A while back I reviewed a cigar that I thought was a real find: the JFR by Tabacalera Tropical. The reputation of this cigar has spread without the benefit of advertising and it has earned a nice following.
The “Just for Retailers” cigar is produced by Tabacalera Tropical for sale by authorized purveyors of fine tobacco products — for retail sales only. Now this makes good sense. Tropical is doing brick and mortar establishments a service by providing a quality product that is available only in stores. You and I have to peel ourselves off the couch and roll our ponderous selves over to the shop to get our JFRs. While we’re there we’ll probably pick up a few other goodies — and this is great for the stores. So far so good.
Now why would the same manufacturer turn around and offer the same great blend to a well-known cigar supergiant for internet sales — doesn’t this defeat the purpose of the retailer-only concept? If I were a retailer I’d be spitting bricks, unless… they were actually different cigars. If the retail version were of considerably better quality, that might make some sense. A little, anyway. Let the B&Ms sell the real deal, pawn the seconds off on the internet. Hmmm…
So the question remains: is there any real difference between the “Just For Retailers” cigar and the “Just for Catalogs” version? I picked up a few of each and pitted them against each other on successive nights this week.
They are virtually indistinguishable except by the flagged foot of the JFR. Both score highly in the aesthetic department — rich looking oily wrappers that bear tight triple-wrapped pig tailed caps. In terms of appearance these babies could compete with anything coming out of El Rey de Los Habanos. Very nice.
JFR Super Toro
The pre-light characteristics of both the JFR and the JFC were similar — horsey with a touch of leather. Nothing to complain about there. Good draw, easy light.
As I’ve mentioned before, the JFR has a sweet nutty flavor that reminds a lot of Illusione cigars. It’s almost like candied hazelnuts. The aroma is leathery — combined with the sweet flavors that later pick up some coffee notes, the overall sensation is quite complex. Add some oak and a touch of vanilla. There’s a lot going on here.
After the mid-point the JFR gets much heavier, earthier, spicier, and aggressive. While the first half of the cigar is relatively smooth, the second is pretty rough. My previous experience with this smoke has been that I can’t smoke it much past the half-way point, but lovers of heavy Nicaraguans will probably feel differently.
Some of the JFRs didn’t burn as well as I’d hoped: a few corrections were necessary to keep the burn even, and the draw felt a little bit loose at times. On the other hand, they all burn with a slow determination. This is at least a 90 minute smoke for me.
JFC Super Toro
The JFC is a much less boisterous cigar. It starts out with a mild woodiness and just a hint of the sweet nutty flavor that the JFR brings to the fore. The JFC is not as sweet and doesn’t have the JFR’s oak-and-vanilla component, but the aroma is somewhat similar — leathery, but at a reduced volume. There simply isn’t as much flavor here.
On the other hand, it’s a much easier cigar to smoke. The first half is smooth going and though it picks up speed in the second half it never gets truly aggressive. The construction is also a little better — it burns evenly without needing touchups and the draw is more consistent.
What the JFC lacks that the JFR has in spades is complexity. Both are fine cigars, but they seems to have different temperaments entirely — the JFC is smooth and simple; the JFR is bruising and complex. Both good cigars, but not the same.
Even the ash looks different: the JFR (left) produces a dark ash akin to some Cuban cigars, while the JFC’s is lighter, like what you’d expect from more completely fermented tobacco.
The” Just For Retailers” and the “Just for Catalogs” cigars are not the same blend. Both are good cigars, but the JFR is a much fuller bodied, more complex cigar with some minor construction issues. The JFC is a smooth smoking, flavorful but not very complex smoke that exhibits much better construction than its brother. I give them both passing grades, but the JFR gets the nod for its more robust flavor.
Postscript: I just went back to the cigar supergiant website to see what the going price is for JFCs, and they appear to be out of production. So much for that…