There are a lot of cigar smokers in the world, and one never knows where the next collaboration or partnership for a cigar might come from. The industry has seen baseball players, hockey players, football players, TV show hosts, comedians, and musicians featured in cigar releases. In that last group to be particular, we’ve seen two collaborations with the hip-hop world.
The first came from General Cigar Co. by way of the Cohiba Comador, a project released with the help of Jay Z, while the second is this cigar, the Undercrown ShadyXV.
Shady Records is best known for being the label of Eminem (aka Marshall Mathers), the Detroit rapper who really needs no introduction. He’s sold more than 155 million albums and singles around the world, and as of June 2014, with 45.1 million albums and 31 million digital singles sold in the United States.
But for this project it’s not Eminem that’s the key collaborator, it’s Paul Rosenberg, Eminem’s manager and business partner. A noted cigar smoker, he was described as being the impetus behind the collaboration when the project was announced in November 2014. In the press release, Rosenberg said that “as an avid boutique cigar smoker and a long-time Drew Estate fan, this collaboration on our label’s 15th anniversary is a huge honor that I’m really excited about. JD and his team went all-out to create a really special smoke that I’m very proud to be associated with.”
Jonathan Drew was equally excited, saying that “this project has been in the works for some time and I couldn’t be more amped that it’s finally coming to fruition. Anyone who knows JD understands my affinity towards hip-hop, so to have this opportunity to work with Paul Rosenberg and the Shady family is a true honor. Drew Estate is always on the cutting edge and ‘in the cut’ — and the Undercrown ShadyXV is no exception. This will be a collector’s piece for both the Drew Estate and the Shady fan.”
The cigar is a 5 x 50 box pressed belicoso and shares the same blend as the Undercrown ¡Corona Viva!, which was released in April 2012. Fitting with Eminem and Shady Records’ home of Detroit, the cigar is only being released in the greater Detroit area, with 10 stores receiving the cigar in late November.
- Cigar Reviewed: Undercrown ShadyXV
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate
- Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés Negro
- Binder: Connecticut River Valley Stalk Cut & Cured Sun Grown Habano
- Filler: Brazilian Mata Fina, Nicaraguan Habano
- Size: 5 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 50
- Vitola: Belicoso
- MSRP: $9.99 (Bundles of 10, $99.95)
- Release Date: Nov. 27, 2014
- Number of Cigars Released: 500 Bundles of 10 Cigars (5,000 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 3
There’s something about the Undercrown Shady XV that works visually for me; I’ve always liked the logo and color scheme, and the foot band adds just a bit more without going overboard, and both pop nicely against the dark brown wrapper. The top leaf has a great texture in the hand thanks to a good bit of tooth in the wrapper and very small veins that combine to give it a fine velvet texture. While it’s not a long cigar by any means, the elongated head seems to stretch it out beyond its listed length of five inches. Its the other dimension that’s hard to believe, as the cigar is pressed incredibly flat that I have a hard time believing it’s a 50 ring gauge, or that it was ever a 50 ring gauge for that matter. There’s a bit of give with the cigar and some spots are soft enough to be concerning. The pre-light aroma causes me to do at least a double-take, leading with an aroma that has me thinking sweet sausage before turning towards a note of a thick, syrupy cherry pie in one cigar, while showing notes of rich soil in another and third falling somewhere in between. Before I get a chance to sample the cold draw, I’m compelled to note how thin this cigar feels in the mouth, almost as if it had been pressed too much, with its lack of mass not changing that thought. It too has this dichotomy of sweetness and cured meat undertones, almost like prosciutto with its texture and taste, with only one sample showing any appreciable pepper. The cold draw varies from being incredibly loose on one sample to well calibrated on the other two.
There’s a good amount of earthy flavor off the top with the Undercrown ShadyXV and as is to be expected, copious amounts of smoke that delivers a rich, full aroma highlighted by notes of barnyard and assorted meats, sort of the smell you get when you go into a serious deli or sausage shop. Pepper isn’t far behind in the flavor and aroma, and the cigar starts developing into a full-flavor smokehouse before a quarter of an inch has burned. There are points where I’m getting notes of rock—a variation on the earthiness—and the start of a showcase of interpretations on what earthiness can mean. Before long I pick up notes of warm barnyard, tree bark and sausage; a complex note where the distinct flavors share a good amount of similarities that the resulting flavor is rich with harmony. Pepper is prevalent but not overpowering, and seems to get tangled up with the earth notes that make it hard to separate one from the other. The technical performance has been solid in the first half: smoke production has never lacked and the burn line has stayed sharp and even.
