Perhaps to a fault, halfwheel has always been a website about what’s new. Our early emphasis on news coverage, our earlier focus of reviewing prerelease cigars, and our personalities—particularly around the time we were launching the site—all contributed to this. We’ve gained more perspective and I think we are less focused on what’s new but there’s no denying the shininess of new.

While the average new cigar might not excite us like it once did—partially because there are a lot more new cigars these days than there were a decade ago—new tobacco is still something that I find uniquely interesting. It’s why this cigar—and not one of the other Forged or General cigars—was selected for a review. Earlier this year, Forged Cigar Co.—part of the Scandinavian Tobacco Group portfolio that also includes Cigars International, General Cigar Co. and others—announced that it would ship a new La Gloria Cubana that used a new proprietary hybrid the company refers to as criollo de oro. Those moderately familiar with different types of cigar tobacco could probably guess this is some combination of criollo and pelo de oro tobaccos. The former is one the most prominent seeds used in cigars, believed to be amongst the original varietals of Cuban tobacco. It’s seemingly less popular than corojo, but the two types are easily the most famous cigar tobaccos.

On the flipside, pelo de oro might be the most hyped tobacco in the cigar world, in that it gets talked about a lot more than it is used. The tobacco gained notoriety by being banned in Cuba due to its propensity to develop blue mold. Then it added more hype by way of its use in the non-Cuban world, which seems to be inspired—at least in part—by the simple fact that it’s banned in Cuba. I’m not sure who first grew pelo de oro outside of Cuba, but I think it’s fair to say that the García family of My Father fame are the ones that did the most to bring this tobacco into the forefront of American cigar smokers, even if the tobacco isn’t used in very many of the cigars My Father makes. My Father has used it on some of its higher-end and more limited cigars and there’s even Sancti Spirtus, which is a hybrid tobacco that is grown in Ecuador and used by My Father. It too is a combination of criollo and pelo de oro.

The La Gloria Cubana Criollo de Oro uses a sun grown criollo de oro wrapper from Mao, Dominican Republic. Its binder is Connecticut broadleaf and the fillers come from Honduras and Nicaragua.

There are two sizes with a combined release of 3,100 boxes between them.

  • La Gloria Cubana Criollo de Oro Toro (5 3/4 x 54) — $10.49 (Box of 20, $209.80)
  • La Gloria Cubana Criollo de Oro Churchill (7 x 48) — $10.99 (Box of 20, $219.80)

“We created Criollo de Oro in the La Gloria Cubana in the tradition of blending proprietary and traditional tobaccos to deliver exciting smoking experiences,” said Steve Abbot, senior brand manager for La Gloria Cubana, in a press release. “Our artisans have delivered a cigar with a distinctive taste profile, crafted according to the brand’s meticulous standards. We’re confident that Criollo de Oro will appeal to a wide range of discerning premium cigar enthusiasts.”

  • Cigar Reviewed: La Gloria Cubana Criollo de Oro Toro
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: General Cigar Dominicana
  • Wrapper: Dominican Republic (Criollo de Oro)
  • Binder: U.S.A. (Connecticut Broadleaf)
  • Filler: Honduras & Nicaragua
  • Length: 5 3/4 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 54
  • Vitola: Robusto Extra
  • MSRP: $10.49 (Box of 20, $209.80)
  • Release Date: October 2021
  • Number of Cigars Released: 3,100 Boxes of 20 Cigars (62,000 Total Cigars)*
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

*This number is for both vitolas.

Before looking at the cigar, the first thing I notice is how firm the first sample feels. That firmness is also found on the second cigar, but not on the third cigar. The wrapper has a fairly dark color that is consistent in hue, though it’s not the best feeling wrapper thanks to both veins and bumps from the binder. On two cigars I notice loose seams, again, the third cigar is the outlier and does not have the issue. Aroma-wise, the wrapper smells like milk chocolate over some strawberry sweetness, manure and something that reminds me of the smell of diesel fuel. The foot is stronger and sweeter with a sweet banana bread aroma and some acidity. There are two things that stand out after my first cold draw. First, my lips are reacting to a pepper-like flavor; second, the cold draws are very tight on the first two cigars. Flavor-wise, there’s a medium-full profile that is led by a sweet chocolate over earthiness, cinnamon candy, sourness, a root beer-like sweetness and, at times, leather.

