At the 2016 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, Espinosa Premium Cigars showed off a handful of new releases for its Backroom Series, cigars exclusive to its branded lounges.

While the concept isn’t particularly novel, few—if any—cigar companies have managed to make a consistent effort to supply its lounges with a variety of exclusive cigars. In fairness, Espinosa’s program is still relatively in its infancy, but it started with a bang.


In late 2014, it released The Alibi, a 6 x 48 toro that was perhaps most notable for its unique boxes. The red containers featured square sides that took a normal wooden cigar box to something quite different, albeit, while taking up a lot more space.

As for the cigar, it wasn’t my favorite:

If I wasn’t needing to score the fourth sample I smoked for a review, I would have tossed it right after the two-inch mark. The Alibi was able to provide an odd, yet enjoyable mixture of flavor, strength and body; but the final third was a mess for me. I enjoyed the cigar overall and would be a large fan of pairing it with some heavier beers or liquors given how full-bodied this was from start to finish, but I still probably would toss it at two inches. I found The Alibi complex enough, yet the polar opposite to the Laranja Reserva, an Espinosa release that was all about finesse. If you like full-bodied and heavier cigars with a bit less pepper, I think you’ll enjoy The Alibi, if of course you can you find it.

Last week, I opened up my review box and tried to find something different to smoke and saw The Alibi, a cigar I remember nothing about to the point where I wasn’t sure if this was an actual Espinosa release or for one of the company’s clients.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Espinosa The Alibi
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: La Zona Cigar Factory
  • Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro
  • Binder: n/a
  • Filler: n/a
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 48
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $9 (Box of 10, $90)
  • Release Date: Dec. 22, 2014
  • Number of Cigars Released: 200 Boxes of 10 Cigars (2,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 1

My sample was stored in cellophane, which meant the aroma was better preserved after two and a half years in our humidor. I pick up baker’s chocolate over some leather and oak from the Ecuadorian wrapper, while the foot provides chocolate ice cream, pecan and some spice. The cold draw is interesting with woody flavors, pecan, dark chocolate, some spice and a bit of a chemical flavor. For those wondering, the cigar was stored in a plain wooden box within a cabinet humidor and not in the elaborate box it came in, which now sits on a shelf in the front of our office.

While the cold draw was a bit open, once the lighter has finished its task, the draw tightens a bit. There’s a plethora of toastiness over some black pepper and raisin with brown sugar, vanilla, cedar and black pepper on the finish. Unfortunately, five minutes in, the draw is providing some issues forcing a much faster puff rate and producing a much hotter cigar. That doesn’t help the flavor which remains dominated by toastiness although there’s some woody flavors and the raisin sweetness behind it. At times the smoke is causing actual discomfort in my throat because of just how hot the cigar is, though I finally decide to knock the ash off and give the cigar a full purge to try to see if that will help it. Despite those issues, the cigar is never really harsh outside of a ten minute period where the smoke is literally causing a burning sensation in the back of my throat.

Unfortunately, a purge does not and the second half of The Alibi remains a toast bomb with hot–though no longer discomforting smoke–drowning out any complexities. Retrohales still provide a bit of depth, but even they are drowned out by the toastiness and woodiness. The final third sees the draw tighten even further while the cigar almost goes entirely out, leading to another purge and for better or worse, some new flavors. It’s still quite toasty, but there’s now some minerals, raisins and creaminess. Woodiness and herbal flavors join the finish, the latter of which is not my favorite flavor, though at this point almost anything other than toastiness is welcomed. Strength ends at medium-full, while the flavor is medium, something I find a bit odd, though not because of the age of the cigar.

72 Overall Score

As I noted last year, for the last two years, Espinosa has been on a bit of a roll. It landed two cigars in our Top 25 for 2016 and got one of my votes for factory of the year. The Alibi is quite simply not at that level and provides a bit of evidence of just how much better things have gotten. I didn’t read my original review until after I finished the cigar. When that happened, I was a bit surprised at how similar much of my experience with the cigar was almost two years later. Toastiness dominated the cigar from start to finish, something that was new, but it once again showed a strength level that seemed a bit too strong—although midler than before—for the flavor profile and construction issues, particularly in the final third. Draw issues seem to be a clear culprit of why my experience with this particular The Alibi was worse than before, as it never gave the chance for the cigar to burn properly. Pete Johnson has talked about, in the context of Cuban cigars particularly, that rest won’t fix every problem—and I think this provides a clear example of his theory applying to non-Cuban cigars. The issues I had with The Alibi in January 2015 remain in May of 2017, though with a few new problems joining the fray.

Original Score (January 2015)
Redux Score (May 2017)

Charlie Minato
About the author

I am an editor and co-founder of Media, LLC. I previously co-founded and published TheCigarFeed, one of the two predecessors of halfwheel. I handle the editing of our written content, the majority of the technical aspects of the site and work with the rest of our staff on content management, business development and more. I’ve lived in most corners of the country and now entering my second stint in Dallas, Texas. I enjoy boxing, headphones, the Le Mans 24-hour, wearing sweatshirts year-round and gyros. echte liebe.

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