First there was the night, then there was the day.
While that’s not really how most people think of it, that has been the order for La Flor Dominicana. In 2015, the company released La Nox, a project developed by Tony Gomez. Last year, Litto Gomez Jr., Tony’s younger brother, released his first commercial blend, Solis.
To this day, the packaging for La Nox remains one of my favorites: a black wooden circular box with a lid attached via magnets. While the box was unique, the graphics and font are what really set the release apart for me: stark, clear and dynamic. Even if “La Nox” doesn’t scream “nighttime” to you, the packaging made it quite clear what this cigar was celebrating.
Gomez Jr.’s release is called Solis, a reference to sol, the Spanish word for “sun.” It is a 6 1/2 x 50 toro extra that uses an Ecuadorian habano leaf for the wrapper, the binder an Ecuadorian Sumatra leaf, while the filler is Dominican and comes from La Flor Dominicana’s La Canela farm.
Like La Nox, Solis comes in a circular wooden box, though this one relies on a much brighter color palette and graphics that look to me like a television show set in Los Angeles in the 1980s.
“I was inspired by my big brother’s project La Nox and I wanted to create something that contrasted it,” said Gomez Jr. in a press release. “We have pretty different personalities and I thought that the sun and moon were a perfect metaphor to describe us.”
- Cigar Reviewed: La Flor Dominicana Solis
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: Tabacalera La Flor S.A.
- Wrapper: Ecuador (Habano)
- Binder: Ecuador (Sumatra)
- Filler: Dominican Republic
- Length: 6 1/2 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 50
- Vitola: Toro Extra
- MSRP: $13.20 (Box of 20, $252)
- Release Date: Nov. 21, 2022
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
While not the most retail-friendly box of cigars I’ve ever seen, I’m a big fan of the style of this particular packaging. If a company is going to make a box that is a pain to merchandise, it’s better off being unique. Opening the box up—unhinging the lid from the magnets—to grab some cigars reveals a pungent smell that reminds me of the smell of pilones being aged in a cigar factory. It doesn’t have anywhere near the amount of ammonia smell as a typical pilone, but it does have a lot of the earthy and barnyard smells that I find. As for the appearance, the cigars are nicely-rolled and the gingerbread-colored wrapper has plenty of oil. There are a lot of veins, and on certain cigars, those veins are particularly prominent, combining with the oils to produce an even more pronounced darker discoloration. Like the smell of the inside of the box, the cigar smells like a pilone of tobacco aging. That said, I find more acidity when I sniff the cigars up close, though I also get a smokey, sweet, and meaty sensation that reminds me of the smell of a brisket freshly taken off the smoker to rest. The aroma is very pronounced, though due to the lack of cellophane, it’s only medium-plus in terms of intensity. The foot has a very bitter cocoa aroma along with smells of freshly rained-upon mud, leather, damp wood and an occasional white pepper. Cold draws have sweet cocoa flavors over dried fruits, earthiness, white pepper, black tea and lemon. Unlike the medium-plus aromas, it’s around medium-full.
My initial thoughts about the first puff of two cigars are that the draws are tight, which makes for an odd final cigar, when I find the initial puff has a loose draw. Flavor-wise, there’s a pronounced dry straw flavor over clean earthiness, cedar and minor touches of leather and hickory. What’s also quite clear is that the flavors are crisp. For the first inch or so—though a bit shorter on the cigar with the looser draw—the profile has a lot of that dry hay flavor, something I keep finding more and more in cigars these days. It eventually disappears, allowing cedar to edge out earthiness as the strongest flavor. Underneath is a bitter creaminess, dried fruit and an occasional sharp black pepper. If there’s a standout feature, it’s that the flavors are very crisp. During the finish, the creaminess intertwines itself with a cashew flavor before a mixture of cedar and earthiness take over. Retrohales deliver short but strong doses of red pepper, earthiness and a mild caramel sweetness. They transition very quickly into flavors that remind me of wheat beer and jalapeño before finishing with earthiness, toastiness, oak, leather, white pepper and a bit of meatiness. Flavor is medium-full, body is medium-full and strength is medium-full on two cigars but full on the one cigar with a loose draw. Two cigars—one of the tight draw cigars and the cigar with a loose draw—require touch-ups to help with smoke production, while one cigar avoids the need for combustion help, or at least via my lighter.
While it’s rarely the strongest flavor during the second third, a very defined jalapeño—or maybe closer to a poblano—flavor has graduated from being present during some parts of the finish to being fully engaged at nearly every puff. It’s not overwhelming, meaning the cigar stays pretty balanced, but it’s a vibrant and distinct pepper sensation, one different than how I normally taste “pepper” in a cigar. The main flavor is a dry earthiness, which leads the aforementioned jalapeño. The finish has earthiness, mineral flavors, coffee bean and different types of sharp pepper sensations. Unfortunately, without retrohaling the cigar is basically dry and crisp earthiness with lots of different types of pepper behind it. Fortunately, retrohaling adds more of a dry fall leaves character to the earthiness, a touch of sweet lemon, mineral flavors and leather. It’s not a radically different profile and it still includes white pepper, black pepper and jalapeño—but it’s a welcome change compared to if I don’t force smoke through my olfactory. The finish presents some sugar-like sensations, white pepper, earthiness and woodiness. Flavor is medium-full to full, body is medium-full and strength is either medium-plus, or in the case of the cigar with a loose draw, very strong. Unfortunately, construction issues continue. The draws are unchanged from the first third—two cigars are tight, one is loose—while one cigar needs a touch-up to help combustion and the second cigar I smoke needs multiple touch-ups to help combat the tight draw.