The first two cigars—the ones that felt much firmer—struggle to provide a healthy amount of smoke on the first puff. Each cigar is a bit different, but flavor-wise there’s toastiness, red pepper, earthiness and a sweet cedar flavor that reminds me of some Cuban cigars. The La Gloria Cubana Criollo de Oro Toro seems to alternate between being led by a toasty earthiness or a harsh mineral flavor. There’s also some herbal flavors and a medium amount of black pepper. The third sample—the one that didn’t feel firm—adds some creaminess and wheat flavors, as well as some french fry sensations during the finish. At one point, I stand up to adjust the a/c temperature and I realize my mouth has a very distinct taste: the taste of decarbed marijuana. Retrohales have earthiness, cinnamon, some red pepper and leather. They finish with a much cleaner mineral flavor along with earthiness and cinnamon. Flavor is full, body is medium-plus and strength is medium-full. Construction is all over the place depending on the cigar. The first and second cigars have tight draws and the various other issues that go along with a tight draw. Unfortunately for the second cigar, there’s also a loose seam that is causing even more problems which I’ll show and describe in detail in the Final Notes section. The third cigar appears to be bunched well, if anything the draw might be a touch loose, but I find the smoke getting too hot for my liking.

In my experience, cigars with draws this tight tend to not have dramatic shifts in flavor. I’m not sure what exactly causes it, but I’m pleasantly surprised to find the flavor of the La Gloria Cubana both changing and improving. There’s now a pretty hearty grittiness to the profile, but it’s more palatable than the harsh mineral flavor from before. There’s also peanut butter, some creaminess, earthiness and a sweetness reminiscent of candy corn. The finish is led by nuttiness and herbal flavor over some earthiness. After about five seconds, a big black pepper note takes over. Retrohales have nuttiness over some sweetness I can’t quite identify, thyme, and some additional creaminess that is separated from the nuttiness and the early peanut butter flavors. Once the smoke leaves my nostrils I can still pick up some lingering nuttiness and then a black pepper; there’s also quite a bit of herbal flavors sitting on my tongue after each retrohale. Flavor is medium-full, body is closer to full and strength is medium-full. The two cigars with tight draws are not going to earn praise for their construction, which includes issues with both the draws and the cigars’ abilities to burn properly. The third cigar has a draw that is much more normal and avoids the need for touch ups.

A subtle but unique sweetness that reminds me of Cap’n Crunch cereal emerges in the final third. It’s not the strongest flavor at this point, but it’s the easiest to identify. There’s also earthiness, white pepper and oak, then black pepper right before the finish starts. Speaking of the finish, it’s noticeably harsher though it includes some of the french fry hints from earlier, herbal flavors, white pepper and some of the decarbed marijuana flavors. Retrohales have a weird sweetness—on one cigar it’s sort of like Dr. Pepper—along with creaminess and toastiness. I honestly am not really sure I can tell where the finish begins with the retrohales, something that is likely due to the decreased smoke production. Flavor is medium-full, body is medium-full and strength is medium-plus. All three cigars need touch-ups in the final third, though one of them is a lot easier to smoke than the other two.

