Rocky Patel started it all with his bandless Edge cigars packed in rough-hewn crates. Camacho followed up on the theme with El Legend-ario, and the Cubans have been going nekkid for years. But now that Rocky has responded to the copycats with a joky promotion for Edge “Counterfeits” in the latest CI catalog, I don’t know how much longer the trend can last. Even the Cubans have started banding cigars that have never had bands before… and Rocky is now banding Edges at the foot! Bandless cigars may soon be on the endangered list. Despite all this, Altadis showed up late to the party last year with a bandless Nicaraguan called Omar Ortez Originals.
Omar Ortez is a native Nicaraguan tobacco man who in the past has worked with Philip Wynne in the production of Felipe Gregorio and Felipe II cigars. Ortez established Agroindustrial Nicaraguaense de Tabaco in 1995, and is also the blender of the Exile brand cigar made in the NATSA factory. He oversees a “vertically integrated” production facility (like Padron) where he controls every aspect of the process — from seed to smoke.
Omar Ortez Originals are presented without bands and come packed in unfinished crates of 60. So far three sizes are available: robusto, toro, and torpedo.
The manufacturer is a little tight-fisted with information about the blend, admitting only Nicaraguan wrapper, Nicaraguan binder and –wait for it — Nicaraguan filler. But looking at this cigar I’m really reminded of the Ecuadoran leaf used on Aurora’s Pueblo Dominicano and 5 Vegas Limitada cigars: the smooth sheen and widely spaced veins are eerily similar. It’s a rustic looking cigar, a little rougher than the Auroras, but that goes along with the whole tough guy 60-count crate thing. Like you might pick up a crate of these at the tack store while you’re loading up on alfalfa for the herd.
It opens up with a woody flavor typical of Nicaraguans, accented by a metallic twinge that dissipates after a couple inches. It’s a full flavored smoke, but for the first third the aftertaste is very mild with no spice. There’s a nice aroma here: simple wood at first, followed by some light spice that makes the aroma smell almost like sandalwood. Not what I expect from a Nicaraguan wrapper, but very nice. The flavor moves into bittersweet chocolate territory in the second third and the aftertaste becomes slightly bitter. Towards the end of this cigar the flavor becomes sweeter, almost chocolate liqueur-like. Unusual, unexpected, but not unpleasant.
Omar Ortez Originals are Nicaraguan puros that really don’t smoke like Nicaraguan puros. They’re medium to full bodied cigars with good construction, fine taste, and an unusually sensitive aroma. They’re far less aggressive than I expected, which is probably a good thing. What they lack in power is balanced very nicely by a complexity that belies their appearance.
And get this: they’re affordable. If you play your cards right, you can pick these up for less than three bucks a stick. As Borat would say: “You like! I very excite!”