— Photo courtesy of Miami Cigar & Company —
Brand Owner: Miami Cigar & Company – Miami, FL
Tabacalera: Esteli, Nicaragua (Plasencia)
Model/Vitola: Don Lino Africa Duma (Cheetah)
Size: 5.0 x 50 (robusto)
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano (1999)
Filler: Cameroon, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua
Other vitola sizes available
- Kuro (Waterbuck) 4.0 x 45 (corona extra)
- Kifaro (Rhinoceros) 6.125 x 52 (toro)
- Punda Milia (Zebra) 6.5 x 44 (lonsdale)
- Kiboko (Hippopotamus) 6.5 x 58 (toro)
- Tembo (Elephant) 7.5 x 50 (double corona/churchill)
All sizes are offered in beautifully adorned boxes of 25 with the exception of the Kiboko (24) and the Kuro (tin of 4 or box of 40)
Some background on Miami Cigar & Company
Common traits prevalent among cigar making stars in the industry are unbridled passion coupled with persistent hard work. Nestor Miranda and his family are another example. In the late ’80s, working in the liquor business, Nestor had a chance meeting with a roller working for Guillermo León of La Aurora S.A. Using his skills as a salesman, Nestor made some suggestions on how to expand the La Aurora line and increase business. As he watched their success employing his ideas, he and his wife Miranda decided to launch Miami Cigar & Company in 1989 and distribute cigars. They acquired and launched the Don Lino brand in 1989 which were manufactured by U.S. Tobacco International at their factory in Danli, Honduras. The brand was a huge success. Production in the first year was 80,000 cigars and by 1995 it was up to 3.1 million. In 1995, Miami Cigar began distributing other UST products (Don Tomás and Astral) and in 1996 (during the boom) distribution jumped to a whopping 12 million (75% UST brands). As you may imagine, with those kind of numbers, Nestor retired from the liquor business in 1995 after 25 years and joined his wife full time at Miami Cigar.
What happened next would give anybody nightmares. In November 1996, after Miami Cigar had exceeded all sales projections, UST pulled the plug! They stopped shipping products for distribution and stopped manufacturing Don Lino cigars. The president of UST called and cancelled the contract with Miami Cigar which wasn’t due for renewal until February 1997. UST had decided to distribute their own and manufacturing of the Don Lino brand would take production resources needed elsewhere. Literally overnight, Nestor was faced with closing shop. And right before Christmas! His distribution humidor was empty. Don Lino was back-ordered about 3.5 million cigars. La Aurora/León Jimenes were maxed out and could not produce any more cigars for Nestor to distribute. His retailers were pissed. They couldn’t believe he had no cigars. They thought he was shipping elsewhere and giving them the runaround. And to top it off, he had to lay off most of his warehouse and office staff.
The gory details of this debacle can be found in the Cigar Aficionado interview with Nestor (April 2007) but suffice it to say, there is no quit in this man. He struggled for two years to find quality manufacturing for the Don Lino brand and in 1999 Guillermo León agreed to produce it in the Dominican Republic. Production has since moved again and is now with Plasencia in Esteli, Nicaragua.
Per the Miami Herald, the Miranda’s didn’t consider a lawsuit against UST until Nestor received a deposition in 1999 for a suit filed in Chicago against U.S. Tobacco by cigar distributors Cohabaco. A lawyer approached Nestor with some of U.S. Tobacco’s internal documents, that, according to Miranda, detailed U.S. Tobacco’s plans to obtain Miami Cigar’s distribution network all along, going so far as building a storage facility in Tampa to hold cigars originally intended to go Miami Cigars. In 2002 Nestor won a judgment against UST in the amount of $42.5 million which was appealed and then settled out-of-court. The final amount is undisclosed but I sincerely hope it was big!
Today Miami Cigar & Company distributes a variety of premium name brands, among them Dominican-made La Aurora and Leon Jimenes, Spanish-made Ducados, Wings, and their very own Tatiana line of flavored cigars, Don Lino and Habanitos. The brands owned by the company include Colorado by Don Lino, Don Lino Africa, El Gozo, Havana Reserve Don Lino, Smoke Tatiana – Flavor the Moment and Tatiana.
