Somewhat overshadowed by everything else happening in the world this year, J.C. Newman is celebrating its 125th anniversary, a mark that few cigar companies can even see on the horizon yet lay claim to.
As part of its celebration, the company is remodeling its factory in Tampa, Fla. and hosting a number of in-store events that feature a cigar that has been part of the company’s portfolio for nearly a decade, but never as a regular release, the Diamond Crown Cameroon Double Belicoso.
The cigar’s roots go back to 1995, when the company celebrated its 100th anniversary, and Stanford Newman turned to Carlos Fuente Sr. to bring his vision of creating a new line of super premium cigars to life. As the company documents the origin, Newman wanted to make the best cigar in the world no matter how long it would take or how much it would cost. That dream would come to fruition with the launch of Diamond Crown.
Also notable about this new line is that Newman decided that every cigar should have a 54 ring gauge, making it one of, if not the thickest cigars on the market. He was told it couldn’t be done, but he insisted and the cigar eventually came to life, with the thought being that such a size would allow for six to seven leaves to be rolled together to create a rich, full and consistent flavor.
That 54 ring gauge mandate lives on to this day, and while it has expanded a bit, six of the eight sizes of the line still come in a 54 ring gauge.
After the launch of Diamond Crown, the line would grow, adding the Diamond Crown Maduro and Diamond Crown MAXIMUS, the latter of which was a bold, full-flavored cigar introduced in 2002. The Diamond Crown brand would go on to add the Julius Caeser in honor of the company’s 115th anniversary and what would have been the 135th birthday of Julius Caeser Newman, the company’s founder. A fourth line, the Diamond Crown Black Diamond, would be added in late 2016, though It, along with the Julius Caeser, did deviate from the 54 ring gauge history of its predecessors.
Yet with these four lines, there was something missing that continues to be loved by the Newman family: Cameroon tobacco.
Drew Newman, the company’s general counsel and co-owner, told halfwheel, it was his grandfather, Stanford Newman, who brought Cameroon tobacco to the U.S. after the Cuban embargo, taking it to prominence with his Cuesta-Rey No. 95 cigar back in the 1960s and 1970s.
After the launch of the Diamond Crown line, the Newmans went to the Fuentes and asked if they could roll a Diamond Crown with a Cameroon wrapper. They obliged, and the cigar was largely a cigar for the family and the people with whom they shared it.
The cigar in specific is a 6 3/4 x 54 double belicoso, a size that is known by two names in the J.C. Newman portfolio. In the Diamond Crown and Diamond Crown Maduro lines, it is the No. 7, while in the MAXIMUS line it is known as the Double Belicoso No. 10, though those sometimes get separated and the cigar is occasionally called just a Double Belicoso or just the No. 10.
That said, it has made some appearances at retail, dating back to at least 2011 when J.C. Newman included it in a three-cigar sampler that also included a Diamond Crown Classic Double Belicoso and Julius Caeser Double Belicoso. It would return the following year, and has been released around the holidays in subsequent years, yet never as a regular production release or in traditional cigar boxes.
With the 125th anniversary of the company being celebrated this year, the cigar has made a return, this time in a new format: a coffin. It is being used as one of a number of sales incentives for J.C. Newman events, with customers receiving one of the Diamond Crown Cameroon Double Belicoso for buying any three of J.C. Newman’s Dominican-made cigars, meaning the Diamond Crown, Julius Caeser, MAXIMUS and Black Diamond lines at select in-store events.
- Cigar Reviewed: Diamond Crown Cameroon Double Belicoso (2020)
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia.
- Wrapper: Cameroon
- Binder: Dominican Republic
- Filler: Not Disclosed
- Length: 6 3/4 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 54
- Vitola: Belicoso
- MSRP: Not for Sale
- Release Date: Not Disclosed
- Number of Cigars Released: 3,000 Coffins of 1 Cigar (3,000 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
I feel like I should be doing an unboxing video for this cigar, but I’ll let the pictures do the talking. After removing the shrink wrap and sliding the lid off the coffin, I’m greeted by a cigar that is held perfectly in place by two small pieces of foam, not unlike what you might find in an aluminum tube to provide some cushioning. Even with that, I notice a small crack towards the head of the first cigar, something that could have occurred anywhere along the cigar’s journey. Once out of the cellophane, the cigar almost immediately reveals its wrapper’s origins, as the leaf is near textbook Cameroon in terms of color, veins and fragility. It’s a fairly dry and matte leaf, not showing much in the way of gloss or oiliness. Of course, if the leaf isn’t a giveaway, the secondary band declaring this as Cameroon Select should resolve any questions. It’s a well-rolled cigar, and the distinct shade of the wrapper leaf matches well with the burgundy, red, and gold on the two bands. I am incredibly reluctant to give the cigar anything more than the gentlest of squeezes to check the denseness of the roll; it feels firm and doesn’t show any obvious issues. The foot of the cigar offers aromas of graham cracker, citrus, a bit of saffron and other fragrant spices, with more traditional pepper making an occasional appearance. The cold draw shows less resistance to airflow than I would have expected. The flavor is somewhat subdued, which a bit of the graham cracker returning but none of the texture that comes with it. There is some very subtle creaminess as well, which leaves a bit of sweetness and citrus on the finish.
