For the last five years, we’ve constantly been writing about how what’s old is new again. It’s a phenomenon brought on, in my opinion, by two main forces: 1. the feeling from most cigar companies that they need to consistently be introducing “new” items; 2. FDA regulations have encouraged cigar companies to reintroduce discontinued lines because it is likely easier to comply with older products versus new products.
Most of the time when we are writing about what’s old is new again, we are discussing a cigar company bringing back an old line. Every once in a while, the subjects drift a bit from that course. Today’s review is one of them.
In June 2016—less than two months after the aforementioned FDA regulations were finalized—Danny Vazquez launched his own cigar company: Baracoa Cigar Co. Vazquez debuted with one line, The Voyage, which was made at La Aurora.
A little more than a year later, Vazquez announced that he was shutting down his company, in part due to the uncertainty regarding FDA regulations. At that time, and certainly before it, I think many thought there would be more companies who would shut down like Baracoa. But those doomsday scenarios have never materialized, in part because the arduous parts of the regulations have either been delayed or whittled down, but also because the doomsday scenarios that many had talked about just weren’t realistic.
Vazquez would go on to work for RoMa Craft Tobac as one of the company’s sales representatives until August 2020 when he announced he was leaving the company. Shortly thereafter, it became clear that he had plans to restart Baracoa.
The Voyage would return, though this time the cigar is being made at Tabacalera William Ventura. It’s also a different blend, using an Ecuadorian corojo wrapper over an Ecuadorian Sumatra binder and fillers from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. For reference, the original version used a Dominican corojo wrapper over an Ecuadorian binder and fillers from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.
It relaunched on April 10 at an event at Son’s Cigar & Lounge in Exton, Pa. There are three sizes offered of the new blend:
- Baracoa The Voyage Corona (5 x 46) — $8.30 (Box of 20, $166)
- Baracoa The Voyage Robusto Extra (5 1/4 x 52) — $9.70 (Box of 20, $194)
- Baracoa The Voyage Toro (6 x 54) — $10.30 (Box of 20, $206)
While the blend is new, the packaging is pretty similar to the original. The one difference is that the new cigar’s band is much more yellow than the original as you can see above.
- Cigar Reviewed: The Voyage Robusto Extra (2021)
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: Tabacalera William Ventura
- Wrapper: Ecuador (Corojo)
- Binder: Ecuador (Sumatra)
- Filler: Dominican Republic & Nicaragua
- Length: 5 1/4 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 52
- Vitola: Robusto Extra
- MSRP: $9.70 (Box of 20, $194)
- Release Date: April 10, 2021
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
The light milk chocolate wrapper might be too clean for its own nature. It has a remarkably uniform color, which means that the veins and jaggedness of the wrapper cuts that were made on the table stand out. That being said, from a color standpoint, I think most people would be thrilled to have this. Keeping with the milk chocolate theme, the wrapper smells like milk chocolate. There’s some barnyard, hay and saltiness underneath, but for the most part, it’s a blast of milk chocolate. The foot is a bit milder in profile, around medium-plus, and smells very different. My best description is a mixture of Thousand Island dressing and some paint. It’s not the smell I get when I’m concerned that paint or chemicals from the box-making have gotten onto the cigar, but it does remind me a bit of a freshly painted room. Fortunately, the cold draws have profiles that are a bit more enjoyable: lots of pretzel over some berry sweetness and lesser notes of caramel and creaminess. All three samples have open cold draws, which isn’t my favorite precursor to lighting a cigar.
Sometimes lighting the cigar can help to tighten a draw, but that’s not the case with The Voyage. The first puff is still open, though there’s enough resistance that I’m able to get enough smoke to pick up nuttiness, pretzels and a touch of creaminess, altogether around medium-plus. Once I’ve adjusted my smoking rate to account for a more open draw, the flavors become a bit more intense and enjoyable. There are three leading flavors—creaminess, earthiness and peanut shells—that each lay claims to the top spot at various points of the cigars. Underneath them are a poultry-like meatiness and some fruit flavors. It finishes with a pretty pedestrian mixture of creaminess and minerals. It might be simple, but it’s fine enough for me. Retrohales are smooth and developed with a corn-based whiskey flavor, sweet fruity flavors, leather, saltiness and a touch of white pepper. After the smoke has left my nostrils, I’m left with a mixture similar to Worcestershire sauce along with creaminess, grains and nutiness. Flavor is medium-full, body is medium and strength is medium. All three cigars have open draws that force me to smoke quicker than I’d like. One sample has great, even forming ash; another is average, and one sample is a complete mess as far as the burn line.
