Isabela Torpedo

When a manufacturer you’ve never heard of contacts you to review a cigar, you never know what your in for. Sometimes you find a new favorite, other times you add a new band to your collection and move on. And then sometimes you get a surprise when you open the shipping box. I cracked open a box a few weeks ago, and thought, “Wow! Somebody send me a bunch of Cuban Cohibas!” There in a zip lock bag with a humidipack were a bunch of cigars sporting the very familiar yellow and black. But then I noticed that the white dots weren’t white dots at all, instead they were little silver stars. And that yellow looked a bit off. Nope, these weren’t Cubans at all, they’re Isabela cigars, made in Miami.

Here’s the scoop on Isabela cigars, from their website:

Handcrafted in Miami by legendary Cuban Master Vicente Ortiz, Isabela Cigars are produced in small batches for extremely limited distribution. Vicente Ortiz utilizes tobaccos from several countries, in various grades, to create the blend, flavor and personality that gives Isabela its’ unique identity. All tobaccos are aged for a minimum of one year before they are released, and the Isabelas come in four sizes and two colors, natural and medium grade.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t about to confirm the details on the “several countries” from which the tobacco comes. My emails went unanswered. It’s possible the folks at Isabela prefer to keep these details a secret in order to protect their blend. Or, just as likely, my emailed questions were eaten by an overzealous spam filter. No matter, let’s see how the cigar performs.

Cigar Stats:
Size: 6 1/2 x 56
Wrapper: Unknown
Binder: Unknown
Filler: Unknown
Smoking Time: 1 1/2 hours
Beverage: Water, Coffee
Price: MSRP $9.95

The Pre-Smoke
As I mentioned before, it’s clear that this cigar’s band looks very much like the Cuban Cohiba’s. While the appearance may grab the attention of the infrequent smoker who seeks out the popular Cuban smoke, it has the problem of looking a lot like other cigars brands that take the same approach. To illustrate the problem, I asked a friend if he had seen these in a shop he frequents. When I told him it looked a lot like a Cohiba, he said he didn’t know, there were several of those in the humidor. He didn’t know the name of a single one of them, he skips over these cigars when he browses for smokes.

Under the band, the cigar itself is a very light natural in color. The wrapper is a little on the veiny side, but the cigar is pretty consistently firm. Looking the cigars over, I found that one had a fairly large patch near the foot, and another had one hidden under its band.

I had another surprise when I went in for the cold taste. It was very, very sweet. I tried it again, and certainly, the cap had been sweetened considerably. I tested the taste of the wrapper leaf closer to the foot, just to see if the entire cigar had been somehow infused. It wasn’t. It’s possible the pectin used to finish the cap was sweetened, but more likely, the cap had been dipped in something.

The Burn
The cigars fluctuated between a very even burn and then randomly became jagged throughout the smoke. The majority of the time, the cigars burned evenly and self corrected when the burn line strayed. Occasional touch ups were required, but I never had to relight. Looking back on my notes, the cigars definitely smoked faster than other torpedos I’ve reviewed.

These sticks produced their nicest ash in the first third, making it out to about an inch to an inch and a half of solid light ash, but the story changed after that first ash. I was impossible to anticipate when it might ash after the first dropped. Often before it even burned half an inch. It goes without saying, I had to grab the dust buster several times.

Still, with all the quirks, it burn wasn’t terrible. The draw was good, and the burn line was even more often than not.

The Flavor
It goes without saying that the flavor was very sweet.The first two cigars I smoked for this review were more sugary in their sweetness, the third was more cherry like, and the final one was considerably less sweet than the previous smokes. In general, the sweetness faded with time (probably due to sweetener coming off the cap).

I did pick up earthiness and a little bit of cinnamon in the flavor beyond the sweet in the first and second thirds. Woodiness began to appear in the second third and became the prominent flavor in the final third.

I found the least sweet cigar to be a little on the bland side. Generally chalky or earthy with the occasional minerally and grassy flavor in the finish. The finish was frequently harsh and unpleasant. I think there was something wrong with that stick, because about half way through, I started to get queasy. And these are pretty mild smokes.

The Price
To recycle a phrase, what America needs right now isn’t another $10 dollar cigar. It’s a pretty competitive market out there with a wide variety of great cigars coming in several dollars cheaper.

The Verdict
While I really appreciate the folks at Isabela cigars giving me the opportunity to try out their cigars, I have to say these aren’t for me. To begin with, I’m not a fan of artificially sweetened cigars. Most of the time artificial sweetening is overdone, completely overwhelming the natural flavors of the tobacco. That is the case here. And when I could taste the tobacco, I really didn’t care for what I was tasting. What really clinched it for me was that last smoke that had me looking for the Pepto. Sorry guys, this isn’t one I can recommend!

People who have been reading my reviews have probably been wondering what the deal is with all the milder, sweet cigars I’ve been reviewing lately. I’m wondering that myself. It’s purely been luck of the draw. I’m not sure what’s on tap for next week, but you can bet it will be fuller bodied, and less sweet! Recommendations, and comment love in general appreciated!

Liked It: No
Buy It Again: No
Recommend It: No

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