There seems to be no end to the number of different Romeo y Julieta cigars: the Anniversario and the Vintage Maduro are just a couple of recent additions that I’ve reviewed for KOTF. But since the uncontrolled proliferation of cigar blends is not a phenomenon I wish to see curbed, I won’t complain, even though it did take me a long time to get around to this one.
The “Habana Reserve” was introduced about two years ago in half a dozen sizes. Today the range has been expanded to eight vitolas, including a perfecto and a short churchill. Four sizes are available in aluminum tubes, including the one I’m reviewing today. For some reason Altadis assigns different frontmarks to the tubed versions; e.g., the tubed version of the Toro is called “Titan,” and the tubed Robusto is called a “Rothchilde.”
The Habana Reserve is the only non-Cuban Romeo y Julieta not made in the Dominican Republic. And even though they are mostly composed of Nicaraguan tobacco, they are actually made in Honduras in the Flor de Copan factory. Both the wrapper and binder are Nicaraguan, and the filler is a Nicaraguan-Honduran blend.
I try to smoke at least two samples in a critical manner before reviewing a blend, which I accordingly did in this case but with a little twist: the same size in both cases, but one was tubed and the other was not. With a 54 ring gauge the Habana Reserve robusto is a little larger in diameter than most robustos, but retains the standard length of 5 inches. The tubed version is called a Rothchilde (not a Rothschild?) even though it has the same dimensions as the robusto.
The Romeo y Julieta Habana Reserve Robusto is a svelte looking stick. A nicely wrapped flat head is finished with a clean double cap, and the slightly grainy wrapper shines in the light. In comparing the two cigars it is evident that there is a difference — the wrapper on the Rothchild is considerably lighter. Without the band you might think these were the same size, but different brands of cigars.
The robusto is quite firm to the touch and looking down the foot it appears to be very well packed. Not surprisingly, the draw is a little tough — it puts up more resistance than I prefer but it’s not too tight to smoke comfortably. The ash is solid and a consistent light gray in color. This cigar is cosmetically almost perfect.
The Rothchilde is more pliant, but it doesn’t burn as evenly. It drew better though, and the cigar’s overall performance was thereby improved.
The robusto starts out milder and thinner in body than I expected from this purportedly “heaviest” of Romeo y Julietas. Perhaps it is due to the tight roll, or maybe my definition of “heavy” has been weighted down with too many Nicaraguan puros of late. The flavor is in any case unremarkable — graphitic and a little salty. Despite this the aroma is very nice, so I chose to direct my attention to its pleasant cedar and floral notes instead.
The overall flavor improves after an inch or so, becoming smooth and woody with a touch of pepper and an earthy aftertaste. The smoke texture gains a little weight as well. The highlight continues to be the aroma though — fresh cedar sawdust with a minty edge and a few brief hints of fresh bread.
Toward the band the flavor becomes one-dimensionally earthy and burnt, but the aroma is still quite nice, cedar giving way to some vanilla and what I think might have been coconut. Very unusual.
The Rothchilde exhibited most of the same characteristics as the Robusto, as would be expected, but it is immediately identifiable as a medium to full bodied cigar and opens up with a much bolder and better balanced flavor. By the half-way point the cigars were performing at pretty much the same level. The difference between the two was probably attributable to the Robusto’s tight bunch, but the aroma of the Roth also seemed to be less subtle. I’m not sure if the roll can account for that.
True to the “Habana” label, the Habana Reserve is an earthy, pungent smoke that may suffer from some construction inconsistencies. The flavors are good, though not superb, while the aroma is outstanding.
Even though I wasn’t exactly bowled over by these cigars, I’ll probably try them again, mostly because my experience with them was not terribly conclusive, but also because they’re priced so attractively — 3.50 to 5 USD. Not bad at all. Get ’em from Cigars Direct by the box (27) or grab a tester five-pack for 25 bucks.
Final Score: 84