Say the name Hamlet, and most people probably think of Shakespeare. But say it to someone in the cigar industry, and it likely calls to mind a noted cigar man with deep roots in Cuba who left that for a new chapter in the United States and what’s referred to as the new world of cigars.

Hamlet Jaime Paredes, as he is formally named, joined Rocky Patel Premium Cigars in 2015 and has released several cigars in that time frame, namely the Tabaquero by Hamlet that served as his debut release, followed by the Hamlet 25th Year in 2017, which celebrated his 25 years of working in premium cigars.

The third and most recent line to bear Hamlet’s name is a single, 6 1/2 x 55 vitola called Liberation. It uses an Ecuadorian habano wrapper over a Nicaraguan binder and a blend of Honduran and Nicaraguan fillers, an inch of which stick out via a shaggy foot.

Paredes said he drew inspiration from the numerous cigar events he did across the country in support of his earlier releases.

“At all my events, I roll all my cigars free hand,” said Paredes in a press release. “No molds. So for this new brand, I wanted to create something different, something liberating. Naturally, we decided to call it Liberation.”

While the explanation behind the name certainly suffices, it certainly could also be seen as a nod to Hamlet’s departure from Cuba to the United States in 2015, having left a well-established career with Habanos S.A. that spanned factory and retail work as well as traveling the world as an ambassador for the Cuban cigar industry.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Liberation by Hamlet Paredes Toro
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Tabacalera Villa Cuba S.A.
  • Wrapper: Ecuador (Habano)
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Honduras & Nicaragua
  • Length: 6 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 55
  • Vitola: Toro Gordo
  • MSRP: $11.10 (Boxes of 10, $111)
  • Release Date: August 2018
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

Not only is the Liberation by Hamlet Paredes Toro a sizable vitola in its own right, but it comes with a 109-style head with slightly sloping shoulders, as well as a shaggy foot that shows off what is underneath the wrapper, all of which combine to form an eye-catching specimen. It’s generally firm, and at least outwardly a well-rolled cigar, with the only note that the wrapper isn’t always cut evenly; sometimes it is near perfectly even and other times it slopes up on a bit of an angle. The pre-light aroma is tame but shows a bit of peanut butter and wheat bread, and the samples with a bit more sweetness stand out as better than the others. It has a very smooth draw, with just the ideal touch of resistance, with the cold draw offering more peanut butter, this time much more alive than via the nose, almost as if smelling a freshly made batch. There are also some flavors of dry earth and wood barrels among the three samples as well as a bit of peppery tingle on the lips.

The Liberation by Hamlet Paredes Toro starts with about an inch long shaggy foot, meaning that the wrapper does not cover that section of the cigar. The opening puffs of the first sample have more pepper than I expected, sitting atop a somewhat earthy foundation, while the second is more neutral and not nearly as vibrant. As with most any cigar with a shaggy foot, I’m incredibly interested to see how the flavor profile changes after the first half inch, when the wrapper gets added to the mix. Seemingly as soon as the wrapper joins the fray, the cigar smooths out a bit, as the pepper gets a bit less raw and glides through the nostrils on a retrohale, instead of seeking out some olfactory nerves to stimulate, though one particular exhale had quite the opposite effect. It really is quite amazing what a positive shift the addition of the wrapper enables the profile to take, as it softens the rougher spots while adding a slightly oily richness to the smoke. The burn, draw and smoke production of the cigar have all been quite good, a nearly effortless cigar to smoke.

While the smoother texture and flavors from the first third carry over, it’s not long into the second third of the Liberation by Hamlet Paredes Toro that things change. The cigar brings about a bit more pepper and a rocky earth profile, as the once smooth smoke now feels more jagged through the nose and on the palate. The strength and flavor profile haven’t changed much otherwise, still sitting between medium and medium-plus, but each puff now elicits a much different physical reaction than it did in the first portion. By the midway point, the flavor has developed a more pronounced wood note for the front of the tongue, a bit sharp and biting but not enough to be off-putting, while one sample has a distinctive note of robust black coffee.

The final third continues along much the same path of the second third, with a pronounced wood note hitting the front of the tongue, though it is now a tick stronger and more biting. It doesn’t taste like the pepper component has increased, though I’m not sure how much it can be separated from the other taste bud-stimulating aspects of the cigar. If anything, it is reminiscent of the first puffs of the cigar before the wrapper was introduced. There’s almost zero sweetness from the profile, making it a seemingly perfect time to get some of the peanut butter from the cold draw and pre-light aroma in the mix to soften and balance out the profile. With the bands removed, the pepper now takes a noticeable step up in strength and turns to a flavor similar to dried red chili pepper flakes, biting down noticeably on the tip of the tongue. Dry wood notes also add to that sensation, though it’s something isolated almost exclusively to the third sample. There’s also a bit of heat present in the smoke, further amplifying the intensity and having me looking around for some water to rinse off my tongue. If there has been one thing that has been flawless about the Liberation by Hamlet Paredes Toro, it is the burn. The combustion, burn line and smoke production have all been stellar, and it remains one of the smoothest draws I can remember.

Final Notes

  • Hamlet Paredes talked about the Liberation at the 2018 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show.
  • He called it just over the medium strength level, possibly into medium-full, and I’d say that was a fairly accurate description of where the cigar lands from both a strength and flavor intensity profile.
  • In 2018, Rocky Patel Premium Cigars released TAVICUSA, a cigar that gets its name from the factory where it is made, as well as where the Liberation is made. It’s considered to be the company’s “boutique” factory. TAVICUSA placed #14 on our Top 25 of 2018 list.
  • There is a bit of nicotine strength from the Liberation by Hamlet Paredes, but it is far from overpowering or even plentiful enough to be significant.
  • I’m not crazy about the use of the phrase Master of Tobacco on both sides of the band. It’s nothing against Hamlet, I’m just not one to put that kind of language on my creations, seemingly regardless of how much of a master one might be.
  • In terms of the 109 head style, few cigars are as notable in recent memory than the Edmundo Dantes Conde 109, a Cuban Edición Regional for Mexico from 2007. Several other manufacturers and brands have produced similar vitolas, including Tatuaje, Warped, Bolívar, Sancho Panza and Illusione, among others.
  • Rocky Patel Premium Cigars, Inc. advertises on halfwheel.
  • The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time was one hour and 55 minutes on average.
  • Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar Co., Famous Smoke Shop and JR Cigar carry the Liberation by Hamlet Paredes Toro.
88 Overall Score

Now with three cigars in the market bearing his name, it would be fair to say that Hamlet Paredes has a legitimate portfolio of offerings, whether it be the fuller bodied Tabaquero, the milder-yet-not-mild 25th Year or the new, medium-plus Liberation. For the bulk of this cigar, I enjoyed it quite a bit; the flavor is full without being overpowering, there is good use of pepper, and the transitions manage to keep the cigar interesting and evolving without losing cohesiveness. The final third was the consistent issue for my palate, taking an otherwise enjoyable profile, drying it out and stacking a series of flavors that further dry out the palate while picking up a robust profile that didn't feel like natural conclusion for where the blend appeared headed. There's still a lot to like about this cigar, and maybe with the right beverage or some additional rest the final third wouldn't stand out for the reasons above; for now it's a cigar I'm still hesitant to recommend once the bands come off.

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Patrick Lagreid

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 previously the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for Major League Baseball, plus I'm a voice over artist. Prior to joining halfwheel, I covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.