1502 Nicaragua Robusto

1502 Nicaragua Robusto

1502 Cigars are named for the year that Columbus “discovered” Nicaragua, so it’s perfectly fitting that a Nicaraguan puro has been added to the line. The 1502 Nicaragua fills out the quartet that includes the 1502 Ruby (previously reviewed here), the 1502 Emerald, and the 1502 Black Gold. The Nicaragua is a blend of tobaccos from Esteli, Jalapa, Condega, and the volcanic island of Ometepe which sits nestled in Lake Nicaragua.

The cigar is produced at the Placencia factory in Esteli, Nicaragua, for Global Premium Cigars, and apparently only two sizes are in regular production, a 7 x 48 Churchill, and a 5 x 50 Robusto.

Construction Notes

The 1502 Nicaragua Robusto arrives box pressed, with a semi-flagged foot. The colorado claro wrapper leaf is somewhat veiny but smooth. The head is slightly flattened, the cap is solid, and the draw is excellent. It lights easily, perhaps aided by the flags. It burns slowly, but unevenly, requiring a touchup or two. The ash is solid.

Overall construction: Very good.

1502 Nicaragua 2

Tasting Notes

I smoked two robustos for this evaluation, separated by about a week, and had two rather different experiences. The first cigar seemed quite sharp and the flavors focused on cedar; the second cigar wasn’t as spicy and centered on musk. I briefly considered abandoning the review due to inconclusive or conflicting evidence, but whenever this happens I have to remind myself that matters of taste are always subjective. As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus says: “No man steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river, and he’s not the same man.”  With that in mind, here are my notes on the river of the 1502 Nicaragua, with notes from the second cigar in green:

The robusto opens with cedar and a dose of white pepper; in addition to the cedar there is a distinctly musky note. Cedar spice on the nose continues into the middle third of the cigar. Dry tannins on the palate combine nicely with spice and a touch of sulfur or gunpowder on the nose. This is a medium bodied cigar — smooth but not creamy — that builds from medium in strength to nearly full at the conclusion. The spice on the nose and musky aroma continue into the final third of the cigar, which waves farewell with an earthy note and a flinty aftertaste.


I enjoyed both samples of the 1502 Nicaragua, even though they seemed to me to have somewhat different qualities. I will attribute this difference to my own subjectivity rather than the cigar; I will simply have to smoke more of them to arrive at a more satisfactory conclusion. In any case, this is a fine smoke, and I will happily assume the burden of further examination.

Both sticks exhibited a balanced cedary spice, a tannic element that develops into an earthy base flavor, and a smooth medium-bodied disposition. It’s not a powerhouse Nicaraguan, but it does exhibit some of the characteristics typical of great Nicaraguan smokes. Singles of the robusto run around USD $6.50, which is pretty reasonable for a premium boutique cigar of this caliber.

1502 Nicaragua 3

Final Score: 89

Sabor de Esteli Maduro

Sabor de Esteli Maduro

Someday I hope that I can start a review with a story about a burgeoning cigar star who was raised in the Cuban cigar tradition and never had to leave his homeland. But that story is not yet ready to be told. So the story of Noel Rojas will sound familiar: after working in the fields of Pinar del Rio from a young age and building a solid reserve of knowledge and experience in the Cuban cigar industry he discovered, like so many others, that he would have to leave Cuba to succeed.

Rojas followed in the footsteps of many other talented cigar makers and made his way to Nicaragua. With advice from luminaries like Arsenio Ramos, Rojas began to build his own business, even turning his house into a factory and storage facility when he had no alternative. Today he operates his own factory, Aromas de Jalapa, in Esteli, Nicaragua, and has several lines in production, most notably Guayacan. (He also makes one of the best cigars I smoked last year: Draig Cayuquero.)

Sabor de Esteli was introduced at the IPCPR in 2014 and is also available in a natural Ecuadorian Habano. The Maduro presented here utilizes a Mexican wrapper from the San Andres valley, along with filler and binder leaves from Esteli. It is a telling feature of the cigar that there is no seco or volado leaf in the blend — the filler blend is viso and ligero only. Four sizes are in production:

  • Gordo: 6 x 60
  • Robusto: 5 x 50
  • Toro: 6 x 52
  • Corona: 6 1/2 x 42 (limited production)

Sabor de Esteli Maduro 2

Construction Notes

The Sabor de Esteli Maduro is a pressed cigar, which distinguishes it from its conventionally round sibling in the natural wrapper. The San Andres wrapper is smooth and consistent in color — not pitch black, but definitely well matured. The head of the cigar is well formed, even if the cap is a finished a little roughly. The roll seems a little loose, but the draw is not too easy and the even burn produces a strangely lightweight, but solid ash.

Overall construction: Excellent.

