Royal Jamaica Gold Belicoso

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The original Royal Jamaica is a strange agent because the tobacco is cased with something called "bethune." I haven't quite figured out what that is, but supposedly it's a secret sauce composed of rum, native Jamaican herbs, and some other unmentionables. Not being a fan of flavored smokes, I can't say I've tried it.

This belicoso is not the original. Introduced by Altadis in 2004, the Oro Rojo line is a new deal.

The story behind Royal Jamaica is interesting. Cigar tobacco cultivation was started in Jamaica during World War II because the UK did not want its investments made outside the commonwealth. So its currency trade with Cuba was curtailed and for the most part transferred to operations in Jamaica, where cigar tobacco was not normally grown. While tobacco does grow wild there, (as some other intoxicants do) it was not cigar quality. Cuban growers moved to Jamaica with their seed and expertise and started the Jamaican industry to supply the UK during the war. An article in Cigar Aficionado states that during 1940 to 1953 Havana cigars were "totally absent" from the UK. I would guess that Winston Churchill's supply was a notable exception.

The Oro Rojo Belicoso is square pressed, I'm told. This one is not. In all other respects it matches the catalog and Altadis descriptions:

6 1/8 x 52

Wrapper: Nicaragua

Binder: Nicaragua

Filler: Jamaica, Honduras, and Nicaragua

After Hurricane Gilbert wrecked the vegas and tobacco barns in Jamaica, operations were transferred to the Dominican Republic. Royal Jamaica is once again doing some work in Jamaica, but this particular line is listed as still being made in La Romana.

The belicoso is a mild, easy smoking stick with excellent construction. Unpeeling the gold foil reveals an oily colorado wrapper which could probably do without the shiny packaging. The draw feels loose, but once ignited the smoke flows cool and easy. The flavor profile is nutty, with a dusty overtone — earthy, but very light. A flaky but not messy ash. I chose a Red Lion beer from New Zealand as an accompaniment, but tea would go just as well. This would make an excellent afternoon smoke on the porch with a book or a baseball game in the background. An all around good mild, maybe mild-to-medium cigar.

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