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Every so often, a cigar release will come along that features boxes containing a mix of cigars inside. Not a sampler, but a box with appreciably different cigars inside.

Such is the case with the 2020 edition of CRAFT from RoMa Craft Tobac, a project that is a vehicle to show off the skills and prowess of the rollers of Fabrica de Tabacos NicaSueño in Estelí, Nicaragua.

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The CRAFT line debuted in 2013 with a beefy, conically shaped figurado measuring five inches long with a 60 ring gauge foot and 46 ring gauge head. It also featured a design at its foot that used different varietals of tobacco to create a pair of stripes.

After a few years out of production, the shape would return in 2018 but now with two stripes of Ecuadorian Connecticut candela tobacco, one at the head and one at the foot, sitting atop the Pennsylvania broadleaf wrapper.

The following year, the line took a big step forward. The vitola shifted to a 6 1/2 x 44 lonsdale, the release was limited to just one retailer, and the cigars started adding a number of much more elaborate designs.

 

CRAFT 2020 gets a new size as well, a 5 3/4 x 46 corona gorda that uses a variety of different varietals and designs for the wrapper, though with seemingly fewer designs than were used in 2019. Those wrapper combinations include Connecticut broadleaf and Ecuadorian Connecticut wrappers with Mexican San Andrés accents. Others use American broadleaf and Ecuadorian habano wrappers with Ecuadorian Connecticut accents.

RoMa Craft Tobac isn’t disclosing what’s under those colorful combinations of leaves, choosing to leave the binder and filler a mystery.

As for its release, just 10 retailers around the country were selected to receive the CRAFT 2020, with each store getting 150 boxes.

  • Cigar Reviewed: CRAFT 2020
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Fabrica de Tabacos NicaSueño S.A.
  • Wrapper: U.S.A. (Connecticut Broadleaf), Ecuador (Connecticut, Habano) & Mexico (San Andrés)
  • Binder: Not Disclosed
  • Filler: Not Disclosed
  • Length: 5 3/4 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 46
  • Vitola: Corona Gorda
  • MSRP: $12.50 (Box of 10, $125)
  • Release Date: June 2020
  • Number of Cigars Released: 1,500 Boxes of 10 Cigars (15,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

The first CRAFT 2020 that I light up has a lighter shade of tobacco on its upper two thirds and a darker portion on what will be the first third, with a still darker band of tobacco covering the spot where the two wrappers meet. It’s rolled quite firmly as I have come to expect from cigars made at the NicaSueño factory; it’s firm enough that it might otherwise concern me yet the rollers there have seemingly mastered such a cigar delivering a near-perfect draw. Beyond the differing wrappers, it’s a good looking cigar with leaves that have just a bit of very fine texture to them and small veins. The seams are visible and there doesn’t seem to be much oiliness, but neither are detractors. The second is equally as well-rolled and just a touch less firm. The leaves have slightly more prominent veins but the seams aren’t quite as visible. The third, with darker leaves, has a more pronounced difference in oiliness, as the upper portion has the most oil of the three cigars, while the lower half has less oils but more tooth. The first cigar’s foot offers a dense, bran muffin aroma at first smell, then adds in some subtle sweetness which seems to open up the overall flavor and allows just a bit of pepper to enter. The draw is, unsurprisingly, pretty close to ideal, with a bit lighter flavor but one that reminds me of that bran muffin flavor along with a bit of under-popped popcorn, but it loses the sweetness and pepper. The second’s foot is very bread-forward, with one sniff reminding me of freshly toasted white bread, while the cold draw is a bit more like pizza dough, both smoother and just a touch sweeter. Neither has overt sweetness or pepper from what I can tell. The third is possibly the best of the bunch in aroma, as there is some sweetness and more of that bran muffin aroma, with this the deepest, most complex and most balanced of the three. The cold draw is again near perfect and offers much the same profile, with just a bit of pepper that quickly fades.

The first sample starts with a smoke offering medium-full flavor and body, not quite a flavor or pepper bomb but enough to quickly awaken the senses. There’s some more of that muffin flavor but it’s not overwhelming, sharing space with earth and black pepper. A retrohale amplifies the pepper, but the smoke feels a bit thinner than what the palate gets. There’s more evolution as creaminess begins to enter the profile, increasing the body of the smoke without making it stronger, while the flavor seems to have some of its gaps filled in and rounded out. The second isn’t that far off, though here the flavor isn’t as dense, there’s more bread in the profile, and I get a bit more spice—not quite red chilis or baking spices, but in the vein of the former—in place of black pepper. It doesn’t seem to be putting off as much smoke, even though I’d say the draw is comparable. The third sample, much like the aroma, starts off the most complex and rich, offering a bit of sweetness before picking up some campfire smokiness as the burn line approaches the overlaid strip of tobacco. Black pepper is almost exclusively restrained to the retrohale in this sample, and when passed through the nose, the aroma is a wonderful complement to the flavor. Even though the blend is different to some degree, the general course is fairly the same, particularly when not smoking them side by side. Construction is generally fantastic across the three, with a generally medium to medium-full flavor and body, and strength close to medium.

