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It’s been said here before, but there certainly seems to be a fair amount of bringing cigars back going on in the cigar business lately.

Not that it’s a bad thing, and certainly a good bit of it has to do with FDA regulations on new cigars coming to market. But it has definitely become a trend as of late.

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Such is the case for the Le Carême Belicosos Finos, which debuted in 2018 as the fifth vitola in the line, which got its release in 2016. The idea for the cigar is attributed to Miguel Schoedel, Crowned Heads’ national sales manager. The size is one that is popular with Jon Huber, who called the Bolívar Belicosos Finos one of his “desert island cigars,” which seemingly figured into the project getting the green light.

The cigar is a 5 1/2 x 52 belicoso that uses a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper, Ecuadorian Sumatra binder and fillers from Nicaragua, though it doesn’t get the trunk press as it goes through the production process at E.P. Carrillo’s Tabacalera La Alianza S.A. in the Dominican Republic.

Released in March 2018, the cigar would go on to claim the #2 spot on halfwheel’s Top 25 of 2018 list, falling just .09 points behind the Joya de Nicaragua No. 1.

  • Le Carême Cosacos (5 3/8 x 42) —Regular Production
  • Le Carême Hermoso No. 1 (6 1/2 x 48) —Regular Production
  • Le Carême Robusto (5 x 50) —Regular Production
  • Le Carême Canonazo (5 7/8 x 52) — Regular Production
  • Le Carême Belicosos Finos 2018 LE (5 1/2 x 52) — 1,500 Boxes of 12 Cigars (18,000 Total Cigars)
  • Le Carême Belicosos Finos 2019 LE (5 1/2 x 52) — 2,500 Boxes of 12 Cigars (30,000 Total Cigars)

It would return in 2019, shipping in June with most of the details the same but two noticeable changes. The pricing on the cigar didn’t change, remaining at $10, but production has gone up from 1,500 boxes of 12 cigars to 2,500 boxes of 12, or 18,000 cigars to 30,000 total cigars.

Here’s what I said about the Le Carême Belicosos Finos 2018 LE when I reviewed it in April 2018:

Circling back to my opening line of this review, I now wish that the Le Carême hadn’t fallen off my radar, as this is quite a good blend. It’s much more delicate and nuanced than I expected, though never lacks in flavor, with complexity keeping up at seemingly every turn. While the comparison to a chocolate soufflé may be a bit of an overstatement, there are certainly times when the cigar echoes the dish, yet never becomes so egregious in its attempts to deliver the flavor that it tastes overly sweet or forced. While there certainly aren’t enough of the Belicosos Finos to go around, it’s a good reminder to revisit this blend again before long.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Le Carême Belicosos Finos 2019 LE
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: Tabacalera La Alianza S.A.
  • Wrapper: U.S.A. (Connecticut Broadleaf)
  • Binder: Ecuador (Sumatra)
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 5 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Belicoso Fino
  • MSRP: $10 (Boxes of 12, $120)
  • Release Date: June 2019
  • Number of Cigars Released: 2,500 Boxes of 12 Cigars (30,000 Total cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Redux: 1

There is certainly a lot of band on the Le Carême Belicosos Finos 2019 LE, and none of the three on this sample seem to be aligned with each other. Using the main band as reference—my favorite of the trio for a number of reasons—the secondary band is turned a few degrees to the left while the foot band is turned a few more beyond that. Under that is a dark, meaty wrapper leaf that bears many of the broadleaf characteristics, including an oily sheen and some noticeable but unobtrusive veins. The cigar appears to be well-rolled, firm but not hard and with the head crafted quite well. There is an immediate raisin note on the foot of the cigar, while a more restrained notes of vanilla pastry and cocoa powder battle for the supporting note, the former ahead about 70-30. A conservative clip of the cap provides a tight enough draw that I’m considering taking more off, though am going to give the cigar a chance before doing so. Contact with tobacco tingles my lips, while flavors of blackberries and their vine come through, paring the sweetness and subtle vegetal note with some soil.

Getting the foot of the Le Carême Belicosos Finos 2019 LE properly toasted feels like it takes a bit longer than average, leading me to wonder about the leaves inside, particularly their thickness, oiliness, and possibly dampness. It gets going in due time, with some rocky earth and thin but pointed pepper the opening notes. The draw is a still a bit tight, but I’m going to hold off a few more puffs before giving the head another snip. There is definitely some of the terroir that Connecticut broadleaf is known for starting to emerge, a bit metallic and mineral-forward, something that I find to be one of the only drawbacks of the varietal. Out of nowhere just shy of the one-inch mark the draw opens up enough to have me put down the scissors for the moment, and smoke production increases as a result. The broadleaf twinge fades quickly, taking the heavier earth note with it and leaving a lighter, cocoa powder base, though there’s more black pepper through the nose. The draw is still a tick tight but not problematic, while smoke production is good and no touch-ups have been needed.

While I’m not sure it needed it, I decide to clip just a sliver more of the Le Carême Belicosos Finos 2019 LE’s head to see if the draw opens up a bit more, and thankfully it does. With it the profile gets much earthier and drier, with whatever sweetness the first half had almost completely gone. It’s also a bit sharper as the burn line progresses through where the bands were previously covering, as pepper and a metallic note sting the tip of the tongue. The draw is back to being on the tight side, not problematic but enough to feel like things are more labored than they were earlier. The flavor feels like it stagnates a bit, and the increasingly labored draw isn’t really winning me over, so I call it a wrap after an hour and 35 minutes of smoking time.

89 Overall Score

I didn't look up my tasting notes prior to smoking the La Carême Belicosos Finos 2019 LE, but once I saw the chef's hat design of the primary band, I remembered that there was something sweet that was supposed to be the hallmark of this cigar. Turns out it was a chocolate soufflé, though I certainly wouldn't have guessed that based on the cigar's profile. While the original cigar gave more of an impression of the dessert—even though it had some zigs and zags along the way—this sample of the 2019 version seems to focus more on the broadleaf wrapper and for a few too many puffs, its metallic qualities. There is some cocoa to be found, but I found more earth notes with dark berries providing the sweetness. It is still an enjoyable cigar, but like any vintage product, shows some variance from its previous year. Between the two, I'd gravitate towards the 2018 version, but not so much that I wouldn't smoke a couple more of these to see what kind of profile multiple samples show.

Original Score (April 2018)
91
Redux Score (October 2019)
89

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Patrick Lagreid
About the author

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.

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