricky with the cigar’s firm draw, continuously balancing between keeping the cigar lit while coaxing small amounts of smoke out at just the right pace. The cigar livens up a bit moving into the final portion, offering star anise through the retrohale (though not intense enough to sting) and barnyard as a backdrop. Again, sweetness lingers, with syrupy candy feeling just out of reach.
But the harsh reality seems to finally set in as the Namakubi rounds the bend, with dry and charry elements coming across like diesel exhaust. This holds for some time, eventually shaping up to a more palatable charred/grilled mushroom (with the overly done sear marks specifically coming to mind). Finally, the medicinal note returns, resembling the phenols of Scotch, Band-Aids, and/or Sharpies. The cigar’s finish lies somewhere within this odd assortment of goods.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
I wanted to like this one so bad… and I can’t. I’ll give it points for nostalgia, but the price, firm draw, and off flavors (which had the air of under-fermentation and/or aging) simply don’t lend themselves to second chances (even one of these strikes could sometimes be enough of a deterrent on their own).
- The coffin version of this cigar was limited to only 101 boxes of 10 cigars. That version is priced at $30/cigar, with the only difference being the packaging. When opened, the individual coffins align to form a large vista of “Namakubi 2021” in silver on purple.
- The Namakubi was originally rumored to return in its original red/black design as well, but this has not yet materialized.
- After the release of this cigar, Matt Booth sold Room101 Cigars to Scandinavian Tobacco Group (STG), staying on as creative director.
- Some samples had even firmer draws than mentioned in this review, being essentially unsmokable.
- This is not the first time I’ve noticed a medicinal/phenols note in samples out of the William Ventura factory.
- As of this writing, the Namakubi (2021) has an 86% rating on Dojoverse, ranked 2,122 out of 4,000 cigars.
- Flavor: Medium
- Strength: Medium
- Body: Medium
- Sunflower seeds
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Zinfandel | Lagavulin 16 Scotch | Mantensei sake (just ‘cuz)
- Purchase Recommendation: Move along
- Fun packaging
- Occasional subtle-sweet underlying complexity
- Firm draws on multiple samples
- Off-putting char / medicinal flavors