Regular readers of this site should be familiar with seeing the name Dante pop up from time to time. The Washington, D.C. area cigar company has already had a pair of its original releases—the Dante Canto I: The Imp and Dante Canto IV: Toro—reviewed on halfwheel, and while visiting the company’s booth at the 2013 IPCPR Convention and Trade Show, Michael Huff offered a look at Dante’s next line, Vita Nova.

The name translates as new life, and like the original Dante release is slated to grow to a substantial nine-vitola collection that will use the Canto name that borrows from Dante Aligheri’s nine circles of hell. Currently, the line stands at four regular production sizes:

There is also a fifth size that has been released, an event-only corona vitola made for the 2014 D.C. Tweet-Up, held March 14–15, 2014 in the greater Washington area.

The D.C. Tweet-Up was launched in 2012 as a way to “spotlight great cigar shops, introduce people to some awesome cigars, raise awareness for the work of CRA, and support a charity decided upon by the group.” The event brings together cigar manufacturers, retailers, media and consumers in a mixed agenda format that encourages interaction between people from throughout the cigar world.

The event has become a bit of a launch pad for several cigar lines, with Cigar Connection in Arlington, Va. launching their Sentidos line in the event’s inaugural year. In 2013, RoMa Craft Tobac unveiled the Fomorian while Eddie Ortega brought out the Ortega Serie D Maduro Lancero.

Joining Dante Cigars in releasing cigars for the event was Edgar Hoill Cigars, who created a 7 x 38 lancero in the EH blend for the event; Miami Cigar & Co. and the KILO; Asylum Cigars with a robusto vitola in the Asylum 13 Ogre line; and a return of the CroMagnon Fomorian from RoMa Craft.

Dante Vita Nova D C Tweet Up 1

  • Cigar Reviewed: Dante Vita Nova D.C. Tweet-Up
  • Country of Origin: USA
  • Factory: Casa Fernández Miami
  • Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Size: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 42
  • Vitola: Corona
  • MSRP: n/a
  • Date Released: March 14, 2014
  • Number of Cigars Released: 150 Total Cigars
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

The nipple cap found on the Vita Nova seems to be becoming increasingly common, though not widespread, as an alternative to pigtails, fantails and other such decorations. While not sharp, it is definitely pointed and will stand its ground, but might also give the look as if it something that was there had been broken off. The band almost feels to be playing a game with the wrapper as to which can stand further in the background with subdued colors, especially the old gold on used for the lettering. The wrapper is smooth with incredibly small veins that carry a bit of color differential from the overall leaf, which is a light shade of brown leather. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call it oily, there is a bit of sheen that can be picked up in the right light. The Vita Nova is a firm cigar with little give and no bumps or other visual cues that would suggest the roll quality is questionable. The pre-light aroma on the foot ranged a fair amount, from mild and almost doughy to having some sweet wood and then showing just a touch of sweetness and fragrant mint, while the cold draw is firm and a bit more upfront, showing more consistent notes of dough along with some wheat. Spice or pepper isn’t a factor on either.

The first few puffs of the Dante Vita Nova D.C. Tweet-Up have me thinking of warm bread, and several styles of that. Notes of dough and wheat stand out in the smoke consistently with varying amounts spice or pepper at play in the early goings: the first cigar had almost none, while the second and third offered much more aggressive starts before dialing back into the softer notes that this cigar seemed to promise. I’m always intrigued to see two different colors of smoke coming off the same cigar: a silver-gray smoke from the foot and an almost murky, off-white smoke from the head. The ash begins to curve almost immediately and holds on for about half an inch before finally giving way, which in turns seem to shift the flavor to a bit heavier and darker place, with some pepper entering the equation for the first time along with a shift to some notes of medium earth and leather. The draw also opens up a bit and there is a steady waft of smoke coming off the cigar while it is at rest, while smoke production seems to increase just a bit when puffed on and creates a more enjoyable overall experience.