When things had calmed and the company gained its feet again, Nestor decided to fulfill a lifelong dream of his to go on a hunting safari in Africa in 2002. He used to watch Tarzan movies as a child in Cuba and had always wanted to see the land that charged his imagination as a boy. The hunt was a life experience and on the returning plane ride Nestor had an epiphany. Africa was such a great and vast country. Certainly there should be a cigar brand in it’s honor. Why not include some of their tobacco too! He and his son Daniel, who actually runs the operations for Miami Cigar, agreed. A new cigar was in order. Oh, but what to call it. Nestor thought the name of the majestic Kilimanjaro was appropriate but unfortunately someone had already claimed it. Finally, they settled on Don Lino Africa. They designed a elegant box and named the vitolas after select beasts that roam the plains of the Serengeti. But instead of English, they would use native Maasi, the language of the indigenous people of the African Savannah.
The Don Lino Africa blend was introduced in 2003 and then re-blended for 2004. It is currently manufactured by Nestor Plasencia at his factory in Esteli, Nicaragua. Using 4-year aged tobaccos, the cigars are aged for an additional 5 months after rolling. During the blending experiments, Nestor requested they use a leaf of Cameroon in the blend. No one had done that before and when he tasted it, he said, “This is it!” In the interview referenced above, Nestor claims to use Costa Rican leaf in the blend but no one else refers to it. Early renditions claim some Mexican leaf as well. I think the manufacturing and blending have changed so many times, the old Internet info is blending with the new. The Miami Cigar website currently shows the blend as I have identified it above.
Believe it or not, the name “Lino” comes from the individual at the UST factory that Nestor used to deal with. He says “it was just a name, and it sold so well, why change it?” Wow, that’s deep!
Bottom line up front …..
Full-bodied and full-flavored as advertised, this is a curious blend of tobaccos. The taste is like nothing I’ve had and if it weren’t for the total distraction of the burn problems, I probably would have enjoyed it. Every stick I tried had burn issues to the point where the experience was a disaster. Nestor better get his rollers together and give them a thrashing! It’s a cryin’ shame to have such extravagance in packaging and quality tobacco wasted on poor rolling technique.
The cigar is stunning to look at. A reddish-brown wrapper oozing with oils and covered in a small tooth cap to foot. I understand the wrapper tobacco was set aside in 1999 with this cigar in mind. The band, like the magnificent box, is truly a work of art. Being the brandophilist I am, this band was definitely tucked away in the archives. Someone did get overzealous with the band glue, but I was able to remove it without damage to the cigar or the band. That was a miracle in itself. The aroma from the wrap was distinctly barnyard and strong tobacco from the foot. The head was nicely finished with a double cap. Pre-light draw was good. The swirls of different color tobacco at the foot were very inviting. I was looking forward to a treat.
The Smoking Experience
The Duma begins with a sharp couple puffs, kinda similar to a Pepin cigar with just a touch of pepper on the nose. The flavor quickly settles into a base of dark wood and burnt toast. The pepper subsides for the first third but then re-enters mainly on the tongue and slowly builds to the end. The aroma was rich and deep. Can’t begin to describe it but definitely the best part of the smoke. About halfway, I picked up a few pulls of a caramel like sweetness that disappeared as suddenly as it arrived. Some interesting spice notes along the way including cinnamon and what seemed to be nutmeg and during the final third hints of cocoa and leather. All-in-all a very flavorful complex smoke which I would expect with that many countries represented. The cigar did start to get bitter at the nub but I was ready to lay it down anyway. Finish is long with a leathery aftertaste.
Ash was quite dark and a bit flaky. The burn was horrendous! It looked to me as if the wrap was several layers thick and was downright flame retardant. I was forced to torch the cigar every 1/4 inch to keep the flavors even and burn off the wrap to the next level. Burn maintenance absolutely ruined the experience for me.
This cigar is full-bodied, with a balanced well-rounded explosion of smooth, hearty flavor. With full strength to boot, it is not for the faint of heart. Starts out a little less than full but gets there pretty quick. Please have a seat. And by all means, this is not a breakfast cigar!
My take …..
This cigar just would not burn properly and therefore will fall from my radar, at least for a while. I smoke cigars for the pleasure of the experience. Every Duma I tried was so much work in the burn department, the rest of the experience was lost on me. I’ll try them again in a couple years if they are still around and hope the rollers have got their act together!
MSRP on the Duma is $156.00/25 or $6.24 per stick. Best online price I could find is Abners at $94.95/25 or $3.80 per stick. Price point is right if they could only solve the burn.
As in this beautiful scene, for me, the sun has set on Don Lino Africa for now. But as they say, the sun will come up tomorrow!
Like it … Flavor Yes, Burn Absolutely not
Buy it again … Not anytime soon
Recommend it … Not right now
What others are saying about Don Lino Africa …..
“It has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep,
and never to refrain when awake.” (Mark Twain)