Whether it’s palate fatigue, the draw and combustion issues or the blend itself—the La Flor Dominican Solis’ flavor profile is rather straightforward by this point: crisp earthy flavors over different types of pepper sensations. There’s a bit more than the second third, I find leather and some toasted jalapeño characteristics, but it’s gotten monotonous. That is until the finish, when out of nowhere I’m tasting a medium peanut butter-like sensation. It’s still got plenty of dry earth and pepper sensations, but the peanut butter gets more intense as time goes by. Retrohaling is pretty similar, though the peanut butter is now a much more active player and gets more intense as the cigar burns down. The finish adds leather, creaminess and a bit of the lemon, but I wouldn’t criticize anyone for thinking this is basically earthiness and pepper. Flavor is medium-full, body is medium-full and strength is either medium-full or full. Construction-wise, it’s a similar story: tight draws, two of the cigars needing help with combustion and frustration.
- Given the handmade nature of cigars, the variance in ring gauge and the fact that how a cigar is cut plays a big role, I really err on the side of caution when it comes to deducting points for draw issues. My basic approach is that unless I feel like the draw is impacting my ability to enjoy a cigar, I won’t deduct points. In the case of one of the cigars with a tight draw, it was bad enough that points needed to be deducted. While it was far from plugged, it was clear that the cigar wasn’t combusting at an optimal level due to the draw. Given that there were burn issues on all three cigars, I suspect that the draw was negatively impacting the combustion of every cigar.
- My largest issue is not that I smoked three cigars and didn’t get one that I would consider within the range of where I’d like a draw to be; more precisely, it’s that the issues weren’t the same. While I didn’t notice any issues with soft spots, hard spots or obvious weight issues, what I smoked did not have draws that I think La Flor Dominicana would want them to have, both too tight and too loose.
- I also am not impressed with the vast differences in strength. Two cigars were a six, maybe seven at their peak, out of 10 nicotine-wise, the other cigar was a 9/10 from the jump.
- The way that we review cigars—one person smokes three cigars for a review—means there’s a ton of random chance in these scores. While we try to check our own biases about sizes or flavors at the door, it’s still a factor that is unavoidable no matter how you review a cigar, including but probably less so if you are doing blind reviews. I also want to be clear, we are only smoking three of the thousands of these cigars that have been made. Because of this and a general desire to root for success, I think people’s first reaction is to look at reviews that mention problematic construction issues, particularly draw-related ones, as negative outliers. That could very well be the case and I’m sure that is a lot of the time, but in situations like that, it’s a hell of a random chance that all three cigars I smoked had poor draws. It doesn’t necessarily mean that most of these cigars will have draw issues, but I would suggest it means that an abnormal amount ended up with draw issues. Whether that’s a bad day, one bad pair, or whatever. To me, Occum’s Razor doesn’t land on the most likely explanation as the reviewer managed to get the one bad box of cigars. The more likely explanation is that there are other cigars with issues.
- Ironically, there’s not a cigar I remember reviewing that benefitted more in the random chance and limited sample size for a review more than the La Flor Dominicana La Nox. The three La Nox cigars I smoked for the review were great and the rest of that box smoked very well—or at least three more cigars—according to the rest of the halfwheel team as the cigar finished #2 on halfwheel’s Top 25 in 2015. I liked the La Nox so much that it became a cigar I would buy when I visited shops. Out of the next 10 or so cigars I smoked, I found enough—probably a third of them to be off—in some way to the point that I asked some retailers if they were hearing any issues and was told that there were consistency issues. I haven’t purchased a La Nox in a while, but I’m going to try to remember to do so the next time I see one on a shelf.
- Speaking of La Nox, La Flor Dominicana recently created a 7 x 44 lonsdale size and sold it in a cool-looking humidor as part of the Procigar 2023 auction.
- Despite the commentary in this review, Tabacalera La Flor S.A. is not a factory I think of as one with construction issues. The inconsistencies of La Nox and poor draws for Solis are the standout exceptions in my experience.
- Final smoking time range was a consistent two hours and 30 minutes for the two cigars with tight draws and closer to two hours for the cigar with a loose draw.
- Site sponsors Cigar Hustler and Corona Cigar Co. carry the La Flor Dominicana Solis.
For the second time in four reviews, I’m here to tell you that I’m not sure what this cigar is supposed to taste like. I never had my Goldilocks moment where I found a Solis with an ideal draw to see what this blend could taste like. I suspect there’s still a lot of earthiness and pepper flavors, but I also would bet there’s a lot more. Not just more flavors but more flavor combinations, more layers and more complexity. What’s uniquely troubling here is that I found that both the earthiness and pepper flavors were very good expressions of how those flavors can taste in cigars, but there needs to be more. If you gave me the world’s best rice, vinegar and a $1 million bluefin tuna, I’d make some really bad sushi. It’s a similar story here. No matter how great the recipe is, no matter how excellent the tobacco is—if those components aren’t bunched properly, the cigar will not taste as intended. At some point, I’m sure I’ll smoke a La Flor Dominicana Solis without a draw issue and I’ll get a much better sense of what this blend is supposed to be—and most likely a much better cigar—but the first cigars weren’t that.