I’m not a great watcher of television. I have a few shows set to automatically record on my DVR, but inevitably there are a number of small screen smashes that I miss, at least when they’re airing as new episodes and not as reruns or released via DVD box sets.
One of those was “Entourage,” which ran on HBO from 2004 to 2011 on HBO and told of the journey of actor Vincent Chase, played by Adrian Grenier, as he made his way through Hollywood with the help of his manager, friends and agent, Ari Gold, played by Jeremy Piven, one of the people behind this cigar.
While one could argue that Piven is best known for his role on “Entourage,” his credits list is much longer than that acclaimed show, as he appeared on “Seinfeld,” “The Larry Sanders Show,” “Ellen,” and “Rugrats” before taking on the role of Ari Gold, the quick-witted, clever and incredibly complex agent, who is also known for his loyalty to his family and key client. Piven’s portrayal of Ari Gold won him a Golden Globe Award and three consecutive Emmy Awards.
Piven is also a cigar smoker, having been quoted as saying he enjoys a cigar on a near-daily basis, and eventually decided to try his hand at the cigar-making business. Or at least, owning a cigar brand. For the cigar-making part of that venture, he enlisted the help of Dion Giolito of Illusione, to whom he was referred by the staff at V Cut Cigar Lounge in Los Angeles, a store he is said to frequent.
The pair crafted a Nicaraguan puro that uses corojo 2012 for its dual binder, a varietal that has recently been grown by AGANORSA Leaf and which is said to deliver a unique richness and strength that is distinctly different from other varietals. Corojo 2012 has already been used in the blend of the HVC 10th Anniversary, which was released in September, and AGANORSA Leaf has released a limited batch of the Guardian of the Farm Cerberus, which is the first time the leaf is being used as a wrapper. That line will get a full release during the first quarter of 2022.
As for Piven’s cigar, it is offered in a 5 x 52 robusto vitola that has an MSRP of $14.95, and which began shipping to retailers in early November. It is produced at Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A., the same factory that Giolito uses to produce his cigars. Additionally, the cigar comes in boxes that bear the phrase “The Jeremy Piven Collection,” suggesting that this could be the first of more cigars to come.
- Cigar Reviewed: PIV Robusto
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A.
- Wrapper: Nicaragua
- Binder: Nicaragua (Corojo 2012)
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Length: 5 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 52
- Vitola: Robusto
- MSRP: $14.95 (Box of 10, $149.50)
- Release Date: November 2021
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
The PIV Robusto is a beefy cigar, as it feels a good bit thicker than its 52 ring gauge would suggest. It’s a good-looking cigar on its own and when considering the way the bands play off the wrapper, which are so well coordinated it makes me think the colors on the bands had to be selected for how they coordinate with the wrapper leaf. My only contention with them is that they seem to sit a bit higher on the cigar than average. Back to the wrapper, that leaf is a well-tanned, slightly nutty brown color, with a fine vein structure and not much oiliness. There is a decent amount of give across the samples, as the first is soft enough that I can easily squeeze it, while the second and third don’t have quite as much. The foot of the first cigar has an initial aroma of corn flakes that quickly gets dashed by pepper, one of the more pepper forward pre-light aromas I’ve encountered in recent memory, while the second cigar is a solo aroma of dense bread. The third is seemingly denser, reminding me a bit of Irish soda bread with its aroma, yet it also seems more complex than just that. Airflow is smooth and easy on the cold draw, not quite loose but not too far away from the term at times. The flavor is mellow with thick cream, white bread rolls and just a touch of sweetness as the most consistent flavors, while some more pronounced bread crust and a sprinkling of white pepper make occasional appearances.
If you could hear me coughing and feeling the intense tingle in my nose from the pepper in the first puffs of the first sample, you might mistake me for a first time cigar smoker, but the cigar just has that much of the right stuff to elicit such a response. The second sample is a bit mellower but has a dry, toasty aspect and some white pepper that elicits a response throughout my mouth, which gets doubled down on by some building red chili pepper flakes. By the half-inch mark, I can almost hear this cigar calling out for a beverage to go with it, likely something with some sweetness and the ability to coat the taste buds. That portion of the profile settles down a bit not long after, though retrohales are still potent. Meanwhile, my palate picks up a bit of creaminess and for a brief spell, the kind of flavor I associate with sour cream & onion potato chips. There is still pepper to be found, mainly white pepper but with a bit of red chili pepper in the mix, with retrohales showing the composition a bit more clearly. Flavor is medium-plus to medium-full, body is medium, and strength can reach medium but is generally a bit tamer. Construction and combustion are both good thus far.
