I'm a bit confused...why does the Brazilian maduro wrapper look lighter than the natural habano (per the ordering in the pics above)? Maybe I'm reading into this too much, but the "particulars" pic looks like the habano too...
Review: Ortega Mini Maduro (Prerelease)
The question everyone asks when at the annual IPCPR trade show and convention, “what’s your favorite thing so far?” It happens in a variety of forms, none more so comical than with the Ortega Mini Maduro. As people began talking about the cigar, which was postponed from a planned June release, many described the cigar was good, all with one caveat, Eddie Ortega still wasn’t entirely satisfied with the blend.
We posted the press release regarding the Ortega Minis a few months ago:
June 4, 2013 (Sunrise, Fla.) – Ortega Premium Cigars officially announced today the June release of their new Mini Cigar line. Unlike their current flagship lines the Serie D, Cubao and the limited release Wild Bunch Series which are all made in Nicaragua, the new Mini’s will be made in the Dominican Republic by Abe Flores at the PDR factory in Santiago.
According to Eddie Ortega, “My inspiration for making the Mini’s was the lack of a nice and short smoke in my portfolio, I’m always running around and too often find myself having to relight bigger smokes I’ve left sitting in the ashtray and have gone out, I hate relighting good cigars. A 15 to 20 minute smoke is just perfect for a short drive or a small break at home on the patio.”
In what is probably a first or one of the very few in the cigar industry, Ortega has also decided to break away from the standard boxes and use a slimmed down crushproof Flip Top box that makes them very easy to carry and stow away in the average shirt or pants pockets.
Listed below are the details on the Mini’s;
- Available Wrappers: Habano, Maduro, Natural
- Size: Mini Lance 38 x 4
- Packaging: Flip Top Box with 4 cigars
- Display: 5 boxes in each display (20 cigars total)
- MSRP: $15 4 Pack; $3.75 each cigar
- Smoker Profile: Habano and Maduro are Medium to Full, the Natural is a mild body smoke.
According to Ortega the tobaccos are Ecuadorian Connecticut for the Natural, Honduran Habano for the Full Bodied (Habano) and Brazilian Cubra for the Maduro. The filler is a mixture of Dominican and Nicaraguan tobacco. As is mentioned above, these are made at Abe Flores’ PDR Cigars factory in the Dominican Republic instead of My Father Cigars S.A., which is responsible for Ortega’s other lines. Ortega told halfwheel the cigars will begin shipping this week.
The cigars are sold in four-packs, which are displayed in sleeves of five, all looking rather reminiscent to cigarette packaging. Here’s what the cigars look like:
And here’s what the cigars look like:
- Ortega Mini Maduro (4 x 38) — Brazilian Cubra
- Ortega Mini Natural (4 x 38) — Ecuadorian Connecticut
- Ortega MIni Full Body (4 x 38) — Honduran Habano
And the particulars.
- Cigar Reviewed: Ortega Mini Maduro
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: PDR Cigars
- Wrapper: Brazilian Cubra
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Dominican Republic & Nicaragua
- Size: 4 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 38
- Vitola: Petit
- MSRP: $3.75 (Pack of 4 Cigars, $15.00 & Sleeve of 20 Cigars, $75.00)
- Release Date: August 2013
- Number of Cigars to be Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
The cigars are small and while the packaging of the boxes is colorful, the bands are anything but. I hope the bands on my cigars were preproduction, as they definitely could use some tweaking to get the quality up to par just in terms of printing. As for the cigar itself, it’s got some veins on the Brazilian wrapper, but nothing too concerning. It’s amazing what one inch and 12 ring gauge will do as this definitely looks “mini” compared to the modern-sized Robusto, but I have no doubt I’ll be able to get 20 minutes out of it. Generally, the cold draw delivered a mixture of cocoa and cedar with some pepper, all detailed, but entirely straight forward. On one occasion, the cigar tasted like salmon, I got no clue where it came from, but it was a definitive salmon note.
