Somewhere in your home, there may be photos of your family throughout the years. I’d venture to bet that those photos are not only cherished memories, but also serve as a bit of a timeline. They often show the growth and evolution of a family, with new members joining and some eventually leaving.
When it comes to cigar companies, catalogs of their offerings may be the closest comparison, but for RoMa Craft Tobac, there is a sampler that serves a bit more fittingly as a family photo. It is known as El Catador, a phrase that translates as the taster or the sampler.
The company released the first installment of these in December 2013 with El Catador de Los Perfectos, and the collection quickly grew in the following years:
- El Catador de Los Perfectos (December 2013)
- El Catador de Los Gran Robustos (March 2015)
- El Catador de Las Panetelas (July 2015)
- El Catador de Las Petite Coronas (August 2015)
- El Catador de Los Petite Robustos (October 2015)
As the name suggests, each sampler contained the company’s core lines in a certain vitola, generally two each of the company’s four core lines and then another, often new or limited cigar such as the Neanderthal GD or the CroMagnon Fomorian, making for a total of 10 cigars. Yet like most things that happened in 2020, El Catador changed, both in terms of what the sampler contained and how it was released.
The newest El Catador release, El Catador de Los Gran Perfectos 10 Años, was destined to be released amongst a more festive atmosphere, namely an event hosted by the company called WeaselFest, a celebration of the RoMa Craft’s 10th anniversary. It was slated for Sept. 5 at the company’s headquarters in Austin, Texas, until it was forced to be postponed to May 29, 2021 due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
The event offered two ticket options, a general admission ticket for $250 and a VIP ticket for $450. There were 350 standard tickets and 50 VIP tickets available, and both sold out rather quickly. The general admission ticket included the following:
- (2) Brewer Experiences
- (2) Spirit Experiences
- (2) BBQ and TexMex Meals
- (2) Weasel Packs shipped in July and August
The VIP ticket upped that to unlimited brewer experiences, liquor experiences and meals, and one of the El Catador de Los Gran Perfectos 10 Años samplers. Both ticket holders also had the option of purchasing up to five more samplers at the time they purchased their tickets, while any leftover samplers would be offered for sale at the event.
However, by the time the postponement was announced, ticket holders had received one of the Weasel Packs and their pre-ordered samplers, meaning they were out in the wild for those folks to enjoy. In terms of what was in those samplers, El Catador de Los Gran Perfectos contained each of the company’s eight core lines in a 5 5/8 x 60 gran perfecto vitola.
- Intemperance BA XXI Gran Perfecto (5 5/8 x 60) — $15 (Sampler of 8, $120)
- Intemperance EC XVII Gran Perfecto (5 5/8 x 60) — $15 (Sampler of 8, $120)
- Intemperance Whisky Rebellion 1794 Gran Perfecto (5 5/8 x 60) — $15 (Sampler of 8, $120)
- CroMagnon Gran Perfecto (5 5/8 x 60) — $15 (Sampler of 8, $120)
- Aquitaine Gran Perfecto (5 5/8 x 60) — $15 (Sampler of 8, $120)
- Neanderthal Gran Perfecto (5 5/8 x 60) — $15 (Sampler of 8, $120)
- Baka Gran Perfecto (5 5/8 x 60) — $15 (Sampler of 8, $120)
- Wunder|Lust Gran Perfecto (5 5/8 x 60) — $15 (Sampler of 8, $120)
As you might notice, this newest El Catador includes some new members of the RoMa Craft family, notably Wunder|Lust, Intemperance Whisky Rebellion and the most recent addition to the company’s core lines, Baka.
Baka debuted at the 2019 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show and was notable not only for being a new line from RoMa Craft, but also because it uses a Cameroon wrapper, something that is a relative rarity and thus tends to catch the attention of a good number of cigar smokers. Baka gets its name from an ethnic group of people that live in the southeastern rain forests of the country of Cameroon. It is described as an annual limited release, with about 1,000 boxes of each of the seven vitolas, though not all of them have been released yet.
- Baka Pygmy (4 x 46) — $9.25 (Box of 30, $277.50)
- Baka Bantu (4 x 52) — $9.95 (Box of 24, $238.80)
- Baka Ota Benga (4 1/2 x 60) — $10.60 (Box of 24, $254.40)
- Baka Poki (5 x 50) — $10.45 (Box of 24, $250.80)
- Baka Acephalous (5 x 56) — $11.50 (Box of 24, $276)
- Baka Jengi (5 3/4 x 46) — $11.40 (Box of 24, $273.60)
- Baka Hunter Gatherer (6 x 54) — $12.70 (Box of 24, $304.80)
- Baka Gran Perfecto (5 5/8 x 60) — $15 (Sampler of 8, $120)
As of the end of summer 2020, only the Pygmy, Bantu and Jengi have been released, along with the Gran Perfecto that is included with the El Catador de Los Gran Perfectos 10 Años.
- Cigar Reviewed: Baka Gran Perfecto
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: Fabrica de Tabacos NicaSueño S.A.
