It’s July 22nd, which means it’s about one cigar and one story—the Don Pepin Garcia Series JJ and Jeremiah Cruz Jr.
We’ve explained it a few times before, including a year ago when I reviewed the JJ Lancero:
In 2005, the newcomer Don “Pepín” García introduced the Series JJ, a cigar that he worked on with his son Jaime. (JJ comes from their two first names: José and Jaime.) It would quickly become the most popular brand for El Rey de los Habanos, the first of Pepín’s companies.
Freud famously said, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” That’s just not true with the Series JJ. I’m privileged each time I smoke one of the white-banded Pepín creations to have the opportunity to reflect on the preciousness of life and the many blessings I am given. Each time is a few moments to honor the life of someone I never knew, Jeremiah Cruz Jr. Many of you know Jerry Cruz, the fun and loving character at Stogie Review, and many of you know the story of JJ, his Little Robusto. Jeremiah Cruz Jr. was born on July 22, 2007, and three months later he tragically passed away of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, commonly known as SIDS. You can read Jerry’s post from when his son was born, and about how he smoked his first Series JJ. Then you can read about how fragile life can be in Jerry’s “Final Goodbye” — and then you should take some time before you keep reading this review.
After reflection, you can learn about the immense good in the cigar community. Every year on July 22nd, the cigar smoking community gathers in support of Jerry and his family by smoking a Serie JJ with him. The most recent year raised close to two thousand dollars for SIDS, and you can donate to the American SIDS Institute here. I was privileged to partake last year, and I look forward to honoring Jerry’s Little Robusto again this year. #jj4jj
Earlier this year, My Father Cigars shuffled much of the former El Rey de los Habanos portion of its portfolio. This included the discontinuation of the Series JJ Maduro, following last year’s deletion of the El Rey de los Habanos line. In addition, the remaining labels (Don Pepin Garcia, Series JJ and Cuban Classic) were given new packaging changes.
And the particulars.
Cigar Reviewed: Don Pepin Garcia Series JJ Salomon
Country of Origin: USA
Factory: El Rey de los Habanos
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Rosado Corojo
Size: 7 1/4 Inches
Ring Gauge: 57
MSRP: $20.20 (Boxes of 5, $101.00)
Date Released: 2005
Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 1
Appearance-wise, it’s stunning. The Nicaraguan wrapper has aged wonderfully and really glistens. While there are a few veins on the somewhat massive cigar, they are difficult to identify given the roll. Aroma from the oily milk chocolate wrapper is a rich sweet thick cocoa and leather with a slight barnyard finish. Despite being packed in now relatively yellow cellophane, the aroma is a bit lighter than I expected. Cold draw from the Salomon is tight with a medium-full mixture of red pepper, sweet cocoa and a touch of citrus.
The first third of the JJ Salomon starts with an interesting mix of meatiness, toastiness, nuts and grass. It’s utterly tight, but the smoke is flowing nicely. After five minutes it clears the nipple portion and the draw opens up to a much more manageable state. Flavor settles to a sweet earth, grassiness, meatiness and a touch of hickory and black pepper on the finish. Already the Series JJ is showing it’s somewhat hidden strength—medium-full, but a soft medium-full.
As the second third enters, the smoke production and draw remain at above average states. The flavor adds a bit more pepper up front, but the core remains the mixture of meatiness, toastiness and nuts. With the added grassiness, it reminds you of being somewhat Cuban, although the twang is nowhere to be found. While the rest of the construction is above average, the ash requires a bit of maintenance, nothing big, but it’s a regular task. Strength of the Don Pepin Garcia Series JJ continues to creep up.
The final third sees the underlying sweetness in the nuttiness disappear. It wasn’t really noticeable through the first two thirds of the Salomon, but once it disappears it becomes noticeable. Once again, it’s subtle changes. There’s a bit of a dark cocoa note that emerges, but it’s far from the cold draw of the first third. I smoke it until it gets hot, which takes place around the one inch mark after I purge the cigar. It was the only time I went out—I suppose it was a sign.
- This one came from a box I found at a retailer. The bottom of the box was stamped to indicate this was from May 2006 and the tax stamp was from El Rey de los Habanos. I paid $22 and change for each cigar.
- While the bands read “Don Pepin Garcia” the correct punctuation would be “Don Pepín García.”
- The older JJs and the newer JJs don’t taste very much alike, and I don’t think it’s all age.
- This is the most expensive regular production cigar in the My Father portfolio. Recent limited editions such as the My Father Limited Edition 2010 and 2011 have surpassed it in the price category.
- The wrapper came undone in the middle of the first third—I honestly have no clue what caused it given it was intact when I started smoking.
- Two versions of the Series JJ were made in Nicaragua, both limited. The first was the Series JJ Lancero in 2007 and the Series JJ Little Robusto, which was made especially for Jerry Cruz. Proceeds from the sale of the Little Robusto went to two different SIDS charities: The Center for Infant and Child Loss and First Candle.
- According to Wikipedia, Pepín himself rolled the Salomons—take that for what it’s worth.
- As is the norm, I only cut the cap. This is about as close to a recommendation I would give for cutting the foot, as the first few minutes were extremely tight, but it was bearable and the cigar never came close to going out.
- I am not a fan of the new packaging, I loved the simplicity of the old style.
- Because of their reflection, the bands are not easy to photograph. Furthermore, as you can see above, the bands appear as if they weren’t printed correctly. As such, in some of the photographs, the text appears to be moving.
- Strength was medium-full throughout, soft, but given the size of the cigar, it packs a soft punch.
- Final smoking time was two hours and 20 minutes.
- Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar, Casa de Montecristo and Federal Cigar (877.424.4270) all carry the Don Pepin Garcia Series JJ, although I’m not sure when they were rolled.
The Bottom Line: For the most part, I have loved the early Series JJs. The Lancero is still smoking absolutely sublime right now. I think the tobacco was just better back then and in both the Robusto, Belicoso and Lancero formats—the cigar is one of Pepín’s all-time best. That being said, this was underwhelming. I was really hoping for the complexity and balance so elegantly shown in the older Robustos and Lanceros and it just wasn’t there. The flavor is good, developed and clean—but the changes are few and the blend just doesn’t provide too much excitement. Ultimately, that’s not what it’s about. For a little over two hours, I got to sit down with a good cigar and reflect. There is a score, and some thoughts about what the cigar tasted like, but every July 22nd—that all seems rather irrelevant. #jj4jj
Final Score: 84