Whether or not The Voyage uses Dominican olor tobacco, I’m getting some of the flavors I associate with the tobacco. It’s the musty flavor that many people associate with Davidoff blends. While it’s not the strongest flavor in the second third of The Voyage, it’s noticeable. The main flavor is a combination of nuttiness and hay. Underneath that pair is the aforementioned olor-like mustiness, some white pepper and a bit of sharpness. It finishes with nuttiness, then some Worcestershire sauce, and after another 10 seconds, some creaminess and a weird vanilla flavor. I find that the main flavor tends to dry my mouth out, something that seems reduced during the finish. Retrohales are sharp with sunflower seeds and paprika over fruitiness, brown butter and key limes. The finish of the retrohales doesn’t hold a candle to the formal retrohales in both intensity and number of flavors, though I’m able to pick up meatiness, leather and earthiness. Flavor is full, body is medium-plus and strength is medium. On two cigars, the construction is more or less the same as the first third, but one cigar just keeps going out and doesn’t seem to want to stay lit. More specifically, one side of the cigar doesn’t, as no matter what I do, I can’t seem to get it to stay lit for longer than five minutes at a time.
Every part of The Voyage’s flavor profile seems to take a step back in intensity during the final third. It’s not that it’s any worse, it just isn’t as in my face as it had been. Flavor-wise, the main profile is a combination of nuttiness and leather with white pepper underneath and some underlying sourness. It finishes with peanut shells, white pepper, creaminess and some herbs. Retroahles are still much more intense than the main profile, but not like the first or second thirds. The key lime flavor has taken the top spot, now stronger than the Worcestershire sauce and key lime flavor from before. Retrohales finish very nutty with peanut shells being the stand-out note, though there are some key limes and sharpness as well. The one cigar that I keep relighting tastes like a cigar that I keep relighting, an ever-increasing toasty affair. Flavor is medium-full—though declining in intensity—body is medium-full and strength is medium. The draw still remains open, but I’m able to make it through one sample without a single relight; the other cigar in the trio needs a touch-up and then there’s the sample that doesn’t want to stay lit.
- Baracoa is also the name of a city on the eastern tip of Cuba.
- Before smoking these cigars I was asked, unsolicited, on two separate occasions by the owners of other cigar companies why Danny Vazquez would relaunch his company in 2021. I hadn’t spoken to Vazquez about this—and still haven’t—but I made what I believe to be the strongest argument for why Vazquez and others are (re-)entering the American cigar business: there’s probably no time like the present.
- Yes, FDA is here and likely to get worse. Yes, the pandemic made things tougher, though also maybe a bit easier in some other areas. But there’s no reason to believe any of these things are going to get better in the future. If someone told me I had to launch a cigar company in the next decade, I’d do it tomorrow and not wait to see what 2025 looks like.
- Prior to the relaunch, Vazquez told Patrick Lagreid that he had 63 accounts lined up, which is a pretty impressive number given I’m not sure how many stores had had a chance to smoke the new blends.
- I’m not sure that I think there’s a specific “Tabacalera William Ventura” profile, but that wouldn’t be my first guess about where these were made. That being said, William Ventura, the person, was a longtime employee of Davidoff’s Dominican operations, so the factory isn’t naïve about Dominican olor or the musty Davidoff profile.
- While the overall band design isn’t what I would do, the contrast between the matte and metallic parts of the band are impressive. So many cigar companies use medallions on their bands, here they really stand out because of the contrast.
- The second sample I smoked had noticeably worse construction. Not only was it more challenging to keep it lit in the first half, but the second half of the cigar was a workout for my lighter. Not surprisingly, the flavor after a handful of corrections and a few relights wasn’t great.
- Burn issues were present all the way around. While the ash was pretty even and smoke production was plentiful, The Voyage struggled to remain lit at my preferred smoking rate of one puff every 90 seconds or so. As such, I was smoking the cigar much quicker than normal and I was forced to pay attention to it a lot more than I would have liked.
- Despite the difference in ash appearance, all three cigars had very flaky ash. It didn’t create as large of a mess as the Viaje WLP Banner / The Hulk that I recently reviewed, but it was a pretty messy experience.
- From the weight of the cigars to the loose draw to the way the cigar burned—there are lots of signs these cigars were underfilled.
- I’ve smoked the original The Voyage over the years and it’s challenging to make a comparison here. The answer is that I prefer the original compared to these three cigars, though I’d be curious to know what slightly heavier—and presumably not underfilled—versions of The Voyage (2021) would taste like.
- Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Despite the quicker smoking rates, I still managed a pretty lengthy smoking time for a robusto. The average smoking time was right around one hour and 45 minutes.
While I smoked three cigars for this review, I experienced two different cigars. The two good ones were an interesting profile that tasted more intense than the body and strength would suggest. When not retrohaling, the profile was fine and easy enough to handle, though this is one of the times in which retrohaling didn’t produce the most enjoyable smoking experience. That second sample inevitably hurt the final score quite a bit and was difficult to smoke during the second half. Unfortunately, “difficult to smoke” is the lasting thought I have regarding the new version of The Voyage. While the first and third samples did better, I felt like the inability for the cigars to stay consistently lit meant that even with the best of examples, I was forced to smoke far quicker than I would have liked and was required to pay too much attention to the cigars from start to finish.