I’ve heard it said that when you get to a certain age, you celebrate every birthday, because you never know when it might be the last.

In the case of a retail store, there is still some truth to it, but in the case of Federal Cigar, celebrating every anniversary isn’t just a fun thing to do, it is also cause for a new limited edition cigar.

In March 2018, the New Hampshire-based retailer celebrated its 97th year in business with an in-store event and an exclusive size in the My Father Le Bijou Connecticut, a 5 1/2 x 54 belicoso. The event featured both Janny García and José Ortega of My Father Cigars, as well as Pete Johnson, K.C. Johnson and Dan Welsh of Tatuaje/L’Atelier and Steve and Cindy Saka of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust.

As for the cigar, it’s the fifth size in the line, which also happens to be an exclusive to Federal Cigar. The line debuted in 2012 in three sizes, including a size that is identical to the original My Father Le Bijou 1922 Federal Cigar 91 Cervantes Connecticut

  • My Father Le Bijou 1922 Federal Cigar 91 Cervantes Connecticut (6 1/2 x 44) — $8 (Boxes of 23, $165.60)
  • My Father Le Bijou 1922 Connecticut Corona Gorda (5 5/8 x 46) — $7.50 (Boxes of 23, $155.25)
  • My Father Le Bijou 1922 Connecticut Petit Robusto (4 1/2 x 50) — $6.50 (Boxes of 23, $134.55)
  • My Father Le Bijou 1922 Connecticut Grand Robusto (5 5/8 x 50)
  • My Father Federal Cigar 97th Anniversary (5 1/2 x 54) — $9.49 (Boxes of 23, $218.27)

The My Father Federal Cigar 97th Anniversary comes priced at $9.49 per cigar, or $218.27 for a box of 23 cigars, of which just 100 were produced.

  • Cigar Reviewed: My Father Federal Cigar 97th Anniversary
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: My Father Cigars S.A.
  • Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 5 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 54
  • Vitola: Belicoso
  • MSRP: $9.49 (Boxes of 23, $218.27)
  • Release Date: March 2, 2018
  • Number of Cigars Released: 100 Boxes of 23 Cigars (2,300 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

There’s simultaneously both a lot and not a lot to look at with the My Father Federal Cigar 97th Anniversary. The cigar only shows off about an inch and a half of wrapper, all above the band, though the belicoso head is part of that display. The rest of the cigar is covered in two bands and a cedar sleeve, and while there is no mention of Federal Cigar, there is mention of the 97th Anniversary as well as the Le Bijou 1922 brand via the footband, which is slightly bent around the foot of the cigar. Once the sleeve and footband slide off, the very light, golden brown wrapper is revealed, something that seems a bit out of place given the My Father core line band, which usually sits atop much more darker capas. The foot of the cigar offers a very light aroma, leading with a bit of a grocery store flower case before adding in a very light cereal grain, a la Cheerios, and a bit of green apple before finishing things off with some black pepper. The cold draw is open on the first cigar I smoked and rather mild, offering a bit of buttered popcorn and very faint spice. The second and third cigars are firmer while repeating the flavors, though with a bit more sweetness.

There’s no challenge in getting the My Father Federal Cigar 97th Anniversary lit and producing a decent amount of smoke, with early flavors mimicking the cereal grain I found on the cold draw but now much more vibrant and toasty. It also delivers the signature Pepín punch right out of the gate, giving both the palate and nose plenty of pepper to deal with. While the cigar offers a good bit of upfront pepper, there’s a very toasty finish, leaving the tongue feeling a bit dry and tingling, though one sample had a condensed milk sweetness in the first inch that provided both complexity and balance. There’s a start visual contrast between the dark ash that’s steadily building and the relatively light-colored wrapper and band. While starting out in the medium territory of flavor and strength, at the one-inch mark both have taken a step forward, and a handful of puffs would even have me putting the cigar in the full-bodied category. Combustion and draw have both been quite good so far.

The My Father Federal Cigar 97th Anniversary stays in the medium to full range as it enters its second third, and while the flavors are still a bit less than vibrant, the cigar doesn’t go unnoticed as it offers a heavy smoke on the palate and sneaky amount of pepper. There is some creaminess starting to develop, it’s subtle yet discernible, and seems to have a slight vanilla spin on it. Through the nose, the cigar varies between light, white pepper and a heavier, earthy black pepper depending on the sample and exact spot where a retrohale is taken, but it never lacks for a pleasing and manageable tingle in the nostrils. Through the midpoint, the cigar’s flavor seems to be dueling with being both toasty and heavy due to some serious earth notes that have continued to develop. On the lighter side are peanuts, toast and plain potato chips, while the heavier notes include earth and coffee.

While it’s not quite at the start of the final third, the My Father Federal Cigar 97th Anniversary, the My Father Federal Cigar 97th Anniversary moves from being toasty and peppery to harsh and biting, with the tongue stinging after each puff. Given that there haven’t been many changes to the profile, the final third becomes a bit fatiguing and mundane, compounded by the increasing heat and harshness. While the draw, burn line and smoke production remain well above average, I’m less focused on them than I am in trying to find one good puff to send this cigar out on a good note.

Final Notes

  • I’ve always thought that using the French le bijou was a bit odd for a Cuban family doing business in Nicaragua. The word means the jewel, and 1922 is the birth year of José “Pepín” García’s father, also named José García. However, in Spanish, the word would be joya, which is well established in the cigar industry.
  • In his review of the Don Pepin Garcia 15th Anniversary Limited Edition Robusto, Charlie Minato noted the ritualistic process that comes prior to lighting up that cigar. While sliding a cedar sleeve is nowhere near the same as taking a cigar out of a coffin, it’s enough to at least make one think about the upcoming experience.
  • Each of the belicoso heads of the samples had a bit of a curve to it, with one quite noticeable.
  • Even with a good amount of strength and flavor potency, there wasn’t a lasting physical sensation from the cigar, although the third cigar hit me quite a bit harder than the first two.
  • The cigars for this review were provided by Federal Cigar.
  • Final smoking time was one hour and 35 minutes on average. (945a)
  • It appears that the My Father Federal Cigar 97th Anniversary is sold out, at least online, but you can call the store at (603) 679-2447 to see if they still have any available.
85 Overall Score

The My Father Federal Cigar 97th Anniversary is almost two different cigars depending on what side of the midpoint you're on; it opens clean and full, with an impressive touch of sweetness balancing out the rest of the profile that is an interesting mix of toasty mid flavors and a heavier, earthy base note. The second half is a different story, however, as the cigar gets rough, out of balance, and leaves a parting flavor that stings the tongue and erases almost all of the good work the cigar put in earlier. I'd easily smoke the first half again, assuming I could put it down at that first sign of the flavor changing.

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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 Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.