eIt has been roughly four years since the latest installment of RoMa Craft Tobac’s CRAFT line was seen, but this year, the company brought it back by way of a 5 x 60 figurado simply known as CRAFT 2018.
The most recent release stays true to the line’s core, using the same filler found in the Neanderthal line, a mix of Dominican, Nicaraguan and Pennsylvanian tobaccos, while the binder is an Ecuadorian habano ligero that Skip Martin describes as the thickest the company has to offer. To finish it off, the cigar gets a dual wrapper of Pennsylvania broadleaf maduro and Ecuadorian Connecticut “dark candela,” which is most visible as the tobacco used to cover the foot, but reappears towards the head in a single thin strip.
“Each component has been utilized and positioned in the blend deliberately tasked with a specific objective to deliver in the effort to harmonize the aspects of combustion, aroma, strength and flavor,” said Martin in an Instagram post.
While the cigar is noteworthy on its own, RoMa Craft also put some extra work into the boxes, commissioning Bob Dyer of Dyer Metal Works/Wicked Anvil to create a custom made metal piece to slide over them, complete with the company’s log die-cut into the center. While the piece doesn’t have an official name, Martin said that in the factory the piece is referred to as “the belt.”
A total of 2,000 numbered boxes of 10 cigars were produced for the CRAFT 2018 release, with the first shipments going out in mid-March. It’s also one of the heavier releases on the market, as Martin said the finished box with the metal piece weighs about three and a half pounds.
- Cigar Reviewed: CRAFT 2018
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: Fabrica de Tabacos NicaSueño S.A.
- Wrapper: Ecuador (Connecticut Dark Candela) & Pennsylvania (Broadleaf)
- Binder: Ecuador (Habano Ligero)
- Filler: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua & Pennsylvania
- Length: 5 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 60
- Vitola: Figurado
- MSRP: $15 (Boxes of 10, $150)
- Release Date: March 2018
- Number of Cigars Released: 2,000 Boxes of 10 Cigars (20,000 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
While the CRAFT 2018 appears to come in a standard cellophane sleeve, it’s actually a flat wrap that is taped together to hold it in place but from which the cigar slips out of as there is nothing covering the head or foot. The cigar’s conical shape reminds me of a prehistoric club: short, stout, and incredibly firm, with the rustic wrapper completing the look. The dark brown Pennsylvania broadleaf leaf is dry and has some fine grit texture on the fingers, while there’s also some crystallization of the sugars that provide a twinkle in the right light. The veins are noticeable but looked to have been flattened quite well, minimizing their impact. While the cap seems to get be pressed flatter than most, the foot is plentifully covered in a candela leaf, which offers aromas of dry grass and banana chips, while some potent pepper seems to lurk behind the foot based off what I can smell. Given the firmness of the cigar and the covered foot, I’m surprised to find the draw on the loose side. It tends to be less vivid than the aroma and rather mouth drying, with a bit of cedar and grains as the standout notes, though the first sample does have a surprising amount of lushness to it.
A single jet torch lighter makes quick work of the green foot, with the first puffs slightly candela-esque by way of some grassiness and a relatively mild profile, though there’s also an interesting tanginess reminiscent of Worcestershire sauce that can be found in the first few puffs. However, give the CRAFT 2018 a few more puffs and the strength of the ligero is quickly made apparent, with a bit of black pepper targeting the center of the tongue and expanding outwards. Retrohales lag a bit behind but seem to be on their way, while my first couple are teasing their potency, in the first inch they don’t quite overpower my nostrils. That all said though, there are some retrohales among the three samples that do deliver the ligero punch the line seems to promise. The strength from the first half an inch seems to be a bit of a teaser, however, as the ligero punch backs off a bit towards the end of the first inch, leaving a dry, slightly woody and slightly grain-laden note that sucks the moisture out of the front half of my tongue. At its best, it’s quite enjoyable; at its worst, it’s a bit rough on the back of the tongue and throat. The slightly open cold draw has proven to be of no concern as air flow is near perfect, there’s plenty of smoke production and the burn line is generally quite even.
By the start of the second third, it seems that the candela is having an interesting effect on mellowing the broadleaf and other more dominant flavors, though there is still some dry pepper that is able to impact its effect on the palate. Without much warning, some thick aloe sweetness emerges and does a very good job giving the CRAFT 2018 immediate depth and complexity, while also soothing some of its rougher, drier spots. On the first sample I smoked, the ash built up quite well and carried the cigar over the midway point before crashing down unceremoniously. Its departure also brought on much more peppery strength from the cigar and pushed it quickly into full bodied and full strength territory, though the transition doesn’t seem attached to the ash. Regardless of how the ash behaves, the cigar definitely revitalizes the pepper near the midpoint, this time with the retrohale taking the lead as far as where the strength hits most noticeably. The back half of the second third sees the flavor return to its drier, more robust profile, which is enjoyable if a touch aggravating to the throat at times. The combustion rate also begins to slow noticeably in this section, and the first cigar requires a relight as tobacco seems less than cooperative in staying lit.
By the time the final third of the CRAFT 2018 comes around, the cigar has tempered its pepper content, though it hasn’t eliminated it. It’s now a bit woody, a new spin that I don’t detect on every sample but emerges enough to make note of it. While more of the juicy aloe sweetness begins to materialize in the final two inches, it doesn’t return in the same quantity it was in earlier, but when it is present it does wonders for the cigar’s profile and enjoyability. The final inch and change see the combustion rate slow down quite a bit, while also bringing back some of the strength the cigar exhibited earlier, though the pepper isn’t quite as outright or forthcoming. The nub finishes just a bit hot as I get the burn line down to just below the candela stripe with the assistance of a draw poker, while the draw and smoke production are both still very good.
- On the second sample, the candela strip near the head became detached nearly immediately after taking my first puff.
- There is some notable nicotine strength in the second half of the cigar, as I begin to feel the effect not long after the burn line crossed the midway point.
- For as firm as I found the first sample to be, the second was a good bit softer, still with an open cold draw.
- Charlie Minato reviewed and reduxed the CRAFT 2013 La Campaña de Panamá Soberana, while Brian Burt reviewed the La Campaña de Panamá WitchCraft.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 50 minutes on average.
- The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Site sponsor Atlantic Cigar carries the CRAFT 2018.
There’s little doubt in my mind that the CRAFT 2018 will be a hit with fans of the brand, particularly those who gravitate towards the Neanderthal’s profile and aren’t afraid of some ligero strength. But beyond that, it's quite a good cigar that takes the palate on a true journey, balancing hearty strength with robust earthiness as well as some rich sweetness that appears all too infrequently for my liking. The construction is also fantastic, which only heaps on the compliments I have for this cigar. If anything, strength will be the thing that will keep some cigar smokers from enjoying this as it does pack a decent punch, though only the first sample had me truly reeling. If you can still find these and are comfortable with the strength this cigar promises, the rewards should certainly be plentiful.