The cigar world is about as obsessed with brands as any business and having recently come from the IPCPR Convention and Trade Show, the presence of branding is nearly inescapable. From huge banners hanging from the ceiling of the convention center to branded hotel room key cards, the myriad of cigar companies are always looking for ways to get their brand identity in front of consumers and retailers.
But dig a bit deeper into the cigar world, and you realize that behind every brand is a factory, and in some cases, multiple factories. That’s where the blending happens, the tobacco is processed and stored, the bunchers and rollers ply their craft, and where the cigars rest before beginning their journey to your local retailer’s humidor and eventually into your hands. In a lot of ways, they are the untold story of the cigar world. They don’t run ads in cigar magazines or on websites such as this, and I would venture that few if any have names or logos that you would recognize if placed in front of you.
Other than company owned factories, such as My Father Cigars, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Jr.’s Tabacalera La Alianza, General Cigar Company’s General Cigar Dominicana and a few others, the one factory with the best chance of registering a response in the heads of the informed cigar smoker is Fabrica de Tabacos Raíces Cubanas S. de R.L., or as it is more commonly known, Raíces Cubanas. Owned by Romay Endemaño and operated with his wife Maria Portao and son Hugo, the Danlí, Honduras factory was at one point considered to be a certifiable cigar hitmaker, cranking out numerous award-winning and highly regarded cigars for Alec Bradley, Viaje, Illusione and many others.
Now they have decided it is time to do a cigar under their own name.
According to a representative from Alec Bradley, who is distributing the cigar, the Endemaño family was the spearhead for the blend and invited Alec Bradley to contribute input to the project. The two companies have had a relationship dating back to the 1990s and early Alec Bradley releases, namely the Spirit of Cuba.
The Raices Cubanas 1941 was announced just a few days prior to the 2013 IPCPR Convention and Trade Show and made its debut in the Alec Bradley booth. It is being released in four sizes:
Raices Cubanas 1941 Robusto (5 1/4 x 52) – $8.95
Raices Cubanas 1941 Toro (6 x 54) – $9.50
Raices Cubanas 1941 Churchill (7 x 49) – $9.75
Raices Cubanas 1941 Gordo (6 x 60) – $9.95
Alec Bradley hasn’t set a firm date for the cigars to arrive at retail, though they did expect it to be by the end of September.
Cigar Reviewed: Raíces Cubanas 1941 Robusto
Country of Origin: Honduras
Factory: Fabrica de Tabacos Raíces Cubanas S. de R.L.
Filler: Honduras, Nicaragua
Size: 5 1/4 Inches
Ring Gauge: 52
MSRP: $8.95 (Boxes of 20, $179.00)
Release Date: Mid-late September 2013
Number of Cigars to be Released: Regular Production
Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 2
The Raíces Cubanas 1941 has a medium brown—almost dark tan wrapper with a bit of tooth—fairly clean seams and an oily smoothness. The veins are fairly small and overall the construction looks very good with a cleanly applied triple cap, something that has become a signature of the factory. There is a surprising amount of give in both cigars smoked, and while it doesn’t look underfilled, a gentle squeeze suggests otherwise. Coming off the foot of the cigar is a unique pre-light aroma that at first encounter makes me think of a pure sweetness, some dry grass and possibly a touch of honey. On the second cigar, there’s a touch of a latte and some brown sugar in the mix – quite a first impression to say the least. The cold draw is easy and dry with a surprising amount of pepper, complemented by a touch of simple syrup.
The first puffs from the Raíces Cubanas 1941 dive headfirst into a good amount of white pepper, with plentiful amounts of smoke coming off the cigar. The front of the tongue gets a fresh hit of pepper with almost every draw, and the retrohale is equally as peppery. The smoke is smooth though – as there doesn’t seem to be a bit of harshness present. About half an inch in, the pepper begins dialing itself back to reveal a smooth, creamy smoke that has two sides: the leading note is mild and suggests something for the morning, while the trailing notes are fuller, more medium bodied and guided by the white pepper as well as some cereal grain notes. There’s a fantastic butter toffee note that comes out at points, reminiscent of the flavor that comes off a nice piece of hard candy.
