In the realm of boutique brands that could break through onto a bigger stage, one of the most prominent names is likely one of the hardest to pronounce: Jas Sum Kral.

Launched by cigar enthusiast Riste Ristevski in the first half of 2016, Jas Sum Kral has quickly gained a following for offering flavorful, full-bodied cigars backed by a rebellious brand owner who isn’t shy about speaking his mind.

At the 2016 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, Ristevski showed off a number of packaging updates and new lines, including the Zlatno Sonce, a seemingly milder cigar for the company’s portfolio.

The name of the cigar translates from Slovenian as golden sun, a fitting title given the golden-hued wrapper that covers the Zlatno Sonce. There isn’t much disclosed about the blend of the Zlatno Sonce, other than that the wrapper is an Ecuadorian Connecticut and the fillers contain some ligeros, a pinch of coronas, and “???” according to the company’s website.

But far be it for Ristevski to simply release a mild cigar.

“It looks calm and tame, but this beast will slay you with a full force of power,” the company proclaims on its website. “It’s an extremely bold cigar offering delicious flavors that blend well with its own explosive strength and body,” the site proclaims, addinng “f**k your father’s Connecticut.”

The Zlatno Sonce is available in three vitolas.

  • Zlatno Sonce Toro (6 x 52) — $8.72 (Boxes of 20, $174.40)
  • Zlatno Sonce Robusto (5 x 50) — $8 (Boxes of 20, $160)
  • Zlatno Sonce Lancero (7 x 38) — $9.50 (Boxes of 20, $190)

  • Cigar Reviewed: Jas Sum Kral Zlatno Sonce Toro
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Tabacalera New Order of the Ages
  • Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut
  • Binder: n/a
  • Filler: n/a
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $8.72 (Boxes of 20, $174.40)
  • Release Date: September 2016
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

It’s fairly easy to see that the Jas Sum Kral Zlatno Sonce Toro uses a Connecticut wrapper of some sort—Ecuadorian in this case—but the leaf itself is quite interesting. It has a plentiful number of veins, some more prominent than other but nearly all a shade darker than the leaf itself, making them stand out even more. The cigar has a firm core but can show a bit of give when squeezed, depending on the sample. The covered foot is upfront with cereal and bread grains, and one sample is particularly enjoyable with an aroma of cool, buttered popcorn. While it seems like there is some pepper in the mix, it never quite stands out enough to be prominent. There’s a bit of resistance on the cold draw and it feels like it’s coming completely from the covered foot and not the bunch. Flavors are fairly mild, with a bit of plain crackers, soft white bread, and a bit of pastry sweetness.

There is certainly pepper to be found in the first puffs of the Zlatno Sonce Toro, whether it be a clean white pepper through the nose or table pepper on the palate. There can also be a good bit of the familiar Ecuadorian Connecticut note thanks to the covered foot; less sour than its U.S.-grown counterpart, but still offering a bit of the flavor. Once that covered foot burns and the ash scatters, the pepper becomes much more dominant but gets rounded out by undertones of bread, pretzel, and a bit of medium-intensity earth. After the introductory notes have had a chance to make their mark, the cigar settles into a groove that is medium-minus in strength but medium-plus in flavor, with a creamy undertone helping balance the remaining amount of pepper. It’s not a quick burning cigar, but for the most part the burn line stays even and the ash builds to impressive lengths of over an inch with ease.

The second third of the Jas Sum Kral Zlatno Sonce Toro maintains a bit of creaminess at its start, something I’m impressed with given its billing as well as simply by the profile. Pepper is still quite prevalent in the flavor, lingering on the palate well past the time the cigar is set in the ashtray for a rest. It’s the duality of the pepper and the underlying creamy mildness that creates an interesting duality of the cigar; at first puff it’s fairly easy going, but the lingering effects are clear that there is more going on in the cigar than might initially be apparent, a point that is reinforced when the smoke from beyond the midpoint hits all the senses, as it can make the eyes water while lighting up both the nose and palate. The final puffs of the second third see the pepper come back in a big way, harkening to the first puffs where white pepper was abundant in the nose, though this time the table pepper is not only on the tongue but on the roof of my mouth. The thought about the cigar having much more to offer gets proven true in the final puffs of this portion as it quickly ramps up the strength, promising a very full-bodied final third.

While the start of the final third isn’t bad on its own, it does have a couple of signals that some unfortunate turns lie ahead. First, the strength of the cigar takes an aggressive step forward, so much so that it throws the cigar out of balance by quickly deviating from the path it had been on prior. Also, in one sample that struggled to produce smoke, double and triple puffs were required to get even an appreciable amount of smoke to come out of the cigar, but the real issue was how hot it made the cigar and adversely affected the flavor. By the time there’s about two inches, left, the pepper begins to get really out of balance in terms of flavor, and it’s a much harsher cigar on my palate than at any point prior. I also get a surge of nicotine that has me feeling the cigar both above and below the mouth and nose. The cigar finishes on a warm and bread-laden flavor, a quick save to impart a favorably parting impression.

Final Notes

  • Taking the band off the first cigar resulted in a significant flap of the wrapper getting torn. It didn’t come off, but it did compound some burn issues in terms of keeping a straight burn line going.
  • The second cigar faired the worst of the bunch, as removing the band really damaged the wrapper, as you can see in the photos.
  • The third cigar suffered no damage however.
  • Jas Sum Kral uses a lion design as part of its branding; it’s a character that is also used by La Aurora and Padilla and has been the point of contention over who owns which depictions of the animal.
  • Jas Sum Kral means “I am king” in the Macedonian language, a fitting tie-in for the lion.
  • In April 2016 I reviewed Jas Sum Kral’s Red Knight Toro, while Brooks Whittington reviewed the Crna Nok Robusto in May 2017.
  • The cigars for this review were provided by Jas Sum Kral.
  • Final smoking time was just over hours on average.
79 Overall Score

The Jas Sum Kral Zlatno Sonce has quite a bit to offer in the first two thirds before going off the rails in the final third. While those first two segments are creamy and peppery, the final section is simply too much, ramping up the strength so much that it's hard to enjoy the cigar, and offering a nicotine level that is simply out of balance with the flavor profile. While I'd gladly smoke the first two thirds time and time again, the lasting impression from the final third left me with a less than favorable impression. While there's nothing wrong with strong cigars, it has to be done with an eye towards balance, and it's that wandering gaze that ends up costing the Zlatno Sonce my recommendation.

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, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.