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As much as I would like to think that a great story lies behind every cigar, I know that is simply not the case. Some cigars are made to use up tobacco, to fill a hole in a portfolio, or to get something on the market ahead of a certain regulatory agency’s deadline.

But then every so often you come across a cigar with a story, such as in the case of FDG Cigars’ 90 Miles line. Launched in 2010, it was named as a nod to the distance between the southern tip of Florida and the northern coast of Cuba, where the company’s founder traces his roots.

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Flor de Gonzalez’ founder, Arnaldo Gonzalez, grew up in the town of Las Villas, located in the Santa Clara province of Cuba. He was literally born into tobacco, learning from his father and grandfather who were both tobacco growers. In 1980 he left Cuba, moving to the U.S. and not working in tobacco until 1993, when he opened a small factory out of his Hialeah, Fla. home. In 1995 he opened a factory as well as retail store in the city, and in 1997, the company moved its production to Nicaragua.

This year, FDG Cigars expanded on the 90 Miles line with 90 Millas—pronounced noventa mee-las—which is the phrase in Spanish. The new line comes in three wrapper options, Connecticut shade, Ecuadorian habano maduro, and a barber pole design called Unidos, which is not only the most eye-catching, but has a distinct inspiration behind it.

“This line continues our tradition to honor the opportunity given to us by this country only 90 miles from our country of birth,” said Yadi Gonzalez-Vargas, president of FDG Cigars, when the line was announced in early July. She added that the barber-pole design of the Unidos is inspired by the changes taking place both in Cuba as well as in the relationship between Cuba and the United States, with the two wrappers symbolic of the two countries.

Underneath its dual wrapper lies a dual binder of Nicaraguan and Dominican tobaccos with Nicaraguan tobacco used for the filler. The Unidos is offered in three sizes, Robusto (5 x 52, $9.65), Toro (6 x 54, $9.85) and Belicoso (6 1/2 x 54, $10). Only 300 boxes of 20 cigars are being produced for each size, but Gonzalez-Vargas said she is hopeful that 90 Millas will be well received enough to turn it into part of the company’s ongoing production.

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  • Cigar Reviewed: 90 Millas Unidos Robusto
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Agroindustrial Nicaraguanse de Tabacos
  • Wrapper: Connecticut Shade Grown, Ecuadorian Habano Maduro
  • Binder: Dominican Republic & Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 5 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Robusto
  • MSRP: $9.65 (Box of 20, $193)
  • Release Date: July 29, 2016
  • Number of Cigars Released: 300 Boxes of 20 Cigars (6,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

Barber pole cigars by their nature are eye-catching, and the 90 Millas Unidos Robusto is no different. It is fairly familiar in terms of its design, though the darker Ecuadorian habano maduro is more prominent and leads to a bit of visual imbalance with the Connecticut shade leaf, almost at a 2-to-1 ratio. Both samples are well rolled with consistent firmness and little in the way of visual distractions; if anything the differing vein structures and oiliness of the two leaves is more interesting than warranting criticism. There is a distinct fruit sweetness from the foot, suggesting peach or nectarine in the first cigar and apple in the second, while a thicker jam expression forms the base with an overall dry presentation. The cold draw is nearly spot-on, a touch on the loose side if I had to fault it. I don’t get quite as much from this experience, however, with just a bit of jelly-on-white-toast that reminds me of a diner and that same dry packaging that falls between baled tobacco and pencil wood.

While the draw was a touch loose before being lit, it suddenly becomes a touch firm almost as soon as it starts being. The pre-light aroma is fairly misleading, as the cigar starts with a good bit of pepper and a somewhat dry profile, though it’s only a matter of a few puffs before the jammy undertones emerge and the draw loosens back up to an ideal air flow. Early retrohales are surprising as well, toeing the line of being tack sharp with the pepper but also presenting a softening undertone that is just the slightest bit suggestive of marshmallow. The pepper makes its way into the mouth as well, carrying just a touch of harshness in the throat that I could do without. The 90 Millas Unidos Robusto isn’t a smoke machine by any sense of the imagination, but produces enough to be enjoyable. There is an amazing softening of the smoke at the one-inch mark, as it is now a touch creamy and very easy on the tongue, though retrohales are still pepper-laden.

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The 90 Millas Unidos Robusto continues into its second third with its fairly soft smoke, profiling more as a Connecticut cigar than an Ecuadorian habano maduro through this transition, yet it never completely detaches from the abundant Nicaraguan tobacco found underneath the wrappers. The Connecticut-dominant flavor begins to change around the midway point, when it becomes a bit more robust and returns to the profile that started off the cigar, with prominent pepper and an earthy undertone, though there is more dry wood here than there was earlier; an increase in complexity but one that doesn’t quite enhance what the palate receives. The draw remains fantastic and the burn line has no problem navigating the alternating wrappers.

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The strength of the 90 Millas Unidos carries over into its final third, and while it’s not a full-bodied cigar, it certainly is stronger than medium entering its final inches. Sharp pepper continues to go after the tongue and be the lead note, while a bit of strong black coffee and rich earth provide supporting flavors. Heat comes into the equation in the final inch or so, further sharpening the pepper and challenging the flavor to stay balanced, which it does a commendable job at maintaining. It finally becomes evident in the last inch that the heat isn’t doing the 90 Millas any favors, forcing it to be put down after a good 90 minutes of smoking, which finishes off with a bit of a body punch of nicotine once I get up and go about my day.

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Final Notes

  • The wording on the primary band feels off-center to me; it might be a function of the font with its elongated tails, but with the left peak of the M starting beneath the 0, things feel unbalanced to my eye.
  • That said, I do think the overall design is solid, with a shiny gold trim on the die-cut band that is just the right amount of flashy.

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85 Overall Score

As I mentioned above, I love a cigar with a great backstory, but as we all know, it’s the tobacco that gets smoked, not the inspiration. In the case of the 90 Millas Unidos Robusto, the inspiration is fairly simple, the reality of that inspiration incredibly complex, and the cigar somewhere in the middle. While I haven’t smoked either of the other two versions of the 90 Millas, I’m inclined to align the Unidos more with the Ecuadorian habano maduro version given the visible ratio of the wrapper as well as what I experienced flavor-wise. There are some parts of the Unidos that could use a bit of smoothing out, something I hope time will resolve, much like I hope it resolves the differences between the two countries this cigar represents, as I firmly believe both will be better off when that happens.

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Patrick Lagreid
About the author

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.

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