Outside of a cigar company announcing it was for sale, there wasn’t a singular announcement in 2019 that generated quite the buzz like the reintroduction of Lars Tetens.
In an industry full of big personalities, there might not be one bigger than Lars. Lars Tetens is, and has seemingly always been, a lot of different things: a person, a cigar brand, a musician, a fashion brand and now CBD and hot sauce manufacturer, in addition to a line of seasonings.
In the 1990s, he was one of the first to create infused cigars, though the preferred term in his case is conditioned. Those cigars gained popularity around the cigar boom that took place. For a number of reasons, the infused cigar company that everyone remembers from the cigar boom is Drew Estate.
Unlike a lot of companies from the cigar boom, Lars never went away. His distribution shrunk and I can’t remember the last time I saw a Lars Tetens cigar on a shelf, but every once in awhile I’d check on his website or see a retailer—particularly in the upstate New York area—advertising his cigars.
That all changed this spring when Alec Bradley announced that it had formed a new partnership with Lars Tetens. Alan Rubin, Alec Bradley’s founder, announced that he had purchased the rights to the brands through a new company called World 180, of which Tetens is also a part. Alec Bradley would then be responsible for sales and distribution.
The company said that it would return to national distribution with seven different brands, each made by Jesus Fuego in Estelí, Nicaragua. Not a ton was explained about each particular line, including the tobacco varietals, but the understanding is that each cigar is conditioned using a process that Lars Tetens developed in the 1990s. Some of those cigars are sweet-tipped, but not all of them.
I decided that halfwheel should review two Lars Tetens lines. One of those was obvious: Lars Tetens Grass because the two vitolas in the line are priced at $45 and $50, which seemed like an interesting question to answer.
The other line was Serie D, which I chose because I figured if any of the cigars weren’t infused, it might be Serie D. Also, because none of the tobaccos were disclosed, it seemed like it might not really matter which of the seven we choose.
Patrick’s notes from his coverage of Lars Tetens at the IPCPR Convention & Trade Show show just how thin the descriptions of some of the lines are:
A full-bodied blend with three fairly standard vitolas.
All of the Lars Tetens packaging features bands with four panels and typically four pictures, oftentimes of Lars himself.
- Lars Tetens Serie D Robusto (5 x 50) — $10.85 (Box of 25, $271.25)
- Lars Tetens Serie D Toro (6 x 54) — $12 (Box of 25, $300)
- Lars Tetens Serie D Gordo (6 x 60) — $12.90 (Box of 25, $322.50)
- Cigar Reviewed: Lars Tetens Serie D Robusto
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: J. Fuego Cigar Co. de Nicaragua
- Wrapper: Undisclosed
- Binder: Undisclosed
- Filler: Undisclosed
- Length: 5 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 50
- Vitola: Robusto
- MSRP: $10.85 (Box of 25, $271.25)
- Release Date: August 2019
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
There’s no way to confuse a Lars Tetens cigar with any other brand. His packaging designs are something I cannot recall any other cigar company using and just in case you weren’t sure, the main image of the four is a picture of a current-day Lars. Similarly, I’ve smoked a lot of cigars and I cannot recall anything smelling quite like this. There’s an extremely heavy dose of lemon, like an overly intense car air freshener, and then something that seems like a bad fraternity punch based on Sunny D. As far as normal cigar aromas, there’s a bit of sweet chocolate on the back end. The other part that’s so different here is that the intensity of the flavor is extreme, far more intense than a normal flavored cigar, though again, the word here is conditioned. The foot has more of the Sunny D-like citrus along with some blubbery jelly and an artificial grapefruit. Once I cut the cigar, I’m a bit surprised that the cold draw is almost normal. There’s some pasta and restrained versions of the blueberry and Sunny D-like sensations, but it’s nothing quite like the aroma.
After all that, the Serie D starts with just some earthiness. There’s some of that artificial blueberry on the back end but it’s more or less just an earthy profile with some bizarre sweetness. If I were to judge just by the mouth flavor, I’d have my suspicions that this is infused, but it’s not obvious. There’s a weird sensation where the mouth feels a bit dry because my nose is getting hit with heavy doses of sweet smells from the wrapper once I put the cigar in my mouth. Outside of that artificial blueberry, there’s nothing obviously artificial. The main mouth flavor is earthy with soggy popcorn, burnt coffee and some herbal flavors. The finish is relatively clean with creaminess and the popcorn shining through. Retrohales have a weird combination of artificial sugary fruits, coffee and sweet chocolate, sort of what I imagine a Zombie Frappuccino would taste like, though I’ve never had one. Flavor is medium-full, body is fine and strength is medium-plus. Construction-wise, the first third of the Serie D is great with a nice smoke production and easy draw.
