At this past summer’s IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, Tabacalera El Artista, the company behind the Big Papi by David Ortiz line of cigars as well as a handful of others, rolled out a cigar that wasn’t on the pre-show radar, a hand-rolled cheroot called Ugly Beast.

The idea behind the Ugly Beast was to make a small cigar for people who like a lot of strength. In true cheroot form, they would be rolled without the use of molds, leading to a rustic appearance that would be different from the typical cigar. While the goal was to produce a 5 x 40 vitola, each cigar will have a unique ring gauge and won’t be perfectly round or necessarily pretty.

They’d also be made using A-grade tobaccos, presented in a way similar to how both individual leaves and combinations of tobaccos are smoked during the blending process. Key to the blend is a Dominican-grown criollo “super ligero” as the company calls it.

The Ugly Beast went through a handful of blend iterations in order to find the ideal strength level, according to Ram Rodriguez of Tabacalera El Artista, who added that the cigar packs a fair amount of strength and nicotine into a quick-format smoke, which happens to be priced at $3 per cigar.

However, Ugly Beast—the name—wouldn’t make it to market due to a trademark claim. Instead, the cigar got a new, more humorous and colloquial name: Fugly.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Fugly
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: Tabacalera El Artista S.R.L.
  • Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés
  • Binder: None
  • Filler: Dominican Republic (Criollo 98 Ligero) & U.S.A. (Pennsylvania Broadleaf)
  • Length: 5 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 40
  • Vitola: Cheroot
  • MSRP: $3 (Boxes of 100, $300)
  • Release Date: September 2018
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

The Fugly is certainly a rustic looking cigar and it’s quite obvious this was made without molds as while the form is cigar-like, it is far from the perfectly round cylinders that dominate retail shelves and humidors. If anything, it is a bit of nostalgia, taking me back to the quickly rolled cigars found all over factories and tobacco warehouses for the purposes of testing individual leaves or combinations for possible blends. As for the wrapper leaf, it’s a dark, toothy and slightly veiny capa, with a bit of mottling that makes it almost black in spots. The cuts on the leaf aren’t always the cleanest, so when you get a particularly veiny, rustic looking leaf, it can make for a lot to take in visually. The foot of the cigar isn’t vibrant with flavors, but rather has a deep earthiness that comes with some sweetness, coffee grounds and just a bit of pepper. Since there is no cap, there is no need to clip anything, though you could certainly open up the head a bit if you felt so inclined. Even with the tiniest openings, air flows freely with a bit of damp wood and basic sweetness as the most consistent flavors.

Right out of the chute there’s some good pepper standing out from a slightly funky and sour background profile. As noted above, there’s no cap placed on this cigar; rather a tiny opening is left and while it is a fraction of the surface area of a robusto, the smokes easily through it. While the first sample never settled into an enjoyable profile, the second makes a better effort, though some of the sourness persists. At its cleanest, there is earth, a bit of sweetness, and the coffee grounds aroma from earlier, though that has faded the most of the three. Sure enough, as soon as I knock off the first clump of ash, biting chalk comes into the profile and overshadows the rest of the profile of two of the samples, while the third manages to dodge that bullet. The cigar burns fairly well as long as puffs are taken with a decent amount of frequency as the leaves seem heavy and the blend lacking lighter seco leaves to aid combustion.

The first two samples of the Fugly shows a very chalk-forward flavor that is sour and rough on the tongue; there may be some white pepper in there as well but it’s hard to sort out what else may be in the flavor profile, which leaves a bitter finish on the lips as well. The third sample is a good bit different, still managing to miss the sign to drive off the cliff and keeping the profile on the mellow side. Thankfully the retrohales of all three cigars are unaffected, and I find myself tempted so finish the cigars through the nose alone, albeit the third has more strength than the other two which makes it more challenging. Were I in a factory or not reviewing this cigar, two would have undoubtedly ended up in the bottom of an ashtray by now, with the third doing better but still leaving me wary. By the halfway point, the cigar has picked up a bit of chalk to the flavor, adding that distinctive twinge to the profile and imparting a much more lingering finish. The draw is generally very good while skewing loose, while the burn line and smoke production are both solid. Combustion gets to be more of an issue the farther the burn line progresses, and I have to relight the cigar a handful of times.

It seems I’ve often written about cigars struggling to burn in the final third due to residual moisture from the production process, and that is the case with the Fugly as well. While the first half burns fairly well without needing relights, the second half shows the struggles, and the final third in specific exemplifies them. Flavor-wise, two of the three samples I smoked showed continued chalk-dominant profiles, while the third was much better by means of earth and coffee. They are hearty flavors if not terribly deep or vibrant, but they are enjoyable and seem to staying on track to finish without issue.  With two inches to go, two of the samples become unable to be enjoyed in any fashion, and I’m forced to put them down and find a way to cleanse my palate of the biting, bitter profile, an unfortunate end to a cigar I had hopes for, though quickly became aware of might be unable to deliver. The third and final cigar that I smoked hangs on until the final inch and a half or so before it too starts to turn, with burn issues appearing here as well and making it a two-pronged struggle to get through the final inch.

Final Notes

  • Undoubtedly, someone reading this review has not heard the term fugly before. It’s a conjunction of fucking and ugly.
  • The third cigar’s draw was a bit looser than the other two, and it seemed attributable to a slight gap in the seal of the wrapper about an inch below the head. Holding it a certain way in my mouth was a workaround to problem, but didn’t fix it.
  • For whatever reason, it was also noticeably different in terms of flavor. It wasn’t perfect, but was more in line with what I expected from the cigar’s billing and was at least smokable without much complaining.
  • The Fugly struggled with combustion at times, and as such seemed to need a bit more frequent rate of puffing, which seems to contradict both how I’d normally smoke a cigar and how I’d smoke this particular cigar, given its flavor and strength.
  • While I didn’t pick up much in the way of nicotine strength, there is some to be found in the blend, and those with more sensitive systems might be hit harder by it than I was. The absolute attack on the tongue, however, will likely be felt by anyone who smokes this cigar and is my lasting takeaway from it.
  • I’m not a fast smoker, but I anticipated this would have take about 40-45 minutes to smoke, but even the fastest of the three still clocked in at about an hour.
  • The cigars for this review were provided by Tabacalera El Artista.
  • Final smoking time was one hour and 15 minutes on average.
71 Overall Score

I remember being intrigued by the Ugly Beast when I was introduced to it at the trade show, and while the name change to Fugly generated a bit of an eye roll, it didn’t diminish my thoughts of wanting to try it if I came across it. Its vitola and background reminded me of smoking fumas in factories to taste varietals of tobaccos or as part of the occasional blend-your-own-cigar exercise that occurs. However, it was by the midway point of the first sample that my interest in this cigar had completely waned, as the profile is brutally chalky and sour while also managing to be abrasive on the front half of the tongue from a physical perspective. While the draw and burn were generally good, I found myself needing to relight each sample at least once and often several times, something that I’m sure did not help the flavor whatsoever. It’s an interesting idea and one that I would love to see better developed, however the execution of the Fugly leaves me no choice but to recommend avoiding it unless you feel the need for a less-than-enjoyable hour-plus of smoking.

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Patrick Lagreid

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and previously the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for Major League Baseball, plus I'm a voice over artist. Prior to joining halfwheel, I covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.