Asylum Cigars is known for making big cigars. Company co-founder Tom Lazuka makes it clear, they didn’t make the 7 x 70 vitola first, but they are most certainly the first company that became known for its 7 x 70s including the Asylum 13 Seventy and the company’s barberpole Asylum 13 Ogre. 

While a smaller petit corona has always been offered in other lines, earlier this year the company announced it would be making a lancero in the popular Asylum 13 line, a stark contrast to its popular selling lines. It’s called 99 Problems, a 7 x 38 Asylum 13. Its name comes from a simple idea, Tom Lazuka asked Christian Eiroa how many lanceros would fit in a box of Ogres. Turns out the number was 99, and thus, 99 problems.

Only 500 boxes of 99 are being produced and they began shipping to retailers nationwide last month.

Asylum 13 99 Problems 1

  • Cigar Reviewed: Asylum 13 99 Problems
  • Country of Origin: Honduras
  • Factory: El Aladino
  • Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Size: 7 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 38
  • Vitola: Lancero
  • MSRP: $7.00 (Boxes of 99, $693.00)
  • Date Released April 15, 2014
  • Number of Cigars Released: 500 Boxes of 99 Cigars (49,500 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 4

I am not a regular customer as far as the Asylum 13 Seventy is concerned, and the candela wrapper on the barber pole really takes focus away from the Nicaraguan cover leaf, which is much darker than I recall. There are a fair amount of veins on it, but nothing substantial. There’s a really unique bun cap, something I cannot recall seeing on any lancero outside of people fooling around at Drew Estate’s Cigar Safari. Cold draw from the 99 Problems delivers notes of sweet hickory woods, fruits and leather. 

The 99 Problems begins with a familiar sweet woods, but there’s also sourness to accompany it and a touch of chalkiness on the back of the throat. By the second puff a harsh pepper has emerged cutting through the otherwise sweet and soft flavors. It continues much down this path with mild creaminess adding itself to the medium-plus flavor profile. Draw is slightly tight, even for a lancero, but it’s consistent and well within my comfort zone. Unfortunately, absent a quicker draw, the cigar goes through half-inch stretches where smoke production dwindles down, which leads to me having to push it to avoid it going out.

Asylum 13 99 Problems 2

Strength picks up noticeably right as the second third begins, now easily medium-full and climbing. The Asylum also adds some popcorn notes upfront, but it’s still a cedar core with creaminess. While that might seem a bit plain, it’s developed and the sharpness on the back of the throat and red pepper through the nose seem to dominate the profile, particularly with a lengthy finish. Wheat notes show themselves on the finish of the retrohale as well, particularly after the halfway mark. Construction is rather similar to the first third: up-and-down smoke production, tight draw and half-inch chunks of frail ash.

Asylum 13 99 Problems 3

The sourness, which really had never escaped, shows itself in the final third of the 99 Problems. Living true to its marketing, the Asylum 13 is now in the full category, with the flavor nicely building as well. Flavor-wise it’s still quite similar—cedar, creaminess, a refined sharp red pepper on the throat, a harsher one through the nose, but now with the added sourness. After the two-inch mark staying lit becomes much more challenging and by the one-inch mark, I call it a day with the 99 Problems.

Asylum 13 99 Problems 4

Final Notes 

  • “99 problems” is best known for this Jay Z song. (Lyrics NSFW)
  • Each time a company that specializes in what extreme attempts the opposite extreme, I take a little caution. The reality is the blend that was used to develop a 70 or 80 ring gauge cigar and a 38 ring gauge lancero should be substantially different. If they are not, there’s a good chance that one of the cigars is not burning correctly.
  • Asylum just began shipping cigar cases that will fit cigars as large as 80 ring gauge and as long as eight inches, or a decent-size box full of lanceros.
  • I love the lancero as a size, but as a business, few do well with them and virtually no one does better with the 38 ring gauge versus the 60 or 70 ring gauge. The super size ring gauges are not for me, and oftentimes the people making the large ring gauge cigars also have little interest in smoking them.
  • The cigar actually debuted at the D.C. Cigar Tweetup 2014 alongside the EH Lancero, which was recently released nationally as well.
  • This cigar starts medium-plus and ends full.
  • As far as I know, no lancero has ever been sold in 100-count boxes in the U.S. market meaning 99 Problems can now claim that unofficial title.
  • It will be interesting to see how these age, as without the sharpness and harshness—both of which could disappear with a year or two in the humidor—the profile would presumably be much different. At the moment, I think they are necessary parts to help provide contrast, even if it’s not enough.
  • Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time was one hour and 40 minutes.
81 Overall Score

There is nothing wrong with the 99 Problems, but the lack of development and more problematically, the lack of differentiating flavors and the ability of the flavors that were present to combine positively made this a fairly unexciting cigar. It’s pedestrian, and unfortunately, in my mind it’s not enough. My experience with the Asylum 13 Robusto was far better. While the price is great, there are much better lanceros at a dollar more—or in the case of the Cain F Lancero, a dollar less—and much better cigars from Asylum as a company.

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Charlie Minato

I am an editor and co-founder of Media, LLC. I previously co-founded and published TheCigarFeed, one of the two predecessors of halfwheel. I have written about the cigar industry for more than a decade, covering everything from product launches to regulation to M&A. In addition, I handle a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff here at halfwheel. I enjoy playing tennis, watching boxing, falling asleep to the Le Mans 24, wearing sweatshirts year-round and eating gyros. echte liebe.