It’s been almost three years since Rodrigo Cigars announced the Corona Project on Twitter, an interesting idea that was designed as a new small batch brand featuring three sizes—corona, corona gorda and double corona—that would debut in the summer of 2012. The project stemmed from an idea between brand owner George Rodriguez and cigar broker Brett Bowersox as a way “to bring back traditional cigar making while educating smokers about the virtues of smaller, more concentrated vitolas, namely the corona.”
However, in June 2012, Rodriguez announced that the project was being indefinitely postponed due to what he called a “cluttered market.” At the time, he told halfwheel that:
I love to see creativity in cigars, but as a smoker and a cigar maker I can’t help but feel that too many of these new lines are contrived in order to give sales a shot in the arm. You don’t have to be an expert to see that only a few new lines every year are truly innovative. It has become a fashion show and as such the new is always interesting and desirable at first, but it’s short-sighted. The undeniable fact is that really great cigars have been and always will be developed over long periods of time.
Jump forward a year, and at the 2013 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, Rodriguez told halfwheel that the trio of coronas were slated for a fall 2013 release. The next mention of the Corona Project came about in April, when a new cigar was announced, the Rodrigo A-List, a 9 1/4 x 47 Gran Corona that was set to come out at the 2014 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show. As for the Corona Project? June 17, we were told. In addition, a new project in development was announced: Omega.
Unfortunately Rodrigo was not at the 2014 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, so there was nothing to report from the show floor as to either. Just when it seemed like Corona Project might never see the light of day, Rodriguez announced on Nov. 10 that the first cigars were shipping, with the next vitola slated for some time in 2015.
As for this particular cigar, it is a collaboration between William and Henderson Ventura, the father-and-son team who run Tabacalera William Ventura, and George Rodriguez, owner of Rodrigo Cigars. According to Rodriguez, the cigars have been rolled and resting for more than a year already.
- Cigar Reviewed: Rodrigo Cigars Corona Project Vol. 1 Limitada
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: Tabacalera William Ventura
- Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
- Binder: Ecuadorian Sumatra
- Filler: Dominican Criollo ’98, Dominican Corojo, Dominican HVA Ligero
- Size: 5 3/4 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 43
- Vitola: Corona
- MSRP: $9.50 (Boxes of 25, $237.50)
- Release Date: November 10, 2014
- Number of Cigars Released: 295 Boxes of 25 Cigars (7,375 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 3
While you’d expect the Corona Project to come in a classic corona vitola, it’s closer to the Cuban Conservas vitola, which measures 5 7/10 x 43. Either way, anything in the corona family is fine with me, and at first glance, a well executed presentation. But upon closer inspection of the first sample’s dark brown wrapper, I notice a number of issues, from bumps and waves in the shape to an incredibly sloppy cap that is both a bit off color and uses too much tobacco than is seemingly needed. The second doesn’t show nearly the same issues, while the third looked like it was rolled fine but the pigtail was drooping off the side of the cigar. All three samples are nearly rock hard from the cap to the covered foot, which seems to use just a bit too much of the leaf, but not enough to really fault the torcedor. There are a few veins and some tooth on the matted wrapper, as well as some jagged cuts on the wrapper’s seam and one particularly sizable vein hidden on the backside of the cigar that throws off the otherwise fairly uniform coloration. The pre-light aroma from the covered foot is cool and offers berry sweetness with just the slightest amount of floral brightness in the background. Even with the covered foot, there’s no issues with airflow on the cold draw, though some are tighter than others, and the cigar offers a faint flavor of chocolate milk at first that picks up subtle wood notes with a minimal amount of pepper.
The burning of the closed foot with a match quickly unleashes a surprising amount of smoke into the air that is laden with notes of tree bark, soil and pepper, giving the nose a head start into the cigar before the first puff has been taken. The tongue gets a slightly toned-down version of the flavors, and with the cigar billowing smoke early on, it’s almost hard not to be a bit overwhelmed by the more prevalent aroma, though there is a tangy note that cuts through and lingers on the tongue a bit and is hard to pin down into words; a mix of syrupy sweetness and red bell pepper that is distinct and tasty. Before even half an inch has burned on the first cigar, two problems become readily apparent: the cap is starting to unravel, and the Corona Project Vol. 1 Limitada extinguishes itself after a brief rest in the ashtray. While the latter is a bit easier to remedy, the former is a bit more concerning and was something I feared from the moment I first how the cigar was constructed. The ash color has also grabbed my attention, as it’s a shade of dark gray that reminds me of that typically found on Cuban cigars; almost a dark oatmeal color in spots, with other spots leaning towards a medium black shade. After a bit of increase in the pepper, the intensity of the flavors dials back at about the one inch mark, and it’s then that I realize that this is a fairly slow-burning cigar. There’s still a touch of sweet smokiness in the aroma, but the pepper has gone on hiatus from the palate, with about half as much left on retrohales, which makes them a good bit more enjoyable by clearing the way for some dry wood notes with touches of earth. The burn rate continues to have issues, and before I’m through the first third of the first cigar, I’ve moved the remaining two samples to a drybox to see if that might alleviate any humidity issues. The ash unceremoniously detaches right about where the second third would begin, and brings out a creamy note in the smoke that quickly shifts to a bright floral fragrance.
