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In late 2019, Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust shipped its latest exclusive release to Secreto Cigar Bar of Ferndale, Mich. Named Dondurma, the new release gets is moniker from a specific way of making ice cream in Turkey so that it resembles taffy in consistency, is chewy when eaten and does not melt.

Rolled in a single vitola—a 6 x 48 toro—Dondurma is a blend that Dunbarton owner Steve Saka says he finished in 2015, but decided not to sell because he felt like it “was (a) difficult cigar to explain to consumers unless (done) face to face” since the cigar is specifically blended so that most of the flavor is present on the retrohale. The cigar is made up of an Ecuadorian habano “double dark rosado” wrapper from La Meca, a Mexican San Andrés negro “cultivo tonto” binder and three tobaccos sourced from Nicaragua: a five-year-old hybrid criollo ligero from Estelí, corojo 98 viso from Estelí and criollo 99 seco from Jalapa. In addition, the filler includes tobacco that Saka describes as a “variation of Wisconsin Comstock.”

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“I first experienced (the desert Dondurma) while in the Navy ported in the seaside resort city of Antalya, Turkey”, said Saka. “As soon as I finished this “odd” blend it instantly reminded me of Dondurma – creamy, familiar and delicious, yet at the same time so different.”

According to Saka, the entire production of Dondurma so far were rolled by Artisto Torres and Josefa “Chepita” Perez at Joya de Nicaragua, who happens to be the same pair that rolls the Muestra de Saka Unicorn. Dondurma is packaged in 10-count boxes priced at $159 each and approximately 190 boxes were sent to Secreto Cigar Bar.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Dondurma
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Fabrica de Tabacos Joya de Nicaragua S.A.
  • Wrapper: Equador (Habano)
  • Binder: Mexico (San Andrés Negro)
  • Filler: Nicaragua (Criollo Estelí, Criollo 99 Seco Jalapa) & U.S.A (Wisconsin Comstock)
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 48
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $15.90 (Box of 10, $15.90)
  • Release Date: Dec. 12, 2019
  • Number of Cigars Released: 150 Boxes of 10 Cigars (1,500 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

Covered in a milk chocolate brown wrapper, the Dondurma is smooth to the touch with a hint of oil and is very firm when squeezed. Along with a large crater of a soft spot on one sample, there is a very obvious soft box-press and the short pigtail cap is a nice touch. The aroma from the wrapper and foot is very sweet overall and includes a combination of strong mocha coffee, earth, sweet leather, sweet manure, cream and peanuts while the cold draw brings flavors of mocha coffee, leather, almonds, salt, a touch of varnish and slight spice on my tongue.

Starting out, the first third quickly begins with a significant amount of spice on the palate that diminishes a bit fairly quickly, allowing a combination of almond and leather to become the most prominent flavor, followed by lesser flavors of espresso beans, bitter dark chocolate, earth, cinnamon and a slight floral note. In addition, the retrohale is full of complexity, mainly due to the distinct pound cake sweetness that is present, along with quite a bit of black pepper and some slight spice on my tongue. The draw is excellent from the first puff with just the right amount of resistance after a straight cut while the burn needs some minor attention early on, and the smoke production is extremely thick off of the foot. Strength-wise, the Dondurma starts off with a bang and increases to a point fairly close to medium by the end of the first third.

The retrohale remains shockingly sweet during the second third of the Dondurma, but the flavor changes over from pound cake to a graham cracker note. The dominant flavors on the palate have also changed, this time to more of a coffee bean and walnut combination, with lesser notes including cocoa powder, earth, nuts, tree bark, leather, cinnamon, hay and slight citrus. The amount of black pepper on the retrohale stays about the same compared to the first third, although the spice has increased a bit as well. Construction-wise, the draw continues to give me no problems and the burn has evened up nicely, while the overall strength has increased noticeably, easily hitting the medium mark by the time the second third comes to an end.

There is another major shift during the final third of the Dondurma. The sweetness on the retrohale that was defining the profile noticeably recedes and is replaced by significantly more spice and black pepper. However, the dominant flavors have changed very little from the second third, meaning there is a combination of walnut and espresso beans leading the way. Other flavors flit in and out as well, including cinnamon, leather, earth, hay, floral and cocoa powder. Overall construction continues to be quite good, with an excellent draw and a burn that is just short of razor-sharp, while the strength hits a point just south of the full mark by the time I put the nub down with about an inch remaining.

Final Notes

  • While the vast majority of the Dondurma cigars were sold at Secreto Cigar Bar, the blend actually debuted during an event at Cigaragua in Amsterdam were approximately 60 cigars were released.
  • I have to say, I cannot remember a recent cigar release other than this one where the writing on the box tells the smoker that he or she should be retrohaling to gain the “full experience.”
  • Speaking of the packaging, I noticed that the UPC sticker also includes the words “Dondurma by Saka”, something I can’t recall ever seeing on any Dunbarton releases until now. When I asked Saka about it, he had this to say:

It is not exactly a brand, but a single vitola in a rather unique Liga that is unlikely to ever garner any sales of note, just too niche imo. But there was some thought, knowing that Secreto Cigar Bar would be, at least initially, the exclusive seller of the cigar and how he typically refers to all my cigars as “Saka Cigars” I was just trying to make it work best for him. The box clearly reflects it is a DTT product and most of my bands do not, so it really didn’t strike me as being all that unique.

  • The last thing I will say about the packaging concerns the logo and the band: the former does a great job of differentiating itself from the other Dunbarton lines without going overboard, while the latter is extremely well-made and obviously cost more money than your typical band.
  • This is a blend that turns ashy and bitter on the palate very quickly if you puff too fast, so my advice is to take it a bit easier than you normally would.
  • The amount of smoke that comes off of the foot of these cigars is almost otherworldly: dense, white and thick. Incidentally, this cigar is also one of the best to blow cigar rings with if you are into that, although sadly I don’t think forming letters with it would be possible.
  • According to this report, the thick elastic texture of the dondurma dessert is achieved by adding a thickening agent named salep that is made from the pulp of a purple orchid flower.
  • The cigars smoked for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time for all three samples averaged one hour and 38 minutes.
  • For the time being, Secreto Cigar Bar is the only place you will be able to purchase the Dondurma. While the store is sold out at the moment, this website does indicate that more will be shipped to them at some point in the future.
89 Overall Score

There are very few blends I have tasted over the years that nail a combination of sweet and spicy on the retrohale as well as the Dondurma, at least for the first two thirds. The sweetness morphs from a distinct pound cake note in the first third to more of a graham cracker flavor in the second third before receding noticeably in the final third, while the spice and black pepper exhibit the opposite behavior, starting out light—the first few puffs notwithstanding—before taking over the profile in the final third. Of course, the palate has its own combination of flavors that include a dominant combination of coffee bean and walnut for most of the smoking time, but the distinctness pales in comparison to the notes on the retrohale. Sweet and spicy blend lovers rejoice, this is a cigar for you, as long as you can take the strength that goes along with it.

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Brooks Whittington
About the author

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.

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