Joya de Nicaragua is the oldest cigar maker in Nicaragua, founded long before the country became known as the premier tobacco-growing region in Central America. In recent years the brand has gained a following among fans of heavy-duty, big-boned Nicaraguan puros (like the brawny Antaño 1970) but that isn’t all they do. Despite the prominence of their ligero-laden sluggers, Joya de Nicaragua still produces lighter bodied fare for those of us who appreciate the subtle things in life.
The Cabinetta is similar to Joya’s much milder and more subtle Celebracion. The Cabinetta also uses a criollo-wrapper, in part, but its appearance is clearly distinct from the Celebracion.
The Cabinetta features two wrappers — the primary leaf is an Ecuadorian Connecticut shade wrapper that runs the length of the cigar; the much darker secondary leaf, a Nicaraguan Criollo, envelops the head of the cigar only. The theory, at least according to the company press release, is that the criollo adds a spicy flavor on the tongue to the overall smooth and creamy Connecticut shade character of the cigar. The binder and filler leaves are from the Jalapa region of Nicaragua. Four sizes are currently available (in slide lid boxes, ergo Cabinetta):
- Cabinetta No. 2 – 6 x 54
- Cabinetta No. 4 – 5 x 52
- Cabinetta No. 7 – 6 x 50
- Cabinetta No. 11 – 5 1/4 x 46
I have to admit that I initially had the same benign suspicion of the Cabinetta that I have of other “dos capas” cigars. Is this a gimmick? Is it an aesthetic flourish designed more for visual appeal than flavor? Possibly.
On the other hand, I thought, maybe there’s a way to resolve this suspicion by putting it to the test. So with my trusty exacto knife and a steady hand (don’t try this at home, kids) I carefully removed the dark criollo leaf from the head of one of my Cabinettas. It wasn’t a perfect job, but the criollo peeled away nicely, leaving the blond shade wrapper with only a few scratches. Since this particular cigar was smoked in a modified state I didn’t factor it into my review, but in the Conclusion below I will tell you if my suspicions about the criollo cap were confirmed.
The Cabinetta toro has a thin claro shade wrapper that reveals the bumpiness of the binder beneath. The color and consistency is typical of Connecticut shade leaf, and the contrast provided by the maduro-colored criollo is a nice touch. It gives a first impression that the cigar has a cedar sheath, which of course it does not.
The criollo end of the cigar (the head) is rough by comparison to the silky Connecticut shade, but the cap is formed well and the cigar draws beautifully. The roll is solid and it burns cool and evenly.
Overall excellent construction.
The Joya de Nicaragua Cabinetta is a mild to medium bodied cigar with the best of two worlds — it incorporates the creamy qualities of Connecticut shade while stealing a few savory flavors from the Nicaraguan spice cabinet.
The first third is mild and creamy, with an acidic accent and some mild spice. Red bell pepper maybe. The aroma is hay-like, sweet with some roasted nuts, and the finish is slightly dry.
The middle section unveils a nice surprise — cocoa. The prominently woody flavor is no surprise, but I can’t think of the last time I got cocoa from a shade wrapped cigar. The aroma is a tad sweeter in the middle third, with a touch of cedar. The smoke texture is creamy smooth.
In the last section the cocoa strengthens a bit, edging into milk chocolate. The aroma is less sweet at this point and more nutty, but aside from that there isn’t too much flavor transition here. The aftertaste gets a little dirty as the ash approaches the criollo/band line.
The idea behind the dark criollo wrapping around the head of the cigar is that the spicier flavor of this Nicaraguan tobacco will accentuate the underlying creaminess of the Ecuadorian Connecticut. I was sceptical of this at first, but I found by removing the criollo and comparing the naked Cabinetta with the standard issue cigar that there is in fact a difference in flavor. Stripped its little skirt of Nicaraguan criollo, the Cabinetta loses a lot of its distinction — in essense, it’s just another decent mild Connecticut. The flavor is primarily of sweet hay with a dry finish. It’s still quite good, for a mild cigar, but not all that interesting.
The criollo adds visual appeal, but it does much more, even though it isn’t part of the burning mixture. It really does add flavor to the cigar — in fact, the cocoa element that I thought was so unusual is coming from this little scrap of leaf and nowhere else!
Verdict: Not a gimmick.
If you’re in the mood for a mild smoke with some Nicaraguan flair, the Joya de Nicaragua Cabinetta will set you back only seven dollars or so. Give it a shot. Leave the criollo ON.