Black Friday, particularly in 2020, doesn’t have the same sort of hysteria it once did. I remember the days when part of Thanksgiving would be spent looking through the insane number of advertisements in the Thanksgiving issue of the Dallas Morning News, clipping coupons and then trying to figure out where my family and I would go the following day. This year, I just watched football games while occasionally refreshing Wirecutter’s deals page.

Still, it’s a holiday—albeit a manufactured, retail holiday—and one that has been used as the inspiration for a cigar.

Since 2015, the HVC Black Friday has been released to commemorate the shopping holiday. This year, plans changed, though unlike most things in 2020, it seemed to change for the better.

Instead of just one release, in 2020 HVC released two different Black Friday cigars. One is the normal Black Friday release that the company sold to stores nationwide. The other is the HVC Black Friday Firecracker, the latest in Two Guys Smoke Shop’s Firecracker series, which was sold to select stores via United Cigar Group.

For the main Black Friday release, HVC chose a 5 5/8 x 46 corona gorda that uses an Ecuadorian habano café wrapper over Nicaraguan corojo 99 and criollo 98 binders along with a Nicaraguan filler. For both the binder and filler, the company said that it “went heavier” on tobaccos from Jalapa, Nicaragua, though the ligero in the filler is from AGANORSA’s Chilamate farm in Estelí.

There have now been seven HVC Black Friday releases:

  • HVC Black Friday 2015 (6 1/2 x 48) — 100 Boxes of 50 Cigars (5,000 Total Cigars) — $5.40 (Boxes of 50, $270)
  • HVC Black Friday 2016 (6 3/4 x 48) — 100 Boxes of 50 Cigars (5,000 Total Cigars) — $5.90 (Boxes of 50, $295)
  • HVC Black Friday 2017 (4 x 48) — 100 Boxes of 50 Cigars (5,000 Total Cigars) — $4.60 (Boxes of 50, $230)
  • HVC Black Friday 2018 (5 x 50) — 150 Boxes of 50 Cigars (7,500 Total Cigars) — $7.40 (Boxes of 50, $370)
  • HVC Black Friday 2019 (4 1/2 x 52) — 400 Boxes of 50 Cigars (20,000 Total Cigars) — $6.50 (Box of 50, $130)
  • HVC Black Friday Firecracker (3 1/2 x 50) — 500 Boxes of 20 Cigars (10,000 Total Cigars) — $7.50 (Box of 20, $150)
  • HVC Black Friday 2020 (5 5/8 x 46) — 500 Boxes of 50 Cigars (25,000 Total Cigars) — $7.50 (Box of 50, $375)

  • Cigar Reviewed: HVC Black Friday 2020 Corona Gorda
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A.
  • Wrapper: Ecuador (Habano)
  • Binder: Nicaragua (Corojo 99 & Criollo 98)
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 5 5/8 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 46
  • Vitola: Corona Gorda
  • MSRP: $7.50 (Box of 50, $375)
  • Release Date: Oct. 28, 2020
  • Number of Cigars Released: 500 Boxes of 50 Cigars (25,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

While this may not be the darkest HVC I’ve ever seen, it certainly is on the darker side of most of the habano café wrappers I see from the TABSA factory. The aroma from the wrapper is full with notes of barnyard, sandpaper, very dark chocolate and a bit of brown rice. The foot is sweeter, though only medium-full. It has notes of graham cracker, cinnamon, white pepper, barnyard and hints of manure. Cold draws are fruitier, though not as sweet as they might sound. I pick up notes of sweet tea, blueberry, peach and some sort of chemical sensation. It too is around medium-full in terms of intensity.

Once lit, the first puff of the HVC Black Friday 2020 Corona Gorda has nuts, apple, tequila flavors and a bit of poppy seed. My attention immediately turns to the smoke production, which is fine in terms of getting smoke into my mouth but oftentimes non-existent coming off the foot. Fortunately—albeit with a bit of nursing—I avoid the cigar going out. Things also improve once the ash falls, and it’s easier to see smoke coming from the foot. Flavor-wise, the first third settles to a profile of spicy earthiness. There’s some rye whiskey-like burn, a milk foam-like creaminess and pistachios. The pistachios extend to the finish, joined by corn tortillas, leather and a creaminess that reminds me more of creamer. Retrohales are much fuller than the mouth flavor, both in terms of the flavor intensity and the body. It has a heavier, alcohol-like burn that is joined by a sweet peach flavor. Unfortunately, the retrohales are just too compact for me to decipher all of the flavors at this point. It leads to a finish of peach, earthiness, pistachio and saltiness on the tip of my tongue. The mouth flavor is medium-full, while the retrohales are decidedly full. Body hits the full mark, though not consistently, while strength lags behind at medium-plus. While there aren’t any burn issues, the draw on all three cigars is too tight and seems to be affecting the burn.