With a shift in both flavor and aroma signaling the transition to the second third, the cigar does a bit of flavor rearranging and finds some of its original strength for a few puffs before settling back down and showing a woody note, with one cigar offering a pronounced note of evergreen tree bark with a bit of sap, a delicious combination of sweet and woody, while another skewed towards cherry wood flavor, equally as tasty. Burn issues continue to show up around the midpoint of the Corona Project Vol. 1 Limitada, while the unraveling wrapper on the first cigar remains a challenge, though it hasn’t adversely affected the cigar yet; rather it just sticks to my lips with every puff. The second cigar smoked also has a bit of a draw issue, tightening up shy of the midpoint. Just past the midpoint the flavor and smoke production pick back up—albeit with the help of another relight—bringing in big notes of damp wood, a bit of wet leather and just enough pepper to be commanding of the senses, though that seems to be building as the burn line slowly creeps to the final third of the cigar. Smoke production continues to be substantial for the small ring gauge cigar, and the dryboxing seems to have helped a good bit.
There is no shortage of pepper at the start of the final third of the Corona Project Vol. 1 Limitada, with most of it geared towards the nose and eyes while the tongue gets surprisingly little. Behind the pepper is a dry wood note, almost like that of a toothpick, while the aroma has a bit of fragrance that is picked up when the cigar is at rest and a bit farther away from the nose. While the pepper that comes off the cigar with each puff stands front and center, the cigar isn’t terribly strong behind that, with both flavor and intensity in the medium range at best. Again, the volume of the pepper makes it deceptive, but I’m feeling little if any kick from the cigar, and am more fatigued by periods of a tight draw and frequent relights. The third cigar smoked, with the most amount of dryboxing, managed to put off a wonderful smoky wood and roasted coffee aroma that I didn’t get in the others, that when combined with a touch of sweetness was probably the best note of all three cigars. The burn line gets a bit off in one cigar, and between the time it took to get here and the plentiful pepper, I think I’ve had enough.
- Tabacalera William Ventura seems like it has been mentioned more and more in recent months, having made cigars for Caldwell, Tarazona and Rodrigo this year.
- I’m really shocked by how just how much smoke the Corona Project generated. I’m not fond of the term, but Ligaesque is applicable here.
- The Corona Project Twitter account has been dormant since March 2012.
- Rodrigo Cigars is distributed by House of Emilio. The Corona Project is sold directly from Rodrigo, as well as through its accounts.
- As for the Rodrigo A-List, it has yet to be seen.
- Given that these were rolled more than a year ago, I’m even more perplexed by the burn issues. As always, they were transported with Bovedas.
- The dryboxing did make a bit of difference with the burn, but it seemed to bring out some different flavors as well, while also reducing the pepper a bit.
- Final smoking time varied greatly, from one hour and 35 minutes to a shocking two hours and 25 minutes.
- The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
When I first heard about the Corona Project, I thought it could be a great way for Rodrigo Cigars to get themselves on the map. After almost three years of waiting, I wasn't expecting to see this cigar, and now that I've smoked three of them, I'm struggling to think it was worth it. There are some really enjoyable flavors in the Corona Project Vol. 1 Limitada, and there are points where they are very accessible. But then there are times where it's work to get the cigar to stay lit and burn properly, and there's simply no excuse for a premium cigar to hit the market with the kind of issues these cigars have. It's also what I think I'll remember most about this cigar if you ask me my thoughts on it six months, which costs it more points than it probably should. If you are willing to put up with a slow burning cigar that struggles to stay lit, there's a fairly good amount of flavor and pepper in these cigars; it's just hard to say its unequivocally worth the amount of effort it takes to experience them all.