Every week I seem to find out that there is some phrase or quote that I’ve repeated countless times but have been wrongly attributing it all my life.

As it turns out, “survival of the fittest” is not a quote from Charles Darwin, but rather the late Herbert Spencer, an English philosopher and scientist. He coined the term after reading Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and took some of the theories to an extreme. It and other writings gained him immense popularity at the time, but not long-term relevance as summed up by Steven Shapin in The New Yorker:

Spencer was, arguably, the single most influential systematic thinker of the nineteenth century, but his influence, compared with that of Darwin, Marx, or Mill, was short-lived. In 1937, the Harvard sociologist Talcott Parsons asked, “Who now reads Spencer?”

Since neither you nor I came here for my thoughts on philosophy, it seems wise to explain why Spencer is being brought up. It’s thanks to Jake Wyatt Cigar Co., a new project from Neil Garcia and Gerard Abajian. The latter is part of the family behind Mardo Cigars which has locations in Laguna Niguel, Calif. and Sarasota, Fla.

Jake Wyatt Cigar Co. launched in February 2020 with six lines, all of which feature a more interesting cigar wrapper than you typically see. Every cigar in the company’s portfolio uses an artistic design that encompasses different types of tobacco. That ranges from a classic barberpole to this striped design that is seen on most of the company’s line. Given the factory that’s making the cigars—Tabacalera JVM in the Dominican Republic—this should be of little surprise, as it is most famous for the playful designs on Marrero Cigars offerings such as the Aquatico 45 which featured different types of animals that live in water on its wrapper.

The Herbert Spencer uses a Mexican San Andrés wrapper over a Dominican binder and Dominican fillers.

It’s offered in five sizes, four of which are regular production, while the Figurado is limited to just 100 boxes.

  • Herbert Spencer Robusto (5 x 50) — $10.52 (Box of 22, $231.44)
  • Herbert Spencer Toro (6 x 54) — $11.80 (Box of 22, $259.60)
  • Herbert Spencer Belicoso (6 x 52) — $11.80 (Box of 22, $259.60)
  • Herbert Spencer Gordo (6 x 60) — $12.56 (Box of 22, $275.32)
  • Herbert Spencer L.E. Figurado (7 x 49/64) — $26 (Box of 10, $260)

  • Cigar Reviewed: Herbert Spencer Robusto
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: Tabacalera JVM
  • Wrapper: Mexico (San Andres) & Ecuador (Connecticut)
  • Binder: Dominican Republic
  • Filler: Dominican Republic
  • Length: 5 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 50
  • Vitola: Robusto
  • MSRP: $10.52 (Box of 22, $231.44)
  • Release Date: February 2020
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

While I’m sure this is sacrilegious to the Paisley Park faithful, the top of the cigar reminds me a bit of Prince’s logo. Art designs on cigars wrappers are becoming much more prevalent in the modern cigar market and this is certainly an interesting one, particularly considering that it’s across a new company’s entire portfolio. There appears to be three different colors of wrapper tobacco, maybe four, as the accent pieces aren’t all the same hue. I suspect they are the same varietal of tobacco but the tobaccos are a bit more red for the upper accents on two of the cigars. Aroma from the wrapper is full with an underlying sweetness, a smell that reminds me of sandpaper, a touch of acidity and some pecan. The foot is medium-full with nuttiness, a sweet praline pecan flavor and some orange bitters. Cold draws have some pleasant floral flavors joined by some grassiness, sourness and some rocky flavors. At times, the profile reminds me a bit of good tequila. Two cigars have draws that are slightly open, one has a draw that is very tight, albeit not plugged. None of them are in a particularly great spot.

The Herbert Spencer Robusto begins with some earthiness and sweet mayonnaise. On the sample that’s tight, I barely get much smoke in the mouth so the flavor seems much milder. On the other two cigars, it’s more of a medium-plus. All three cigars have a relatively similar profile, a mixture of nuttiness, creaminess and some molasses accented by a bit of metallic tingles. Retrohales are awesome with a vibrant mixture of citrus, teriyaki sauce, nuttiness and a much more reduced metallic sensation. The finish has lots of nuttiness, oak and oranges. Depending on the draw, the profile is either medium-full in flavor or just south of medium. Body is medium-plus and strength is mild to medium. None of the samples need any help from a lighter but the tight draw isn’t particularly pleasant and is a stark contrast compared to the other two in both flavor and construction.