Tasting Notes

The maduro characteristics of this cigar are apparent from the start: bittersweet chocolate is the flavor that rarely wavers here. The smoke is smooth and creamy, but the peppery spice that opens up in the nose and gradually moves to the palate adds a dimension of complexity to the smooth waves of chocolate rising from the wrapper.

In the mid-section the pepper eases up a bit while the tannins bear down on the palate. Milder aromatics come forward as the spice dissipates: cedar and coffee predominate, but there is some fruity sweetness here as well.

The last third of the cigar becomes earthier. The tannins are heavy and become a little cloying, but the aromatics are good to the last whiff. The body of the cigar is a satisfying medium and the strength moves from medium to full at the conclusion.


With no seco or volado in this cigar, I was expecting Sabor de Esteli to be a much more potent smoke. It’s not a lightweight by any means, but it’s not a ligero grenade either. Instead, it’s a smooth and tasty smoke with the flavors one typically expects from a maduro of Nicaraguan provenance: chocolate and wood built on a dry tannic chassis.

I often find maduro cigars to be less interesting or complex than their natural brethren, but that can’t be said of Sabor de Esteli. My only criticism is that the smoke is quite dry — a pint of your favored stout or porter might make a nice companion here. Maybe two pints.

Sabor de Esteli Maduro 3

Final Score: 89

You won’t find this one next to the King Edwards at the gas station, but with distribution from the House of Emilio it’s not too hard to find. MSRP is around $8 USD for the toro.

Carnavale 3

Carnavale by Epicurean Cigars

Carnavale by Epicurean

Details on the Carnavale are a bit scarce, but the cigar itself is a bit scarce: released in 2014, production was initially limited to 500 boxes per year, but then it was increased to 1000. The cigar is made in Honduras for Epicurean Cigars and distributed by the House of Emilio.

The blend is complex: the wrapper is an habano oscuro grown in Jalapa, Nicaragua; two binders are utilized, a Pennsylvania broadleaf (yes!) doubled up with a leaf from Honduras, and the filler is a Nicaraguan blend (Jalapa and Esteli.) Five sizes are in very limited production:

  • Lancero – 6 1/2 x 38
  • Petite Corona – 5 1/2 x 48
  • Toro – 6 x 52
  • Tabajador – 5 x 52
  • Double Robusto – 5 x 56

Carnavale 2

Construction Notes

The Double Robusto is a smooth maduro-colored cigar with a somewhat garish band. This is obviously the cigar to be seen with on Bourbon Street. The cigar is square pressed with a double wound cap on a nearly flat head. The cigar is very firm and the draw offers light resistance. The burn is slightly uneven, but not problematic.

Overall construction: Very good.

Tasting Notes

The wrapper on the Carnavale is an habano oscuro, but you could have fooled me. This cigar tastes like a maduro through and through. It opens with bittersweet chocolate and cedar on the nose, while grassy flavors entertain the palate. The smoke is very smooth, but also fairly dry.

The flavors maintain their balance and complexity without too much transition in the second half, though the chocolate takes on more coffee-like characteristics and the light peppery spice evident in the first half builds and peaks in the latter half. Both the body and the strength of the cigar land in the mild to medium range.


When is a maduro not a maduro? When it’s an Epicurean Carnavale. The Carnavale is a high quality maduro-style cigar that isn’t a maduro, but it sure smokes like one. It reminded me of a lighter version of the Draig Cayuquero, an Emilio blend even scarcer than the Carnavale, but both cigars are worth seeking out.

The Carnavale wasn’t quite the revelation that the Draig was, but it’s a fine smoke in its own right. If only the price were just as right — $10 USD. That’s a bit of a stretch for me. As it is, I’d still be happy to have a few on hand. Complex yet mild maduro (style) cigars aren’t all that easy to find.

Carnavale 3

Final Score: 89

Bodega Reunion Aperitivo and Digestivo

Bodega Reunion 1a

Bodega Premium Blends were launched in 2013 and are now distributed by the illustrious House of Emilio. The theme chosen to promote the brand is a common one in the cigar world: friendship, fellowship, and brotherhood of the leaf.

The company has a strong presence in social media — Facebook, Twitter, and a well-kempt website. The Aperitivo and Digestivo blends are cigars designed in tandem to mimic the roles that cocktails or liqueurs usually play in the culinary sphere. The Aperitivo is a lighter cigar with a Nicaraguan Jalapa wrapper, while the Digestivo features a hearty San Andres Maduro. These bodacious Bodegas are packaged in boxes containing both blends — 10 of each — and they are produced in three sizes:

  • Toro – 6 x 52
  • Double Robusto – 5 x 54
  • Corona Gorda – 5 1/2 x 46
For this review I smoked one of each in the Corona Gorda size.
Bodega Reunion 2a
Construction Notes

Both of these Bodegas are attractive and solid, with nicely finished, rounded heads. Both burn slowly, evenly, and leave a firm ash. The only difference in appearance, aside from the band, is that the Aperitivo has a dark colorado maduro wrapper with a little gloss to it, while the Digestivo looks like a more classic maduro.