Right around the halfway mark, the Serie D’s flavor is getting a bit too clawing for me. I have a glass of water next to me, but as I do with reviews, I avoid drinking it unless I have to, which I don’t. If I wasn’t reviewing this cigar, I’d recommend water, probably sparkling water. At some point it seems like the flavoring picks up a bit more, something that certainly doesn’t help the clawing nature, though I don’t actually think it’s what caused it. The profile is earthy, a bit less chewy than the first third, and that flavored coffee drink seems to have moved itself out of the retrohale and is now into the mouth. Retrohales have popcorn, creaminess and leather, noticeably less intense than the first third. The finish has nuttiness, popcorn and coffee, all of which last well after a minute after the smoke has left my palate. The Lars Tetens is now medium-plus in flavor, albeit stronger on the finish, while body and strength are medium. Construction remains good, though the smoke production seems to have decreased.
The final third is pretty much like the second third, albeit with a slight drop off in the artificial sweetness. That gives the coffee flavors a bit more room to shine, but the core flavor is still earthy with some of the blueberry sweetness. Retrohales have burnt leaves and a bit of hay, but the dominant flavor is earthiness. Flavor remains medium-plus, body is just under medium and strength is medium. Construction remains great until the end.
- I ranked Alec Bradley pretty high on our 2019 Company of the Year award rankings, in large part due to the buzz that was created by the Lars Tetens partnership. That being said, the Lars part of the ranking was solely due to the buzz created with the announcement. I really haven’t seen the cigars in many stores and it doesn’t seem like anyone is talking about the cigars at this point. The three cigars I smoked for review are also the only Lars Tetens products I’ve smoked in at least five years.
- It wasn’t a surprise that the announcement created some buzz, though I was a bit surprised by just how many people in the cigar industry were talking about it. That being said, I also wouldn’t have predicted the drop off in buzz to be as steep as it was once the cigars were released. I certainly thought there would be a decline, but it seems like it’s gone to near zero. The real problem with Lars Tetens—and similarly Bahia and OneOff—is that very few consumers knew of the brand when it was being reintroduced. Lars Tetens was a cult figure known for cigars he made in the 1990s. There are people in the cigar industry that romanticize what those brands did decades ago but it’s an echo chamber within the industry. And obviously, if the brand was popular enough, Lars wouldn’t have faded into relative obscurity for over a decade.
- Furthermore, the brand’s reintroduction had a lot working against it. I’d argue there were too many lines, too many SKUs, very little explanation in terms of what makes each line different, the pricing with many of these lines is a bit much and the packaging is different.
- The packaging wouldn’t dissuade me from buying the cigar, though that’s only because I know of Lars. If this was a random cigar company, or better yet, a random wine company I knew nothing about, I would have put it down and looked elsewhere. There are some people that probably like the packaging, but others that won’t consider buying the cigar because of it. I’m guessing the latter group is substantially larger than the former. And that probably extends to retailers as well.
- Within the black ink used for Lars Tetens’ name on the band there are some colorful dots almost like sprinkles on a cupcake. You can’t see it to the naked eye, but it was rather obvious with the macro lens I use to photograph cigars:
- For those wondering why someone would want to acquire the Lars Tetens brands in 2019, it’s actually quite simple: because Lars Tetens made so many different cigars, the brand likely includes a large library of grandfathered infused/flavored/conditioned cigars, something that isn’t as readily available as non-infused cigars.
- I cannot recommend reading Patrick’s coverage of Lars Tetens at the 2019 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show enough. The whole thing seems a bit weird and I’m just not sure how it would motivate a retailer to carry the cigars.
- Given all of the not normal sensations that occurred once the cigar was removed cellophane, I was a bit surprised by how normal the cigar was once lit. There was an artificial blueberry sweetness, but otherwise the flavors were things that I have found in cigars that aren’t infused.
- There’s no sweet cap, meaning you aren’t going to have any sugary residue on your lips. That being said, after finishing the cigar, the residual flavor in my mouth was a bit different than a typical cigar.
- I’d be curious to smoke this cigar without the flavoring. Then again, that probably goes for every infused cigar.
- Construction was great on all three cigars, I would have appreciated the smoke production to stay at the level it was during the first third, but I never had to touch it up.
- Alec Bradley advertises on halfwheel.
- Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 25 minutes on average.
- Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar Co., Corona Cigar Co., Famous Smoke Shop and JR Cigar carry the Lars Tetens Serie D.
After smoking three Lars Tetens Serie Ds I struggled to find a situation where I’d recommend this cigar. It’s not that it’s bad, rather it’s such a weird combination of experiences. Taking the cigar out of the cellphone would likely scare off most of our readers due to just how strong and sweet the aromas were. Once the cigar was lit, it was probably 90 percent normal cigar, 10 percent infused cigar. But if you want a coffee-flavored cigar, JAVA seems like a better option. If you want a normal cigar with a bit of sweetness, there are a variety of sweet-tipped cigars that are much better suited and likely cheaper. And if you wanted a non-infused cigar, there’s zero chance you’d take this. While I can’t say I’d be excited to smoke another one, the Lars Tetens Serie D wasn’t bad, it was just weird, which is about the only part of this experience that makes sense.