So far, there have been two themes to the cigar world in 2017.
One is something you are very familiar with: the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and its recent regulation of premium cigars. The other is something many of you likely have not heard of: the price of Connecticut-seed wrappers.
Because of increased demand from the little/mass market cigar market in Europe, the price of Connecticut shade wrapper has skyrocketed. This is not something that is entirely new; I first heard murmurs of abnormally high prices at an auction two years ago, but the increase didn’t really set in until recently. The higher costs are having all sorts of effects, including growers that traditionally don’t grow Connecticut-seed wrapper are trying to grow the seed in places like Honduras and Nicaragua, where it’s typically not grown.
It also probably helps to explain today’s review: The Davidoff 702 Series Special R.
Last month, Davidoff formally released the new 702 Series, a seven-size line featuring some of Davidoff’s most popular sizes, only with an Ecuadorian hybrid wrapper instead of the Connecticut-seed wrapper that is normally found on the iconic vitolas. It’s unlikely the Connecticut-seed wrapper increase is the direct reason for this cigar, as Davidoff has been working on this cigar for a while and cigars showing up at select accounts prior to Aug. 8, 2016—though, I am sure the price surge didn’t hurt.
As for the wrapper on this cigar, it’s an Ecuadorian hybrid created from three different Cuban seeds that first appeared on the Davidoff Limited Edition 2009 Selección 702.
Image via Davidoff.
While there are seven sizes, most stores won’t carry all of the vitolas, but not by their own choosing.
There are three sizes offered worldwide:
- Davidoff 702 Series No. 3 (6 x 50) — $26.90 (Box of 10, $269)
- Davidoff 702 Series 2000 (5 1/16 x 43) — $15.80 (Box of 25, $395)
- Davidoff 702 Series Special R (4 7/8 x 50) — $21.40 (Box of 25, $535)
Two additional sizes are offered to Davidoff accounts in the U.S.:
- Davidoff 702 Series Special T (6 x 52) — $25.20 (Box of 20, $504)
- Davidoff 702 Series Double R (7 1/2 x 50) — $36.50 (Box of 20, $912.50)
Two other sizes are offered at non-U.S. stores as well as the U.S.-based flagship Davidoff of Geneva since 1911 stores:
- Davidoff 702 Series Entreacto (3 1/2 x 43) — $11.40 (Box of 20, $228)
- Davidoff 702 Series No. 2 (6 x 38) — $21.40 (Box of 25, $535)
All sizes are also offered in soft packs of either four or five cigars, depending on the specific size.
- Cigar Reviewed: Davidoff 702 Series Special R
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: Cigars Davidoff
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian 702
- Binder: Dominican Republic
- Filler: Dominican Republic
- Length: 4 7/8 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 50
- Vitola: Robusto
- MSRP: $21.40 (Box of 25, $535)
- Release Date: February 2017[ref]The cigars were formally released in February 2017, but due to FDA regulations the cigars first appeared in the U.S. market prior to Aug. 8, 2016.[/ref]
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
In addition to the special 702 bands, the darker wrapper makes it pretty easy to tell this and the regular Special R apart. The Ecuadorian wrapper smells a bit like a Chinese restaurant with some acidity. It’s odd, particularly considering the foot smells of waffle cone, strawberry cream, pinecone and some of that acidic and meatiness from the wrapper. Things don’t get any more logical with the cold draw: a salty peanut and hints of cranberry juice.
It begins with some Ritz crackers, popcorn, cedar, saltiness and minerals. While that’s not classic Davidoff, it doesn’t take long for the 702 Series Special R to become quite familiar: there’s apple wood, wet leaves, pecans and a sour cream-like creaminess. At times, the flavor is extremely compact and integrated, making it difficult to pick out individual flavors, but for a decent bit of the first third, the flavors are nicely layered. One sample has a distinct Chinese five spice tone that I don’t pick up elsewhere. Flavor is full, body is extremely smooth and the strength is medium, a bit stronger than a typical Special R.
The Davidoff 702 Series Special R gets a bit drier in the second third. There’s a vast array of wood flavors with hickory and the apple wood being the stand outs. Shortly after the smoke leaves the mouth, there’s a big peanut butter note—which largely seems responsible for the drying out of the palate—and some mint. I get a bit of a generic white wine sweetness.[ref]I am admittedly not a wine connoisseur, particularly when it comes to white wine.[/ref] A couple of small touch-ups are needed to correct one part of the wrapper that isn’t burning, but they are relatively minor. Intensity-wise, things are quite similar to the first third.
Flavor-wise, the final third adds a bit more sweetness thanks to a raspberry flavor and a creaminess that reminds me of a sweeter omelette. Woody flavors are still dominant, a bit more hickory than before, but the flavors come together extremely well. One sample has a lot of toastiness, something I cannot find in the other two cigars. Unfortunately, the 702’s burn is not great, requiring a full touch-up on all three cigars, something that doesn’t keep the cigar from eventually going out.
- I had a prerelease version of the Double R back in October. It was one of the worst cigars I smoked, largely because it kept going out, likely due to the internal humidity of that cigar. That experience was somewhat interesting as many cigars are blended without getting the typical rest period that production versions receive. I’m honestly not sure how some people come up with blends like that, but add that to the long list of reasons why I write about cigars and don’t make them.
- On a similar note, it seemed like the cigar did a bit better with some more rest. Because of my travel schedule I ended up smoking the first sample about 10 days apart from the second two. The latter two performed a bit better than the first, although the burn issues were present on all three.
- I’m still not sure how I feel about the secondary bands. Davidoff’s primary bands are so good that any change is not my favorite thing.
- Flavor is full, while body and strength are medium. This is an incredibly smooth cigar.
- Bravo to Davidoff for making a classic robusto: 4 7/8 x 50.
- Davidoff advertises on halfwheel.
- Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 45 minutes on average. Davidoff, like some other manufacturers, has a recommended smoking time for this cigar of just 45 minutes. I am honestly not sure who comes up with these times, but there’s zero chance I could find this cigar enjoyable smoking that fast.
- Site sponsors Corona Cigar Co. and Smoke Inn have the Davidoff 702 Series Special R in stock.
I enjoyed the Davidoff 702 Series Special R more than the score implies. Burn issues hampered this cigar, particularly in the final third, which was otherwise fantastic. It's good to see Davidoff spending a bit of time focusing on its core; for the last few years, it's been about Nicaragua, Escurio, Yamasá and Winston Churchill, cigars that were admittedly Davidoff trying to be different, even if it was a restrained difference. This felt very much like what I think of when I think of a classic Davidoff, thankfully without the olor flavor that can sometimes negatively affect a number of the company's core lines.