While still a relatively new idea for the general smoking consumer, cigars incorporating barrel-aged tobacco have been around for quite a while. In fact, one of the most well known is probably the Arturo Fuente Añejo–which uses a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper aged in cognac barrels—but there have also been other products from AsylumCamacho, La Aurora and Perdomo.

In light of all of these, it was perhaps no big surprise when Diesel—a brand owned by Scandinavian Tobacco Group— decided to release a blend incorporating a Mexican San Andrés binder that is aged in barrels that previously held Rabbit Hole bourbon. Named Diesel Whiskey Row, the new regular production release is being produced at Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua S.A. and also includes a five-year-old Ecuadorian habano wrapper as well as filler tobaccos sourced from three regions in Nicaragua—Condega, Jalapa and Ometepe—that have been aged five to eight years.

“The partnership between Diesel and Rabbit Hole speaks of going against the grain in traditional industries,” said Justin Andrews, senior brand manager for Diesel, in a press release. “Rabbit Hole doesn’t claim to use 12 year old juice or have a 6th generation master distiller, much like Diesel doesn’t claim to be an old Cuban brand or have tobaccos that have been aged for 20 years. Both Rabbit Hole and Diesel are young, energetic brands with a unique go-to-market strategy. We knew the first time both companies sat down, there was a tremendous amount of synergy.”

The Diesel Whiskey Row debuted in four vitolas, each of which are packaged in 25-count boxes.

  • Diesel Whiskey Row Robusto (5 1/2 x 52) — $7.49 (Boxes of 25, $187.25)
  • Diesel Whiskey Row Toro (6 x 54) — $7.99 (Boxes of 25, $199.75)
  • Diesel Whiskey Row Churchill (7 x 49) — $8.49 (Boxes of 25, $212.25)
  • Diesel Whiskey Row Gigante (6 x 60) — $8.99 (Boxes of 25, $224.75)

  • Cigar Reviewed: Diesel Whiskey Row Toro
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua S.A.
  • Wrapper: Ecuador (Habano)
  • Binder: Mexico (San Andrés)
  • Filler: Nicaragua (Condega, Jalapa and Ometepe)
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 54
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $7.99 (Boxes of 25, $199.75)
  • Release Date: June 4, 2018
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

There is no denying that the Diesel Whiskey Row is a gorgeous-looking cigar, with a reddish brown wrapper that is extremely smooth to the touch and features a touch of oil. Having said that, the cap seems to be sloppily applied and the cigar is quite firm when squeezed. Aroma from the wrapper is a combination of oak, black pepper, leather, barnyard and hay, while the cold draw brings flavors of the same oak, black pepper, cinnamon, dark chocolate and a touch of varnish.

After taking a bit longer than I expected to get lit, the Diesel Whiskey Row features immediate flavors that may already seem familiar to those reading the review: oak and leather are dominant, followed by dark chocolate, espresso beans, cinnamon, grass and a small amount of floral. While I am noticing some indeterminate—and very light—sweetness, the finish is dominated by an espresso bitterness that does nothing for the balance. There is some significant spice on my tongue as well as some aggressive black pepper on the retrohale, and while both do begin to die down after about 15 puffs or so, they remain very prominent. Construction-wise, the draw is excellent after a straight cut and the burn gives me no issues at all, although the first chunk of ash does fall unexpectedly at around the half-inch mark. The overall strength is noticeable without being aggressive and ends the first third just shy of the medium mark.

While the oak and leather combination easily remains dominant during the second third of the Diesel Whiskey Row, they recede enough to allow other flavors a bit more room to shine, including a nice vanilla sweetness on the finish. Lesser flavors of grass, dark chocolate, espresso beans and barnyard flit in and out, while both the spice and black pepper on the retrohale have decreased noticeably. The construction remains excellent and there is more than enough smoke production off of the foot, while the overall has moved closer to the medium mark, although still falls short before by the end of the second third.Thankfully, the final third of the Diesel Whiskey Row starts to show some complexity, as I start to taste more floral, more raisin sweetness and more cinnamon. That is not to say that the oak and leather combination are not still dominant—they are—but they have become a bit more muted, meaning I can taste other flavors in various amounts, including licorice, popcorn, grass, almonds and slight nutmeg. The construction continues to impress, while the smoke production has actually increased late in the game. The overall strength actually increases quite a bit, hitting a point slightly north of the medium mark by the time I put the nub down with a little more than an inch left.

Final Notes

  • Diesel has been a brand that was offered historically by Cigars International and its associated Cigar Bid and Cigar.com. Last year, General Cigar Co.—which, like the aforementioned retailers, is also owned by STG—began offering Diesel to brick and mortar retailers around the country. Whiskey Row will also be sold to brick and mortar retailers, including events with Rabbit Hole in July.
  • According to Diesel, the bourbon barrels the tobacco was aged in shipped to the Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua S.A. factory in 2016, where owner Abel Fernández developed a technique that allowed better airflow to the leaves in the barrels by rotating them at specific times.
  • While not even close to the same color scheme, the sideways angled bands on these cigars immediately reminded me of the bands on Fratello Cigars.
  • Speaking of the bands, the off-white foot band is an odd color choice when contrasted against both the wrapper color and the muted colors of the main band. In addition, the bottom portion of the word “RABBIT” on the secondary band is cut off by the word “Bourbon Barrel” underneath it, so it actually looks like it reads “BABBIT.”
  • While the ash is not really all that flaky, it did tend to fall off in very small chunks about every half inch or so.
  • The excellent construction on each of these cigars is hard to overstate: each featured not only an excellent draw, but also a burn line that almost never wavered, with only one sample needing a quick touchup in the middle third. This was easily one of the best constructed cigars I have smoked this year.
  • The cigars smoked for this review were sent to halfwheel by General Cigar Co.
  • Final smoking time for all three samples averaged one hour and 31 minutes.
  • Site sponsor Famous Smoke Shop has the Diesel Whiskey Row up for preorder here.
84 Overall Score

Let’s get one thing out of the way immediately: despite the way it is produced and the name it carries, the Diesel Whiskey Row does not actually taste like whiskey. In fact, there is no whiskey flavor anywhere near the cigar. Instead, the cigar is full of distinct—and at times, overwhelming—oak and leather notes that dominate the other flavors, leading to an extremely one-dimensional profile. This combination of flavors is aggressive, the black pepper on the retrohale is aggressive and the bitterness on the finish is aggressive. Predictably, all of this aggression in the profile causes the balance to suffer significantly, although the last third of each of the samples was definitely an improvement over the other two. Unfortunately, while the interesting story behind the Diesel Whiskey Row and the fantastic construction try their best, they can not make up for the lack of complexity in the profile.

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Brooks Whittington

I have been smoking cigars for over eight years. A documentary wedding photographer by trade, I spent seven years as a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I started the cigar blog SmokingStogie in 2008 after realizing that there was a need for a cigar blog with better photographs and more in-depth information about each release. SmokingStogie quickly became one of the more influential cigar blogs on the internet, known for reviewing preproduction, prerelease, rare, extremely hard-to-find and expensive cigars. I am a co-founder of halfwheel and now serve as an editor for halfwheel.