In November 2022, Selected Tobacco S.A. release a new line called the Byron 1850, which was created in anticipation of celebrating nearly 175 years of the Byron brand.

In its blend, the Byron 1850 features an Ecuadorian wrapper over a Peruvian binder and fillers from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. While Peruvian tobacco isn’t a common leaf found in premium cigars, it isn’t the blend that sets the Byron 1850 line apart, but rather what happens to the cigars once they are rolled. Like the Alfonso Añejos, another new 2022 release for Selected Tobacco, the company says the cigars are aged in both cedar and French oak aging rooms at Tabacos de Costa Rica, the factory that makes the line along with other Selected Tobacco S.A. cigars, such as Atabey, Alfonso and Bandolero.

Selected Tobacco S.A. says it normally ages its cigars in a cedar-lined room for between two to five years, but it has also begun releasing cigars that are aged in French oak aging rooms after being inspired by the wine industry. The decision to age cigars in a French oak aging room started as an experiment after Nelson Alfonso, founder of Selected Tobacco S.A., learned of the complexity that the wood could offer. Seeing as how French oak is used to age some of the most famous wines in the world, incorporating the wood into the cigar-making process became an obsession for Alfonso.

“Cedar is to cigars as oak is to wine,” said Alfonso in a press release when the line was announced. “The years we take to age the cigars in this process have a purpose and we hope this is appreciated in the smoke.”

The Byron 1850 line is offered in six sizes:

  • Byron 1850 No.1 (8 x 54) — $55 (Box of 25, $1,375)
  • Byron 1850 No.2 (7 x 56) — $50 (Box of 25, $1,250)
  • Byron 1850 No.3 (6 x 52) — $45 (Box of 25, $1,125)
  • Byron 1850 No.4 (5 x 50) — $42 (Box of 25, $1,050)
  • Byron 1850 Grand Bouquet (6 x 58) — $75
  • Byron 1850 Liricios (9 1/4 x 55) — $65

The Grand Bouquet, a perfecto vitola, and the Liricios, a diadema, will only be offered at events, while the four numbered vitolas will be available as regular production offerings. The line debuted on Nov. 17, 2022 at the Byron Cigar Lounge in Schaumburg, Ill.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Byron 1850 No. 2
  • Country of Origin: Costa Rica
  • Factory: Tabacos de Costa Rica
  • Wrapper: Ecuador
  • Binder: Peru
  • Filler: Dominican Republic & Nicaragua
  • Length: 7 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 56
  • Vitola: Gran Belicoso
  • MSRP: $50 (Box of 25, $1,250)
  • Release Date: November 2022
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

The Byron 1850 No. 2 comes in a cellophane sleeve that does not cover the foot; it is cut short, just like the wrapper you might see on cigars with an unfinished foot. This means that there is no flap that covers the foot and effectively seals the cellophane, a change that is said to help the cigar breathe a bit more. It’s a bit odd if not seen before, but it is a common technique used by Selected Tobacco S.A. The dark brown wrapper has a bit of an oily sheen, though to the touch it feels dry and papery, with a corresponding sound of light friction as my finger slides across the leaf. The cigar’s size gives it a fairly imposing feeling both visually and in the hand, particularly having smoked some smaller cigars recently. Despite its size, the cigar isn’t quite as heavy as I might have suspected. It looks to be rolled quite well, though I do notice a fair number of seam lines around the head, nothing that is concerning but something that catches my eye. The cigars are all rolled fairly firmly, with just a bit of consistent give from head to foot in two samples, and essentially no give in third sample. The wrapper’s aroma is a mix of mixed nuts and dry oak, while the foot has a fairly rich but mellow aroma, with individual components hard to detect. One cigar offers almost no distinct aromas, while another suggests sweet breads and a bit of oiliness, and the third is much nuttier, almost approaching peanut butter but not quite hitting that smell. One thing that is consistent across the samples is a lack of outright sweetness or pepper. The cold draw is a bit firm, which I’m not surprised by given the tapered head and my conservative first cut. Flavors here are pretty tight, with a bit of wheat bread the only thing that stands out across the samples. Like the aroma, there’s little to no pepper or sweetness.

The Byron 1850 No. 2 starts out flavorful, but fairly mellow with a nutty profile that seems to have a bit of terroir and wood lingering in the background. There’s no appreciable pepper right out of the gate, though the finish leaves a touch of a tingle on my taste buds, while a retrohale shows more of the flavor but also lacks a pronounced pepper. A bit of creaminess comes along next—though in one cigar it starts right at the beginning—either way, it’s just enough to be noticeable and leave its mark on the profile. There is a lot to be said for cutting the right amount of the head off the cigar, as not only does it help with airflow, combustion, smoke production and the draw on the whole but also the enjoyment of the cigar. I always advocate for taking as little of a cut as possible and taking more when needed, and in the case of the second cigar, I make it about an inch before needing to snip off a little more and the result is almost immediate. As this section progresses, a bit more creaminess joins the first third’s profile, as does just a bit of light black pepper that seems to be coming from a bit of earthiness, though I can’t say I get quite enough terroir or soil to say it’s part of the profile just yet. One cigar is a bit more dry oak dominant, at least pushing that flavor further into the spotlight than I find the other two do, and with it just a bit of toasted wood but stopping short of char. The section closes out with a bit more dry nuttiness and some new and very subtle woodiness, upping the complexity of the cigar quite impressively. It’s still medium to medium-plus in flavor intensity, making it very palate-friendly, while a medium-bodied smoke sits fairly softly on the taste buds. Strength is in the mild range across the three samples, with no feelings of nicotine in the early going. Construction on the whole is very good, though the tapered head is having more of an impact on the draw at times than I would like, forcing me to debate about cutting more of the head off and risk unraveling or to try and push through in hopes that things will improve on their own. Flavor ends up being between medium and medium-full, body is medium, and strength is mild. Construction is proving to be a bit all over the board, though I don’t find myself needing to relight the cigar and the burn line is generally pretty even.