The Raíces Cubanas 1941 builds to a solid medium bodied cigar by the addition of pepper and overall body before reaching the midpoint, and has now stepped out of the realm of breakfast cigar and into post-lunch. When it crosses the halfway point, things seem to ramp up a notch more, adding just a touch more darker pepper and an earth note that increases the texture and body of the smoke. Both cigars smoked ran into just a bit of a burn issue here, hitting some spots that they couldn’t get through. The transition to the final third is kicked off with another change of course as a slightly sour, metallic note comes into the equation. Other than the aforementioned burn issues, combustion is still very good and smoke production is plentiful.
While the sour note is very fleeting, the increase in strength and body in the final third of the Raices Cubanas 1941 Robusto is very real; it seems hard to believe this is the same cigar that was so mild in the early notes. While the pepper component is still fairly mild, the earth note has picked up considerably, as has the nicotine content and overall oomph that the cigar delivers. What started as a breakfast cigar now has me sitting back in my chair thanks to its marked increase in strength – though the flavors aren’t terribly distinctive: earth and leather seem to stand out, but the result is almost like a heavy broth that has a hearty base note guiding things. The only thing to keep in mind in this final third is not to puff too fast or too hard – the heat overamplifies that rich core and turns it harsh on the palate, taking away from the otherwise very enjoyable and clean finish.
- It’s worth nothing that the Raíces Cubanas 1941 isn’t an Alec Bradley-branded cigar, though they are handling the distribution of it and it has been described as a “joint project.”
- Raíces Cubanas produces the Alec Bradley Prensado, which won a fairly coveted award.
- One side of the band denotes Baez, Cuba, while on the other side it mentions Danlí, Honduras. The former is where Romay Endemaño was born, the latter is where Raíces Cubanas is located.
- The 1941 in the name comes from the birth year of Romay Endemaño.
- Many assume Eduardo Fernandez of Casa Fernandez/Tabacalera Tropical/AGANORSA to be the owner of Raíces Cubanas. It’s not the case, although AGANORSA has a relationship with the factory that allows for the factory to produce a lot of cigars containing only AGANORSA leaf and plenty of others that are predominantly AGANORSA leaf.
- In 2007, Endemaño Cigars, Inc. registered a trademark for the E Romay Endemaño Family Reserve cigar. There don’t seem to be any shops currently selling it, however.
- As you are likely aware, numerous companies utilize Raíces Cubanas for their cigars: Viaje, Illusione, JFR, 262, J. Grotto, and more.
- At IPCPR 2013, Andre Farkas of Viaje mentioned that he was planning on addressing some production issues at Raíces Cubanas in the coming weeks, as well as shifting some production to TABSA in Estelí, Nicaragua, where a number of former Raíces Cubanas have taken their business. Dion Giolito of Illusione already moved some of his newer production out of the factory and Paul Palmer removed Casa Fernandez from the factory entirely.
- Charlie posed some critical questions for the factory as part of his Ten Questions for 2013 editorial.
- In this interview with Cigar Aficionado, Alan Rubin of Alec Bradley talks about the beginnings of his relationship with Raíces Cubanas.
- The cigars for this review were provided by Alec Bradley at IPCPR 2013.
- Final smoking time is about one hours and 55 minutes.
When I first heard the Raíces Cubanas 1941 being described as a “greatest hits” style of cigar, I had no idea what that might mean, let alone how that could be possible. Having smoked two of them, I clearly get it. The cigar runs nearly the entire gamut of strength, from just above mild to just under all-out full in the course of five inches. The flavors are clean albeit not always 100% distinctive, and the smoke stays smooth from start to finish. To think that this can be accomplished is a real testament to the blenders and factory behind this cigar, and an absolutely fitting tribute to the factory that has produced a number of great cigars. A fantastic cigar that is definitely worth picking up.