If there was one brand’s rise I didn’t see coming it was Leaf by Oscar.
I thought the wrapper leaf was gimmicky and annoying, the cigars weren’t mind-blowing, the salesforce was non-existent and there was a lot of competition from other new brands. But boy was I wrong. Leaf by Oscar has grown dramatically and it’s not just a fad. Customers seem to really enjoy the brand for how the cigars smoke, not because they have an interesting cellophane alternative.
Today I’m reviewing The Oscar, not to be confused with Leaf by Oscar. While both are made by Oscar Valladares in Honduras and bear his name, the latter is made for “Island” Jim Robinson of Leaf & Bean, a shop in Pittsburgh and is distributed nationally by Key Enterprises.
The Oscar is also made by Oscar Valladares, but it is owned by Valladares. The blend is also completely different using an Ecuadorian habano wrapper over a Honduran binder and Honduran and Nicaraguan filler. You will notice two very unique things about the cigar: first, the boxes are partially made out of cigar molds; second, it is wrapped in a candela leaf similar to the Leaf by Oscar.
It’s offered in three sizes:
- The Oscar Robusto (5 x 50) — $11 (Box of 11, $121)
- The Oscar Toro (6 x 52) — $12 (Box of 11, $132)
- The Oscar 6 x 60 (6 x 60) — $13 (Box of 11, $143)
- Cigar Reviewed: The Oscar Robusto
- Country of Origin: Honduras
- Factory: Oscar Valladares Tobacco & Co.
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
- Binder: Honduras
- Filler: Honduras & Nicaragua
- Length: 5 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 50
- Vitola: Robusto
- MSRP: $11 (Boxes of 11, $121)
- Release Date: August 2016
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
To start, this isn’t the exact same approach as the Leaf by Oscar. That cigar is fully covered in a large piece of tobacco which is then covered using a band. The Oscar uses a smaller piece of tobacco that covers about 75 percent of the cigar, leaving the cap exposed, and doesn’t feature the secondary band on the outside. I decided to smell the inside of the candela packaging, which removes easily in one piece. It smells like this cigar could have been part of Drew Estate’s Kentucky Fire Cured line. That fire cured sweetness is more of a bourbon barrel and liquid smoke combination off the dark habano wrapper, though unlike the aforementioned Drew Estate product, the intensity is just medium. The foot is sweeter with the big barrel note once again taking the lead. While I smell some of the big barrel notes as I bring the cigar to my mouth, by the time I take a cold draw there’s none of the actual flavor in my mouth. Instead, there’s a weird mixture of blackberry soda and root beer over a pretty generic wood mixture, once again around the medium mixture.
Upon lighting The Oscar Robusto, there’s some hints of the fire-cured notes. Fortunately, once I take a puff there’s just a simple mixture of oak, a generic sweetness and some chalkiness. Not a lot changes for the first few minutes, but I do notice a distinct rice pilaf note on the finish. Eventually, a core of toastiness, a muted Cinnamon Toast Crunch sweet cereal, wheat and barley. The finish keeps the rice pilaf note, along with some root beer sweetness at the end of the first third. Flavor is medium-full, medium-plus in strength and a body somewhere in between the two of them. All three appear to be building as the first third closes out.
It’s a sweeter core for the second third with burnt fortune cookie and creaminess. The retrohale is also sweeter with The Oscar Robusto providing concentrated blackberry, some 7-Up sweetness and a deep woodsiness. The finish has the aforementioned rice pilaf, fresh mayonnaise creaminess and a sharp wasabi on the tip of the throat. Interestingly, despite showing sings of increasing in intensity, the flavor, strength and body all stay where they were from the first third. Construction remains fantastic until the end of the second third when I make a slight touch-up to an uneven burn.
For a bit, there’s the first sign of the fire cured flavor that was so prevalent on the aroma, though it quickly develops into a barbecue sauce flavor. Elsewhere, the flavor of The Oscar has smoothed out a lot and gotten much sweeter with vanilla, walnuts, cedar and some grassiness. A Dr. Pepper sweetness emerges on the throat along with some white pepper. The finish has some paprika, cinnamon and chalkiness. With less than an inch to go a bark flavor becomes present in the retrohale completely replacing the barbecue sauce.
- This is the first time Oscar Valladares & Co. has used either an Ecuadorian habano wrapper or Nicaraguan tobacco in the filler.
- Using just cigar molds for boxes would be very expensive. Molds are heavy and you would be forced to get molds that fit the cigars very well. I like the approach of cutting up used molds and using them to outline the boxes.
- The band says Habano on it, which implies there might be more versions.
- I really thought that the intensity of the flavor, body and strength was going to increase after the first third, but it didn’t.
- After smoking three or four consecutive cigars with construction issues, it was such a relief to light up the first The Oscar Robusto and not find any construction issues at all.
- While the first two thirds were good, the final third was excellent.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 40 minutes.
- Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Site sponsor STOGIES World Class Cigars (713.783.5100) carries The Oscar.
I’ve slowly smoked my way through a variety of Leaf by Oscars and I’ve begun to understand the success the line has had. The Oscar is a bit pricier, but it continues the trend. The first two thirds were fine, but not remarkable; fortunately, the final third provided a grand crescendo. If you see one of those weird candela-wrapped cigars on the shelf, don’t be afraid to try it, and certainly don’t want until March 17.