There was a time in my life where if I walked into a cigar shop and saw a Henry Clay, I’d almost certainly pick it up. For one, it was one of those fairly rare brands to see on store shelves second, it was a decent cigar; and third, I always liked the historical aspect of the brand and the classic look of the bands.
The brand goes back to 1840s Cuba, when Julián Álvarez Granda created the brand, naming it for Henry Clay, the American politician and Secretary of State who was known as the “Great Compromiser” for his role in helping create three major Compromises in American history: the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Tariff Compromise of 1833, and the Compromise of 1850.
But that wasn’t Clay’s only nickname, and one of his others seemed almost contradictory.
Clay was one of a group of legislators known as “war hawks” that believed in the use of force against the British, as well as favoring policies of expansion of the country. It’s that name that also landed on a series of cigars from Altadis U.S.A.
The first cigar to bear the name was the Henry Clay War Hawk, which came out in March 2019 as a regular production line with three sizes.
The second cigar to come out with the War Hawk name is a single vitola limited edition, the Henry Clay War Hawk Rebellious Limited Edition.
It is a Nicaraguan puro that comes in a 6 x 54 toro and features a habano seed wrapper. It’s also made by one of Altadis U.S.A.’s increasingly frequent collaborators, Abdel Fernández, and made at his Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua S.A. factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.
The cigar is priced at $9.60 and offered in 20 count boxes, with just 1,200 boxes produced for this limited edition.
- Cigar Reviewed: Henry Clay War Hawk Rebellious Limited Edition
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua S.A.
- Wrapper: Nicaragua (Habano)
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Length: 6 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 54
- Vitola: Toro
- MSRP: $9.60 (Box of 20, $192)
- Release Date: July 2020
- Number of Cigars Released: 1,200 Boxes of 20 Cigars (24,000 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
I’ve generally liked the Henry Clay band for its simplicity and roots in history, so I’m glad to see that the War Hawk Rebellious doesn’t take away from that core design too much. The first cigar is the picture of seam lines and a noticeable vein structure, neither of which I care that much about, though it does make for an interesting visual. The wrapper doesn’t have much oiliness, though it is a perfectly fine looking leaf, with a very fine grit texture for the fingers. As for the roll quality, it’s firm and consistent with no visible problems. The foot offers a slightly damper first smell than I would have expected, and pepper quickly comes along to take control of the situation. It’s an interesting combination of bright black pepper, a bit of red chili sauce, steak sauce and some underlying white bread which, as a collective, is somewhat challenging to process. There are a few sniffs where it reminds me of some barbecue that I have had somewhere along the way—more specifically, a cool barbecue sauce—though I couldn’t pinpoint where or when. The cold draw is a good bit tamer, with subdued notes of dry oak and just the slightest traces of pepper. There are no issues with airflow across the three samples.
The first puffs of the Henry Clay War Hawk Rebellious Limited Edition are almost exactly in the midpoint between the aroma and cold draw, though the result isn’t quite as appealing as that might suggest. The pepper tastes a bit diluted, and what I had thought might have been some vinegar in the barbecue sauce aroma off the foot is a bit more prevalent. Beyond that, there’s a bit of dry oak, reminding me of wine barrels in certain puffs, with the overall profile a bit lighter and brighter than what I would think of as the average profile of a Nicaraguan puro with a habano wrapper. The first retrohale that comes in the first few minutes after the cigar is lit reveals a cough-inducing abundance of white pepper, so much so that it has me rethinking taking many more. But from there, the cigar begins to mellow itself out, and while retrohales are still peppery, they are no longer over the line. Other than a slightly dry smoke, the flavor is quite enjoyable, having settled into a more mellow, slightly creamy place. Flavor is medium-minus but easily enhanced by a still peppery retrohale, body is medium is medium-plus and strength is generally mild. Construction and technical performance are problem-free.