Dante Vita Nova D C Tweet Up 2

While there hasn’t been a lot of spice or pepper on the palate to this point except for a few spots in the first third, I’m impressed by how much there is in a retrohale that carries the cigar into its second third. Granted, it isn’t a lot, but it is an earthy minerality combined with a bit of white pepper that is light and bright but still punchy in the nose. The billing that the Dante Vita Nova got of being a touch milder than the original release certainly appears applicable, but this is certainly not a mild cigar and will remind you of such throughout its middle section, something that seems to both help and hinder making an adequate judgment on the cigar. At times it feels like it wants to step forward and unleash some more prominent pepper notes before falling back and settling into the medium-bodied profile, only to flash a bit more pepper soon thereafter. The ash isn’t the prettiest you will find, as it is a bit chippy and a dark gray that leaves a bit to be desired visually, though hardly any cigar should warrant demerits based on ash. The burn rate also seems to slow to a crawl approaching the midpoint, with the burn line remaining even if not perfectly razor sharp. The bread notes have all but disappeared in the first puffs of the second half, with a pronounced transition into a much more robust note of dry earth and leather stepping forward and increasing notes of pepper with each puff. While not offering a soil note in the same way that some Mexican San Andrés leaves do, there are certainly puffs where I taste the Nicaraguan terroir from which the tobacco comes.

Dante Vita Nova D C Tweet Up 3

An unexpected twist into a sour note kicks off the final third of the second cigar smoked; a shocking and thankfully fleeting note that didn’t reappear in the other two cigars. The terroir note has backed off a touch, and continuing in its jab-and-juke flavor progression the Dante Vita Nova backs off a bit into notes of leather with just a tingle of pepper and a faint, almost lemon-like zing. Retrohales in the final third prove to be the most upfront and peppery yet, a vast step forward in strength from those in the first third. There are some consistent burn issues in the last two inches that provide a challenge to take this down to the nub, though the flavors remain largely agreeable and consistent with what the cigar has offered thus far, with the pepper note continuing to dance in and out of the equation. It’s only in the final inch or so where the heat adds a bitterness and harshness that discourages going any farther without needing to really slow down the pace of puffs.

Dante Vita Nova D C Tweet Up 4

Final Notes

  • The bands seemed to be placed fairly high on all three cigars smoked for this review, and none felt overly loose which would have suggested they slid up there on their own.
  • Tickets for the 2014 D.C. Tweet-Up were $120, or $180 for the VIP package.
  • I had none of the draw issues that Charlie Minato found in the Vita Nova Canto III that he reviewed in late March. Save for some small burn issues that I would attribute to being a touch overhumidified, each of the three cigars I smoked burned well.
  • I didn’t dry-box any of the cigars for this review, but I wish I would have to see if I could resolve the burn issues in the final third, as well as to see if the smoking time was appreciably reduced.
  • Nor did I find the smell of urine coming off the cigar that Charlie seemed to identify, at least not in such an upfront way that it caused me to write about it. I will say there is a somewhat unique aroma at times, but nothing that would have led me to make that comparison.
  • The naming convention for Dante Cigars’ lines have been an occasional topic of discussion amongst the halfwheel staff, and while wordy, I think they can provide an opportunity to tell a bit of a story, which I find they do here. Naming cigars—both names of lines and vitolas—seems to be pushing new boundaries on almost daily basis, and this one is by far less absurd than some of the others I have heard of lately.
  • Final smoking time was just shy two hours on average.
  • The cigars for this review were provided by Dante Cigars.
86 Overall Score

After smoking three of the Dante Vita Nova D.C. Tweet-Up, I find myself at a loss as to how to sum it up succinctly. While certainly a notch or two down from the original Dante in terms of strength, it seemed to want to jump back into that arena throughout the cigar, showing flashes of pepper and strength from the Nicaraguan tobacco before quickly backing off into an enjoyable and very palatable medium-bodied and medium-strength cigar. There were no real construction issues to speak of, and the slow burn rate in the second half wasn't a major detractor. One of the biggest plusses to the Vita Nova is its transitions, but they also seemed to be too fleeting and not quite bright enough at any one time to stand out. An enjoyable cigar that is worth a try, though it may have a hard time carving out a unique place in your memory when you think back on it.

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.