While I slightly prefer what was going on in the first third compared to the second third, there’s a lot more flavors in the middle parts. An earthiness emerges right as the second third begins and by the halfway mark, it’s the most dominant presence in the cigar. The teriyaki flavor is right behind it now, joined by some lavender and a bit of that metallic flavor. Retrohales are similar, but unfortunately much more metallic. There’s an increased citrus presence after the halfway mark, which is nice, but between the increases in citrus and mealtime flavors, I can’t taste any of the nuttiness. The finish has a distinct damp wood flavor, sweet creaminess and some more fo the metallic flavor. Flavor is medium-full, body is medium-full and strength remains mild-medium. On the two samples with slightly loose draws I avoid any touch-ups, but the smoke is getting hotter. On the other sample, a touch-up is needed to help with smoke production.

At a certain point, things seem to fall apart for the Herbert Spencer Robusto. It doesn’t end up a horrible cigar, but the profile in the final third is a stark contrast compared to the first two portions. It’s almost like watching a swimmer or a runner in a race who jumps out to an early lead and then runs out of gas about 90 percent of the way to the finish line. Both the earthiness and the metallic flavors pick up, slowly growing out of the remaining flavors one by one. At times, particularly if I take long breaks in between the puffs, I can get some more flavors, but I’m really having to work hard to find them. Retrohales are a bit of a reprieve with earthiness dominating grassiness and some raspberry, but it’s a far cry from how much I enjoyed the retrohales in the first parts. Flavor is medium-full, body is medium-full and strength is mild. I end up having to make touch-ups in the final third to each cigar, twice because of a wonky burn and once to help smoke production.

Final Notes

  • The metallic flavor I tasted reminds me of smoking certain types of Indonesian tobacco during visits to factories over the years. Indonesian tobacco isn’t listed as an ingredient for this blend, and I really don’t have enough experience to say I think there’s Indonesian tobacco in the blend, but if you’ve experienced that metallic flavor while doing similar exercises, this is what that tastes like.
  • As you’ve likely noticed, cellophane comes in various types. There’s one type that is stiffer and used by established manufacturers, and then there’s some flimsier stuff that is oftentimes used by smaller manufacturers. This is the latter and it feels cheap. Given how inexpensive cellophane is, I’d really suggest all manufacturers spend the fraction of a cent extra to get the better stuff. I’d say this is particularly true for new manufacturers looking to gain credibility with consumers.
  • It’s been a while since I smoked a cigar with so little nicotine strength. That being said, the flavor is quite pleasant. This is certainly a great cigar to give to new smokers.
  • The issues with the draws are concerning. There are some factories that bunch cigars slightly loose, some that bunch slightly tight. But to miss both ways isn’t a great sign.
  • For those wondering why most of the cigars are offered in boxes of 22, that’s a tribute to the number that company co-founder Neil Garcia and three generations of his family wore while playing baseball.
  • The name of the company is drawn from the names of the kids of the company’s founders. Yes, that’s similar to the story behind how Alec Bradley and Kristoff got their names.
  • There’s a lot going on with this company’s portfolio and normally it would be a massive red flag. I’m of the school that suggests a company masters getting the basics right before trying the complex, but I imagine the wrapper decorations are a great selling point for getting people to try an unheard of brand.
  • Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time varied quite a bit. One cigar was smoked in around one hour and 15 minutes, another one took one hour and 35 minutes and the one with the tight draw took over two hours and 20 minutes.
81 Overall Score

The Herbert Spencer Reserve is a good cigar for the first three and a half inches. But at a certain point, it just ran out of steam. It’s a shame because I really was enjoying a relatively easy smoking experience and the unique flavors, but the score here isn’t likely to reflect that. A lot of the blame goes to the one sample that was way too tight. Honestly, if that cigar wasn’t being smoked for review I would have walked away from it pretty early on and pulled a new cigar out of the humidor. It still produced similar flavors, but it added annoyance at the expense of a vibrant flavor. Still, these three cigars were promising enough that I’ll pick some of the other lines up to try the next time I see them on a shelf at a cigar store.

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Charlie Minato

I am an editor and co-founder of halfwheel.com/Rueda 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.