While the first third offered bigger flavors and a slightly disjointed profile, the start of the second third offers tamer but more unified flavor. It’s slightly creamy with just a touch of very light, dry lumber and a pinch of white pepper. While it’s mellow, its components are also slowly building in intensity, and around the midway point, the cigar becomes more wood forward, offering something between lumber and firewood. Fortunately, it doesn’t dry out the mouth, which is appreciated, as those flavors are generally associated with such a physical sensation. A bit of black pepper accents that, though I’d call the intensity around the medium mark overall. The body of the smoke continues to soften, and while not completely palate-coating, does a decent job at delivering something beyond just flavor. By the end of the second third, the cigar has picked up a more developed flavor of wood, bringing in dry oak and more of the wine barrel note, though there is no trace of wine, sweetness or anything along those lines. There is also more earthiness to the profile, which brings the flavor up to a medium-plus level, overshadowing the cigar’s body and carrying a bit more nicotine strength. Construction is still fantastic.
The final third of the Henry Clay War Hawk Rebellious Limited Edition brings the cigar close to where it was in the first third, yet the flavors feel a bit more congruent and orderly, with dry wood leading things, some mixed pepper behind that, and touches of dry, light earth behind that. It’s arguably the best profile that the cigar has offered thus far, though the progression that the second third offered set a high bar for the final third to clear. It’s a fitting extension of the section just prior, if the build isn’t as progressive or notable, other than maybe a subtle vanilla in the ambient aroma that is easily overlooked but worth seeking out. Retrohales also return to their first third levels, so proceed with a bit of caution. The final puffs pick up a bit of harshness as the wood gets sharp and a bit funky, though with just about an inch left I’m not too disappointed by the finish. Construction remains about as close to perfect as I could ask for, with flavor finishing up medium-full, body medium-plus, and a final bit of strength coming along to nudge it up to medium-full as well, enough to leave just a bit of a punch to the system. One sample needs a touch-up to correct a bit of shoveling, but otherwise, the technical performance has been very good with plentiful smoke filling the immediate environment.
- I’m no scholar of American history, and I no make no claims of idolizing anyone. That said, Henry Clay certainly seems like an incredibly interesting figure in United States history, and one who I have to think is far too often overlooked. Thankfully, there are lots of worthwhile resources online to learn about him.
- It may not seem like a big thing, but an all-Nicaraguan blend for a Henry Clay is a pretty big departure from the brand’s roots in Connecticut broadleaf.
- It was 2015 when the Henry Clay brand seemed to begin its revitalization, beginning with the Henry Clay Tattoo, a collaboration with Pete Johnson of Tatuaje. From there, the Henry Clay Stalk Cut released in early 2016 and the Henry Clay Rustic Cheroot came out in March 2018.
- It’s amazing what the halfwheel search box turns up some days, and in this case, it was another cigar with the Rebellious name, the E.P. Carrillo Original Rebel Rebellious 54, which Charlie Minato reviewed in January 2017.
- The first retrohale of the Henry Clay War Hawk Rebellious Limited Edition is something and one that might catch a good number of people by surprise. I love a retrohale as much as anyone, but this one packed a very distinctive offering.
- I’m interested to hear what fans and those knowledgable of Nicaraguan habano think of this blend. As I mentioned above, in the first third it’s a bit lighter than what I would expect, while the final third is closer to my mental profile of the blend, though not as overall heavy or full-flavored.
- There is a bit of strength to be found from the Henry Clay War Hawk Rebellious Limited Edition, though not enough to have me reaching for any white sugar to neutralize the effect.
- The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 40 minutes on average.
- Site sponsors JR Cigar and STOGIES World Class Cigars carry the Henry Clay War Hawk Rebellious Limited Edition.
Seeing the rebirth of the Henry Clay brand in recent years has been an interesting development, and one that I'm not sure has brought the brand to any level of appreciable prominence in retail humidors. Yet it's certainly not for a lack of solid options, and that includes the Henry Clay War Hawk Rebellious Limited Edition. Even after three cigars, I'm still not completely sure of the target that the Nicaraguan habano wrapper was trying to hit, a point I bring up since that is the only varietal that was identified and thus the only pre-light guidance the cigar offers. I would have loved for the retrohales to be a bit more nostril-friendly, but overall the blend was an enjoyable one. The blend shines in between the first inch or so of the first third and the final two inches or so of the final third, showing an impressive mellowing and rebuilding that kept my palate and attention engaged, while the experience outside of that range left something to be desired. But as an option when you're wanting something new in the medium-plus range, the Henry Clay War Hawk Rebellious Limited Edition is a worthwhile option to light up before it disappears from shelves.