Only, it wasn’t Johnson’s cigar.
Rather, Tatuaje was distributing a cigar called Schrader Hispañiola Sparky DOCO-EST MMIX-I. As with so many things Pete Johnson, it had to do with wine. The cigar was produced for Fred Schrader of Schrader Cellars, a Napa Valley winery that has had its fair share of success. Johnson, a wine geek, was distributing the cigar, a salomon made in a factory called Para Ti.
Not much was known about the factory then, but in the years since it has become known that the Para Ti factory was actually a corner of Quesada’s tobacco storage facility in Licey. That tobacco storage facility has grown dramatically, with Quesada moving all of its rolling operations to the Licey location in 2012.
Since then Schrader has been relatively quiet on the cigar side, at least until earlier this year when it became known the company was preparing for its sophomore cigar release, this time a collaboration with Nat Sherman produced at the Quesada factory.
Formally, the new cigar is known as the Schrader Hispañiola MMXIII, but informally it’s the Sparky Two. The cigar is a 6-inch long perfecto with a 42 ring gauge foot, a maximum ring gauge of 60 in the middle of the cigar and a 38 ring gauge at the cap.
- Schrader Hispañiola Sparky DOCO-EST MMIX-I (7 1/2 x 41 x 50 x 56) — 2010 — 1,150 Boxes of 10 Cigars (11,500 Total Cigars)
- Schrader Hispañiola MMXIII (6 x 42 x 60 x 38) — 2016 — 2,500 Boxes of 8 Cigars (20,000 Total Cigars)
Schrader worked with Michael Herklots of Nat Sherman over the course of three years to develop the cigar. It uses a Dominican wrapper covering a Dominican binder and filler tobaccos from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Peru. The company said it took 12 different test cigars to come up with the final product which was aged for 26 months after rolling.
It was released in May, limited to 2,500 boxes of six cigars.
- Cigar Reviewed: Schrader Hispañiola MMXIII
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: Quesada Cigars
- Wrapper: Dominican Republic
- Binder: Dominican Republic
- Filler: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua & Peru
- Length: 6 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 42 x 60 x 38
- Vitola: Perfecto
- MSRP: $14 (Boxes of 6, $84)
- Release Date: May 10, 2016
- Number of Cigars Released: 2,500 Boxes of 8 Cigars (20,000 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
It’s a pretty looking cigar, familiar thanks to the unique band, perhaps a bit more elegant with the Nat Sherman secondary band and certainly less imposing than the original cigar. The aroma off the wrapper smells of burnt sunflower seeds and some hay, contrasted with hickory, some oatmeal and a sweet ketchup-based barbecue sauce from the foot. On the cold draw, I pick up a silky smooth vanilla ice cream, almost like drinking out of a freshly melted bowl, along with some remnants of twang and tonkatsu sauce, a type of Japanese barbecue sauce.
I am not entirely sure why, but even after spending quite a bit of time lighting the cigar, over half of the foot doesn’t appear to want to burn. It does produce smoke, which produces flavor: specifically, a lot of saltiness and a generic wood flavor. One sample has no issues getting lit, producing a similar flavor though I get an alkaline noodle flavor, i.e. ramen. Vanilla ice cream quickly jumps back into the profile and is the centerpiece of all three cigars. After that, it’s a tale of two different secondary flavors. One has acidity, cedar and some nuttiness. There’s also black pepper, orange peel and some sand in the finish. The other is much creamier and without the woodiness and acidity; it has some saltiness through the nose, along with blanched potatoes and some nuttiness. On all thee samples, the flavor is medium with a milder body and almost no strength. Despite my issues at the start, construction is fantastic on all three cigars.
Like magic, all three cigars produce pretty similar flavor profiles for the second third of the Schrader Hispañiola MMXIII. The blanched potato note combines with the saltiness to produce a french fry sensation along with some white chicken meat, nuttiness and cinnamon. Continuing in the pantry, err cigar, the finish provides nuttiness along with oregano, dried thyme and a bit of cinnamon. Flavor picks up to medium-plus, but the body remains mild-medium and I still get zero traces of nicotine. Construction is simply awesome.
The potatoes give way to the ramen noodle flavor which is now joined by a more generic meatiness along with bread and cinnamon. It’s quite similar to the second third, but I feel like the Sparky Two lacks some of the detail, particularly on the finish. One sample needs a touch-up; otherwise the cigar performs quite similar to the second third, not that I am complaining.
- For the first time in a very long time, I got no indications of any sort of strength from a cigar.
- Wine is admittedly not my thing, something my bank account reminds me frequently of. I’ve never had any of Schrader’s wines. The company boasts about 18 100-point ratings from The Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator, including receiving three consecutive 100-point ratings for consecutive vintages of the same wine from Advocate, something it’s done twice. That leads me to believe they’ve figured out how to make Cabernet Sauvignon quite well.
- The cigar industry is rather ancestral and quite interconnected. Pete Johnson, who distributed the first Schrader, has his cigars made by the García family. The Garcías collaborated with the Quesadas, who made both Schraders, for the Tres Reynas release. Michael Herklots collaborated with the Garcías when he was the general manager of the Davidoff retail flagships in New York for the My Father Davidoff Belicoso.
- Bonus trivia: Raquel Quesada and Michael Herklots both worked at Gloucester Street Cigar Co., a Boston retail shop that has since closed.
- The original Schrader retailed for $26.95, over double what the Sparky Two costs. While it doesn’t explain all of the costs, the elaborate coffins of the original release certainly contribute to the price difference.
- Quesada makes some bizarre vitolas, but the perfecto shape is just not one I associate with the company’s factory, though it is featured quite a bit in some of the cigars Plasencia makes for the company.
- Some will look at the score and wonder why it’s not a point or two higher. Ultimately, the final third proved to be the culprit both in flavor and in the lone construction error. Our scoring sheet is demanding and a cigar like this proves just how tough we score cigars.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 55 minutes on average.
- Both Nat Sherman, the distributor, and Quesada, the manufacturer, advertise on halfwheel.
- Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Site sponsor Atlantic Cigar lists the Schrader, but is currently out of stock.
Mild cigars don’t have to be bland. The Schrader Hispañiola MMXIII is probably the mildest cigar I’ve reviewed in the last year and yet, it was as complex and nuanced as just about anything else I’ve smoked in the same time frame. While there was nothing wrong with the first release, it never inspired me to smoke another one. Things could not be further from that with the Sparky Two. Because of the amount of cigars I have to smoke for reviews, I rarely find myself contemplating purchasing a box of cigars for me to smoke just for personal enjoyment, and yet, that’s what’s happening as I type this out.