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In December of 2015, Robert Caldwell released a cigar called Funfetti for JR Cigar that he hoped would be a more balanced version of one of his previous cigars, an event-only release known as Yellow Cake.

What struck me as most notable about this new project was that Caldwell openly admitted that he was trying to improve on a cigar he didn’t like. “I didn’t like Yellow Cake,” he told halfwheel, adding that “I like Funfetti.”

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Yellow Cake was announced in October 2014, a 4 x 44 petit corona that used a Dominican corojo wrapper, which was also used on the Long Live the King line, as well as filler tobaccos left over from the production of the Eastern Standard and the King is Dead lines. For Funfetti, he sized the cigar up to a 5 x 50 robusto and made some changes to the blend, replacing the Dominican corojo with an Indonesian Sumatra wrapper on top of a Nicaraguan binder and filler.

Caldwell noted that the concept behind Funfetti was “to make a full size Yellow Cake concept that was more well rounded and better balanced,” adding that it would have enough produced so that more people could try it, as opposed to the event-only Yellow Cake. While not a huge run by some standards, 20,000 Funfetti cigars were produced, all unbanded and split into 2,000 packs of 10 priced at $49.95 each, though each stick had an MSRP of $6.

Here’s what I said about the Caldwell Funfetti when I reviewed it in February 2016:

Given that this was positioned as a more balanced version of Yellow Cake, I found myself being a bit more scrutinizing of the cigar’s balance, and after three samples, I can say that it certainly achieved its goal and then some. While it stays balanced for the bulk of the cigar, it also manages to show a number of flavor evolutions and changes, mixing in pepper, sweetness and creaminess in a relatively small format and short time frame that keeps the palate on its proverbial toes and compelled to stay in lockstep with what the cigar has to offer. While a name like Funfetti might suggest sugary sweetness and light flavors, the opposite is more the reality: good amounts of pepper carry the cigar while providing a good amount of room for other flavors to come and go. A very respectable blend from Caldwell in an era when standing out in a sea of excellent cigars can be a challenge.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Caldwell Funfetti
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: Tabacalera William Ventura
  • Wrapper: Indonesian Sumatra
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 5 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 50
  • Vitola: Robusto
  • MSRP: $6 (Bundles of 10, $60)
  • Release Date: December 2015
  • Number of Cigars Released: 2,000 Bundles of 10 Cigars (20,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Redux: 1

From a form perspective, the Caldwell Funfetti is about as standard of a robusto as you can imagine, almost a model for which to learn the form given how clean the seams and cap are. Beyond that, however, the wrapper has a good bit of character, with a fair amount of mottling, as the foot is a few shades darker than the cap, with a ranges of hues in between. The veins aren’t terribly big but they are noticeable, which helps frame the different sections of the cigar. There’s a bit of give but nothing concerning, and if anything it’s refreshing to feel a cigar that isn’t overly firm as it seems that’s all I’ve been getting lately. There are some varying notes of crackers from the foot; not salty enough for a Saltine or buttery enough for a Ritz, but somewhere in the middle of those reference points. The cold draw is near perfect in terms of air flow, while the flavor stays in the cracker realm but is thicker and a touch heartier, with just a faint bit of pepper coming through as well.

I’m a bit surprised by the pepper in the first puffs, not so much that it’s there or it’s strength, but rather its seeming effectiveness, delivering a good amount of tingle in the nose and on the palate despite not being overwhelming in quantity. It’s a fairly mild-plus start in terms of strength and body, definitely suggesting a morning cigar or something geared towards someone who isn’t a fan of big, bold and brash flavors. Just at the senses begin to warm up—as I smoked this as my first cigar one morning—the Funfetti takes a notable step forward in strength and pepper, though still remains in the medium range of strength, albeit retrohales will certainly push that forward.

The second half begins by continuing along much the same path as the first, though I am getting more of a toasty undertone from the Funfetti, while the pepper isn’t quite as strong. Touches of creaminess come along but never overtake the cigar; the same can be said for a bit of dairy and honey sweetness that are faint and fleeting at best, but still enjoyable during their brief appearances. In what would be the final third, the cigar pivots more than it has done previously, getting gruffer and more earthy, with the pepper returning in a more blunt form that doesn’t light up the senses but rather confronts them. The burn has been good throughout, although a few relights were required in the second half, which I’m fairly surprised about given the year of rest it has had. The cigar finishes with a much more lingering, dry and almost abrasive finish, leaving my tongue feeling as if it got a light scraping with sandpaper, though I’m not complaining too loudly as the flavor is still enjoyable. While a latte may have been more appropriate to start the Funfetti, Scotch seems like a more appropriate pairing for the final third as the creaminess has all but disappeared and I’m left with notes of dry wood, toast, earth and pepper, a combination that doesn’t come across quite as complex as these words might indicate. The Funfetti wraps up after about 90 minutes of smoking and leaves a coffee-tinged and very lingering finish on my tongue.

JR Cigar advertises on halfwheel.

85 Overall Score

There's no ignoring the idea that Caldwell was seeking balance in the Funfetti, and for the most part I believe his achievement of that goal still holds true after a year of rest for the cigar. But what has struck me most is the difference between the first two thirds and the final third, where the cigar takes a couple of steps forward in strength and changes the profile from fairly smooth and creamy to more pepper-driven that I recall it ever being. I stand by that this cigar makes a great way to start the day, and in its current form seems to offer a bit of a kick at the end to get up and get on with things, a mini explosion of pepper and body that pays off the setup of the first two thirds. While complexity may not be at the levels of some of Caldwell's other releases, this remains a very solid cigar that I could easily see becoming an easy grab out of the humidor for that first cigar of the day.

Original Score (February 2016)
87
Redux Score (February 2017)
85

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Patrick Lagreid
About the author

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.

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