At this year’s IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, Hendrik Kelner, Jr. of Kelner Boutique Factory (KBF Cigars) joined the club of cigar makers with a limited edition, a club that seems to grow on an almost daily basis.
As you may recall, in the summer of 2013 Kelner released Smoking Jacket, his debut line of four cigars, each of which featured a unique blend while sharing a name, packaging and presentation. Two of the sizes, the Favoritos (6 x 46) and Short Robusto (4 1/2 x 56) use a Dominican Cotuí wrapper grown by his sister, Monika Kelner, while the Toro Magno (7 x 50) and Robusto Imperial (5 x 52) use a Cuban-seed Brazilian leaf. The binders and fillers of each cigar vary as well, drawing on a mix of tobaccos from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Pennsylvania broadleaf and Peru.
While his own line was getting off the ground, Kelner was also producing a number of cigars for smaller brands, including El Cedro, Cabal, Bugatti Group and Global Marketing and Distribution (GMD). Having both his own line as well as a number of clients helped Kelner garner some attention in the market on his own, while having Davidoff of Geneva USA distributing the Smoking Jacket landed an additional layer of credibility, as did his last name; he’s the son of Hendrik “Henke” Kelner, the former general manager of Tabadom Holding Inc. who now serves in a number of roles, including vice-chairman of the Tabadom Board and as the chair of the company’s blending panel, as well in the role of Davidoff Global Ambassador.
For the Smoking Jacket Limited Edition, Kelner once again used the Dominican Cotuí wrapper but created a blend that he describes as being more powerful than what is found in the original Smoking Jacket line but maintains its balance.
- Cigar Reviewed: Smoking Jacket Limited Edition Gran Belicoso
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: Kelner Boutique Factory (KBF Cigars)
- Wrapper: Domincana Havana Cotuí
- Binder: Dominican Republic Criollo
- Filler: Nicaraguan Condesa viso, Dominican HVA and San Vicente, Pennsylvania Ligero & Peruvian Pelo de Oro
- Size: 5 3/4 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 60
- Vitola: Gran Belicoso
- MSRP: $12 (Boxes of 10, $120)
- Release Date: September 2015
- Number of Cigars Released: 250 Boxes of 10 Cigars (2,500 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 3
The Smoking Jacket LE is a big cigar, bigger than I would generally expect for such a release and certainly of a bigger ring gauge than what I think of coming from the KBF Factory. It’s a stout cigar where the head comes to a rather unglamorous belicoso point: short and a bit more flat than pointed. The wrapper has an attractive milk chocolate shade to it with a good number of veins that have just a bit of crystallization and a covered foot gets executed a bit on the sloppy side as the leaf appears just pushed up onto the foot as opposed to some of the better executed folding techniques I’ve seen. For the most part it appears to be a well-rolled cigar, though one samples noticeably softer than the other two. From the foot I get a bit of apricot jelly sweetness, thick and dense it doesn’t have all of its more fragrant aspects but keeps its core intact well, while backing notes of sweet soil and black licorice can be found on occasion. Even with the covered foot, the cold draw is easy and airflow isn’t impeded too greatly, carrying a familiar if somewhat generic sweetness that has me thinking of glazed cake donuts, with only one of the three samples showing any appreciable amount of pepper.
As is the case with many covered foot cigars, the process of lighting the Smoking Jacket LE results in a number of small bits of burnt tobacco flying everywhere; they start breaking off during the toasting process and the first puff finishes the job, sending them all over in an almost celebratory manner. The first puffs are generally neutral in terms of flavor and strength save for some pepper providing a bit of character, and in the case of one sample providing a good bit more character than the others. The texture of the smoke is fairly doughy and at first seems to hide the wood note in the background, a situation that leaves me liking the smoke but not a fan of what it seems to do to the flavor. There is a bit of an evolution in the flavor through the first inch as the pepper becomes sharper in the nose and a bit heavier while the doughy texture of the smoke subsides a bit, but the real change comes in the aroma, where I start to get a bit of bubblegum sweetness. Retrohales show that the pepper in the nose stays in near lock step with how much the palate gets, and when it is mellow it helps that new smell shine through even clearer. The draw begins to firm up just a bit as the sizable clump of ash builds and I’m forced to knock it off both to hopefully get more air flowing and possibly give the tobacco a touch up as the otherwise abundant smoke production has dwindled a bit, plus I’m beginning to get afraid of where it might land if I let it fall on its own.
The progression into the second third comes without much fanfare, and in some ways I find myself focusing more on the size of the ash than what flavors the cigar is conveying. The pepper remains an almost drone-like constant in the cigar; mild-plus to medium in two samples and medium-plus in the third, and I’m hard-pressed to say which one I like better. The milder versions allow more of the subtleties of the cigar to shine, while the more upfront profile leaves no doubt on the palate or in the nose. The construction in the first half has for the most part been flawless, as the burn line has been even and steadily progressing, with smoke in no short supply. Past the midway point, I begin to get a bit of thick, apricot sweetness that works well with the pepper and developing background notes of wood and earth to create a complex harmony of flavors. By the time the final third begins to emerge on the horizon, the flavor has become fortified a bit by black pepper, but what’s behind that is a bit thin on my palate.
Maybe the fact that I’m puffing a bit faster on the cigar is the main cause of the change, but the final third of the Smoking Jacket LE definitely sees the strength pick up, and with that comes the first touches of harshness via some strong wood and dry earth. The flavors definitely seem to distill a bit and become sharper and more pronounced but never lose the balance that the blend has offered to this point. In the final third I also get my first encounter with burn issues with the cigar as it has a growing challenge staying lit, particularly in the strongest of the three samples. Maybe the ligero that was driving most of the pepper was a bit thicker and oilier, maybe there was a touch too much moisture near the capped head; either way I found myself reaching for my lighter more times than I cared to and as such ended up giving up on one sample with more than an inch remaining and the other two with quite a few puffs remaining. It’s not a bad finish, but an underwhelming one given where this cigar seemed to be headed.
- I’ve become much more cautious when smoking big ring gauge cigars due to the amount of ash that falls off and tends to land in the most inconvenient places. What lanceros lack in terms of ash strength, gordos more than make up for it in quantity.
- You knew this had to be coming: I’d love to smoke this in a smaller ring gauge.
- I can’t decide whether or not the tapered head on this cigar; while it makes it a bit easier to smoke, it still creates a bit of imbalance unless you constantly keep a hand on the cigar.
- In each of the three samples, getting that first clump of ash knocked off made a huge difference in airflow and burn. Once it hits about an inch, the combustion slowed to a near crawl.
- Kelner certainly stepped out of the current trend of limited editions being a 6 x 52 (or thereabouts) vitola, something I griped about in our 2015 IPCPR recap.
- Only stores who carry the regular Smoking Jacket line were eligible to order this limited edition.
- These were originally announced as shipping in August, but didn’t roll out until late September.
- The Smoking Jacket line is distributed by Davidoff of Geneva USA, which advertises on halfwheel.
- Final smoking time was two hours and 10 minutes on average.
- The cigars for this review were provided by KBF Cigars.
It’s a shame that the biggest obstacle to me really enjoying the Smoking Jacket Limited Edition was its size; even with the tapered belicoso head, it is still a big cigar and only so much can be clipped off before you get close to the cigar’s 60 ring gauge. Kelner did a great job keeping the cigar balanced, and even at its fullest it never really loses its best qualities, while the less pepper-driven samples show some good complexity at points. Unless you absolutely swear off big ring gauge cigars, the Smoking Jacket Limited Edition is worth a try, though I can’t help but wonder how much more I would have liked it in the all-too-common 6 x 52 vitola.