In 2010, Smoke Inn, a South Florida cigar retailer, kicked off a series of store exclusives called the Microblend Series with the Tatuaje Anarchy, a cigar that got a re-release in 2023 as part of an NFT project, arguably making it the most well-known of the series. Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust’s Red Meat Lovers also traces its roots back to the Smoke Inn Microblend Series, debuting in January 2019 and going on to become a national line with multiple vitolas in September 2023.

But not every cigar garnered the same kind of success, even with one of the most unique names and presentations not only among the cigars in the series, but among cigars in general.

In February 2019, MoyaRuiz Cigars created a cigar called the Hand Gripper and, as the name implies, it is designed to look like the device that is said to strengthen a person’s grip. To do that, the release shipped in a presentation with two cigars attached to a spring, with the cigars replicating the handles.

The cigar was a 5 x 52 robusto that used an Ecuadorian habano oscuro wrapper over a Nicaraguan binder and filler. The cigars were produced at the La Zona Cigar Factory in Estelí, Nicaragua, with 300 boxes of 12 cigars produced, priced at $99 per box, which worked out to $8.25 per cigar.

In case you aren’t familiar with MoyaRuiz Cigars, the company was founded by Danny Moya and Nelson Ruiz, who had their cigars produced by Erik Espinosa of Espinosa Premium Cigars.

We first wrote about the company in November 2012, but in recent years, MoyaRuiz CIgars hasn’t had much in the way of news, as the company hasn’t been mentioned in a news article on this site since August 2020, and the last post on its own website came just before the end of 2020.

Here’s what I said about the MoyaRuiz Hand Gripper when I reviewed it in May 2019:

As I noted at the start of the first third, the MoyaRuiz Hand Gripper offers the kind of flavors I’d expect from what has been said about the blend: some pepper, earth and woods, all on the dry side of medium and all pretty enjoyable. The combination is also rather well balanced, the profile is consistent across samples and the overall experience checks pretty much every box. But here’s the rub: little about the Hand Gripper stands out positively enough to make it better than a number of other cigars on the market that offer a nearly identical profile. So while it’s very enjoyable and easy to recommend for fans of medium-plus profiles, it’s likely going to fall short for those looking for a standout cigar experience, which is a shame given how much the packaging and concept stands out from its competitors.

  • Cigar Reviewed: MoyaRuiz Hand Gripper
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: La Zona Cigar Factory
  • Wrapper: Ecuador (Habano Oscuro)
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 5 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Robusto
  • MSRP: $8.25 (Boxes of 12, $99)
  • Release Date: Feb. 16, 2019
  • Number of Cigars Released: 300 Boxes of 12 Cigars (3,600 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Redux: 1

I don’t remember much, if anything, about how the MoyaRuiz Hand Gripper tasted when I smoked it five years ago, but I certainly remember the bands and the small hole in the cap that is left from where the spring was. Since a lot of the humidity issues I tend to see come in the final third of a cigar, it gets me wondering about how the cigar has aired out during the time it has been sitting in my humidor. I remember that there’s a traditional band underneath the large band, which reminds me to peel the outermost one off as opposed to just sliding it off, as I can tell it would have taken the one underneath along with it. The cigar is easily on the darker side of medium, not quite outright dark but certainly close. There is some mottling that gives it darker spots, while its network of veins gives it both visual and tactile texture. It’s not oily but it’s far from dry, and I’m surprised by how supple the wrapper feels. I wouldn’t call it a firm cigar, as there is some give, but it is by no means soft. It’s kind of a unique feel, which I wonder is attributable to its age. The cigar did not come in cellophane, so I’m intrigued to see what the foot will offer; a first sniff reveals a damp grape jelly on wheat toast smell that is tight and almost needs to be dragged out of the cigar. There’s no pepper to be found, and subsequent sniffs don’t reveal much more. The cap is on the dry side when I cut it and airflow is quite smooth, almost loose. If the aroma was reserved, the cold draw is stingy with flavor, offering a bit of dry tobacco but not much else, though I can talk myself into tasting some of the jelly sweetness and toast after several draws.

The first puffs of the MoyaRuiz Hand Gripper leave a lot to be desired; they are bitter and funky, reminding me of something that would produce some sort of medicinal tea if steeped in hot water. By about half-an-inch in, it begins to correct itself leading me to think of root beer with a slightly herbal spin to it, before some pepper, burnt ends, and dry bark come along as the ash drops off unexpectedly. Once that first clump of ash is gone, it almost feels like I’m smoking a new cigar, as the draw is a touch firmer, the smoke a bit more abundant, and the flavor corrected into a much more familiar and enjoyable profile. Retrohales are how I pick up the first real flavors of the age on this cigar, as while there is some pepper and stimulation, they don’t have the same body as a younger cigar. Flavor is medium-full, body is medium and strength is medium-minus. Construction is very good on the whole, particularly after the first bit of ash drops off.

The MoyaRuiz Hand Gripper starts its second half with creaminess, a welcomed development that softens and fills out the flavor while adding a bit more body to the smoke. The supporting flavors are becoming slightly more skeletal in the process, leading to a flavor profile that I really can’t place as anything I’ve tasted before. There are some dry leaves and pepper, the latter of which deploys a lingering tingle on my taste buds after puffs. That finish has me thinking of a smoky hot sauce as the burn line progresses into the final third, while the core flavor evolves into something with old wood and black pepper. A spicy heat continues to sit on my tongue as the cigar comes to its conclusion after one hour and 45 minutes. Flavor is medium-full, body is medium-plus and strength is medium-minus. Construction remains very good with no issues of note.

84 Overall Score

As I said at the onset, I don't remember much about the MoyaRuiz Hand Gripper, so I'm left to look back on my review to see what the cigar did right and what it did wrong and compare it to what I experienced several years later. The first thought in attempting to summarize the experiences is that I might have let this cigar sit too long, as a good portion of it doesn't taste aged, it tastes old and like the tobacco's best days are behind it. I don't know how to explain the funky flavor out of the gate, but I do know that the overall flavor is starting to diminish. There are still enjoyable flavors to be had, but they only emerge for all-too-brief appearances. I can't say that I was expecting that the cigar was going to turn great after five years, but I don't know it's any better than it was when new.

Original Score (May 2019)
Redux Score (June 2024)
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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.