The pistachio remains in the second third of the HVC Black Friday 2020, though a woody flavor is about as strong. There’s also some red pepper, a decidedly different type of burn compared to the alcohol-like sensations I got during the first third. The mouth flavor finishes with dry leaves, red pepper, root beer candy, hay and a touch of that alcohol burn at the back end. Retrohaling is still too compact for me to figure out exactly what’s going on, but the pistachio remains a big part of it. At times the retrohales show some creaminess, but it’s drowned out by the raw power of the sharpness that I pick up. Unfortunately, that’s the least of my worries. While I could choose not to retrohale, I can’t seem to figure out how to avoid any of the three samples going out randomly at some point in the middle portion. It’s one of those cigars that seems to be burning fine, albeit a bit anemically, and then 45 seconds later it just goes out. Once relit, things are fine, but all three cigars suffer from the draw issues. Flavor and body are both full, while strength is medium-full.

Sometimes cigars that get relit just enter a generic profile of woody flavors and toastiness. Fortunately, that’s not the case here. The flavor is a mixture of generic nuts, pistachios, leather and creaminess. While the profile might sound a bit more generic than the first third, each of those flavors has plenty of detail. The finish is creamier with nuttiness and fruits. Notably, there’s not much pepper or burn to be found. For the first time, the retrohales of the HVC Black Friday 2020 Corona Gorda are in a place where I feel like I can detect the full extent of their flavors. There’s a sweeter nuttiness—almost like a candied pecan—along with a more generic nut mixture on top of some leather. After retrohaling, the profile has an herbal hint, though there’s also creaminess, black pepper and pretzel flavors. Flavor is full, body is medium-full and strength is medium-full. Two cigars need touch-ups—plural—to get the cigar to the final third, while one cigar manages to make it to the finish line without anymore help from the lighter. Unfortunately, the draw is still too tight.

Final Notes

  • I lit up four samples for this review, though one of them got tossed midway through. We were doing some video testing and I got distracted halfway through the cigar, eventually getting to a point where I realized it wasn’t conducive to keep trying to review that particular sample. As such, that scoresheet got scrapped, though I think that cigar was like the rest of them in both flavors and performance.
  • All three—or maybe four—samples had a rather tight draw. While HVC doesn’t have its own factory, I can’t really recall this ever being a problem with an HVC cigar.
  • I would recommend taking the band off immediately from the cigar as that seemed to make things better for two of the cigars I smoked.
  • I don’t find myself deducting points for poor draws that often, which speaks well to the current state of the new cigars we review here at halfwheel. It’s pretty rare for me to be deducting points consistently across all three samples. What’s even rarer is what took place here, where I deducted points for the draw consistently, but the flavor was still good. It’s not great, but typically the flavor gets impacted a lot more than what took place here.
  • That being said, the draw was only slightly off and not borderline plugged. If we were to evaluate draw on a 10-point scale with perfect at 10, great at 8, acceptable at 6, borderline plugged at 2 and fully plugged at 0; this was a 4, not what I want but still mostly usable.
  • While this cigar eventually got to medium-full in terms of strength, the medium-plus levels of strength don’t exactly jive with the fullness of the flavors in the first third.
  • The bands for this release look like they are the same basic design as the HVC La Rosa bands, though with a black color palette.
  • This was one of the least exciting Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping holidays I can remember. That said, I did buy some new cutlery, for those interested.
  • Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
84 Overall Score

The good news is that this cigar tastes better than the score is going to lead you to believe. It's also $7.50, an aspect that isn't factored into the score but makes it a bit easier to take a chance on to see if your cigars avoid the issues that I had. Perhaps the best news is that the blend is being sold in a 50 ring gauge that might avoid the draw issues I found. The bad news is, that's not the cigar I smoked. I still haven't smoked the Firecracker version, though I'm hopeful it can provide a fix for more than just the draw issues. While the flavor was good, the retrohale tasted like a cigar that needed more time in the aging room, which is an issue that could very easily get solved by some time in the humidor. And that issue won't be something that the vast majority of cigar smokers—who don't know what retrohaling is—won't have to deal with. Unfortunately, my tolerance for slightly tight draws is greater than most. This just isn't up to the high standard set by HVC and more time in the humidor isn't going to fix its most notable and pressing issue.

Charlie Minato

I am an editor and co-founder of 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.