One of the more notable trends that the cigar industry has seen in the past two years or so is that of small Dominican cigar brands making their way to the United States. The list has grown to nearly half a dozen, including Chogüi, Modern Tobacconist Art and now Cigar Factory by HumiDom, also known as Humidores Domicanos.
The company began making its move into the U.S. in late April with three lines under the Faraón name: Esfinge, which uses a Connecticut shade wrapper over an American binder and fillers from the Dominican Republic; Tutankamon, which uses a Connecticut broadleaf maduro wrapper over an American habano binder and fillers from the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua and the U.S.; and Ramses.
The company reblended the Ramses for its U.S. release, with a new blend of an Ecuadorian habano sun grown wrapper, American habano binder and fillers from the Dominican Republic. It’s being released in two sizes, a Toro and Belicoso that both measure 6 x 52 and have an MSRP of $8 per cigar.
The Faraón name is the Spanish word for pharaoh, the title given to the rulers of ancient Egypt, and for those familiar with Egyptian history, each line is named for prominent pharaohs. In the case of Ramses, its name comes from the English version of the name given to the 11 Egyptian pharaohs of the New Kingdom period, which covers the 19th and 20th Dynasties, spanning 1292 BC to 1077 BC. The name translates as “Ra is the one who gave birth to him,” and references Ra, the ancient Egyptian sun god.
- Cigar Reviewed: Faraón Ramses Belicoso
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: General Cigar Dominicana
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
- Binder: U.S.A. Habano
- Filler: Dominican Republic
- Length: 6 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 52
- Vitola: Belicoso
- MSRP: $8 (Boxes of 20, $160)
- Release Date: April 29, 2016
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
My eye gets immediately drawn to the belicoso head of the Faraón Ramses, as it looks just different enough from a typical belicoso, almost decorative and in the shape of Russian Orthodox church, the style known as an “onion dome.” The cigar appears to have a bit of a press in the middle, or at least a less-pronounced box press at the foot, and the two-piece band doesn’t sit flush against the wrapper. The second sample is particularly soft, suggesting a clear underfilling of the cigar and leading me to question its construction. The top left looks almost Cuban in terms of its vein structure and texture, and while fairly uniform the foot it noticeably darker than the rest of the cigar, turning a few shades darker. Wheat bread—both fresh out of the bag and toasted, sweet Corn Flakes and a bit of barnyard come off the foot of the cigar, while the cold draw has a bit of toast with a buttery top note and some sporadic vanilla bean, while the air moves incredibly smoothly.
The Faraón Ramses Belicoso begins with a wonderfully rich and inviting aroma as soon as the foot gets some fire; it’s slightly peppery, a touch sweet and with a solid cedar and barnyard backbone. The first draw echoes many of those notes but which a much more pronounced pepper flavor, dry and crisp, though also showing the sweet Corn Flake note of some samples, an almost perfect execution of what I would envision what a cigar using this blend would taste like, though the second sample takes on a note of slightly burnt popcorn. As the pepper develops a toasty side that is crisp in both the nose and on the palate, a bit of creaminess enters just shy of the burn line completing the first inch, softening out the profile without smothering it, as the wood evolves to remind me of matchsticks. The dark gray ash has done a fine job in holding on through the first inch, with dark burn lines creating the look of stacked dimes or layer cake. The burn line has begun to skew and now looks like a jagged coastline as opposed to being stuck on just one side. This portion closes with a bit of graham cracker developing, bringing a very subtle sweetness into the equation.
The burn line has largely corrected itself by the start of the second third, though the ash has gone from tightly stacked to more fractured and flowering, while the draw remains near perfect. The flavors have mellowed a touch and the cigar is leaving more of a dry mouth feel behind, certainly more than it did in the first third. Pepper continues to be a prevalent note, covering popcorn at certain points, toast at others, and a cedar note at still others. Because of this pepper, I find that retrohales are absolutely key to enjoying the full offering of the Faraón Ramses Belicoso, and I find myself retrohaling significantly more often, almost once every three puffs or so. There are times in this section where the cigar feels a bit underfilled as the cigar shows too much give in the fingers, not that I am trying to squeeze it too much but in the natural process of holding it, its difference from other cigars I’ve smoked becomes more noticeable. Corn Flake take the lead through the midway point as the flavor mellows but still remains very enjoyable. The pepper returns in a marked way to close out the second third, with retrohales much fuller and commanding than they have been in some time, as well as more dominant than what the palate gets from the Ramses Belicoso.
The start of the final third of the Faraón Ramses Belicoso sees a bit of bitterness and char from the heat quickly introduced into the flavor profile, a sudden and disappointing development, though the core flavors of cedar, toast and pepper remain easily discernible and stronger at points. Where the real sting of the situation lies is on the tongue, as this new addition wants to linger on the front half of the tongue, and in some samples becomes almost too strong to make the cigar enjoyable. While there is a compulsion to want to get all the way through the cigar, sourness takes its toll while the flavor gets heavier than it has been, salvaged by a bit of wheat bread crust but otherwise falling off the very strong track established in the first two thirds. The cigar still performs well though in terms of combustion, straightening out the burn line and offering a smooth draw and plenty of smoke.
- The cigars were fairly consistent in terms of flavor, but even more so in terms of burn issues. Each sample developed a wavy burn line just after the first inch, and then gradually got back to more-or-less even by the end of the second third. It never became anything beyond a visual issue, however.
- The original Ramsés blend, according to the company website, used American-grown habano leaves for the wrapper and binder, with the filler coming from the U.S. and Dominican Republic.
- While there is no accent mark over the e in Ramses on the secondary band, there is one when the cigar is mentioned on the company’s website. Fernando Sanchez of Humidores Dominicanos said that while there should be an accent mark with proper Spanish, they are strongly considering leaving it off in the American market where accent marks generally aren’t used.
- The company tells halfwheel that they have 100 international accounts, 85 of which are in the Dominican Republic.
- The company debuted its lines in the Dominican Republic in June 2013.
- The second sample was almost unforgivably underfilled, and would have easily squeezed together had I not needed to preserve the cigar for this review.
- The bands weren’t always glued straight together, a minor point that has no bearing on the score, but something I look at it to see if a high level of quality control and craftsmanship is evident in multiple places.
- I find it interesting that the company uses the plural Faraónes on the bands but seems to use the singular Faraón as the actual name of the cigar.
- Humidores Domincanos is distributed in the U.S. by Juan Cobas, who is also president of Gables Cigar Shop.
- The cigars for this review were provided by Humidores Dominicanos.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 50 minutes on average.
I had both an open mind and some guarded reservations about the Faraónes Ramses Belicoso before smoking it; I knew little about the brand and certainly had no previous experience with it, but I was also a bit wary of the imagery and names selected as Egyptian history seems to get a bit overused at times across multiple industries. Fortunately, the first two thirds of each sample were quite good; balance was squarely on point, the construction was good for the most part, and the flavor showed surprising amounts of depth at times. The final third left the most to be desired, and while it can be smoked through, the cigar's score would probably be better had it not been. With all that is happening in the cigar industry I'm intrigued to see what happens to Humidores Dominicanos and its Faraónes lines, as the Ramses Belicoso is an indication this company may have more good cigars to offer.