Review: Bolivar D’Oro
In the 1950s before the embargo with Cuba, Nat Sherman was the exclusive importer and distributer of the Bolívar brand, and one of only three licensed distributers of Cuban cigars east of the Mississippi River. That all ended with the embargo, and in 1978, Ramón Cifuentes—who had purchased the brand in 1958 from the original owner—licensed the Bolívar brand name to the General Cigar Company.
To commemorate the connection that Nat Sherman had with the Bolívar brand, the store teamed up with General Cigar Co. to produce the Bolivar D’Oro, a 6 1/2 x 42 Lonsdale sold in boxes of 10 that has quite a bit in common appearance wise with the Bolívar Gold Medal.
The release event was scheduled for February 3, 2011 and featured the attendance of Benjamin “Benji” Menendez, senior vice president of General Cigar Co. It also was supposed to feature an auction for various samples of pre-embargo Bolívar cigars with proceeds benefiting the Grand Central Neighborhood Social Services Corporation, one of New York City’s largest providers of homeless assistance services. Unfortunately, the event was canceled due to bad weather, but the cigars were still put up for sale and have remained at the store up to this point.
Michael Herklots, who took over the retail operations shortly after the Bolivar D’Oro was launched, wrote the following about the cigar:
In the spirit of this incredible partnership, Nat Sherman once again partnered with the Bolivar brand, via General Cigar Company, the manufactures of the Bolivar brand for the U.S. market.
In February of 2011, Nat Sherman proudly launched the Bolivar d’Oro, a beautiful lancero-like cigar measuring 6.25″ x 42. This limited production smoke features a blend of Dominican and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos with a Mexican binder and Honduran wrapper. They’re packaged in gorgeous replica boxes of ten cigars, the top half of each cigar adorned in gold foil to celebrate the traditional Bolivar packaging style.
Here are what the boxes of the Bolivar D’Oro look like:
But enough of that, lets get down to business, shall we?
Cigar Reviewed: Bolivar D’Oro
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Factory: General Cigar Dominicana
Wrapper: Honduran San Augustin
Filler: Dominican Republic & Nicaragua
Size: 6 1/2 Inches
Ring Gauge: 42
MSRP: $9.50 (Boxes of 10, $95.00)
Date Released: February 3, 2011
Number of Cigars Released: n/a
Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 2
The Bolivar D’Oro is striking from first glance with the gold foil covering the top half of the cigar to the band and a dark espresso bean brown wrapper visible underneath. It is smooth to the touch, but with numerous bumps running up and down the length, and a tiny amount of oil. Resistance is ideal when squeezed, not too hard or too soft. The aroma from the wrapper brings faint cedar, earth and tobacco notes.
The dominant notes of the beginning of the Bolivar D’Oro are extremely bitter cedar, leather and earth for the first 15 puffs or so, slowly morphing into a creamier cedar that sticks around through the first third. There is very little sweetness and what little I can taste every once in a while is almost overwhelmed by the bitterness that is still present on the finish. Construction-wise, the burn is a bit wavy so far, but the draw has the perfect amount of resistance. Smoke production is extremely dense. While it has not started off overly strong, I can tell it could go that way as the cigar progresses.
While there is less bitterness on the retrohale in the second third, it is still extremely noticeable on finish and it destroys just about any other flavor that can come close to the forefront of the profile. Bitter, bitter, bitter and not much else. There is a bit of pepper on the retrohale that ebbs and flows out, but instead of helping the profile, it clashes, making the bitterness even more aggressive. The amount of smoke is still copious, and both the burn and draw remain the same from the first third. Strength-wise, the Bolivar d’Oro easily hits a solid medium by the end of the second third.
Sadly, the final third of the Bolivar D’Oro features the exact same bitterness as the first two thirds. It gets so bad, I have to put it down with over an inch left, as I just can’t take the effect the flavors are having on my palate anymore. Interestingly enough, during the last third, the burn had evened out nicely and the draw was still excellent. The strength continued to build until it was midway between the medium and full mark and up until when I stopped smoking it, the smoke production was great.
- The exact production number of the Bolivar D’Oro isn’t known. It is believed to be less than 500 boxes though and there will be no more.
- Although the official size is listed as 6 1/4 x 42, both of my samples actually measured 6 1/2 x 42, which incidentally is the exact same size as a Bolivar Gold Medal.
- There have been a few of releases recently that have copied the signature look of the Bolivar Gold Medal. Here are three of them compared to a 2004 release of the Gold Medal:
- Bolivar Gold Medal
- Bolivar D’Oro
- E.P. Carrillo Federal 92nd Anniversary Medalla D’ Oro
- Illusione Cruzado Marelas Supremas
- The name is spelled with both a lower and uppercase “D” in various places. Michael Herklot’s blog uses a lowercase “d”, while the official invitation to the launch party uses an uppercase “D”. The name on the box is in call caps, so that is no help. For the record, we used the uppercase “D”.
- I smoked two of these that I purchased while I was photographing the Nat Sherman store in New York, and they were virtually identical, not only in flavors and profile, but also in how harsh and unpleasant the bitterness was.
- The Italian word d’oro translates to golden, which makes sense when you look at the packaging for the the cigar, and the history of the Cuban cigar it draws inspiration from.
- As mentioned above, Nat Sherman was the exclusive retailer of Bolivar cigars before the embargo, and you can see some of the cigars they found in the vault that they used to sell here.
- It is impossible to look at this cigar and not think immediately of a Cuban Bolivar Gold Medal. But there are some major differences between them, including the fact that the wrapper on the Bolivar D’Oro is quite a bit darker, and the bands are obviously not the same. In addition, the gold foil on the Bolivar Gold Medal comes down an extra 1/4 inch compared to the Bolivar D’Oro.
- Like the Cuban version, the Bolivar band is actually attached to the gold foil, but I detached it and kept it on the cigars for the photographs.
- This is NOT a cigar you want to smoke too fast. I did not think it could get any worse, but I was wrong. Trust me on this.
- The final smoking time for both samples averaged one hour and 20 minutes.
- If you would like to purchase any of the Bolivar D’Oro, the only place you can get them is at the Nat Sherman Townhouse. Herklots told halfwheel there are less than 50 boxes left.
The Bottom Line: I absolutely love finding, photographing and reviewing cigars that most people probably know almost nothing about, and when I saw this box in the humidor at Nat Sherman earlier this year, I knew this was one of those cigars. Unfortunately, the flavors of the Bolivar D’Oro came nowhere close to being as good as it looks. It starts out overwhelmingly bitter, and while it it is dialed down a bit by the end of the cigar, the bitterness remains on the finish, where it essentially destroys any other flavors that might be present. This cigar is so bad, it is almost rancid, and both samples exhibited the same profile, albeit with one being slightly stronger than the other. In the end, not a cigar that I would ever want to smoke again.
Final Score: 65