Overall construction: Independently and collectively excellent.

Tasting Notes

As the preprandial cigar, the Aperitivo is a suitably lighter smoke than the Digestivo. It opens with some cedar and a shake of powdered sugar sweetness. The smoke texture is smooth, but not light. Despite the mellow timbre of the smoke there’s still some chew here.

As it burns the aroma becomes noticeably floral — violets maybe — with just a touch of spice on the nose. In the next section the cigar picks up some earthy notes but remains light on the palate. The scale tips toward cedar and away from the floral flavors until the last third, where light roasted coffee flavors take over. Some sweetness lingers even into the last part of the cigar, which is a nice change of pace for me. The aftertaste is quite mild even to the end, which is very much appreciated by the chef preparing your meal. (Assuming your chef is not working up a sweat in the local taqueria.)

After the champagne has been drained and the capon consumed, the Digestivo arrives to put everything in place. It is naturally a heavier cigar, though the weight is concentrated in its flavor rather than its smoke texture or nicotine payload. The opening flavors are tangy, but still sweet — though not sweet in the light and floral manner of the Aperitivo. Licorice and cherry notes emerge at times through a spicy aroma. The flavor on the palate is crisp, almost minty, but with a Nicaraguan bite. Chocolate predominates in the last third, as the San Andres Maduro wrapper insists on having its say.


Bodega Reunion Digestivo 2


Both of these Bodega Reunion cigars are excellent smokes, but I particularly enjoyed the complexity of the Aperitivo. With its mild aftertaste it fulfills its role as an aperitif, but it could also serve as an opulent morning cigar.

The Digestivo is much richer, and more appropriate as an after-dinner smoke, but it also exhibits more complexity than the average maduro. Not to mention they both showed flawless construction qualities.

But this complexity and quality comes with a price: $10 USD a pop. I liked the Digestivo just fine, but for a special occasion when a cigar before dinner is on the menu, I’ll be looking for the Reunion Aperitivo.

Bodega Reunion 3a

For another opinion, be sure to check out Jeff’s review  of these blends at Casas Fumando.

Nomad S-307 and Rodrigo Boutique Blend G4

Nomad S-307

Attentive readers will have noticed that the number of reviews on this blog has fallen precipitously over the past few years. Some readers may wonder, why does he bother at all? Why doesn’t he just shut up and watch the game? (Wait, though. Maybe he’s a Vikings fan.)

Well, I’ll tell you. I am a Vikings fan, but that’s not it.

Sometimes I’ll smoke a cigar and think, this is pretty good, maybe I should review this one. But time goes on, the Vikings lose again, and the inspiration simply isn’t there. But there are times when the spirit moves me, when I feel called to review a cigar because it is distinctive and exceptional and it just isn’t getting the attention it deserves. I can say that is the case with nearly every blend I’ve smoked from the House of Emilio.

The Nomad and Rodrigo blends are members of that esteemed House, which distributes and promotes some of the finest boutique cigars in production today.

Nomad S-307 Robusto

Nomad Cigars debuted in 2012, focusing on Dominican tobacco. It didn’t take long before Nomad founder Fred Rewey was drawn by the lure of Esteli and the production of a limited edition Nicaraguan blend was in the works. The S-307 was the first full production Nicaraguan cigar for Nomad. The heart of the cigar is, of course, Nicaraguan, but the binder is Ecuadorian Habano and the wrapper is Ecuadorian Sumatra. (The S in the brand name stands for Sumatra.) The cigar is produced in the A.J. Fernandez factory and is available in five sizes:

  • Toro – 6 x 50
  • Robusto – 5 x 50
  • Torpedo – 6 1/2 x 52
  • Toro Grande – 6 x 58
  • Corona – 5 1/2 x 46

Nomad S-307b

Construction Notes

The S-307 Robusto is square pressed with a mottled, fairly dark colorado maduro wrapper. The roll is solid and it draws well. It’s a nice looking stick, and it burns evenly, which is always a pleasant surprise in a pressed cigar. The long, solid gray ash is another bonus. Overall construction: Excellent.

Tasting Notes

The cigar opens with leather on the nose and a long peppery finish on the palate. The pepper diminishes after the first inch or so and it develops a sweeter profile: cocoa and caramel over an earthy foundation. The S-307 is a medium bodied cigar with considerable complexity, and after the first bout of pepper the smoke is quite smooth. It’s a little less boisterous and a little less tannic than the typical Nicaraguan cigar, which allows the flavor development to go in a more interesting and unexpected direction. There aren’t too many cigars that can balance leather, earth, and sweetness this well. A very nice smoke.

