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City, state or regional exclusive cigars are nothing new, but a debut blend from Espinosa Premium Cigars celebrates a particular area of the country as well as a legendary collage football rivalry.

Named for the Red River Valley that serves as a border between Oklahoma and Texas, the new blend was developed by Erik Espinosa and Scott Lewis, who represents the Espinosa brand in the state of Texas. The 6 x 50 toro is being sold exclusively at retailers in Texas and Oklahoma and was released on Oct. 14, which just happens to be the same day that the annual Red River Shootout football game between the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma took place.

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“That market is a priority for us, and our presence there has grown exponentially over the last three years,” said Erik Espinosa in a press release. “We believe an exclusive release for them is a perfect way to show our gratitude for their growing support.”

Blend-wise, the Red River Valley incorporates a Mexican San Andrés wrapper covering Nicaraguan tobacco in the binder and filler, and is described as full-bodied by the company. The cigars are packaged in 10-count boxes, and single cigars retail for $9.50.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Espinosa Red River Valley
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: La Zona Cigar Factory
  • Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 50
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $9.50 (Boxes of 10, $95)
  • Release Date: Oct. 14, 2017
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

Covered in a dark mocha brown wrapper, the Espinosa Red River Valley is extremely rough to the touch and features a number of large veins running up and down its length. There is a touch of oil visible and I can feel a large soft spot about halfway down the cigar. Aroma from the wrapper is a combination of strong manure, leather, barnyard, earth, cedar and vanilla sweetness while the cold draw brings flavors of creamy cedar, a slight earth, nutmeg, cocoa nibs and black pepper.

Starting out the first third, the Espinosa Red River Valley features a multitude of flavors, including creamy cedar, leather, peanuts, gritty earth, barnyard and generic sweetness. However, there is also a very aggressive sourness on the finish that really drowns out the best part of the profile and does not play well with some obvious black pepper that is also present on the retrohale. Construction-wise, the burn is a bit wavy, forcing me to touch it up a couple of times, but the draw is excellent after a straight cut, which just the right amount of resistance. The smoke production is about average so far, while the overall strength hits a point close to medium by the time the first third ends.

Thankfully, the sourness that was so dominant in the first third disappears just as the second third begins, allowing more flavors to shine through, including oatmeal, creamy cedar, earth, peanuts, sawdust and hay. The lack of sourness also allows the sweetness on the retrohale from the first third to become more dominant in the profile, reminding me of creamy milk chocolate. Thankfully, the burn has improved significantly and it remains trouble-free throughout the middle third. The strength easily hits the medium mark by the halfway point and seems to be increasing, albeit very slowly.

The final third of the Espinosa Red River Valley has quite a bit in common with the second third, which is not a bad thing at all. The dominant flavor is still an interesting oatmeal and creamy cedar combination, but the milk chocolate sweetness has also bumped up a notch. Other notes of hay, earth, cocoa nibs, leather and bitter espresso flit in and out, and there is still a pleasant amount of black pepper on the retrohale. Both the burn and the draw continue to impress. Strength increases just a bit compared to the second third, stalling out after reaching a point just above the medium mark by the time I put the nub down with about an inch to go.

Final Notes

  • The college football game between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns is held annually at the Cotton Bowl Stadium, which is in the middle of the State Fair of Texas in Dallas.
  • The first meeting between the two teams occurred on Oct. 10, 1900, with Texas defeating Oklahoma 28-2.
  • Oklahoma won this year’s contest, 29-24.
  • As of this writing there have been 112 meetings between the two teams, with Texas holding the better record at 61-46-5.
  • For some reason, the first thing I thought of when I saw the logo of the Espinosa Red River Shootout was the Leccia Tobacco Luchador line, despite the obvious difference in color scheme.
  • The cigars smoked for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • At an average of one hour and 29 minutes, the final smoking time for all three samples was relatively short for the vitola.
  • If you would like to purchase any of the Espinosa Red River Valley, site sponsor STOGIES World Class Cigars has them in stock.
82 Overall Score

Having been born in Texas—albeit not raised there—I have been aware of the the Red River Rivalry for as long as I can remember, and the fact that there is a cigar based around the event is pretty cool. Having said that, the Espinosa Red River Valley starts out extremely rough, with a noticeable amount of sourness on the finish in the first third that drowns out the best flavors. Thankfully, that note disappears completely by the second third, leaving an enjoyable profile of oatmeal, sweet milk chocolate, creamy cedar and slight black pepper. While I think a bit of age will meld things together a bit better, the first third is definitely off-putting at this point in its life and brought the overall score down significantly, although you will be rewarded with much better flavors if you push through.

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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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