The release of vintage tobacco in a cigar blend is nothing new in the cigar industry; it seems that multiple times per year there is an announcement of a cigar that uses tobacco from a certain vintage or is centered around leaves that are a decade old or older. Yet every once in a while there is something special or meaningful attached to that vintage tobacco, other than its age.
In the case of the Fernando Léon Limited Edition Belicoso, the cigar is likely most notable for its wrapper, a corojo variety of undisclosed origin which was purchased in 2009 prior to Fernando León’s passing in April 2009. The tobacco had sat in the factory unused until it was selected for this project.
Underneath the wrapper is an Ecuadorian binder and a four-country blend of filler tobaccos, drawing on leaves from Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Peru. It is a blend that is different from the regular production Fernando León Family Reserve line.
The Fernando Léon Limited Edition Belicoso is a very limited release, with just 150 boxes of 15 cigars produced, making for a total production of 2,250 cigars, with each cigar having an MSRP of $28. The 6 1/4 x 52 vitola is also the first of three sizes that are planned for the line. It debuted at the 2021 PCA Convention & Trade Show and shipped to retailers in August 2021, about a month of its originally announced schedule.
- Cigar Reviewed: Fernando Léon Limited Edition Belicoso
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: La Aurora Cigar Factory
- Wrapper: Undisclosed (Corojo)
- Binder: Ecuador
- Filler: Brazil, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua & Peru
- Length: 6 1/4 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 52
- Vitola: Belicoso
- MSRP: $28 (Box of 15, $420)
- Release Date: August 2021
- Number of Cigars Released: 150 Boxes of 15 Cigars (2,250 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
While I’m not the biggest fan of the belicoso vitola from a smoking perspective, they are very attractive vitolas to look at, and the Fernando Léon Limited Edition Belicoso is no exception. Between the lightly-tanned wrapper, the white and gold band, and the pointed head, this is one of those cigars that should impress any cigar smoker. The wrapper and band play quite well off each other. My only complaint is that the detail in the gold section was a bit more readable, as I think I could benefit from both a magnifying glass and ideal light. As for the wrapper, it is a well-tanned leaf with a few small veins and a dry, very fine grit texture for the fingers. The cigar feels like it has a firm core yet still manages to offer just a bit of give, and generally, that little bit of give is found in the portion closer to the foot. Speaking of the foot, it leads with an aroma that has me thinking of a very vibrant cinnamon graham cracker, something more along the lines of something freshly made rather than one to come out of a store-bought package. There is something very distinctive about the combination of sweetness and spice, which makes it one of the more distinctive pre-light aromas I can recall in recent memory, particularly when it reaches a certain level of vibrance. Some samples have a bit more of a traditional black pepper in the mix as well, though it’s definitely not driving the sensation. As usual, I cut the cap conservatively but am greeted with a smooth and easy draw. The flavor is a bit more subdued than the aroma that reminds me of a graham cracker due to the sweetness, but without the cinnamon. The vibrancy is still incredibly impressive, but on the whole, it is smoother thanks to a bit of creaminess. That said, the lingering tingle of the finish has me rethinking that comment almost as soon as I write it.
Given the prelight aroma and cold draw of the Fernando Léon Limited Edition Belicoso, I’m surprised that it starts on such a dry note, and an almost powdery note at that. There is a bit of graham cracker and cinnamon but not nearly as much of the sweetness. While the retrohales pick up a bit of that powdery texture, the white pepper manages to cut through just enough to cut through and be the main takeaway of the smoke passing through the nose. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as a smoked graham cracker—and I’m not talking about the flavor of a s’more—but that’s the driving flavor at the one-inch mark. There’s a bit of sweetness, but the overall flavor combination is quite distinctive and incredibly enjoyable. After the first clump of dark gray ash gets knocked off, the profile turns a bit smokier on the whole, beginning to suggest a nearly spend charcoal grill. There’s also a bit of a mouth-drying sensation at work, and while I would like to equate it to white toast or a thin wood flavor, neither feels spot on. Construction and combustion are essentially flawless this far, as the cigar offers a smooth and easy draw, even burn line, and plenty of smoke. Flavor is an easy to enjoy medium-plus, body is medium and strength is mild.
