Julius Caeser, yes C-a-e-s-e-r.
If you are unfamiliar with the premium line from J.C. Newman Cigar Co., the name is in reference to the company’s founder: Julius Caeser Newman. As the story goes, when Newman immigrated to the U.S., the word Caesar was misspelled on his official paperwork and as such, the a became an e and for once, our spelling error is correct.
In 2010, Diamond Crown introduced a cigar named after the company’s founder. It featured fairly radical packaging for J.C. Newman: a picture of the famous Roman on the band, purple felt inside the boxes and a light blue and purple color scheme throughout. As with the rest of the flagship Diamond Crown cigars, it is produced at Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia. in the Dominican Republic. It’s currently offered in six core sizes, though a few special sizes have been released to retailers over the years.
The Fuentes and Newmans are more than just partners in manufacturing and distribution, the two families are also the founders of the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation (CFCF), a charity in the Dominican Republic best known for its school. You can and should read more about the charity here and here, but in short, it’s a school that is operated in Bonao, close to the Fuente farms known as Chateau de la Fuente. The school opened as a primary school in 2004, but now offers education through high school. It’s entirely free with admission determined by a lottery system and the school’s accolades are countless. In addition, the campus offers a medical clinic and the school routinely gives out food and other essentials—ranging from water filters to roofs—to families in the surrounding areas.
While the Fuentes and Newmans cover the administrative costs, they have been committed to making sure outside contributions go directly towards funding the school. Much of that is through the sales of cigars, oftentimes at auctions hosted around the world, but most notably in the form of the Toast Across America packs that are sold at retailers around the country each year.
Each Toast pack contains two cigars, one from Fuente and one from Newman, usually in sizes that are not regularly offered in the Fuente Fuente OpusX and Diamond Crown brands. The packs are sold to retailers for $50—which goes to the charity—and most retailers agree to then sell the packs to consumers for the same price.
Last year marked the 16th time Toast Across America packs have been sold, with the cigars are the same as the 2014 and 2015 packs: a Fuente Fuente OpusX and Diamond Crown Julius Caeser in the 5 5/8 x 54 size known as the Shark.
While the cigars might be the same as 2014, they are visually different. First, this year’s Toast Across America set comes in a green colored-box versus the very dark purple of 2014 and the stained wood 2015 edition. Secondly, the secondary bands have changed for this year’s release.
- Cigar Reviewed: Diamond Crown Julius Caeser Shark Toast Across America 2018
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia
- Wrapper: Ecuador
- Binder: Dominican
- Filler: n/a
- Length: 5 5/8 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 54
- Vitola: Shark
- MSRP: $25 (Coffins of 2, $50)
- Release Date: August 2018
- Number of Cigars Released: n/a
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
I feel like the cigars are actually darker than the pictures would suggest. The Julius Caeser’s wrapper always seems to be darker in person than in photographs, though I think that might be more due to my own perception of the wrapper against the blue color of the band. Aroma-wise, the wrapper has a lot of leather, some barnyard and acidity, the collective around medium-plus. The foot is fuller with brownie chocolate, nuttiness, a bit of leather, white pepper and some wood. On the cold draw, there is nuttiness, acidic leather and grapefruit flavors. The leather isn’t apparent initially, but once I take a deeper cold draw it overwhelms the rest of the profile.
The Julius Caeser Shark begins with some nuttiness, bread, an underlying sweetness and some dijon mustard. It is admittedly not the start that I would have expected, though by the final sample I’m quite used to it. There’s varying levels of saltiness on the finish, which add some depth and accents to the other flavors. At the most basic level, the flavor profile is earthy and toasty, but retrohales are able to deliver apples, cedar, creaminess and a bit of a watered-down Sprite flavor. The finish returns to the initial mouth flavors, mainly earthy with milder flavors of earthiness and white pepper. Intensity-wise, flavor is medium-full, body is full and strength is medium. I’ve always found that the Shark size requires some patience and attention to the burn line and this is no different, with touch-ups needed at various points of the first third. On that note, the ash could probably hold on for half the cigar, but I find it best to nudge it off around an inch. Speaking of Shark traits, I find the draw to be slightly open compared to a typical cigar, though a bit tighter than what I normally find for the vitola.
It’s still very much an earthy core in the second third of the Julius Caeser Shark. If you aren’t retrohaling, then you will miss out on flavors which include generic toastiness, raisins, a milder mustard flavor and some hints of an artificial fruitiness that remind me of fruit punch. There’s no real pepper to be found, though I can feel a tingling of irritation on my tongue. The finish is a bit different than before, still earthy but now joined by some butter. Flavor picks up to full, body remains full and strength is medium-plus. One sample needs a touch up, but otherwise the cigar is performing quite well construction-wise: nothing incredible, but generally without flaws.
At some point the flavors seem to retreat and the earthiness begins to take over the retrohales. Eventually, some creaminess emerges, but the final third of the Julius Caeser isn’t as good as the first few inches were. There’s peanuts and various forms of creaminess, but there’s also some harshnss that wasn’t present. Once again, while I can feel the irritation on my tongue, I can’t detect any pepper. Flavor is full, while body and strength are medium-full. I manage to make it to about the one-inch mark before any touch-ups are needed, but that’s past the point of where I deduct any points for touch-ups.
- While the Fuente contribution to the Toast Across America is typically an OpusX, there has been a Don Carlos Gran AniverXario in at least one year. The 2013 release came with an Arturo Fuente Destino al Siglo Anniversario
- The Toast Across America boxes are typically the foundation’s logo on a painted box, but the 2012 boxes were extremely well done.
- Fuente/Newman refers to the release as TAA for short, which can be confusing as that acronym usually refers to the Tobacconists’ Association of America, and which has had a growing number of releases in recent years via its Exclusive Series.
- Let this be the most recent example in: if you aren’t retrohaling this cigar will pretty much just taste like earth.
- I’ve probably smoked over a dozen sizes of the Diamond Crown Julius Caeser over the years. Every time I visit the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation there always seems to be a non-production size in the bag we are given for attending. That being said, I think the regular production corona is the best of the bunch. It’s a bit more in your face than the rest of the sizes and given my lengthy smoking times, ends up being the ideal amount of time I want to smoke a cigar.
- I am reminded that I really don’t like this shape, as the Shark never particularly felt great in the mouth. I will say, one thing that makes this cigar easier to smoke is immediately removing the bands. The top band has a habit of touching my lips and the secondary band needs to be removed pretty early into the second third, so I found myself just taking care of all that at the beginning, which is typically not my approach to smoking cigars.
- The secondary bands are new this year and while I’m indifferent as to whether they are better than the old bands, it’s certainly more joyous in my opinion.
- J.C. Newman advertises on halfwheel.
- Final smoking time was two hours and 40 minutes on average.
My recent experiences with the Julius Caeser brand are largely based off a stash of aged cigars from 2012 that I smoke every handful of months. Those cigars are much milder and a bit more complex than cigars I smoked for this review, but I’m not sure they are necessarily better. The Shark vitola has admittedly never been my favorite size to smoke and I don’t think this is any different, but much like with OpusX, I’ve come to appreciate the boldness of these cigars when they are fresher versus the super smooth versions they end up being. It seems like the aging process has already started on these cigars and I wish there was a bit more boldness upfront, but that being said—and with or without the great cause they benefit—this is a good cigar, just not the best example of this particular blend.