Cigars made specifically for a retailer’s anniversary are nothing new, but Riverside Cigar Shop and Lounge managed to snag one of the most anticipated RoMa Craft Tobac releases of the year so far to commemorate one of its milestones.

That cigar was CRAFT 2019, a blend produced to celebrate the Jeffersonville, Ind.-based retailer’s 10th anniversary in business. As the name indicates, the new release is part of the company’s CRAFT line that debuted in November 2013.

The 2019 version is the first incarnation to deviate from the 5 x 60 figurado vitola; instead, the cigar is a 6 1/2 x 44 lonsdale packaged in boxes of 12. Second, the CRAFT 2019 was the first version to be released specifically at only one retailer, and at only 3,000 total cigars, it is also the smallest release in the series, at least out of those that were not an event exclusive.

In terms of blend, this year’s release incorporates the company’s CroMagnon blend and is covered in a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper accented by either a natural Ecuadorian Connecticut or candela Ecuadorian Connecticut foot. Each cigar also features “a variety of flourishes” made with various types and colors of tobacco, and every box will contain cigars with both the Connecticut shade and candela tobacco on their feet.

Along with the regular boxes of 12 that were released, RoMa Craft produced 40 boxes of the CRAFT 2019 that also included a branded XIKAR XO cutter and XIKAR Turismo lighter that were priced at $350 each.

  • Cigar Reviewed: CRAFT 2019
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Fabrica de Tabacos NicaSueño S.A.
  • Wrapper: U.S.A. (Connecticut Broadleaf)
  • Binder: Cameroon
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 6 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 44
  • Vitola: Lonsdale
  • MSRP: $12.50 (Boxes of 12, $150)
  • Release Date: May 2019
  • Number of Cigars Released: 250 Boxes of 12 Cigars (3,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

Look up “visually distinctive” in the dictionary, and you will see a photograph of this cigar: each of the three CRAFT 2019 I smoked featured a different design, with the most obvious being a candela section covering about one third of the foot. Otherwise, the wrapper is mocha brown with a noticeable red hue to it and is extremely toothy to the touch, despite having quite a bit of oil on it. Aroma from the wrapper and foot is a combination of sweetgrass, earth, cedar, manure, dark chocolate and floral, while the cold draw brings flavors of wheat, creamy leather, roasted coffee beans, aged wood, black pepper and a touch of indeterminate sweetness.

To no one’s surprise, a creamy grassy note dominates the first third of the CRAFT 2019 that was rolled with a candela accent on the foot, although it obviously was missing from the other two samples that did not include it. However, the base blend is virtually identical between the three: strong flavors of creamy cedar and bitter dark chocolate on the palate, followed by notes of almonds, leather and a touch of floral. There is a great toffee sweetness on the retrohale that combines nicely with some obvious black pepper, and I notice a very small amount of spice on my lips as well. Construction-wise, the draw is excellent after a v-cut, but the burn starts off bad enough that I am forced to touch it up once very soon after lighting. The overall strength starts out fairly mild, but does increase enough to hit a point between mild and medium by the time the first third comes to an end.

There are some significant changes during the second third of the CRAFT 2019, with the most obvious being a significant decrease in the amount of grass in the profile, which is replaced by a very rich espresso note. The other main flavors continue to be a combination of creamy cedar and bitter dark chocolate followed by lesser flavors of cinnamon, hay, leather, peanuts and floral along with the same strong toffee sweetness on the retrohale. The draw continues to impress, but the big news is the burn, which has evened up nicely, becoming razor sharp and staying that way. In terms of strength, the CRAFT 2019 increases noticeably but remains nicely balanced with the rest of the profile, with the end result coming close to hitting the medium mark by the end of the second third. 

Balance is the name of the game in the final third of the CRAFT 2019, with the toffee sweetness and slight black pepper on the retrohale melding nicely with the still-dominant flavors of rich espresso, creamy cedar and bitter dark chocolate. There are also lesser notes of earth, sawdust, cinnamon, leather, floral and peanuts, but the spice on my lips has all but disappeared. The overall construction seems to be on autopilot—and that is not a bad thing at all— with the burn, draw and smoke production all doing their part, while the strength increases enough to hit a point just north of medium by the time I put the nub down with less than an inch remaining.

Final Notes

  • According to RoMa Craft, there are a total of 10 different cigar designs and each box includes at least six of those designs.
  • Although it used to be an extremely popular size, there are just not many cigars released in a lonsdale vitola these days.
  • I can remember visiting RoMa Craft Tobac’s factory in 2013 when it was located in the backyard of someone’s house in an unassuming neighborhood of Estelí, Nicaragua. In fact, I had to actually walk through a living room and kitchen before seeing the two teams of rollers that were working there at the time. The times have changed.
  • Construction was extremely good overall, with an ideal draw on each of the samples and only two minor touchups needed on two separate cigars, albeit both in the first third.
  • The cigars smoked for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time of all three samples averaged one hour and 36 minutes.
  • Riverside Cigar Shop and Lounge is sold out of the CRAFT 2019.
90 Overall Score

It is not often that I see a new release in a lonsdale vitola these days—it happens to be one of my favorite sizes—so I was thrilled when I found out I was reviewing the CRAFT 2019. Thankfully, the new release did not let me down, with an excellent base blend full of rich espresso beans, creamy cedar and bitter dark chocolate, along with a distinctive toffee sweetness on the retrohale. While the different shades and colors of tobacco used for the accents are very obvious visually, out of the three samples I smoked the only one that I noticed any major difference in the flavor profile was the one with the candela foot, and even that was fairly short lived. Having said that, there is something awesome about getting a slightly different experience with each sample, something that I looked forward to for each sample I smoked.

Brooks Whittington

I have been smoking cigars for over eight years. A documentary wedding photographer by trade, I spent seven years as a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I started the cigar blog SmokingStogie in 2008 after realizing that there was a need for a cigar blog with better photographs and more in-depth information about each release. SmokingStogie quickly became one of the more influential cigar blogs on the internet, known for reviewing preproduction, prerelease, rare, extremely hard-to-find and expensive cigars. I am a co-founder of halfwheel and now serve as an editor for halfwheel.