It’s at the start of the second third where I find myself becoming a bit complacent with the ShadyXV, as it has dialed back a bit from the complexity and big flavors and aromas it started off with, settling into a place that is very familiar and enjoyable if not necessarily the most engaging. There’s still a good bit of the core earth notes, while a hard to pin down sweetness lingers on the palate, in the nose and in the mind; it’s almost like aloe or sugar cane in that it has a touch of a vegetal note it while still offering a thick core of sucrose. By the midpoint, the burn line has shown a few struggles, becoming a bit wavy or jagged at times, and combustion can be a challenge if the cigar isn’t puffed on with regularity. Past the midpoint, there’s an earthy, peppery bite that the ShadyXV leaves in its wake, and retrohales are potent and punchy with needle-like pepper attacking the nostrils.
Much like I found in the second third, there isn’t a lot of flavor change happening in the final third of the Undercrown ShadyXV, and while the flavor is still very enjoyable, it’s not the most engaging or compelling. There’s still a good amount of sweet earth, an interesting combination that shows some of the better notes of the San Andrés wrapper while giving it complexity and a sweetness to offset what can be a robust taste that some might not find appealing. There isn’t quite as much raw terroir as you might find in other cigars that use Mexican tobacco, but it’s not a detriment here, rather an enjoyable take on what the leaf has to offer. The ShadyXV seems to back away from some of the full flavor it had in its first third, though there’s no shortage of it by any means. The cigar finishes off with a wonderful campfire aroma that shows a bit of wood and smoke to close things out.
- Paul Rosenberg is a cigar geek and he’s been known to read halfwheel.
- On the backside of the foot band is the Latin phrase Habe Fiducial Sumus Umbriferum, which when translated means “Trust Us, We’re Shady.” It’s a phrase that has been used occasionally by Shady Records, including on a polo shirt as part of the company’s “Country Club Rejects” bundle.
- The thinness of this cigar is striking; for comparison, if a standard cigar is a Snickers, this is a Heath bar.
- There are few cigars that have the reputation for being smoke producers like Undercrown. Liga Privada is one that comes to mind, however.
- In 2008, Rolling Stone ranked Eminem #83 on its list of The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, and in 2011 declared him The King of Hip-Hop.
- Between the word Undercrown being printed in reverse on the left side of the main band and the upside down A on the foot band, there’s a fair amount of stylized text on this cigar.
- All three cigars needed at least two relights, and that’s despite one getting almost a day of dryboxing.
- In November 2014, Shady Records released a compilation album called ShadyXV celebrating its 15th anniversary.
- Because of a state law, it’s not terribly easy to order these from one of the 10 retailers. We had to mail a check to the retailer we purchased them from, wait for them receive it and then clear the check, and then ship it to us.
- There have been rumors that this will get a more widespread release before the end of the spring, but representatives from Drew Estate did not respond to a request for comment on that.
- There’s a dedicated website set up for the the Undercrown ShadyXV.
- Final smoking time was about one hour and 30 minutes on average.
- The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- The Undercrown ShadyXV is available from ten retailers in the Detroit area, for the complete list, please click here, and tell them halfwheel sent you.
As soon as I lit up the Undercrown ShadyXV, I had really high hopes for it; I knew I liked the blend from previous experience with the regular Undercrown line as well as the ¡Corona Viva!, and while the first third was an incredible tour of what the cigar had to offer, it feels like it put its best offerings too early. The second and final thirds were very enjoyable, but didn't offer nearly the complexity or changes that I found in the first third, leaving it to be one of those cigars that I would enjoy but not necessarily savor or crave. It's hard for me to say these are particularly better than the other vitolas in the Undercrown line and as such seem relegated to being a treat for those in the Detroit area or who want to put in the effort to get some for themselves. Fortunately, there's usually a supply of just-as-enjoyable Undercrowns on the shelves of plenty of stores.