As for the beginning of the first third, the Ortega Minis started much the same. Smooth cocoa and cedar dominates with just a touch of pepper on the finish. It’s hearty, but smooth—all and all a good start. With some note that thirds might be overkill, the first ten minutes goes much like this with some saltiness joining the profile, but it otherwise staying the same. There’s a few touch-ups needed right near that first third mark, but the ash is at the very least holding well and I have no other issues with construction.
By the second third—15 minutes in—the pepper has fully moved to the back of the throat and the cocoa has largely disappeared. There’s still quite a bit of sweetness, but it’s not attached to the chocolate note as it was so prominently through the first third. Cedar isn’t a totally unique flavor as far as cigars go, but this level of detail to the cedar note I don’t get everyday and it’s particularly not reminiscent of the classic Dominican woodsiness that I remember. Smoke production is great, draw is easy and the burn is fine. In fact, if you slow down, the Ortega Mini Maduro does well, allowing me to take as much as two minutes in between puffs without going out.
After 20 minutes there’s an uptick in creaminess, but the pepper is beginning to dominate. Unfortunately, it is also increased by a growing level of harshness as the cigar gets warm. The grassy finish that had been prevalent through the first 25 minutes is gone. At around the 30 minute mark, the cigar gets entirely too warm to smoke and I am forced to end it, probably seven minutes past where I should have stopped.
- There will be much made out of this packaging, which definitely looks like some vintage cigarette packaging. Ortega is not the first to do it, and no, I’m not sure it’s that big of a deal. Still, those concerned about the FDA are definitely not thrilled with the way the Ortega Minis look.
- I do wonder what cigars in this format would score if they were larger versions. I’m pretty sure the cigar would remain interesting for forty minutes, but anything beyond an hour and I’m not sure there are enough flavor progressions to make this work.
- Under no circumstance will I ever refer to this size as a “Mini Lance.”
- PDR Cigars is definitely the hottest factory in terms of client brands. Ortega, La Palina, Sean Williams, Kristoff and others have gone to Abe Flores’ Dominican factory for new cigars.
- A few might try to compare the Ortega Minis and the Liga Privada Único Serie Papas Fritas. I get they both come in this style of packaging, but they are two different cigars at two very different price points.
- Like the Papas Fritas, while the cigars are sold in four-packs, they are individually cellophaned, which means retailers will likely offer singles.
- The tax stamps would indicate these cigars were made in 2002, not really sure why that’s on there as they definitely weren’t, I think. If you need evidence, check out the shot of the three boxes above.
- Strength is medium, body is medium-full; flavor is somewhere in between.
- I really don’t get the 21 and over message on the side of the box. Unless I’m missing something 18 is still the legal age in the U.S.
- Ortega actually has another cigar few probably know about, the El Conejito, an exclusive made for Spec’s, a Texas-based liquor store. He’s one of three companies that make the exclusive cigars for Spec’s.
- I said this earlier this year: Regular production and lower price points, Ortega Premium Cigars is a breath of fresh air for the new company categories.
- Cigars for this review were given to halfwheel by Eddie Ortega at IPCPR 2013.
- Final smoking time is around 25 minutes ideally. If you want, you can definitely nurse the cigar towards the 40 mark, I didn’t have the patience.
- Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar, BestCigarPrices, Cigar King and Famous Smoke all carry Ortega products. Given the product, I’d imagine all four of them will have the cigars in shortly.
The Bottom Line: For those wondering, I smoked all three of the Ortega Minis. I definitely liked the Maduro more than the other two with the Full Body (Habano) being my least favorite. This was not the most complex cigar Ortega has released, but the Mini Maduro has developed and mature flavors, solid construction and a really easy format to enjoy the cigars. There are a lot of small cigars on the market that I won’t smoke, this isn’t one of them. Credit where credit is due, Eddie Ortega’s greatest success since going out on his own hasn’t been Wild Bunch, it’s been putting out good cigars at great price point, this keeps that trend going.
Final Score: 90