The start of the second third sees a bit of a fork in the path of the Byron 1850 No. 2, as two of the cigars continue to be driven by nuttiness, while the third is much more driven by dry French oak, almost as if this one cigar had been touching the walls of the aging room while the other two were just in the room absorbing some of that particular wood’s characteristics. In some puffs, this proves to be a bit too much of a good thing, as the cigar is a bit singular and my palate dries out from the oak flavor. Going back to the draw, in the case of the second cigar, I find the draw to be just tight enough that I decide to cut off one more thin slice of the head, which does help improve the draw a bit, even though I think one more cut might result in the wrapper unraveling. There’s a bit more black pepper in the profile, as the cigar continues the developments it started before the end of the first third, a progression that gives the smoke a bit more texture on the taste buds. There are points where I find myself wanting more smoke and more overall impact from the cigar, something that feels hampered by the draw and which leads to a feeling of frustration. In the case of the first cigar, I’m not as enamored by the flavor profile, but the second cigar is practically screaming to be given a better draw. The first cigar develops a split in the wrapper right about the midway point, though it stays isolated and doesn’t become a problem. Not related to that, there’s a bit of a funky taste for a moment after the midway point that then evolves back into a nutty profile, something that has been a consistent base note thus far. Past the midway point, the draw improves a bit on its own, possibly due to the shrinking volume of air needs to be moved through the cigar as it burns. The remaining puffs of the second third pick up just a bit of charred firewood, a change that also manifests by a bit of a campfire smell coming through in the cigar’s resting aroma. The flavor tends to be in medium-full territory, particularly in the case of the cigar with the most French oak influence, while the body is still closer to medium and strength is mild. Much like in the first third, construction is varied and draw problems plague the second sample.

The nuttiness that has been a near-constant in the Byron 1850 No. 2 begins to fade not long into the final third, replaced by a much drier wood note, and while not as aromatic as dry kindling, there are some similarities in the texture of the smoke. Pepper has backed off a bit, while the creaminess comes and goes for a bit, softening the profile when present and allowing the woodiness to drive the profile. If there was a time in the cigar when I can confidently say I’m getting French oak in the profile, it is the final third, as the wood is now front and center on my taste buds, accented by just a bit of pepper and the occasional touch of creaminess. That’s not to say that it hasn’t appeared earlier, and in one sample it is quite pronounced earlier on, but all three samples get on the same page with it in the final third. While it’s a fairly singular flavor for a good portion of this section, it is pretty enjoyable and generally doesn’t get overwhelming on the taste buds. Retrohales can provide a bit of variety with some pepper and a more varied woodiness, though a few in a row get the nostrils tingling and wanting me to take a break from forcing the smoke through my nose. The final inch or so starts to add in just a bit of light char, seemingly a byproduct of the combusting core of the cigar getting close to the head and imparting a bit of heat to the equation.

Final Notes

  • The Alfonso Añejos No. 3 won halfwheel’s 2022 Cigar of the Year award.
  • I tend to make mention of a cigar’s bands, and in the case of the Byron 1850 No. 2, they slid right off the cigar, sometimes even staying in the cellophane. While they didn’t appear to be loose to the eye, they had just enough wiggle room to allow them to be removed without causing damage to the wrapper, which I appreciate.
  • I would really like to try this in a parejo vitola. On the whole, I’m not much of a fan of tapered heads such as belicosos, pirámides or the like, and in the case of the Byron 1850 No. 2, there were several times when it felt like the vitola was getting in the way of the blend delivering everything that it had to offer.
  • After seeing the wrapper split on the first cigar I smoked, I opted against trying to roll the cigar in between my fingers in hopes of helping the draw.
  • In the press release announcing the line, Selected Tobacco S.A. referred to the six sizes as “the first release” of the Byron 1850 line.
  • While halfwheel recognizes what we feel to be the best individual product packaging of the year, if we ever do an award for best overall packaging across a company’s portfolio, I’ll be nominating Selected Tobacco S.A.
  • The Byron 1850 No. 2 didn’t hit me with much in the way of nicotine strength, as only one even hinted at packing any punch when I put it down.
  • Selected Tobacco S.A. is distributed by United Cigars.
  • The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time varied a good bit, from two hours and 35 minutes in the first cigar to three hours and 30 minutes in the third. On average, it took me about three hours to get through each of the three Byron 1850 No. 2s smoked for this review.
  • Site sponsor Corona Cigar Co. carries the Byron 1850 No. 2.
84 Overall Score

It's always fun to experience and talk about something new when it comes to cigars, as is the case with the use of a French oak-lined aging room being used to give a potentially different spin. In the case of the Byron 1850 No. 2, the effect is more pronounced than what I remember from the Alfonso Extra Añejo No. 3, where it seemed more like an accent. Here, it's anywhere from a solid #2 in the flavor list to an a nearly singular, driving flavor. If there is one thing that I really wanted from the Byron 1850 No. 2, it was a more consistent experience. The first cigar had a funky taste that popped up and just didn’t sit right on my palate, while the second cigar had a draw that clearly impeded the cigar from delivering its best profile. The third cigar was the easy winner of the bunch, delivering on both flavor and technical performance, though it was also most prone to put the French oak flavor out on its own, creating a good but shallow flavor profile. This is definitely a cigar worth trying if the price isn't a complete turn-off, as the flavor of French oak is unmistakable and one you're not likely to experience in pretty much any other cigar on the market.

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Patrick Lagreid

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.