While there’s an internal debate about whether the company should be eligible for our new company of the year award, Sans Pareil certainly captures the spirit of the award in my opinion. For a couple of months before the IPCPR Convention & Trade Show in July, I received more messages and phone calls from retailers, and particularly other manufacturers, about Aaron Saide’s company.

Saide owns a retail shop in Michigan and like many retailers before him, he decided to create his own cigars. The brand he might be better known for is called Sans Pareil, French for without peer, and pronounced sawn puh-wry. It was gaining attention for three things: the high prices, this YouTube video, and that the cigars began popping up at retailers around the country to start the summer.

La Instructora is the other brand that Saide is known for; it’s related to the Sans Pareil line in that Saide created it at Tabacalera Palma with José “Jochy” Blanco, but it’s treated as its own separate entity and operation. It’s also the notably more affordable of the two, though more on that later. There are two different blends under the La Instructora header, one called Box Pressed, the other called Perfección.

  • La Instructora Box Pressed 1 (7 x 54) — $15 (Box of 15, $225)
  • La Instructora Box Pressed 2 (5 3/4 x 52) — $18 (Box of 15, $270)
  • La Instructora Box Pressed 3 (5 1/2 x 47) — $12.50 (Box of 15, $187.50)
  • La Instructora Box Pressed 4 (4 1/4 x 46) — $10 (Box of 15, $150)

Those two lines do not use the same blends, though both feature Dominican fillers. Box Pressed uses a Brazilian Cubra wrapper over a piloto binder from Jacagua, Dominican Republic, and four Dominican fillers, all of which are grown by Blanco.

  • Cigar Reviewed: La Instructora Box Pressed 2
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: Tabacalera Palma
  • Wrapper: Brazilian Cubra
  • Binder: Dominican Republic (Jacagua Piloto)
  • Filler: Dominican Republic (Potrero Criollo 98 & La Canila Piloto)
  • Length: 5 3/4 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Belicoso
  • MSRP: $18 (Boxes of 15, $270)
  • Release Date: June 2016
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

The wrapper is pretty slick with a fair amount of oils and a relatively dark wrapper. As such, the torpedo shape gets the candy bar moniker thanks to the rectangular box-press. Despite the cellophane, I struggle to get an overwhelming aroma from any of the cigar’s wrappers: some chocolate syrup on top of barnyard at the medium-plus level. The foot is much more flavor with a fair amount of floral flavors, cherry similar to Twizzlers, some chocolate and a pretty intense wasabi flavor at the medium-full level. There’s coffee, pepper, earthiness and some lime sweetness on the cold draw.

I’m incredibly impressed with how good the tightness on the draw is at the start of each cigar: straight in the middle between too loose and too firm. Flavor-wise, the first thing I pick up is a heavy burning sensation that is earthy and woody. It tastes somewhat like walking into a cigar shop, only I’m outside on my porch alone in the dead of winter. As the first third develops, there’s an underlying saltiness, as well as coffee, some blueberry sweetness, woods, and lots of roasted and burnt meat flavors. Through the nose there’s a lot more pistachio flavor, wet leaves and a touch of barbecue sweetness. Those flavors are all pretty even, which makes it somewhat challenging to pick apart, though enjoyable. Flavor is medium-full, while body and strength are medium-plus, somewhat below where they started. Construction is pretty good, though two cigars need a touch-up.

The La Instructora gets notably lighter in the second third with the floral flavors really starting to shine alongside an increasing pistachio and vanilla bean. Behind that is burnt coffee, kaffir lime leaves, a touch of spice and some irritation in the back of the throat, although not something that I identify as pepper. It’s medium-plus in flavor, medium in body, and medium-plus in strength.

The final third is quite similar to the second third, though I find myself writing earthy a lot more in my tasting notes. The pistachio flavor remains towards the front of the profile while the floral flavor remains, but less sweet. There is some sweetness, namely a vanilla that is now intertwined with some coffee and green licorice. Smoke production reduces, requiring a touch-up near the one-inch mark, though the cigar never gets in jeopardy of going out. The La Instructora finishes medium-plus in flavor, medium in body and medium-plus in strength, i.e. the same levels as the second third.

Final Notes

  • This is the last line of the review that I wrote: I’m completely surprised by the price. The Sans Pareil brand features prices that average around $40. To see the prices of this line, including a cigar at $10, albeit a petit corona, was something I was not expecting. That being said, this is an $18 torpedo, and not a particularly large one at that.
  • Box Pressed 2 is one of the most depressing names I’ve ever seen on a cigar. I understand when companies name cigars obscure things for some sort of reason, but if you aren’t going to do that, make it easy for consumers and retailers to identify which vitola is which, i.e. call this a belicoso, piramide, or torpedo.
  • The bands remind me of the camouflage that car companies use for prototype videos. Companies will intentionally use weird lines to make it more challenging for the shape of the vehicles to be identified.
  • While it doesn’t work with cars, it also made it more challenging to focus on the band.
  • There’s some very subtle text in the form of raised fonts; this wasn’t something I could see at night and I ended up photographing the backside of the band the first time around.
  • Despite the darkness of the wrapper, the cigar was medium-plus in strength.
  • Patrick Lagreid covered the Sans Pareil and La Instructora booth at the 2017 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, where Saide went into more detail about his creations.
  • Cigars for this review were sent to halfwheel by Sans Pareil.
  • Final smoking time was two hours on average.
88 Overall Score

I preface this by saying that this paragraph, along with the four tasting notes sections, were written with me having no idea of how much this cigar costs. That being said, this is a much better cigar than the Sans Pareil Blue and Red cigars I’ve smoked. It was extremely balanced, generally well constructed and flavorful. It was notably lighter than both of those cigars, albeit still medium. I’m curious to smoke the rest of Sans Pareil’s portfolio—of which there is much more I still have to get to—but I at least have found something that I can return to and enjoy.

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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 have written about the cigar industry for more than a decade, covering everything from product launches to regulation to M&A. In addition, I handle a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff here at halfwheel. I enjoy playing tennis, watching boxing, falling asleep to the Le Mans 24, wearing sweatshirts year-round and eating gyros. echte liebe.