JFR – “Just For Retailers” Corona Gorda


I was trolling for goodies in a local cigar shop the other day and happened to notice an unfinished crate crammed inconspicuously into the corner under some big-ticket Ashtons. The box was filled with toro sized cigars. I didn’t see a brand advertised, and they didn’t have bands. What they did have was alluringly oily wrappers, beautifully rounded heads, and triple caps finished with tight neat pig tails. And the feet were flagged. Sitting nicely in the box they looked like a bunch of shoeless orphans getting ready to go to church.

When I asked after their pedigree, the counter guy said “They’re called JFRs. Four something a stick. You can hardly buy a cigar for four bucks.” This was not exactly a glowing endorsement, but they looked sweet, and yeah, the guy is right. Four bucks is not much for a handmade cigar these days.

JFR stands for “Just For Retailers,” and they mean it. Don’t look for them online. They’re made by Tabacalera Tropical, and originally they were blended by none other than Jose “Don Pepin” Garcia. Or so the story goes.

Pedro Martin successfully escaped the Castro regime in the early 60’s and subsequently spent almost two decades in the American tobacco industry before he entered the cigar market with Tropical Tobacco in 1978. Martin has produced cigars at various times in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Central America, and has had his hand in the making of brands as diverse as Avo and Ashton (at Tabadom) and the current stable of Tropical blends like Lempira and Indianhead.

“Don Pepin” Garcia’s first employer after his exodus from Cuba in 2001 was Eduardo Fernandez’ Aganorsa in Esteli, Nicaragua — the same Aganorsa which in 2002 acquired Martin’s Tropical, which at that point became Tabacalera Tropical. It seems most likely that if Garcia blended the original JFR, it was during this time. And the fact that Fernandez is still Garcia’s primary tobacco supplier lends the JFR blend an even darker shadow of Pepin ancestry. But no birth certificate.

Tropical doesn’t acknowledge these cigars on their website, and an email for information was unsuccessful as well, so I remain unsure of the JFR’s constitution and provenance. The word on the street is that these are made in Honduras with a Nicaraguan corojo/criollo blend. After smoking a few of these, that sounds quite plausible. There are reportedly four sizes: robusto, toro, supertoro (corona gorda) and torpedo.

The wrappers on these cigars are really attractive — a nice sheen of oil enhances a slightly toothy surface throughout. The few I’ve smoked so far have been competently constructed, though one had a significant soft spot and uneven roll. Despite this it drew well and burned without a hitch.

The JFR introduces itself with a spicy but smooth flavor; it’s not as peppery as a Pepin, but it has that Nicaraguan bite. The base flavor is leathery with spicy accents. Over the course of the cigar this flavor creeps along and builds while the smoke texture gathers weight and grows from medium to full in body. The aroma of this cigar is somewhat sweet and combines really well with the leathery foundation.

About halfway through this smoke I sensed the strength beginning to sneak up on me and I noticed a little harshness on the throat. The spices get darker at this point, more peppery, more Pepiney. There are some coffee flavors at this point, and maybe a little hazelnut on the nose. By the last third the smoke is very rich, quite strong and the harshness begins to mount. I normally put the butt to bed at this point.

More than a Pepin blend, this one reminds me of Illusione. Either that or a St. Luis Rey Regios. It’s not as complex or as refined as the Illusione (I’m thinking of the 888) and it’s bolder than the Regios, but there seem to me some similarities. If you told me these were Illusione “rejects” I might just believe you.

Rejects or not, they’re decent smokes for $4 or less. The counter guy undersold these, but they appear to sell themselves just fine.


18 thoughts on “JFR – “Just For Retailers” Corona Gorda

  1. Thanks for the heads-up on this one. I can’t swear I’ve run across them before, and I’ve definitely never smoked one. Fascinating family history on this one. Time to prowl a few B&Ms and find a couple!

  2. If you love these or they are hard to find…just wait a few months until Arganese Cigars launches they “FDW’s”. Stands for First Draw Wraps….they look almost identical with pigtail and folded in foot and come with a a cool display that protects the ends on them from ovr humidification. And they will be dirt cheap but full on quality. I think Arganese modeled them after the JFR’s but is raising the bar on them a bit!

  3. Thanks for the heads up, Joe! I haven’t had the pleasure of an Arganese cigar yet, but I’ll keep my eye out for the FDWs.

    I’m also curious to know if anyone has tried the “JFCs” (Just For Catalogs) and how they compare to the JFRs… Anyone??

  4. I wish there was a B%M in my area that carries them as I have always wanted to try one of these they always sounded GREAT to me. I have been unsure about getting a box of JFC’s online as I have herd they are not at all the same. I will also concur that when they say its just for retailers they really made sure. After Massive online searching, I couldn’t find one box let a lone a single. I do wonder why they make a JFR and a JFC i wish they just made some great cigars and sold them everywhere with maybe a special vitola just for retailers. At least that way i would have gotten to have one.
    If someone is willing to buy me some from a local B%M Email me at togudyfugulifita@tempomailDOTfr I will thank you greatly!

  5. I recently tried two maduro JFRs and they were excellent; flavorful, a bit complex, and without sourness, or harshness. I bought them a “Smokin Joes”, an Indian gas station and market on Sanders Settlement Rd, Sanders, NY, west of Lockport. They will not sell sell by mail order, but if near there, it is worth a stop. It sems they were overpriced at this “discount” outlet, at about $7.00 each.

  6. Thanks for the update, Dennis. I’ll keep my eye out for the maduros, which I haven’t tried yet. The last time I saw these at my B&M I noticed the price had increased, so it might be a manufacturer issue rather than a retailer one. (Or else the retailers are in cahoots! Doubtful though…)

  7. For me, this was a very enjoyable smoke. I tried the more mild Connecticut shade wrapper JFR cigar and was very impressed with the almost cocoa hints of flavor.
    This cigar was well constructed and was a steal at 4$ a piece.

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