This year has been a weird one for just about every part of the world, including the cigar industry.
Like many others, the Tobacconists’ Association of America, Ltd. (TAA) was forced to adjust its plans for 2020. The group—which is made up of about 80 of the more prominent brick-and-mortar retailers in the U.S.—had scheduled its annual meeting for March 22-26 in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
In a typical year, the meeting allows for the retailers and about 40 manufacturers to see each other in person, with the gathering offering a variety of social events, presentations and selling opportunities. The highest-profile of those selling opportunities is the TAA Exclusive Series Program, which sees manufacturers create exclusive cigars for TAA retailers while committing to donating a portion of proceeds to the organization.
Ultimately, the TAA was forced to cancel the in-person event due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and instead opted to have a virtual event.
If the event was canceled, perhaps the most notable part of the 2020 TAA Meeting & Convention would be that two companies with a long history in the cigar business decided to make TAA exclusives for the first time: La Aurora and Villiger.
For La Aurora, the release is simply called the La Aurora TAA Exclusivo, a 6 x 50 toro that uses an Ecuadorian HVA wrapper over a Dominican binder from the Cibao Valley. The filler consists of Pennsylvania broadleaf as well as more tobacco from the Cibao Valley.
It is priced at $12 and limited to 500 boxes of 10 cigars.
La Aurora is one of 14 companies that have new TAA ESP releases in 2020:
- AJ Fernandez
- Crowned Heads
- Drew Estate
- E.P. Carrillo
- General Cigar Co.
- La Aurora
- La Flor Dominicana
- La Palina
- My Father
- Nat Sherman International
- Rocky Patel
- Cigar Reviewed: La Aurora TAA Exclusivo
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: La Aurora Cigar Factory
- Wrapper: Ecuador (HVA)
- Binder: Dominican Republic (Cibao Valley)
- Filler: Dominican Republic (Cibao Valley) & U.S.A. (Pennsylvania Broadleaf)
- Length: 6 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 50
- Vitola: Toro
- MSRP: $12 (Box of 10, $120)
- Release Date: June 8, 2020
- Number of Cigars Released: 500 Boxes of 10 Cigars (5,000 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
If this were a wrapper beauty contest, there would be nothing that would disqualify the La Aurora TAA Exclusivo from the contest, but trying to find reasons as to why it should win would be tough, as it’s simply fine. Aroma from the wrapper is medium-full with barnyard, some cinnamon and the slightest hint of lavender. Smelling the foot produces a much fuller sensation with a sweet brownie mix, red pepper and some citrus. Cold draws produce a sweet brownie chocolate flavor, beef jerky, white pepper and leather. One cigar is slightly open while the other two are slightly tight. I’d recommend approaching this with your normal cutting preference but prepared to make a second cut for optimal results.
The first thing I notice is a woody flavor that is reminiscent of many Cuban cigars, along with some honey sweetness. It finishes with quite a bit of minerals and some black pepper. A half-inch in and the cigar seems to have come alive quite a bit. The profile is now a mixture of earth and leather with some sweetness and mild amounts of black pepper behind it. Retrohales produce sweet citrus, leather and some toastiness. The finish, particularly if I don’t retrohale, is dominated by earthiness with just some minor amounts of bread breaking through. In true La Aurora fashion, the cigar has a full flavor, medium-full body and medium amounts of nicotine strength. The one sample with an open draw—the one which is photographed—requires a touch-up to help keep the cigar lit while the other two cigars are burning flawlessly.
While the progression is quite logical, there is also nearly a complete change in flavors. The La Aurora now has a cedar and toasty mixture with a varying degree of mineral flavors and some sweet citrus. Retrohales are much sweeter with a thick creaminess. It leads to a super clean finish that is just layers of creaminess. Without retrohaling, the finish is a bit more interesting: a mixture of pre-ground black pepper, minerals, nuttiness and a much more reduce creaminess. Flavor is full, body is medium-full and strength is medium-full though quickly rising. While the open draw sample had been a problem in the first third, the other two cigars have seemingly hit a roadblock around the halfway mark. What looked like it was going to be a relatively quick-burning toro with zero need for touch-ups has significantly reduced in both the progression of the burn as well as the smoke production. If you are experiencing this, I’d recommend you grab your cutter and make a recut once this seems to start, or you can do what I do and watch the cigar suffer for 15 minutes before picking up the cutter.
If you are having those construction struggles and don’t make the recut, you will likely find that the La Aurora TAA Exclusivo has gotten very strong, almost heavy. This would be fine if there weren’t two-plus inches left, but given that’s where I’m at, it’s beginning to take its toll. The good news is the flavor is very developed with a muffin-like breadiness, some sunflower seeds and a lemonade sweetness. Retrohales are even better with a bit of creaminess and lots of fruity sweetness. The best part might be the finish of the retrohale, just a ton of French bread flavors with a bit of saltiness. When I don’t retrohale it’s a decidedly different profile: earthiness, a sharp lemon and some minerals. Flavor is full, body is medium-full and strength is full. Construction is entirely dependent on the draw; if it’s good, the rest of the cigar is great. When it’s not, I find myself regularly touching the cigar up.
- While this looks like a cigar that has two bands, it has just a single band.
- Speaking of the bands, this is a pretty bold color palette. Brown bands are generally something people shy away from, but adding the gold is even more aggressive.
- If you think that this looks a bit larger than 6 x 50, you are not alone.
- I’m not sure if La Aurora intended it to be this way, but the cigar starts medium, quickly ramps up to medium-full and is solid full for the last 40 percent or so of the cigar.
- We don’t deduct any points for having to recut a cigar. Unlike needing to touch up a cigar, this seems to be much more subjective and prone to user error.
- Miami Cigar & Co. distributes La Aurora in the U.S.
- La Aurora and Miami Cigar & Co. advertise on halfwheel.
- Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time ended up being around two hours and 10 minutes on average. Like so much of the rest of this cigar, that’s dependent on the draw.
In so many ways, the La Aurora TAA Exclusivo is all over the place. What started off like La Aurora’s bread and butter—full flavor, medium elsewhere—ended up with gut-punching strength. But the most defining part of the cigar is the draw. When it’s good, the rest of the cigar is very good. If it’s not, the cigar can be a pain to smoke. Despite all that, the flavor was actually rather consistent from cigar to cigar. It’s one of the weirder cigars to describe given all of the variables, but if the question is a simple matter of good or bad, the answer is the former.