Friends and family who know I am a cigar smoker were very excited for me when the news of restored relations with Cuba was reported earlier this year. I wanted to be excited too, but instead I had to explain that this diplomatic thaw does not mean the gates to the promised land have been flung wide open. As of today, Cuban imports are still on the U.S. Treasury Department’s hit list.
But what surprised them even more was when I said that legal access to Habanos was not what I’m looking forward to most. What I’m really excited about is the possibility that top Nicaraguan cigar blenders may soon have access to Cuban wrapper leaf. I’ve smoked some fine Habanos, and I’ve smoked some really disappointing Habanos. What gets my heart pumping now is the thought of what a cigar blender like Jose “Don Pepin” Garcia or Arsenio Ramos might do with Nicaraguan fillers and a Cuban capa. A wrapper leaf can change everything.
As an example, Rocky Patel’s Decade utilizes a dark Sumatran leaf grown in Ecuador. The core of the original Decade is Nicaraguan, giving it a nice acidic bite, but the wrapper lends it a maduro-like temperament: it’s rich and sweet with chocolate and cocoa. What happens when that wrapper is switched out for something a little different?
That’s just what Rocky did with the Decade Cameroon. The core of the cigar is the same as the original Decade, and it is made in Plasencia’s El Paraiso factory in Honduras, just like the original. The core blend is still undisclosed (though it is reportedly Nicaraguan.) The difference is the wrapper, and the difference is substantial. The Decade Cameroon was released at least year’s IPCPR convention and is available in three sizes:
- Robusto – 5 x 50
- Toro – 6 1/2 x 52
- Torpedo – 6 1/2 x 52
For the review I smoked the RP Decade Cameroon in the Robusto and the Toro sizes. Both were well made sticks, but the finishing touches on the Robusto were a little cleaner. The cap on the Robusto was simple but seamless, while the Toro’s was ragged and a little sloppy. The head of the Robusto was almost flat, while the Toro’s was slightly lopsided.
The wrapper is a dark colorado maduro with a few small sunspots. The draw in both sizes was firm but productive and the burn was even and consistent.
Overall Construction: Very Good.
The Toro and the Robusto did not vary too much in terms of flavor, though the Toro scored a little higher on the intensity chart. The base flavor is earthy with a little tartness and a touch of black pepper on the tongue. On the nose there is cedar with an overtone of clove.
The sweetness of the original Decade lurks beneath the surface and makes a showing in the second and third stages of the cigar: coffee and brown sugar come to the fore, and as the tartness fades in the last third there is chocolate and maybe even caramel. The big difference here is the minty clove-like spice that comes from the Cameroon wrapper. The Cameroon Decade is every bit as rich and smooth as the original, but it’s a more complex blend of flavors.
Rocky Patel’s Sun Grown Robusto has been my mainstay Rocky smoke for a long time, but in the past couple of years I’ve become disenchanted with it. I don’t know if it’s me, or if it’s the blend, but it just doesn’t taste as bright and smooth as it used to. The Decade Cameroon might be my favorite blend in the RP lineup now. It reminds me a little of the Partagas Benji Menendez Master Series — rich and smooth with that savory Cameroon tang. What a difference a wrapper can make.
At $9 to 10 USD per stick, the Decade Cameroon is not a cheap date, but this is no fast food cigar. It has considerable competition in that price range: the aforementioned Partagas and Fuente’s Don Carlos line perform similar tricks with Cameroon wrapper. But on a good day I think the Decade Cameroon can keep pace with those big dogs.
Final Score: 90