La Riqueza is the latest offering from Pete Johnson, maker of popular Tatuaje and Cabaiguan cigars. Not surprisingly, La Riqueza is also manufactured by Jose “Don Pepín” Garcia, this time around in his Nicaraguan factory.
Five sizes have been released, curiously numbered one through five:
- No. 1 — 6 1/2 x 42
- No. 2 — 5 1/2 x 52
- No. 3 — 5 5/8 x 46
- No. 4 — 5 x 48
- No. 5 — 4 3/8 x 42
Even more curious is the wrapper on this cigar — it’s Connecticut broadleaf. We have become so accustomed to to Johnson’s (and Pepín’s) Nicaraguan puros, and his corojo wrappers in particular, that a broadleaf wrapper invites special scrutiny. There’s something inherently less refined about broadleaf, an impression inspired mostly by its rough and dry appearance.
Broadleaf tends to be thick and veiny, and unlike its shade-grown brethren it bears the full brunt of the weather. While Connecticut Shade is beautiful, refined, and mild, broadleaf is much bolder and more flavorful. But this amplified bravado is accompanied by a reduction in finesse. For all these reasons it is most often used as binder — it’s tough and flavorful, but for aesthetic reasons best kept under wraps.
Further piquing my interest is the fact that the Riqueza wrapper is the product of the Oliva Tobacco Company. Oliva grows and processes tobacco for some of the most prestigious labels in the business: Fuente and Newman being at the top of the list. The Angel 100 is the only cigar the Oliva Tobacco Company has actually produced themselves, and to my eye (and nose) there is in fact a similarity between the Angel 100 and La Riqueza.
The Riqueza is box pressed and bears the classic triple cap we expect from Pepin’s Tabacalera Cubana. The dark wrapper looks like a maduro, but it is reportedly a naturally dark broadleaf that hasn’t received maduro fermentation. The wrapper leaf is just barely oily and a close examination reveals a few fine crystals glittering in the tooth.
The draw on this cigar is spot on perfect. It burns evenly and builds a solid light gray ash. Overall construction values are excellent.
La Riqueza No. 3 lights easily and produces billows of smoke from the start. The smoke texture is smooth and the initial flavor is moderately peppery with a mild bite. Pretty much what you’d expect from Pepin, but within half an inch the cigar opens up and becomes something completely different.
The flavor on the palate is coffee-like, but the aroma is very sweet, floral but also spicy. There is a lingering aftertaste of wood and pepper, and the overall effect is complex.
Into the second third the flavors lose some of their nuance and focus on earth. There is still a smattering of pepper on the palate, and the fragrance remains spicy sweet. The smoke gathers strength at this point as well, becoming slightly harsh on the back of the throat and sinuses.
The last section of the Riqueza No. 3 delivers rich earthy tobacco flavors — exactly what you’d expect from broadleaf — but the concentration of this flavor begins to overpower the subtle aromas in the last third. By an inch from the band the aftertaste surpasses earthiness and borders on dirty, becoming a little bitter, a little dry, and a little too much in my opinion.
What is remarkable about this cigar is the aroma, which is similar in some respects to what I’ve found in the Cuban Romeo y Julieta. But even more than that, it reminds me of the wrapper on the Angel 100 — the overall impression La Riqueza creates in combination with the flavor on the palate is more complex than the Angel, but the floral spiciness is quite similar. I have to wonder if these will age as well as the Angels, and if they will eventually lose some of their sharpness, especially in the back third. My only criticism of this cigar is that it seems to end about an inch and half too soon.
Aside from the unpleasant turn this one took in the last lap I think it’s a fine cigar. With age it should mellow into a great medium bodied Nicaraguan style smoke, one with a fantastic bouquet. If a retail tag of 9 USD isn’t a sticking point for you, I’d recommend picking up a box and letting it simmer for a year or two.