There are some that go away never to be heard from again, and then there’s Steve Saka.
When it was announced in 2013 that Saka would resign as ceo of Drew Estate, he made it clear that he would be back in the cigar industry. Standing in his way was a two-year non-compete—and of course, all of the things that go along with starting a new cigar company. In June, we revealed said company would be Dumbarton Tobacco & Trust and shortly thereafter, Saka announced the first cigar, Sobremesa.
The cigar was shown off at the 2015 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show and to quite a bit of fanfare. Due to concerns about how the cigars were stored, no one was allowed to smoke samples of the cigar. Due to uncertainty about demand, supply and when the cigars would be ready, no one was allowed to place official orders. Instead, retailers were offered Liga Privadas and asked to make commitments, knowing there was no guarantee that said orders would be filled. It was a bit bizarre: a new company, with retailers lined up to purchase, sight unseen and cigars unsmoked. It was a very visual testament to Saka and the trust retailers have in him.
As for the cigar, it’s being produced at Joya de Nicaragua, a factory Saka became rather familiar with due to Drew Estate’s distribution of the brand in the U.S.
It uses a La Meca Ecuador habano Grade 1 dark rosado wrapper and Mexican Matacapan Negro de temporal binder over five different filler tobaccos: Nicaraguan GK Condega C-SG seco, Nicaraguan Pueblo Nuevo criollo viso, Nicaraguan La Joya Estelí C-98 viso, Nicaraguan ASP Estelí hybrid ligero and broadleaf ligero from Lancaster County in Pennsylvania.
Sobremesa began shipping last month in five sizes: Corona Grande (5 1/4 x 44, $9.95), Cervantes Fino (6 1/4 x 46, $11.45), Robusto Largo (5 1/4 x 52), El Americano (6 x 52, $12.45), and Gran Imperiales (7 x 54, $13.45). This month, the Torpedo Tiempo (6 x 54) began shipping alongside the other sizes. Each size has been restricted to 200 boxes per month for the first two months of shipping.
- Cigar Reviewed: Sobremesa Cervantes Fino
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: Fabrica de Tabacos Joya de Nicaragua S.A.
- Wrapper: Ecuador La Meca Ecuador Habano Grade 1
- Binder: Mexican Matacapan Negro de Temporal
- Filler: Nicaraguan (GK Condega C-SG, Pueblo Nuevo Criollo, La Joya Estelí C-98, ASP Estelí Hybrid Ligero) & Pennsylvania Broadleaf Ligero
- Length: 6 1/4 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 46
- Vitola: Lonsdale
- MSRP: $11.25 ($281.25)
- Release Date: Nov. 6, 2015
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
I love the look of Sobremesa; it’s clear that Saka’s experience at JR Cigar and Drew Estate combined with his non-compete allowed for him to meticulously think of what he wanted, and it shows. That being said, the first sample I smoke feels a bit underfilled around the cap. I’m admittedly not as worried about how much a cigar weighs as Brooks Whittington is, but spongy caps aren’t a good sign in my book. I can taste the layers of Nicaraguan fillers—sweet brownie chocolate, some peppers, orange peel and a bit of minerals towards the finish.
Upon lighting, two of the cigars immediately tighten up. That wouldn’t be much of an issue, except there was a knot in one sample and both were already relatively tight. Two samples show hickory, some charred meatiness, a mild creaminess and a bit of a creamy citrus note. The other has orange peel, mainly earth and some woodiness with the cocoa dominating. I smoke the three cigars on back-to-back-to-back nights and am left with tasting notes that don’t appear to show me smoking the same cigar. On two cigars there’s nuttiness, a sweet vanilla, some earth and barnyard. Through the nose, I get a restrained lemon, some wheat and a mild black pepper. With the other, there’s meatiness, almonds and some saltines with charred oak, citrus, creaminess, and tomato. Fresh citrus and a restrained pepper last deep into the finish of the Sobremesa Cervantes Fino, something not apparent on the other cigars. While all samples have even burns and decent smoke production, two cigars are very tight while one has a good draw. It’s medium-full in flavor and medium in both body and strength—about the only thing that’s consistent.
