Of course we are.
Earlier this year, Davidoff head Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard gave a presentation updating the media and public on the state of the Swiss company. While it was not an event to announce new product, there was one note of particular interest—later in the year, Davidoff would be introducing its first vintage cigar, which would also be the most expensive cigar released in the company’s history.
What that immediately meant is the cigar would need to retail north of $60, prices achieved by two different Davidoff products released earlier.[ref]Davidoff Diademas 100 and Royal Salomones[/ref] However, even at that time, and months later when the first details of the cigar were announced, no one seemed to fathom just how much the cigars would cost.
Davidoff’s Oro Blanco is a lot of things, but for better or worse, it is probably best known for being “the $500 Davidoff.”
While the price tag gets the bulk of the attention, the cigar should be remembered for another first for the company—Eladio Diaz’s signature is, literally, all over the release. While Diaz has worked as Davidoff’s primary blender for years, Davidoff almost exclusively has presented Henke Kelner as the face of its production operations.[ref]It’s a team effort at Davidoff. As far as division of labor, the basic version is that Kelner handles the growing operations, while Diaz oversees blending and rolling.[/ref] It was Kelner explaining the Davidoff 100 and Diademas Finas, Kelner doing tours for the launch of Puro d’Oro and Kelner once again explaining the blend of the new Winston Churchill earlier this month in New York City. But Oro Blanco is Diaz’s cigar.
Its name literally translates into white gold. Diaz said he was inspired to create the cigar after watching the sunset in the city of Mao, located in the northwestern area of the Dominican Republic.
“In my moment, I was inspired to craft a unique tobacco blend that would represent my sincere gratitude for mother nature and the beautiful moment I experienced in that place…a moment so rare.”
He said he looked back on experiences, starting in 1988 when Zino Davidoff was searching for a new place to make cigars after being dissatisfied with the performance of Cuban-made Davidoffs.
“We decided to save and age a small amount of tobacco from the harvest of 2000 – 2001,[ref]All of the rest of the marketing material from Davidoff, as well as the bands, mention the 2002 date. I’d trust Diaz over the marketing material, but the discrepancy is odd.[/ref] which was an exceptional batch, that with time, would offer notes more defined and rare…with the greatest standards of quality, pleasure, and joy. When the tobacco had been aged for more than 12 years, we began production with the help of Davidoff’s most skilled supervisors who held more than 15 years of experience crafting cigars. Under my supervision, we rolled the cigars and let them stand for more than a year; the aromas, pleasures, and physiological strengths, concentrated to craft the cigar I envisioned.”
That tobacco, which all comes from the Dominican Republic, is rolled into a 6 x 54 parejos. Diaz not only oversees the rolling, he looks over the entire process. The tobacco is left in processing until Diaz deems it ready, the cigars are then rolled under his watch and left in aging until he thinks they are ready. Davidoff says that cigars cannot ship to retailers until Diaz signs off of them.
As such, it’s fitting his signature can be found on both the secondary band and coffin of Oro Blanco. Above that secondary band, the iconic gold on white Davidoff band has been modified not only to include “SPECIAL RESERVE 2002” on the side, but also to feature silver (white gold) appointments around the gold Davidoff script.[ref]This is the third time that comes to mind where Davidoff has changed its primary band color-scheme following the red band that was featured on the Davidoff Up Down 50th Anniversary and the black band on the Davidoff Nicaragua.[/ref]
The cigars themselves are packaged in cellophane, placed inside of a coffin, which is offered either in boxes of 10 or as a single cigar in a white protective cardboard box. While Davidoff has had some impressive packaging of late, the execution of Oro Blanco is different. Picking up the coffin reveals a weight that is substantial. A combination of wood and metal is used to create the coffins, which slide out to reveal the cigar itself. Inside the coffin lies the Oro Blanco cigar with a small piece of precisely cut cedar lying to its side. The boxes feature the same sliding style, although the cigars are not packaged in individual coffins.