- Wrapper: Cameroon
- Binder: Not Disclosed
- Filler: Not Disclosed
- Length: 5 5/8 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 60
- Vitola: Perfecto
- MSRP: $15 (Sampler of 8, $120)
- Release Date: July 21, 2020
- Number of Cigars Released: 1,500 Samplers of 1 Cigar (1,500 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
The Baka Gran Perfecto is a visually striking cigar, mostly due to its distinct vitola, but the contract of the wrapper and bands also helps, as does the overall combination of shape, wrapper and bands. The wrapper is an interesting shade of brown that has a bit of a cocoa hue to it, and it’s one I’d love to see on a side-by-side comparison with a number of cigars, both with Cameroon wrappers and otherwise, to try and figure out just what it is that makes this leaf stand out. As expected, the cigar is rolled incredibly firmly, and if you didn’t know better you might think it was a truly solid object as opposed to a collection of rolled leaves. The foot is surprisingly mild, with just a bit of red chili pepper coming out after some more intense sniffs. To get there, I encounter a very cool sweetness, almost like the aroma of a freshly opened pint of gelato or ice cream. The cold draw is near perfect in terms of airflow, with just a touch of resistance that is ideal for my preference. There is a bit more of the red chili pepper here, though it’s a bit more sauce-based and makes me think of a very tame sriracha, something that is as much texture-based as it is flavor-based.
The Baka Gran Perfecto opens up with an enjoyable hit of pepper, a mix of black and red chili that has no trouble making its way into the nostrils as well. It’s nowhere near as much of a strength or pepper bomb out of the gate as some of RoMa Craft’s other blends, and if anything seems to start with a bit of restraint. As the burn line progresses so does the flavor, picking up a slight bit of earthiness and a more pronounced black pepper, both of which shine through the nose if given proper attention. The bar has been set high for Baka by some notable Cameroon cigars, and I find myself holding the cigar to that standard. While the cigar is enjoyable, it has yet to showcase the Cameroon wrapper as well as some other blends do. As I do with most Cameroon-wrapped cigars, I retrohale the Baka Gran Perfecto as much as possible and it rewards me by showing the subtlest of changes before the palate can discern them. In this case, around the one-inch mark, there is a bit of the sweet and spicy attribute emerging, something that largely misses the taste buds. Technical performance out of the gate and through the first third is very good with the draw smooth and easy, good amounts of smoke, and no combustion or burn line issues.
Maybe it’s just the second sample that I’m smoking, but I still find myself a bit surprised but not disappointed by the Baka Gran Perfecto’s relative restraint. That’s not to say there’s no flavor, each puff continues to deliver a combination of dry woods and the subtle red chili pepper. The combination on the palate also clears the way for retrohaling pretty much at will, as it adds both detail and complexity to the equation. Ahead of the midway point, the cigar adds a bit more earthiness, a clean yet robust character that introduces some character to the base component of the profile. While it doesn’t come at the cost of the brighter flavors—namely the subtle sweetness and the red chili pepper—both slowly get dialed down, leaving the flavor jus a bit flatter as the burn line crosses the midway point. Around that time, the flavor begins drying out and building white pepper on both the palate and through the nose, keeping the experience close to full flavor intensity. It is still burning beautifully with near-flawless construction.
The final third sees the pepper settle down just a touch, though the overall profile seems to be getting more robust as a whole. It is still not delivering what I would consider to be the typical flavors of Cameroon tobacco. Rather, the Baka has a dry and still somewhat peppery profile that has some leanings towards a very dry wood, though it’s not quite fully embracing that flavor. I also find a bit of nicotine strength developing in my system, something I’m a bit surprised given the flavor profile but not necessarily completely caught off guard by given RoMa Craft’s general profile. The final inches sees the profile get even drier, now feeling like it’s actively removing whatever moisture I have in my mouth and making me rehydrate in between puffs, something that isn’t bad but doesn’t give the cigar that it would seemingly deserve. Technical performance remains near perfect, though smoke production seems to dial itself back a bit.
- WeaselFest ticketholders were given three options in regards to what to do with their tickets. They could keep them for the new 2021 date, exchange them for two additional samplers, or receive a partial refund.
- I am adding something to my to-do list: smoke puritos of Cameroon tobacco. I really feel like doing that would help cement was Cameroon can taste like in my mind. If you can help out with that, let’s talk.
- Brooks Whittington reviewed the Baka Pygmy in December 2019.
- I’d forgotten that it was Brooks that had reviewed the Baka Pygmy, and in fact thought that I had done the review, mainly because I made it a point to smoke a number of the Baka Pygmy to try and understand what all the cigar had to offer.
- One of my thoughts about the released Baka sizes was that I still don’t feel that I have a great idea of what this blend is truly capable of, mainly because the thicker ring gauges haven’t been released. The Gran Perfecto gives me a bit better idea, but I still think there is a lot for me to learn and experience about the Baka blend.
- When I talk about typical Cameroon flavors, I tend to call the Arturo Fuente Don Carlos to mind as I think that is one of the best examples of Cameroon-based blends on the market.
- There is a bit of nicotine strength in the Baka Gran Perfecto, but it’s far from what you’ll find in RoMa Craft’s average profile. Amongst the three samples, I probably only needed a teaspoon and a half of sugar to neutralize any effects.
- The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 45 minutes on average.
While I was focusing on the Baka Gran Perfecto as a cigar on its own, there was a side of me that was intrigued to see just what the bigger vitola would do for the blend, namely if it would open up the profile and show more than what I got from the Pygmy vitola. After smoking three of these, I can say that it does do that a bit, although not to the extent that I had hoped. The first two thirds are better at showcasing the differences and are by far the best that the cigar has to offer. The red chili pepper note may be the most familiar flavors for those looking for a somewhat typical Cameroon profile, though the cigar still falls a bit short on the whole of delivering the kind of profile that exists elsewhere in the market. There is little if any sweetness to the cigar, and it will almost certainly not be a takeaway from this blend. The final third may be the most interesting, as it not only steps away from the profile of the earlier sections, but it delves into a profile that is more robust on the palate than I would have preferred. I am still very intrigued to see what the other sizes in the Baka line have to offer as I think it holds a great deal of potential, and while the Baka may not completely deliver on that potential, it does keep my hope alive that this could be a tremendous blend when presented in a specific vitola.