Final Notes

  • I want to be clear, I’m not accusing STG/Forged of doing anything improper and, quite frankly, that’s not the type of company I would suspect would abuse this. But my understanding of cigar tobacco is that everything is a hybrid of sorts, at least amongst what is used to make cigars. I bring this up to say that if a company’s marketing department wanted to get real aggressive, we could see all sorts of cigars advertised as proprietary hybrid tobacco.
  • Similarly, because there’s very little regulation of what cigar companies can call something or need to disclose, there’s nothing that would stop a company from calling a tobacco by a different name to purposely make it seem more exciting. I suspect this happens from time to time.
  • We are in the midst of our annual 10 Questions editorials and part of that activity oftentimes involves trying to remember what I was thinking about a year ago and what my thinking on those topics was. It’s interesting to see my perceptions and thoughts change over the course of a year, it’s also interesting to think back about when various people in the industry make a big deal of something that seemingly doesn’t lead to as much of the impact—positive and/or negative—that the hysteria might have suggested. Forged Cigar Co. seems to be one of those things. Early in this year, there was a week or two where nearly every conversation with anyone employed in the cigar business had to include talking about Forged; now, I can’t even think of the last conversation I had that involved Forged specifically. More often than not, the hysteria is a bit misplaced and new things regress to what was previously established.
  • I’m curious as to whether this copper color is going to be a regular color for STG’s La Gloria Cubana going forward. I reviewed the La Gloria Cubana Spirit of the Lady earlier this year which used a very similar band with the same copper color. I’m a big fan of the look.
  • We’ve reviewed three cigars that say they contain corojo 2012, a relatively new tobacco that seems to be getting to the point where companies are using it, or at least disclosing their use of it. What’s interesting in reading Patrick’s reviews of two of those cigars is his attempts to figure out what the tobacco tastes like. It’s quite possible that Patrick’s ability to detect a singular tobacco is more advanced than mine, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to tell what this tobacco tastes like until I can taste the tobacco on its own. Even then, I would also want to smoke nearly identical cigars side-by-side, the one difference between them being one included the tobacco and the other did not use it.
  • Similarly, I’m willing to bet this tobacco tastes different if it is grown under shade, or if it was grown at a different farm, or a different country, or if there was a different priming used, etc. My point is, there are so many variables when crafting a cigar and at least for me, I’ve come to understand that it takes me a lot more experience to be able to tell what the tobacco itself tastes like more than smoking these three cigars.
  • Also problematic in determining the impact of a singular type of tobacco is that I don’t have much of an understanding of what this cigar is supposed to taste like. Two samples were plagued by very tight draws and the third sample burned hotter than the average cigar, which probably caused at least some of the harshness I found with that sample, though the other two cigars had their own issues.

  • Seemingly with nearly every review of late I’ve mentioned loose seams on cigars. Up until this review, those complaints have been cosmetic, but the second Criollo de Oro I smoked had loose seams that were quite problematic. As you can see in the pictures above, there was a slightly loose seam right towards the top of the cigar. Unfortunately, when I puffed on the cigar, which otherwise had a very tight draw, it felt like I was both puffing on a cigar while also having a tiny straw—like a red cocktail straw—in my mouth. That is to say that I could feel the suction breaking due to a leak. Normally this is caused by a tiny puncture in a cigar, sometimes caused by a tobacco beetle, other times by damage in handling the cigar. But in this case, I couldn’t find any evidence of a hole.
  • What I did find is that if I pressed the seam down with either my finger or my lip, the seal was largely restored and the action of puffing on the cigar felt normal, other than the fact that the draw was too tight on its own. If you think that the combination of the tight draw with the straw-like leak created a winning one, you would be very wrong. That meant I was having to puff even stronger to get a below average amount of smoke up through the cigar, which was worse than the tight draw on its own.
  • The list of construction complaints after smoking three cigars is pretty long: tight draws on two cigars, the aforementioned loose seam issue and burn issues with two cigars. Those are just the big issues; on a lesser note, the ash was not particularly great to look at or clean up for two of the cigars.
  • General Cigar Co./Forged Cigar Co. advertises on halfwheel.
  • Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • The final smoking time varied between one hour and 40 minutes to two hours and 30 minutes. The third sample was the quickest time, the two cigars with tight draws were very slow.
  • Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar Co., Famous Smoke Shop and JR Cigar carry the La Gloria Cubana Criollo de Oro Toro.
76 Overall Score

At its best, at least from a smokability standpoint, the La Gloria Cubana Criollo de Oro Toro was too harsh for my liking. Unfortunately, the other two cigars had tight draws and were rather difficult to smoke. The question I had hoped to start to answer—what’s this new tobacco like—not only remains unsolved but it didn’t even really get started. The takeaway after smoking three of the Criollo de Oros is that it doesn’t matter what the tobacco tastes like when the rest of cigar isn't bunched properly, a conclusion that is never fun to end a review with. 

Charlie Minato

I am an editor and co-founder of halfwheel.com/Rueda 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.