(Box images via Davidoff)
Oro Blanco began shipping to global markets in November. After a few delays, the cigar arrived in the U.S. in mid-December. It’s offered at a total of 10 retail locations in America, three of which are Davidoff-owned stores and three of which are Davidoff lounges.[ref]Interestingly, the Davidoff lounges at BURN’s Tobacconist in Chattanooga, Tenn. and the Tobacco Shop of Ridgewood in Ridgewood, N.J. are not Davidoff Oro Blanco retailers.[/ref] With the exception of the Davidoff flagship on Madison Ave. in New York City, each store received two boxes and a few singles as part of the initial shipment.[ref]Davidoff Madison Ave. received three boxes and a few singles.[/ref]
Davidoff is not disclosing production numbers or when it expects a second shipment to arrive.[ref]The unique nature of Diaz’s involvement with the product gives the company a pretty good excuse for why there’s no Oro Blanco available.[/ref]
- Cigar Reviewed: Davidoff Oro Blanco
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: Cigars Davidoff
- Wrapper: Dominican Republic
- Binder: Dominican Republic
- Filler: Dominican Republic
- Size: 6 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 54
- Vitola: Toro Extra
- MSRP: $500 (Boxes of 10, $5,000)
- Date Released: Nov. 26, 2014
- Number of Cigars Released: n/a
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 1
I’ve long griped that unless you use a blindfold, blind reviews are great, until you can easily identify the cigar without its bands. While this is not a Feral Flying Pig or an OpusX Football, after you’ve seen one Oro Blanco, you probably will be able to spot another without the bands. Quite simply, it’s the most well-rolled the cigar I’ve ever seen. The seams are relatively invisible, the cylindrical shape looks mathematically proportional and the cap has been outfitted in a manner that leads me to believe it might have taken 10 minutes by itself. Veins litter the red clay-colored wrapper, but the uniformity in color and construction completely overshadow the imperfections. It’s a pretty mild aroma right out of the cellophane with leather, pepper, cedar and barnyard all present, along with hints of vintage tobacco. The foot fortunately changes things: a big floral bouquet, oak, nuttiness and some big spices. One tug on the cold draw reveals a resistance to marvel at, it’s as good as it could be.[ref]Earlier this year I made the editorial decision to ban the word “perfect’ when describing any facet of construction. If I’ve ever had a “perfect” amount of resistance, this is it. This is “calibrate your draw machines based off this cigar”—a touch of resistance and then the tobacco opens up to reveal the remaining flavor.[/ref]Flavor-wise, a similar oak dominates the cold draw joined by big grains and a mixture of paprika, coriander, mustard and salt.
While the appearance and cold draw might have been indications that Oro Blanco is worth its hefty price tag, the first draw leaves me wanting a lot more. It’s extremely mild with salty cedar, roasted plums and a bit of red pepper. It’s not the bouquet of flavors I’d hope for and the draw is somewhat open. There is a lot of smoke pouring out the foot of the Davidoff and it’s filing the air with aromas quite similar to what happened when I lit the cedar strip on fire, and that’s a very good thing. It only takes a few more puffs and the Oro Blanco is proving to be unique. In the mouth, there’s lots of sweet cedar, salty nuts and a nice semisweet floral flavor. The retrohale provides a lot of lavender, saltiness, cedar, some black pepper, water chestnuts and flamed orange peel. There’s a big black pepper that coats the back of my throat as the smoke passes to exit the nose. It’s got a multitude of different flavors and the Oro Blanco registers medium-full to full on that scale with a medium-full body. Strength changes seemingly every puff—teetering between mild and full—a quality I’m still trying to classify as positive or negative. Construction-wise, outside of the first three puffs, the draw is where it was in the cold draw and the burn is about as even as I could hope for.
An inch and a half in[ref]So, $125 for those keeping track.[/ref] and a butterscotch sweetness has taken over the retrohale. It’s a dramatic shift from how the Oro Blanco starts, given that even the floral note wasn’t overly sweet. Continuing the trend, the citrus note transforms into a blood orange flavor, further adding to the sweetness. Elsewhere, a spicy nuttiness emerges along with sweet lemon juice and a poultry-like meatiness.[ref]Patrick Lagreid infamously identified “charred chicken” in a review in 2012.[/ref] Salty peanuts are present around the halfway mark, but it’s short lived as that part of the retrohale seems to end up grassy by the end of the second third. Construction remains on point with the only change being an uptick in smoke production.
By the final third it feels like I’ve smoked a medium-full cigar, only the nicotine content has been a complete roller coaster. Things do seem to fall off a bit strength-wise at the beginning of the final third with the Oro Blanco registering medium through the next inch or so. Flavor-wise, the salty peanut flavor returns to dominate the profile along with an array of other nuts including walnuts and almonds. The floral note from the first third also returns, larger than it was in the first although not as big as the peanut note. Orange remains a part of the profile, this time a sweet candied orange along with some black peppercorns on the tongue. The final change comes with an inch left: hints of cotton candy and oak join the peanut flavor. Somewhat unexpectedly the strength roller coaster restarts again, once again rotating between mild and full until I finally put the Oro Blanco down.
- Finding Oro Blancos was actually somewhat challenging given there was likely less than 300 total cigars available as part of the first shipment. At least 210 of those cigars were shipped in boxes which retailers seemed uninterested in breaking up.
