When it comes to how cigars are made, the wrapper tends to get quite a bit of attention. Of course, there are a number of very good reasons for this: not only is the wrapper one of the first things that you see and touch but it also affects both the flavor and burn.
During the 2022 PCA Convention & Trade Show, Oscar Valladares introduced Raw Dog, a 5 x 60 vitola that foregoes the traditional wrapper. In fact, instead of using a wrapper-grade leaf, the Honduran puro is made with only a binder grown in the Copán region covering filler tobaccos grown in Jamastrán and Copán.
Physically, the lack of a wrapper means that there is no cap on the Raw Dog, so a cutter is not needed to begin smoking. In addition, each cigar is rolled with a brushed foot, meaning the binder is cut short to allow the filler tobaccos to extend past the binder. The end result is a cigar that looks like how a cigar looks after it is bunched, but before the wrapper and cap are applied and before the foot is cut to size.
The Raw Dog is priced at $6 per cigar and it is offered in 50-count cabinets.
- Cigar Reviewed: Oscar Valladares Raw Dog
- Country of Origin: Honduras
- Factory: Oscar Valladares Tobacco & Co.
- Wrapper: n/a
- Binder: Honduras (Copan)
- Filler: Honduras (Jamastran & Copan)
- Length: 5 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 60
- Vitola: Robusto Gordo
- MSRP: $6 (Box of 50, $300)
- Release Date: September 2022
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Redux: 3
From a visual standpoint, the Oscar Valladares Raw Dog looks pretty much like what it is: a cigar that is missing its wrapper. The binder is extremely rough to the touch and looks to be a relatively consistent dull brown color with a greenish tint that becomes more noticeable under certain light, although there is a small amount of oil present as well. However, when I actually pick the cigar up, I find that it is shockingly light in weight when held in my hand while also being quite spongy when squeezed. The combination of a lack of cap and shaggy foot—more on the latter below in the Final Notes—is an interesting look, but the band is a similar shade to the binder it is wrapped around, making it almost blend in. The aroma from the binder is a combination of very sweet cedar as well as gritty earth, nutmeg, generic nuts and slight milk chocolate sweetness. The foot brings more distinct notes, including leather, earth, more nuts, cinnamon, orange peel, black pepper and very light mesquite wood. No cut is needed on these cigars, but the cold draw is surprisingly faint compared to the aromas and include earth, leather, nuts, anise, black pepper, baker’s spices and light berry sweetness
The tobacco making up the shaggy foot of the cigar takes no time at all to light up, and I quickly begin tasting a combination of black pepper and bitter espresso. Slowly, a combination of cedar and generic nuttiness takes over the top spots in the profile, with flavors of gritty earth, leather tack, nutmeg, toasted bread and a light vegetal note lag far behind. In addition, I taste a noticeable mineral saltiness on my lips and a less pleasant metallic flavor on the finish of all three cigars, although the distinctness of both varies from cigar to cigar. There is a combination of black pepper and milk chocolate sweetness, the latter of which is not as strong as I would like. Flavor ends the first third between mild and medium while both the strength and body are a point just under medium but increasing. I have various issues with the construction on all three cigars throughout the first third, including draws that are looser than normal and multiple burn corrections on two cigars out of the three cigars.
Unfortunately, there are virtually no changes in the profile of the cigar during the second third: generic nuttiness and cedar easily retain their places as the main flavors in the profile, followed by notes of leather, espresso beans, hay, toasted bread and cocoa nibs. However, while the metallic flavor on the finish from the first third has dissipated, the mineral saltiness on my lips remains, albeit at about half the strength. There is also almost no change in the retrohale, where the black pepper continues to easily overwhelm the small amount of milk chocolate sweetness that is present. Flavor increases slightly to a mild-plus and the body remains at just under medium, but the strength easily crosses over into the solid medium range. In terms of construction, although smoke production is not an issue, two cigars continue to have loose draws—the other is fine in that regard—while two cigars each need a couple of minor corrections from my lighter to stay on track.
The Raw Dog continues along its linear path in the final third, as the flavors of cedar and nuts once again top the profile until the end of the cigar. Secondary notes of gritty earth, toasted bread, leather tack, coffee beans, hay and barnyard make themselves known at various points, but they don’t come close to overtaking the main flavors. Interestingly, the black pepper on the retrohale has receded just slightly allowing a bit more of the milk chocolate sweetness to emerge, but the latter note is still far too light to have any major impact on the profile. Flavor remains stalled at a solid medium, but both the body and strength feature increases to a solid medium and medium-plus respectively. Finally, while one cigar has no issues at all when it comes to the burn, two others become problematic enough to need a couple of corrections and the draw remains looser than I would like on two of the cigars until I put the nubs down with about an inch remaining.
- Don’t search for “Raw Dog” on a work computer.
- Speaking of physical attributes, the official size for this cigar is supposed to be five inches by 60 ring gauge. However, the three cigars I smoked for this review were off from that measurement by varying degrees: one was 5.15 x 62, one came in at 5.26 x 62 and the last one measured 5.14 x 61. In addition, all three of these cigars seemed very, very light when held in my hand. When weighing each cigar individually in the same order as above with the cellophane still on, the cigars weighed in at 19.24g, 21.85g and 18.18g respectively.
- While it is not exactly common, the brushed foot look is used on a small number of different releases, including the Viaje Summerfest, the JFR Lunatic Shaggy Foot Torch, various RoMa Craft Tobac lines and even Oscar Valladares’ own McFly blend.
- Although the exterior of this cigar looks similar to the Leaf by Oscar line, the latter actually do have wrappers on them: the finished cigar is actually covered in a separate piece of tobacco as well as an additional band.
- Speaking of the bands, the rings used on the Raw Dog cigars look and feel identical to those used on the Leaf by Oscar. Those bands on the latter line are made from the stems of tobacco leaves which are processed into a paper-like material by a company in Danlí, Honduras. The logo and writing on the bands are then printed with a dot matrix printer.
- One last thing about the bands: because of the material they are made out of, I found it difficult to remove them without damaging the binder on each of the three cigars I smoked, although the damage was fairly minor.
- The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time for all three cigars averaged out to one hour and 49 minutes.
- If you would like to purchase any of the Oscar Valladares Raw Dog cigars, site sponsors Atlantic Cigar Co., Cigars Direct and Famous Smoke Shop all have them in stock.
This is a tale of two very different experiences: two of the cigars—the first and last cigars I smoked for this review—were the lightest of the three when it comes to weight and featured a looser than normal draw, more burn issues and a profile that was noticeably less complex. However, the second cigar—which was, incidentally, the heaviest of the three in terms of weight—featured an excellent draw, virtually no burn issues and flavors that were not only more enjoyable but also noticeably more distinct on both the palate and retrohale. Having said that, even at its best the Oscar Valladares Raw Dog has a fairly linear profile with a less-than-ideal amount of balance. In the current market, having a name that people will instantly take notice of, an extremely attractive price point and a unique visual appearance are not bad things, but in the end those ended up being the best attributes about this release.