In late of 2011, George Rodriguez of Rodrigo Cigars sent out a holiday e-mail that contained info about his newest project, La Fortaleza. Details were slim at the time, but slowly it was learned that this would be a limited edition Dominican puro that would bring Rodrigo into the full range. Like the other like Rodrigos, La Fortaleza is made at William Ventura’s Tabacalera Ventura in the Dominican Republic.
There are four sizes of La Fortaleza:
(In order of appearance)
- Rodrigo La Fortaleza Elegante — 6 3/4 x 48
- Rodrigo La Fortaleza Cinco 5 — 6 x 56
- Rodrigo La Fortaleza Forte — 5 1/2 x 50
- Rodrigo La Fortaleza Absoluto — 5 1/8 x 43
Earlier this month, Rodrigo launched prerelease versions of the cigar at Butthead’s Tobacco Emporium and Federal Cigar with the full release expected to hit Rodrigo accounts sometime in June.
Interestingly, the Cinco 5 size was not originally intended to be part of the line, but was created at the request of a retailer. While the cigar is a 56 RG, the retailer thought it was more like a 55 RG and as such the name Cinco 5 was born. Keeping with the theme, the Cinco 5 is to be offered in boxes of 55. The original bands were ordered before the Cinco 5 size was confirmed, as such it has a different band.
And the particulars.
Cigar Reviewed: Rodrigo La Fortaleza Absoluto
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Factory: Tabacalera Ventura
Wrapper: Dominican Oscuro
Binder: Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Republic
Size: 5 1/8 Inches
Ring Gauge: 43
MSRP: 5.99 (Boxes of 24, $143.76)
Release Date: April 5, 2012
Number of Cigars Released: 7,000 Total Cigars*
Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 2*Production of all four vitolas is set to total 7,000 total cigars.
Even without cellophane, the Dominican Oscuro wrapper gives a pretty strong aroma. It’s a heavy pungent leather with a bit of earth, fitting given the dark espresso hue. The veins are crisp and the roll appears solid, although the roll lines across every vitola could have been a bit cleaner. Nothing can really prepare you for the cold draw. It’s a near toxic mix of pepper with a unique red pepper coming to the forefront. Oddly there’s a bit of fruit underneath, but there’s not much hope of tasting much on the initial draw given the extremeness of the pepper.
The first third of the La Fortaleza Absoluto begins with a bit of cedar, some of the pepper from the cold draw, but much more tame. From the get go, the finish becomes a unique focal point. There’s an interesting toasty and earth finish from the Dominican puro, definitely a bit unexpected. Eventually, the core of the Rodrigo centers around a cedar with earth, leather, bits of fruit and odd pepper mixture at the back. It’s rich and diverse, and not very Dominican. Draw is good, smoke production is a bit above average and at times, a bit beyond that.
Into the second third and the cedar and pepper pick up. The background of the La Fortaleza is much the same, but it’s a bit edgier than the first third, particularly when it comes to pepper. Strength seems to be picking up getting just into the medium-full range, still far from being confused from a full cigar. While the construction remains the same as the initial portions of the Corona, a few corrections to the burn are needed.
The final third sees the flavors of the Absoluto come together. It’s predictable, but quite enjoyable. For the first time, the underlying sweetness isolates itself from the fruit notes and provides an intriguing backdrop the cedar and pepper mixture. For a little less than an inch of the final third, the La Fortaleza delivered its smoothest flavor, but with a bit over an inch left the smoke warms up and the flavors begin to fade. The full-bodied nature of the La Fortaleza, which is present for most of the final two-thirds, really comes together nicely with the sweetness, which is a good note to end on.
- Pigtails are always a great thing.
- Dominican puros are far from common these days. There’s mainstays like the Fuente Fuente OpusX, La Aurora 100 Años and Litto Gomez Diez; then there’s new offerings like Davidoff Puro d’Oro and SWAG from Oliveros.
- At the event at Butthead’s, prerelease versions of the Kevin Michaels cigar were offered. The cigar is also made at Tabacalera Ventura according to this video.
- The Absoluto wasn’t close to full strength, topping out at medium-full. While I think full-body is an accurate representation, the strength was more medium-plus to medium-full.
- The bands say Ultra Premium. I’m not exactly a fan of the new ultra premium and super premium tags; it just seems unnecessary.
- The three traditional sizes will all come in boxes of 24, as opposed to the Cinco 5 which will be offered in boxes of 55.
- Construction was very good, a few touch-ups occurred, but probably weren’t essential.
- George claims the largest size is actually lighter than the smaller sizes, which makes sense given the wrapper/filler ratio.
- I actually like the Cinco 5 band a bit more than the regular bands, maybe that’s just me.
- This is one of two limited editions that Rodrigo is involved with for 2012. The other is the Corona Project, which is also made at Tabacalera Ventura.
- Rodriguez is a big fan of traditional vitolas, which is a welcome change.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 15 minutes.
- If you would like to order the Rodrigo La Fortaleza, site sponsor Federal Cigar’s Epping location (603.679.2447) is one of only two places they are sold right now.
The Bottom Line: Blind taste tests say this is Nicaraguan. I was expecting a bit more in strength from the La Fortaleza, but the rest was a mystery going in. I definitely was not expecting the flavors to be this developed because quite honestly, even with a year of age, the Rodrigo Classicos still haven’t reached this level of detail for me. For those that smoked the core Rodrigo line and were wanting a bit more in every category, this is your likely an answer. Almost every facet of the two lines is different, but the La Fortaleza is a bit more in every category, except maybe complexity, where the cigars are just two different beings. For me, La Fortaleza Absoluto is a good cigar, maybe a very good cigar on some days; but it’s an insane price tag in a good way everyday of the week.
Final Score: 90