- On that note, normally we try to review three cigars for a review. Due to the availability of the cigar and to a lesser degree, the price, I ended up only being able to smoke one Oro Blanco as the other one halfwheel purchased needed to go towards one of the three additional cigars that would be smoked for the Top 25, which will be published next week. I’d love to smoke another one, although keeping up with the flavor changes in the one sample I smoked was somewhat of a chore.
- I’m not a huge fan of the gold and white gold on the band together. I totally think this needed to have a special band and don’t have any sort of ideas for what I’d rather see, but it’s a bit much in my opinion. Speaking of the bands, here’s some detail shots for those interested:
- The Oro Blanco packaging looks great, but it’s impossible to understand it until you pick up a coffin or box. The weight caught me completely off guard, although I suppose now that you’ve read this you might be expecting it.
- For those wondering, Oro Blanco is not the most expensive cigar of all time. The Gurkha His Majesty’s Reserve is now priced at $1,250 per cigar and the company, almost certainly in response to Davidoff, announced a $2,000 cigar, although I haven’t seen anything indicating it is shipping. The original Cohiba Behike carried an MSRP of $440 per cigar in 2006, but rarely sold for that little. Today, some of the cigar bars that still have some will ask $3,000 and up per cigar.
- I’m somewhat surprised there aren’t accessories for Oro Blanco.
- Speaking of which, I lit the cedar included with the Oro Blanco, but I didn’t use it to light the cigar. I was concerned that it would not be able to fully light the cigar, which wouldn’t have led to a great start. I also don’t think I’ve ever used a piece of cedar to light a cigar for a review on halfwheel, so I stuck to a single flame torch.
- Outside of the first three puffs, construction was all you could ask for and then some. The burn was great, smoke production went from great to better and the draw was as good as I’ve probably ever had after the first three puffs.
- Strength changes were constant, at some points every puff. In the end, if you can’t handle a medium-full cigar, Oro Blanco will likely be too much. I’ve had cigars that have been up and down, but never quite this dramatic or erratic.
- Every year for his birthday, Eladio Diaz rolls a small batch of cigars for himself and his close friends. While I haven’t smoked one, everything I’ve heard is that those cigars tend to be strong.
- For those hoping for a lengthy experience with the cigar, you will be in for a bit of a surprise. The final smoking time was an incredibly quick one hour and 30 minutes.
- Davidoff is an advertiser on halfwheel.
- Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- As noted above, there are only 10 retailers that were even eligible to receive the Davidoff Oro Blanco in the U.S. The list of retailers is available here.
- Davidoff actually has a reservation system for those wanting to get Oro Blanco. More info can be found here.
Since the pricing of Oro Blanco has been announced, much has been made about whether any cigar could be worth $500. As with any product, particularly those that reach halo or super premium status, the question is entirely subjective. As far as I was concerned, the Oro Blanco, the original Cohiba Behike and whatever else you want to put in the category are never going to be a “good value” at $500. You simply cannot find “value” in a single Oro Blanco compared to 25 Special Rs. But Oro Blanco is certainly not about value. And is it worth it is a much different question than is it a “good” value. Whether it be tobacco, spirits, automobiles or travel—these types of halo products come down to two basic questions in my mind. One, is the higher-priced product better than what is otherwise on the market? Two, is the product truly unique?
For those hoping to find some sort of life-changing presentation that involves fireworks or a tea ceremony included; at the end of the day it’s still a collection of aged pieces of long filler tobacco rolled using a technique that’s been around for centuries. However, Oro Blanco smokes differently than any other cigar I’ve smoked. Flavor-wise it’s a laundry list of diverse sensations that are overwhelming at times, but that’s only half the story. The changes in strength and body are so erratic, that even when you try to not think about the cigar, it reminds me you that it needs attention like a needy pet. It is a cigar that is impossible to ignore while smoking. The real story is how those three categories merge into a nuanced and balanced roller coaster for an hour and a half.
Is Oro Blanco better than any other cigar Davidoff currently makes? Yes. Is it worth the $450-$475 difference in price? For at least 360 days per year, probably not, but that’s oddly the point. Davidoff succeeded in making an excellent cigar and it probably succeeded in making a $500 cigar. It’s not for everyone, it’s certainly not for everyday, but from construction, to flavor, to packaging—Oro Blanco is noticeably different from cigars at $20, $30, $50 and quite frankly, anything else. Oro Blanco in many way reminds me of a supercar: extravagant, impractical and to a degree—ridiculous. You don’t smoke it walking through a thunderstorm and it’s probably challenging to comprehend it while on the phone. But fundamentally, you still cut it on one end and light the other just like any cigar, only to get a noticeably different experience. I likely won’t remember Oro Blanco simply because it was better, but rather, there were a handful of smaller details entirely unique to Oro Blanco.