During our 2019 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show live show, Steva Saka of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust made a comment that has stuck with me. As we were talking about building his portfolio of cigars, he shared the observation that it may be upwards of three years before a consumer ever tries his cigars.

I bring that up because as I was thinking about the HVC La Rosa 520 line, it seemed like it has been around for years now, and while it’s still a fairly small company, it would seem like most cigar smokers would have at least heard of it if not tried the cigar. Yet then Saka’s words popped into my head, and immediately made me question that assumption.

HVC Cigars came to the U.S. cigar market at the 2013 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, and the HVC La Rosa 520 line debuted in May 2015 with a backstory that I have always found particularly touching. Company founder Reinier Lorenzo named this line with the address of his home in Havana, Cuba. Additionally, he said that the soil of Nicaragua’s Jalapa region in which components for the blend best were grown best reminded him of the soil found in San Luis and San Juan y Martinez, the region of Cuba’s Pinar del Río province where premium cigar tobacco is grown.

Since its debut, the line has grown to five sizes, all limited in their production.

  • HVC La Rosa 520 (5 1/2 x 54) — $9.60 (Boxes of 20, $192) — 150 Boxes of 20 Cigars (3,000 Total Cigars)
  • HVC La Rosa 520 Reyes (6 1/4 x 48) — $11.80 (Boxes of 10, $118) — 500 Boxes of 10 Cigars (5,000 Total Cigars)
  • HVC La Rosa 520 Encantos (5 5/8 x 46) — $7.90 (Boxes of 20, $ 158) — 250 boxes of 20 Cigars (5,000 Total Cigars)
  • HVC La Rosa 520 Short Robusto (4 1/2 x 52) — $10 (Boxes of 20, $200) — 100 Boxes of 10 Cigars (1,000 Total Cigars)
  • HVC La Rosa 520 Favoritos (6 1/4 x 42) — $9.40 (Boxes of 20, $188) — 250 Boxes of Cigars (5,000 Total Cigars)

Here’s what I said about the HVC La Rosa 520 Favoritos when I reviewed it in June 2018:

The HVC La Rosa 520 Favoritos may not present a litany of flavor changes and complexity, but that doesn’t make it any less of an enjoyable cigar. Other than some occasional moments of a biting red chili pepper, the cigar is smooth and balanced, the draw and burn are both well above average, and there’s no harshness or lasting punch once it’s put down. I do wonder if the smaller ring gauge hampered the blend’s ability to show it’s full complexity—or at least the complexity that the other vitolas have showed—or if maybe a bit more time will help this cigar further open up and develop all of its potential; either way, this latest size reinforces that the La Rosa 520 is a very good blend.

  • Cigar Reviewed: HVC La Rosa 520 Favoritos
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A.
  • Wrapper: Nicaragua (Jalapa Corojo 99)
  • Binder: Nicaragua (Jalapa)
  • Filler: Nicaragua (Jalapa)
  • Length: 6 1/4 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 42
  • Vitola: Lonsdale
  • MSRP: $9.40 (Boxes of 20, $188)
  • Release Date: May 31, 2018
  • Number of Cigars Released: 250 Boxes of Cigars (5,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Redux: 1

The long, slender vitola of the HVC La Rosa 520 Favoritos is certainly appealing when browsing my humidor, and while the cellophane is showing some age, the wrapper itself looks quite good when removed from the protective sleeve. The wrapper has a bit of mottling on it and a few hair-thin veins but no visual imperfections. It’s a bit dry to the touch but still shows a slightly velvety feel on the fingers. The seams are clean and flat, the roll is consistently firm without being hard, and the cap finished off a bit on the flat side but quite well. The aroma off the foot is lightly sweet with a soft-textured smell of wheat bread, and the combination has me thinking a bit of honey when trying to put a name to the sweetness. The cold draw is a bit firm but air still moves through the cigar without issue, offering more of the bread flavors and textures but without the sweetness and without any pepper or spice.

The first puffs of this year-rested HVC La Rosa 520 Favoritos are more complex and full than what I would have expected had I been judging solely off what the cigar offered prior to being lit; there’s enough black pepper sprinkled on top of mixed nuts to offer plenty to engage the senses, particularly if you retrohale to get an even fuller yet more rounded experience of the smoke that introduces some creaminess. The first half of the cigar sees these core flavors take small, measured steps up the intensity scale, and other than the creaminess making itself more a part of the flavor, not much changes, though I am not complaining. After shaking off what could be considered some slightly rough edges, the profile is very pleasant just ahead of the midway point, medium-full in intensity with lighter, white pepper on the tongue and a fuller black pepper through the nose, both backed by a core that is starting to transition away from the nutty profile and towards a more earth-centric one. There’s some clay beginning to emerge in that earthiness, with the overall impression lighter than what many might think of the term, and also a bit drier. It there is one thing I am going to take issue with it is the ash, and in particular how easy it is to dislodge. Otherwise, the cigar burns quite well, with just a slightly uneven burn line.

The second half of the HVC La Rosa 520 Favoritos jettisons the earthiness rather abruptly, returning to the flavors of mixed nuts, with a peanut note standing out. While I’m not sure if there is such a thing as premium peanuts—though there probably is—I’d be inclined to think this is what it would taste like as it is a flavor more refined than what I expect from a bag of peanuts at the ballpark. The black pepper increases its intensity just a tick or two without upsetting the cigar’s balance, something it has generally excelled in maintaining since the first third. As for complexity, it seems like the cigar has dialed that back just a bit thought the effect on its enjoyability is negligible. The final third brings on a bit more of a smokiness to the flavor, almost a bit of a charcoal grill tinge with a bit of burnt steak ends minus the juiciness or core meat flavor. There’s still plenty of smoke being put off by the Favoritos, and while the burn line is a touch wavy, it’s not affecting anything from what I can tell. The draw has opened a tick, leading to more airflow with each puff as the cigar comes to a close after just about 90 minutes of smoking time.

94 Overall Score

After re-reading my notes about the HVC La Rosa 520 Favoritos from the original review, it seems not much has changed about the cigar, including my questions as to whether this is the best—or even an ideal—size for this blend to show its full complexity, which is surprising given the score that this received. That fact is something I can't control, other than to artificially punish the cigar for our methodology of only using one sample for a redux review. Had I smoked more of them, I think subsequent samples would have shown more of the spots where it lacks the fullness and nuance of the bigger vitolas. I still maintain that as the most slender of the bunch, the vitola might be holding it back from really being able to give the tobacco the chance to do everything is capable of doing, in which case it might score even higher than this, something I think the potential for exists. All that said, the cigar is still quite good with what it does have to offer, alternating between earth and nuts, two familiar flavors that play well with the pepper and sit quite enjoyably on the taste buds, reinforced by the cigar burning well to boot. A revisit to the Favoritos reminded me not only of how much I like the backstory of the cigar, but of just how enjoyable the blend is.

Original Score (June 2018)
Redux Score (July 30, 2019)

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 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.