Few companies were as active at the 2018 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show as Royal Agio.
The Dutch company introduced a total of five new lines at the mid-summer trade show, an aggressive move from a company that is on one hand over a century old, and on the other hand, less than a year old when it comes to running its own U.S. distribution.
Two of those lines were extensions to the company’s flagship Balmoral line: Añejo XO Connecticut and Añejo XO Oscuro. Both are offered in the same five sizes, though the blends are pretty different. The Oscuro version gets a Mexican San Andrés wrapper over a Dominican olor binder and fillers from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Brazilian Arapiraca, the latter of which is a signature for the Balmoral brand.
- Balmoral Añejo XO Oscuro Torpedo Mk52 (6 1/4 x 52) — $11.25
- Balmoral Añejo XO Oscuro Gran Toro (6 x 52) — $10.50
- Balmoral Añejo XO Oscuro Rothschild Masivo (5 x 55) — $9.75
- Balmoral Añejo XO Oscuro Corona (5 7/8 x 42) — $9
- Balmoral Añejo XO Oscuro Petit Robusto FT (4 1/4 x 48) — $8.50
- Cigar Reviewed: Balmoral Añejo XO Oscuro Gran Toro
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: Agio Caribbean Tobacco Company
- Wrapper: Mexico (San Andrés)
- Binder: Dominican Republic (Olor)
- Filler: Brazil, Dominican Republic & Nicaragua
- Length: 6 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 52
- Vitola: Toro
- MSRP: $10.50 (Box of 20, $210)
- Release Date: August 2018
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
The Mexican San Andrés wrapper is predictably dark and very smooth to the touch. Oddly, even with the protection of cellophane, there’s not much in the way of aromas off the wrapper. It’s sweet, medium-plus and the only thing of note that I can pick up is ketchup. The foot has an artificial sweetness with strawberry milk, plums and some artificial coffee. There’s a big date note on the cold draw on top of some cocoa puffs, floral flavors and the familiar ketchup.
It begins toasty with redwoods and dark cocoa underneath; medium-full and crisp. Things sweeten up as the Añejo XO Oscuro smokes down and the redwood flavor turns more to a barbecue potato chip flavor on top of toastiness, oak and at times, particularly on one sample, a vegetal note. The finish has paprika, creaminess, black pepper and a Sour Cream Pringles flavors. I spend a fair amount of time trying to figure out if the two different potato chip flavors are related, but they seem to remain separate despite my brain’s best efforts to change that. The flavor is full, body is medium-plus and strength is medium.
There’s mixed nuts, toastiness and some acidity as the cigar reaches the middle point. The Balmoral is notably more complex with repetitive retrohales: earthiness, nuttiness, strawberry and a creaminess that borders between a heavily buttered popcorn to a mayonnaise-like flavor. The flavor lightens a bit to medium-full, body is now medium-full and the strength remains medium.
The walk down the potato chip aisle continues in the final third with salty potato chips, some lavender and creaminess. Through the nose there’s some meatiness, a bit of toastiness, some fruitiness and a bit of an olive oil flavor. For the first time, there’s some irritation on the palate thanks to some spices, closest to a hot cinnamon flavor. Of note, there’s still no real pepper and there’s never been any pepper to speak of throughout the three samples of the Balmoral Añejo XO Oscuro. Ultimately, it finishes full in flavor and body, medium-plus in strength.
- A part of me wonders if Agio is going about its portfolio expansion the best way possible. The company added a total of five new lines, albeit one had only one SKU, at the IPCPR Convention & Trade Show. While I understand that things take time, I do wonder if it would have been possible for the company to introduce a few of those products at other points throughout the year.
- On a similar note, I admittedly need a guide to understand all the differences within the Balmoral line.
- As is oftentimes the case, retrohales are a must. If you aren’t retrohaling most of the complexity in the cigar will not be present.
- This was amongst the most nubbable cigars I’ve smoked in a while. The profile does a great job of changing from start to finish and the last inch of the cigar was probably the most enjoyable.
- Cigars for this review were sent to halfwheel by Royal Agio Cigars, which advertises on halfwheel.
- Final smoking time was two hours and 20 minutes on average.
When I think of oscuro cigars, I generally think of strong cigars. Oscuro means dark, darker wrappers in the cigar industry generally inspire companies to make the cigars strong and as such, that usually means a fair bit of pepper. That is not the case with the Balmoral Añejo XO. Three samples, zero pepper. As for whether it’s a good cigar, I think it is. The profile is perhaps not as complete as the more expensive cigars with the Balmoral name, but the flavors are developed and unique. While I think there are many people who would enjoy this cigar, the real question—and really the question with Agio in the U.S.—is whether people will pick it up to give a shot, it's certainly worth of one.