The Diamond Crown Cameroon Double Belicoso starts out somewhat cautiously with flavor, giving the palate a bit of sweetness on top of some Dominican terroir. Light pepper and some of the distinct spice that Cameroon tobacco is known for join in about 10 minutes into the cigar, as the bright white ash gets to about three-quarters of an inch in length. After I tap off the first impressive block of ash, the cigar begins to get a bit more complex, showing the more classic notes syrupy citrus sweetness and some mild chili spiciness that has come to be so closely associated with Cameroon tobacco, though I wouldn’t say it is dominating the blend yet, as there is an almost equal amount of Dominican terroir in the profile, meaning a bit of loamy soil adds both flavor and texture to the experience. While it’s not dominant, there’s enough black pepper to ever so slightly grate the back of my nasal passage on a retrohale as well as a bit of the palate. Flavor is medium to medium-plus, body is medium-plus, and strength is medium. Construction so far has been very good, with an easy but not loose draw, good smoke production, and a generally even burn line.
The interplay between the distinctive notes of the Cameroon tobacco and the terroir I’m getting from what seem to be predominantly Dominican tobacco continues into the second third. Retrohales show a very subtle citrus note, subtle enough that I hardly notice it in two of the three samples. But when it does stand out, it is a special experience, especially for those fond of Cameroon tobacco. It’s a fleeting sensation, and once gone, the flavor gets back to a more pepper-laden offering, with touches of woodiness and a bit of dry, loamy earth forming most of the backing flavors. Just past the midway point, the cigar shows more pronounced notes of cedar and white pepper, the latter particularly enjoyable through the nose. There’s a bit of chalkiness that shows up as well, with when combined with the pepper makes an interesting target out of the front of the tongue. As the second third concludes, the cigar takes on a bit more earthiness and terroir, a bit dry in sensation but not necessarily drying out my mouth. Flavor continues to hang around the medium-plus mark, body is closer to medium, as is strength. The technical performance is still solid, though two cigars begin to show an uneven burn line.
At the start of the final third, most of the sweet and spicy flavors from the Cameroon wrapper have faded away, leaving a mix of dry cedar and similar woods to pair with the earthiness. Pepper has also temporarily dialed back a bit; while the cigar was never overly peppery, it has turned down what amplitude it had for a few puffs before building back up as the burn line passes where the bands would be. The profile is now on the dry side, and some quick hits of cedar further that, leaving a lingering tingle on the tongue. The smoke is much smoother, and dare I say more enjoyable, through the nose. All of the flavors are subdued on retrohales, which allow for a bit of creaminess to coat the smoke. As the cigar’s conclusion draws near, I find myself wanting for the Cameroon flavors more and more, as I want to squeeze every drop of that flavor out of this cigar before it finishes, though try as I might it seems there’s nothing left in that regard. I’m impressed by how far down I can smoke the Diamond Crown Cameroon Double Belicoso, as it feels like the burn line has begun to hit the taper of the head before it’s time to finally wrap up the cigar. Other than a bit of heat in one sample, the cigar finishes beautifully, with flavor still medium-full, body medium-plus, and strength closer to medium. Other than needing to touch up two samples in this section to even out the burn line, there hasn’t been any serious issues with the construction and technical performance.
- We’ve mentioned our frustrations with naming issues before, but this cigar seems to be referred to as both the Diamond Crown Cameroon Double Belicoso and the Diamond Crown Cameroon No. 10. The former appears on the coffin itself, while the latter appears on J.C. Newman’s website.
- The Newman family has made two appearances in halfwheel’s Portraits series: Drew Newman was featured in April 2018, while Eric and Bobby Newman, Drew’s father and uncle, respectively, were featured in February 2013.
- I don’t generally pay a lot of attention to the ash on a cigar, nor do I give it much credit except when it is at the more extreme ends of the spectrum. That said, the ash on the Diamond Crown Cameroon Double Belicoso was impressive, holding on much longer and much stronger than I might have expected given the fragility of the wrapper.
- In trying to find this cigar online, I came across a number of Diamond Crown MAXIMUS box images, and I’d forgotten how much I appreciate their design. I don’t know retail-friendly they are given they are shaped to look like a capital M, but they are distinctive.
- I do like the coffin presentation of the Diamond Crown Cameroon Double Belicoso, though given my aversion to throwing things out unnecessarily, I can’t quite bring myself to just toss these in the trash.
- Nicotine strength is fairly minimal for this cigar, with just a touch being felt across the three samples.
- The cigars for this review were provided by J.C. Newman.
- J.C. Newman advertises on halfwheel.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 55 minutes on average, though it varied from one hour and 35 minutes on the low end to two hours and 24 minutes on the high end.
- Site sponsor Corona Cigar Co. carries a sampler that contains the Diamond Crown Cameroon Double Belicoso.
- Update: Shortly after this review was published, Drew Newman told halfwheel that the cigars for this release were rolled in 2015, and that a total of 3,000 coffins were produced for this release.
Cameroon is one of those varietals of tobacco that shows up in a blend and immediately gets my attention. Not only is it fairly rarely seen, it is also incredibly flavorful and at least for my palate, enjoyable, which in turn means I want about as much of it as I can get, from start to finish. That's where the Diamond Crown Cameroon Double Belicoso (2020) came up a bit short. The first two thirds offer decent amounts of it, though there were enough spots where it felt like it was having to battle with the other notes in the blend to stand out. The final third saw the flavor almost completely disappear, and while what was left was enjoyable, it certainly didn't come across as being a cigar that should bear the Cameroon name. I'm proud to admit that my expectations for Cameroon are high, and I think any cigar billed with a distinctive tobacco should deliver it in an unmistakable if not unapologetic way, which this didn't quite do. I'd happily smoke another one as the flavors it does offer are very good, but I also know that there are others that do a bit better job delivering what I'm wanting.