In the case of the first cigar, there are a few moments where my attention is preoccupied with getting the photo taken and then cleaning up the ash that fell off unexpectedly. When I return to the cigar and get my attention refocused, I definitely notice a change with the lighter wrapper now burning. It’s a lighter profile, a bit more bread-flavored, but still holding onto some black pepper while introducing some spice. While the first third was medium-full in flavor, the second third is medium-plus. The second cigar goes other direction, getting just a bit fuller and heavier on the palate. It’s not a huge jump, but it is noticeable. There also seems to be a slight reduction in the spice as black pepper nudges its way up the scale. Once the burn line is fully into this portion, the flavor also gets richer, adding in a combination of damp wood and warm mixed nuts that really refines the profile. While the first two samples took a step up in flavor once into their second thirds, the third sample backs off a bit. It’s not a huge step, but again, just enough to be noticeable, now offering a bit less woodiness, which seems to allow black pepper to shine through more clearly. It’s also brighter in the nose now, and probably the best retrohale I’ve had across the samples. Construction remains fantastic, with my only note being that the ash is fragile on the first cigar, and the second’s draw feels a touch tight and doesn’t put out as much smoke as I was expecting.

The final third of the first sample brings about some more robust and occasionally sharp flavors, in particular a bit of bite emerging in the back of the throat. That bite continues to build and becomes the predominant sensation over the final third, overshadowing the breads and pepper that lead in the flavor, intermingling bits of toast, cashews and dry woods. The second sees a bit of an increase as well as the smoke and flavor both get thicker, with the flavor also distilling a bit and getting a bit more concentrated, but not inherently shifting course. The third sample has enough lingering tingle from the pepper that it is worth mentioning, while the flavor doesn’t get quite as robust as the first sample, stopping well short of any irritation.

Final Notes

  • For everyone wondering, these are the three specific cigars I smoked for this review, starting with the one on the right and moving to the left..
  • Also of note, the cigar used in the main shot above was not one of the ones I smoked for this review. Because of how our system works, I didn’t select the cigars for the photo or the ones to smoke, which is an interesting wrinkle in reviewing a project such as CRAFT.
  • I don’t make a huge deal of ash in most cases, but the first sample’s ash was noticeably more fragile than average. The other two also had a distinct curve to them in the first third.
  • I think it would be a fascinating experiment to smoke some of the CRAFT 2020 cigars side-by-side to really note the differences.
  • In a time when events have been canceled left and right, and in many cases still are, RoMa Craft Tobac is moving forward with plans for its 10th anniversary party, dubbed WeaselFest, on Sept. 5, 2020 at the company’s headquarters in Austin, Texas.
  • At that event, the company will release El Catador de Los Gran Perfectos, a sampler of 5 5/8 x 60 perfectos in each of the company’s blends.
  • For fans of the company’s Intemperance Whiskey Rebellion 1794 line, there’s a box pressed 5 x 56 robusto gordo vitola slated for release in the fourth quarter of 2020.
  • The first cigar had a decent amount of nicotine strength, enough to feel it but not enough to make my knees wobbly. The second was fairly innocuous, while the third, and most enjoyable sample, packed the most punch.
  • Looking over the previous CRAFT releases made me remember how much I was impressed by the packaging of the 2018 version, which featured a custom made metal belt that slid over the box.
  • There has also been several related cigars to come out under the WitchCraft name, with releases in 2013, 2014 and 2019.
  • This is undoubtedly one of the most unique and challenging reviews with which I have been tasked, given that I smoked three different blends to try and provide some idea of a release that contains five different blends—or at least combinations and sequences of similar tobaccos—with those three cigars only getting one chance to offer its best expression.
  • The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time was one hour and 30 minutes on average.
90 Overall Score

Reviews on this site have been known to focus on consistency among the cigars smoked, something on which we place a good bit of value. In the case of this review, that's a bit harder to judge given three different blends were smoked. Yet there was impressive consistency in terms of the general profiles, the construction, and the general enjoyment I found from each sample. While the first didn't finish as agreeably as I would have liked and the third may have had a pinch more nicotine than I find ideal, the overall impression was still positive. Even better, at times the profiles go beyond just enjoyable and into a fairly special territory, easily outshining the cigar's aesthetic qualities. CRAFT 2020 certainly carries the torch well, possibly even hitting a new high mark for the series.

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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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