The second third of the Fernando Léon Limited Edition Belicoso gets underway with the overall intensity of the flavor mellowing a bit, but also getting a bit smokier while the black pepper tingles the taste buds just a bit more than it did in the first third. To counter that, the retrohales have picked up a bit of sweetness and creaminess, which complement the white pepper and provides a fairly complex and engaging experience. This change makes the smoke a bit more pointed and textured as it hits both the taste buds and olfactory nerves, and while my first instinct is to invoke the term robust, the lack of earth forces me to backspace the first entry of that word. The more I search, the more I come back to just enjoying the complexity of what the cigar is offering, as it has layers of pepper intermingling with a light dry earth, a bit of toast and wood, and then some remnants of the creaminess that is doing its best to push back against the dryness of the other flavors. As the Fernando Léon Limited Edition Belicoso’s burn line gets through the midway point, the flavor picks up a bit more smokiness and a sharper black pepper that feels a bit more purposeful as it hits the taste buds. It’s not a huge change given what the cigar has offered thus far, but it is enough to catch my attention. Likewise, the body seems to thin out just a touch, which makes what has been a subtle, dry woodiness stand out a bit more. There’s a bit of peanut shell and toast here as well, sensations that are more physical than flavor given how close and almost interchangeable they seem to be. As this section comes to a close, the retrohales become the fuller expression of the blend and show more body than what I pick up on the palate, reversing the usual role that has the retrohale as the accent to the flavor. The Fernando Léon Limited Edition Belicoso continues to perform very well from a technical perspective, with my only note being that the smoke production seems to decrease ever so slightly. Flavor is generally medium, body started this section medium-plus but now is medium-minus, while strength is just a touch over mild.
The start of the final third doesn’t bring about many changes, as the cigar seems pretty content continuing to offer what it has to this point, and I am content to keep enjoying it. One sample bucks that trend by adding a bit of chalk for a few puffs, which I’m glad to see doesn’t stick around very long. It is also the sample that adds an interesting sharpness to the retrohales, making me think of the kind of sensation that aftershave delivers to the nose though there isn’t the same fragrant aspect. Retrohales on the whole continue to show a bright white pepper that really tingles the nose and keeps the intensity right at the point where I can comfortably take as many of them as I want. The flavor does a dance in and out of smokiness, taking the peanut shells from earlier along with it before parting ways and picking up a bit of light earthiness that comes along with a bit of black pepper. It’s a change that takes what had been a bit of lingering flavor and turns it into a bit more noticeable irritation at times, which is the first time I can say that the Fernando Léon Limited Edition Belicoso has been anything less than thoroughly enjoyable. As the final inches start burning, retrohales pick up some of the smokiness and continue to fill out in body, now a medium-full smoke through the nose if a bit thinner on the tongue. The wood and pepper sharpens up in the final inch, but otherwise, the cigar comes to a very enjoyable conclusion. Flavor finishes medium-plus, body is medium to medium-full, and strength is barely hitting medium. Construction and combustion remain fantastic.
- If you find yourself in Santiago, Dominican Republic, I’d highly recommend visiting La Aurora’s factory, as they are one of the better-equipped companies in the area to welcome visitors with a tour.
- There are times when I think of people in the cigar industry I wish I would have met, and Fernando León is certainly one of them. His passing came not long after I got into smoking cigars as a serious hobby and before I was covering the cigar industry.
- I’m definitely intrigued to see what the other two vitolas planned for this blend are. Based on this vitola, I’d be concerned that going too thin could sharpen the profile up too much, yet I wouldn’t want to risk diluting things by going much thicker.
- Editor’s Note: One of the sizes is a lancero. — Charlie Minato.
- That decision may well be driven by the size of the wrapper leaves, as their size will certainly be a big factor in what vitolas could feasibly be rolled.
- None of the three cigars offered any appreciable nicotine strength. Only one of the three samples approached having enough strength to be noticeable.
- Miami Cigar & Co. is the U.S. distributor for La Aurora. Miami Cigar & Co. advertises on halfwheel.
- The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time was two hours and 30 minutes on average.
The Fernando Léon Limited Edition Belicoso is a beautiful cigar to look at and a nearly as beautiful cigar to smoke. While I wouldn’t say it offers a truly unique profile, it offers one I haven’t found in many cigars, one that largely stays away from earth in favor of a lighter and drier profile that has one of the more intricate layerings of pepper that I can recall encountering. The mouth-drying effect of the profile is unmistakable, but it’s a worthwhile tradeoff for what the cigar offers in flavor, balance and complexity, which get capped off by fantastic construction. This is definitely a cigar to pick up if you’re looking not only to treat yourself with a premium smoke but also to experience a distinctive blend that includes a well-aged wrapper with a connection to the man whose name graces the cigar.