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In the summer of 2016, SmallBatchCigars.com and its brick-and-mortar sibling, Maxamar Ultimate Cigars in Orange, Calif., celebrated the online retailer’s fifth anniversary with a cigar from Drew Estate and Willy Herrera, the Herrera Estelí Inktome. In December 2017, that cigar got a bit of remix by way of a higher priming wrapper, a stronger box press, and a new word in its name.

The Herrera Estelí Inktome Exception is based on both the original Herrera Estelí blend and the original Inktome, though this uses a higher priming and thus darker Ecuadorian habano wrapper on top of a Honduran binder and Nicaraguan filler.

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While it’s the same 6 x 46 corona gorda vitola as the original, it gets an extreme, almost flattening box press to help differentiate it from the original, as all the red and gold banding remains the same. It’s the same look that was debuted with the Tienda Exclusiva by Willy Herrera line in 2014, with a cigar for Barrister Cigars. A second cigar came out for Riverside Cigar Shop & Lounge in July 2015.

  • Herrera Estelí Inktome (6 x 46) — June 2016 — 100 Boxes of 10 Cigars (1,000 Total Cigars)
  • Herrea Estelí Inktome Exception (6 x 46) — December 2017 — 1,000 Boxes of 10 Cigars (10,000 Total Cigars)

According to a press release announcing the cigar, after the original Inktome was released, Herrera continued to experiment and tweak the blend as well as different presses to see how the smoke hits the palate, and thus results in experiences with different nuances.

“Now the Inktome Exception smokers will be able to see how small variations of shape can create dynamic shifts in flavor profile,” said Herrera.

The cigar gets its primary name, Inktome, from the shared history of Maxamar Ultimate Cigars and Small Batch Cigar. Maxamar opened in 1998 using funds generated from the sale of Inktome stock.

A total of 10,000 cigars were produced by the La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate factory with an MSRP of $7.99 per cigar. They come packed in boxes of 10 cigars, which went on sale in mid-December.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Herrera Estelí Inktome Exception
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: La Gran Fabrica Drew Estate
  • Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
  • Binder: Honduras
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 46
  • Vitola: Corona Gorda
  • MSRP: $7.99 (Boxes of 10, $79.90)
  • Release Date: December 2017
  • Number of Cigars Released: 1,000 Boxes of 10 Cigars (10,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

There are box presses, and then there are box squishes, which is what the Herrera Estelí Inktome Exception looks like. The incredibly flattened corona gorda looks like a box of something heavy fell onto it, as it nearly oval-shaped at points. Beyond that, it’s a good looking cigar; while the wrapper is a higher priming than the original, it’s not as dark as it appeared in the pictures from its announcement. It’s a medium shade of brown that reminds me of baked pretzels, and in the right light seems to show just a bit of clay redness. The capa also has a bit of mottling to it, while the larger of its generally small veins seem to visually pop from the background of the leaf. There is some softness to the roll, likely necessitated by the press and not the result of an under fill. There’s a butteriness to the first whiff I take of the pre-light aroma, and the second smell suggests it’s a bit burnt, while graham cracker, pretzels, and mixed nuts make appearances. The cold draw is easy and has a bit of the buttery texture, though flavors skew towards a combination of a bread basket with just a bit of cedar and woodiness.

Having just smoked some aged cigars recently, the fresh, upfront pepper that the Herrera Estelí Inktome Exception offers in the first puffs is startling but quite pleasant. It’s a crisp mix that is predominantly white pepper but a bit of black pepper adds some oomph. The smoke has a slightly oily texture to it that builds on the butter in the pre-light, while the flavors are on the mild side of medium with cedar as the lead note and little in pepper until after exhaling. After the first clump of ash drops off, the cigar gets a bit more robust and earthy-laden for a few puffs, adding in some black pepper for the palate before shedding it and getting a bit creamier with pepper largely in the background while the aroma picks up a strong campfire smell. I pick up a touch of orange and cream sweetness for a few puffs, before the rocky earth returns to transition the Inktome Exception into its second third, and moves the flavor past the medium mark in strength, while body and strength are solid mediums. The draw and smoke production have both been quite good.

I realize by the start of the first sample’s second third that I’m having a bit of trouble finding the puffing rhythm needed to get the most out of the Herrera Estelí Inktome Exception, as just a bit too long of a break results in the cigar needing to be relit. There’s more wood in the profile at the start of the second third, and I feel like there’s a bit of peanut butter in the mix as well. Retrohales are quite potent and best spaced out so as to not overload the olfactory receptors, The gruffness of the earth returns just ahead of the midway point, and I feel a bit of nicotine strength emerging as well. There’s a bit of orange and mint through the nose through the midway point, an incredible combination that is plenty complex on its own, let alone with some white pepper still present. What’s particularly of note is how this blend seems to differentiate itself from the original Herrera Estelí line. It’s certainly a touch stronger, but with it comes a heaping of additional flavors and aromas.

While I’m enamored by the orange note I continue to pick up through the nose, it’s the construction of the cigar, specifically the relative squishiness of the Herrera Estelí Inktome Exception, that is the first thing I notice when I pick it up to begin the final third. It would be incredibly easy to pinch the cigar together in any direction so I’m mindful not to do so. While sweetness has largely departed by the time the burn line crosses where the bands would be, there’s still a good amount of earthiness present in the profile, with a rocky expression for the back of the tongue and some subtle black pepper tingle for the front, and in one sample I get a robust coffee flavor from the cigar. The cigar begins its closing inch-plus with a splendid complexity that has rid itself of any harshness in favor of a creamy and slightly peppery profile that is easy and engaging on the senses. Retrohales are peppery in their best form yet, and while I admit I miss the orange sweetness, I’m not complaining about how the cigar wraps up an enjoyable two hours.

Final Notes

  • Brian Burt reviewed the original Herrera Estelí Inktome in September 2016; it went on to finish #6 in halfwheel’s Top 25 Cigars of 2016.
  • A bit of a quicker smoking pace is definitely needed for the Herrera Estelí Inktome Exception, as I learned in the first sample. Fortunately the relights didn’t seem to affect the flavor.
  • Every time I pulled one of these out to smoke, I kept thinking it had gotten flattened in transit. This easily ranks as one of the most pressed cigars I can recall smoking.
  • Each of the cigars developed some sort of crack in the wrapper, though none seemed to affect the cigar’s performance.
  • Even with some nicotine strength present in the second half, I wouldn’t call this a strong cigar, pegging it at medium or just a tick more at best.
  • The cigars for this review were provided by Small Batch Cigar.
  • Final smoking time was two hours and five minutes on average.
  • To purchase the Herrera Estelí Inktome Exception, visit SmallBatchCigar.com, Maxamar Ultimate Cigars in Orange, Calif., or call 323.301.3399.
92 Overall Score

While this cigar shows a bit of youthful exuberance, it is simply fantastic from start to finish. Balance is never questioned, there are as many upfront flavors as there are subtleties, and for the most part, technical performance is outstanding. While I would have liked a bit more predictable combustion in the first sample and more durable wrappers across the board, there is little I could find fault with the Herrera Estelí Inktome Exception about, and I have to think that as some of the brighter pepper notes settle just a bit, the cigar will hit its zenith and become that much more complex and enjoyable. This is a remarkable cigar at nearly any price, but recognizing that it can be had for just under $8 makes it all the more appealing. Highly, highly recommended.

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Patrick Lagreid
About the author

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 the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.

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