I’ll get the important stuff out of the way. Two Cervantes Finos are still quite tight throughout the second third while the other is showing an ideal draw. There’s sourdough bread, some bizarre nuttiness that I can’t place, grapefruit and melon rind on two samples. The finish retains that sourdough characteristic and a restrained black pepper. There’s some toastiness, similar to a fireplace, and then citrus. Towards the end there’s a lamb-like meatiness, but like the nuts, it’s all very delicate and somewhat challenging to place. The other cigar is a bit bolder with creaminess, coffee and earthiness taking over. If there’s a similarity it’s the restrained black pepper, something that I manage to find throughout the entire cigar. After a minute or so between puffs my tongue encounters a bright citrus flavor. It’s a weird, somewhat addicting sensation, but unfortunately I can only find it on one of the Sobremesas I smoke.
If the draw was tight in the first two thirds, the final third is even tighter. On one cigar, it’s challenging to smoke, which is a shame, because the flavor has gotten incredible. There’s creamy peanuts, some strawberry leaves, the lamb-like meatiness from the second third and a familiar creaminess. Overall it’s sweet, but with that restrained pepper towards the end. As for the other two, they are more pedestrian with an overwhelming amount of earth, some cocoa, sour grapefruit and an array of spices through the nose. The Sobremesa ends where it started as far as strength and body; medium.
- I was doing a reddit Ask Me Anything a couple months ago and someone asked what happens when the cigars for a review don’t taste the same. I explained that a mess is what happens. See above.
- While I wouldn’t say all three of the cigars were amongst the best I’ve smoked this year, the second sample was fantastic flavor-wise. It’s the second time this year draw issues have taken an elite tasting cigar and really hurt it in our scoring.
- The first sample I smoked had a hard spot right past the midway point of the cigar. The other two were rolled fine as far as I could feel.
- The cap on the sample I photographed started to unravel from the cold draw, which was annoying and produced the sloppy-looking pictures you see above.
- That being said, the burn was fantastic on all three cigars.
- Saka’s forthcomingness with the blend of this cigar is almost unheard of in the cigar industry. While countries of origin are the standard but not always disclosed, he lays out specifics about the tobacco that are rarely seen by anyone outside the factory.
- Sobremesa has a few translations from Spanish: dessert, desktop and table cover being the three that Google Translate returns.
- However, Saka explains the term this way on the Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust website:
Sobremesa, “over the table”, has no precise English translation, perhaps because there is no cultural equivalent in the US. It is an idiom used among the Latin culture to describe the leisurely time spent tableside after you have finished dining, but before you rise. It is the experience of lingering casually with family and friends in conversation, relaxing, drinking, smoking, and enjoying each other’s company. Sobremesa is one of life’s simplest, yet greatest pleasures.
- There are many Sakaisms—quotes, posts and rants, but there’s one that has stuck with me for years. Saka explains that he doesn’t want anyone to like his cigars. He wants you to love them, or not. He explains that when you “like” a cigar, you won’t ever have any loyalty or passions about a cigar; those come when you love a cigar. When he said this at Drew Estate, he would oftentimes couple it with the idea that Drew Estate made a lot of different cigars and that it was hard to image anyone ever being able to “like” everything Drew Estate put out because of the diversity in their portfolio.
- Cigars for this review were provided to halfwheel by Dumbarton Tobacco & Trust.
- Fina smoking time was one hour and 40 minutes.
- Site sponsor Emerson’s carries Sobremesa.
The name, the branding, the tobacco info, the buzz—Sobremesa was one of the most anticipated releases of the year, even our own internal analytics regarding page views show that. As for the cigar; it was a bit all over the place. The three samples I had were pretty inconsistent, although none were “bad.” In an effort to better keep reviews on an even playing field, we’ve implemented a policy that allows us to smoke and score no more than three cigars per review. In the case of the Sobremesa, it’s a frustrating policy because I still don’t feel like I have really any grasp on just what this cigar is. My largest issue involves the draw, which was tight on two of the three cigars, although even then, my best tasting Cervantes Fino was the one with the tightest draw. My hope was that without the draw issue, the flavors would open even more, a tall task considering just how good that sample tasted. Fortunately, my third cigar avoided the draw issues, unfortunately, the flavors weren’t equal to the second cigar. The only thing I can say for sure is I want to try some of the other vitolas.