Rodrigo G4

Rodrigo Boutique Blend G4

Rodrigo Cigars began when founder George Rodriguez stumbled upon former Davidoff blender William Ventura on a tourist foray into Santiago, D.R.  The story Rodriguez tells on his website is one of smoky serendipity. He went to Santiago to learn about cigars, and simply chanced on the man who would later make Rodrigo for him. Fortuitous happenstance, or destiny? Whichever it is, the Boutique Blend is Rodrigo’s “answer to the large ring cigar.” I’m not sure what the question was, but the blend is Dominican with a Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, and of course the cigar is made in Ventura’s factory in three large-ring sizes:

  • G4 – 6 1/4 x 54
  • G5 – 5 1/2 x 56
  • G6 – 6 x 60

Construction Notes

The Boutique Blend G4 has the smallest ring gauge of its brethren, but it’s still a big ol’ cigar. The rough colorado claro wrapper is set off nicely by its red and gold band. The roll is solid and the head is finished with a workman-like rounded head. It draws well. It burns evenly. It’s made the way every cigar should be made. Overall construction: Excellent.

Rodrigo G4b

Tasting Notes

The Rodrigo Boutique Blend is smooth with a creamy texture. The foundation flavor is woody with just enough tannin to provide a nice pucker on the palate. The aromatics are cedary with some baking spice accents. As the cigar progresses to its conclusion it passes through the woods into earthier territory, but the cedar on the nose lingers and blends nicely through the transition. It’s a fairly mild cigar, a suitable cap to a luxurious breakfast.


The Nomad S-307 and the Rodrigo Boutique Blend are two totally different types of cigars, so there’s no comparing them except in terms of their overall performance, which is exemplary in both cases. The S-307 was the more interesting cigar for me, but it’s a slightly heavier smoke with more flavor resources at its disposal. The Rodrigo Boutique Blend is just as distinguished in its class. There is no reason to reach for one of the industry standard Connecticut-shade breakfast smokes if the Rodrigo is an available option. These are both great smokes, and both are highly recommended.

Nomad S-307c


Epicurean Gonzo Santeria

Epicurean Santeria

Most of what I know about Santeria I learned from the movies, which I admit is not the most accurate source of cultural information. Or any information, for that matter. Santeria is in fact a religion that combines elements of several faiths — Yoruba from Western Africa, Roman Catholicism, and Native Caribbean rituals and beliefs. The geographic center of the religion is acknowledged to be in Cuba, so it’s natural that a cigar take its name from this esoteric cult faith. Well, maybe not natural. Supernatural?

Santeria is also the second blend in the Gonzo line from Epicurean Cigars. (A Gonzo line is sort of like a Conga line, but crazier.)  This blend features a double shot of Mexican San Andres — an almost flawless maduro wrapper over another San Andres leaf serving as binder — which is then paired with another binder from Jalapa, and these hold in place a blend of 2009 Jalapa and Condega leaves. It’s a bewitching brew, and I wasn’t surprised to find that it smokes like one too.

Gonzo Santeria is a very limited production with only 150 50-count boxes made per size. And those sizes are:

  • Ruca – 5 x 42
  • Heina – 6 x 52
  • Padrino – 6 x 60

Epicurean Santeria 2

Construction Notes

Like the AG Azul, the Gonzo Santeria is remarkably well made. (The one I smoked for the review was the toro-sized Heina.) The head and shoulders of the cigar are about as clean and perfect as I’ve seen. The cap is tightly wound and finished with a pigtail that sits like a beanie on the top of the stick. The wrapper is a dark colorado maduro, a little bit drier than the Habano wrapper on the AG, but still quite attractive. The cigar has a slight box press. It burns slowly and evenly.

Overall construction: Outstanding.

Tasting Notes

Based on the appellation of the cigar I was expecting a feistier smoke. I figured if the Gonzo didn’t get me then the Santeria would, so I was a little surprised by the smooth medium-bodied opening. The flavor is is earthy to start — minerals and black powder — so there seems to be a family resemblance to the AG Azul. There are a few muted spicy notes, but it’s not at all what I was expecting. There is no harshness and no bite.

But as the old Monty Python sketch advises: wait for it.  A third to half-way into the cigar the pepper kicks in, and so does the Vitamin N. The aroma turns from earth to leather. The cigar gathers strength and the fiesta begins. Hope you remembered the hooch.

Finally there is the cocoa or chocolate, or whatever it is, that I was expecting from the San Andres wrapper and binder combo. At this point it hardly matters because I’m thoroughly satisfied anyway.

Epicurean Santeria 3


Another excellent cigar from Epicurean. As with the AG Azul, I can’t give this cigar a rating because I only smoked a single representative of the blend, but based on the outstanding construction quality I would be shocked if the cigar isn’t consistent across the board. Looks like there’s another one I’ll be going out of my way to find.