John Starks Dominican Legend Torpedo

Drew Estate

One of the great things about cigars is that it brings people together from all walks of life. Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Starks (of New York Knicks fame) and yours truly have almost nothing in common. Aside from a love for premium rolled tobacco, that is. And because of a joint appreciation of fine, aged tobaccos we were able to cross paths. Well, John Starks and I were, that is. Arnold is far too busy running things in California to kick back in a cigar shop in Atlanta. (He prefers head north for some of Casto’s finest.)

John Starks was in town to promote his first foray into the cigar manufacturing. His new cigar is called “Dominican Legend” and was created for him by Eddie Fontana Zarzuela, who is better known in the cigar world as E. Zarzuela. And since Eddie owns and operates a cigar shop here in Atlanta, Starks made it one of his first stops on his national cigar tour.

Starks is an incredibly nice guy, and definitely a trooper. In spite of being under the weather, he was there the whole night, talking to fans, signing autographs and smoking cigars. But of course, this isn’t a review of John Starks. We’re here to smoke the cigar. Let’s check it out.

Cigar Stats:
Size: 6 x 54
Wrapper: Cameroon
Binder: Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua
Smoking Time: 2 hours
Beverage: Water
Price: ~$6.50

The Pre-Smoke
The Dominican Legend torpedo is a good looking cigar, substantial, with a natural brown wrapper and a decorative red and gold band depicting the Dominican Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration. Looking the wrapper over, I found it to have a faint oily sheen, and to be mostly smooth with a few large veins. I also found a few superficial holes in the wrapper and some spotting.

The wrapper’s scent was an interesting combination of chocolate, compost and mint, and I detected a bit of nuts in the cold taste.

Two of the three cigars I smoked for this review were consistently firm. The third was as hard as a rock.

The Burn
It had been a while since I had a plugged cigar. And with that third rock-hard stick, my lucky streak ended. I soldiered through the entire thing, and never was able to get very much smoke, but I was able to still taste it. As odd as it may sound, the absence of smoke actually seemed to make certain flavors more pronounced. (But I’ll get to that in the flavor section.)

The other two cigars drew perfectly, if not loosely, and provided me a great volume of smoke. All around, the cigars burned very evenly and produced long solid columns of white ash. Even the plugged one. In fact, the plugged smoke may have had the most attractive ash of the bunch.

I’m not sure what it means, but I one stogie gave me a little light show when I was lighting it up. The leaf at the foot sparkled a great deal as it began burning but stopped once the cigar was completely lit. It could be a bad thing, but it was mildly entertaining. I prefer to think of it as “cigar bling.”

Another fun way to test the construction of a cigar is with an ash stand, a herf favorite. Though I didn’t try it myself, I figure if guys that have been drinking can get it to stand in an event setting, that’s good enough for me. And hey, I got a picture.

The Flavor
The first puffs of the cigar greeted me with some nice toasted almond and black coffee flavor. And as I continued through the first third I picked out chocolate, wood, coffee, nuts and quite a bit of vanilla from the ever changing set of flavors. The vanilla became syrupy toward the end of the first third. Interestingly, the plugged cigar initially tasted like fruit and cream before becoming distinctly like butterscotch. Heavy on the butter. The tightness of the tobacco may have filtered out the complexity of the cigar’s flavor, but it didn’t leave it flavorless by any means. (Which made it easier to keep smoking.)

The second third was still pretty sweet, and became creamier. I detected nougat (like the creamy center of some candy bars), toasted coconut, sweet almond, vanilla, cedar and even a little cinnamon right at the end. There wasn’t much of a change in the plugged cigar in this third.

After a return of some coffee and chocolate flavors, the cigar ended on a sweet almond note. The plugged cigar continued to be creamy, as it was before, but more like fruit and cream instead of butterscotch.

Eddie Zarzuela is known for making milder bodied cigars, and in keeping with that trend, I found this cigar to be pretty mild both in terms of body and in power.

The Price
Six bucks and change isn’t a lot to pay for a hefty torpedo. But if you’re pinching pennies, you can pick up the robusto in the for just a bit over $4.

The Verdict
I probably did more homework for this cigar than any others I’ve reviewed recently. All told, I believe I smoked two or three robustos and one of the chubbier toros in addition to these torpedoes. So I feel comfortable dismissing that single, plugged smoke as the exception rather than the norm. And with that stick discounted, I’d have to give this cigar a thumbs up. It burns really well, and it has a good deal of mild complex flavor.

So while I did enjoy the torpedo, what I really liked was smoking all those robustos at the event. Obviously, the social atmosphere and the presence of a celebrity will favorably influence any smoking experience. But I discovered what for me is an unusual drink pairing. They smoked really well with Heineken. I don’t often drink beer when smoking a cigar (I usually prefer coffee or maybe a little port), and I drink Heineken even less often, but something about that beer and this cigar really clicked.

Now having given a milder bodied smoke a positive review, I will invariably have someone tell me I’m crazy and they couldn’t taste this cigar. So I think it would be irresponsible of me not to give this warning to our fanatical full-bodied fans: If you’re on a steady diet of ligero and eat habanero chili out of the jar, this might not be the cigar for you. If, however, you enjoy milder cigars with your morning coffee (or anytime for that matter), you could do a lot worse than lighting up a Dominican Legend.

Liked It: Yes, it’s a good milder smoke.
Buy It Again: Yes, with a six pack of Heineken.
Recommend It: Yes, especially if you prefer milder bodied smokes.

Bonus Video
I was able to pull Eddie Zarzuela and John Starks away from the crowd for a quick couple of minutes to ask a few things about the new Dominican Legend. Here’s what they had to say.

Tower of Burn
Here for your viewing pleasure is my trademark Tower of Burn.