The second third still has a decent amount of the pepper it showed in its first third, but it is noticeably less intense on the whole. That means the other flavors that start with light toast and draw on dry woods and the faintest suggestion of earthiness start to come out, though given the vibrant start of the cigar, this section seems harder to sort out. Maybe there’s less going on, maybe my taste buds just need a moment to recover; either way it is a fairly mellow segment. Thankfully some creaminess comes along to thicken up the body of the smoke by way of flavors that remind me of custard or condensed milk, depending on the sample, which also adds a bit of sweetness to the profile. It’s not enough to nudge the pepper out of the way, as it’s still decently plentiful on the finish and via retrohales, but enough to give the cigar some new character. Through the midpoint there is building pepper and the profile seems to be becoming heavier, with certain puffs leaving me with the same kind of physical sensation as drinking a neat Scotch whisky. There’s a dry malt aspect to the profile, but where it really gets me is on the finish, where my throat gets a bit of irritation and it feels like my upper chest is tightening up a bit. This section needs the occasional touch up or full relight, but otherwise combustion is still good. Flavor starts medium before finishing medium-full, body backs down from medium-full to medium, and strength is medium to medium-plus.
The final third starts by picking up a sweet, almost chocolate-like richness; it’s not overly sweet but it has some traits that remind me of a mocha or hot chocolate. What sweetness this section has doesn’t stick around long, though the thicker body of the smoke remains and now has a bit of earthiness to it, the second time I’ve picked up this flavor from the PIV Robusto but the first time it is enough quantity to appreciate it. That initial earth note branches off into a subtle but rich tree bark, and if I had to point to a spot where the corojo 2012 in the filler may be shining its brightest, this would be it. That richness helps balance some of the dryness and pepper from earlier, though again it is the finish of the cigar that leaves me wanting some improvement. The final inches of the first sample pick up some more harshness, and I can feel the nicotine really starting to make its way through my system, as I get a bit light-headed. The harshness isn’t consistent across the samples, thankfully, though there are some dry red chili pepper flakes in the mix again, which stimulate the taste buds but don’t do much beyond that. Flavor is medium-plus for most of this segment, body is medium-plus, and strength is medium to medium-plus, save for one example that is full. Construction remains very good, though combustion needs some help at times, as what seems like an average break between puffs now results in the cigar going out.
- The logo on the main band reminds me more of an LP than a JP, and when I see LP on a cigar band, I think La Palina, so I had to do a quick double-take to make sure I’d grabbed the right cigar.
- I pulled out one of my ring gauge charts for the first cigar, and it seemed to be closer to a 54 than a 52. The second cigar showed the same thing, while the third was closer to 52 but didn’t seem to be exactly 52.
- I also reviewed the HVC 10th Anniversary, which uses AGANORSA’s corojo 2012, which uses corojo 2012, and while I won’t compare the two cigars, I did find it to have similar traits of impressive richness at points as well as a harsher-than-ideal finish.
- If you’d like to learn more about corojo 2012, AGANORSA Leaf released this video of Eduardo Fernandez talking about it in March 2021.
- Rob Weiss—a writer and producer for Entourage—had his own cigar company called BG Meyer Co., which was made by Davidoff.
- When sending me these cigars, Charlie Minato relayed the following notes:
When I opened the box up the cigars (in cellophane) would not sit flush against the bottom of the box. I took a picture of this. Once out of cellophane, the cigars wouldn’t really sit flush. I took a video of me playing whack-a-mole trying to get the cigars aligned. The cigars felt firm, certainly not spongy. If anything, I’d say they were on the harder side. This could be an issue related to moisture getting in the cigars. It also could be related to the inside pieces of the box weren’t entirely flush against the outer pieces. This is also the second Illusione in a row I’ve photographed with notable issues upon opening the box. The Illusione TAA was a box of cigars that ranged from round to Yagua to box-pressed.
- Editor’s Note: Given these issues, I took readings with the HumidiMeter just to see if something was way off. The three cigars I prodded—which were not the cigars sent to Patrick—measured: 60, 65, 68. If you’ve ever used the HumidiMeter, you’ll know that the numbers tend to drop after a few seconds, hence the 53 in the picture. — CM.
- Two of the samples didn’t have much in the way of nicotine strength, while one did and had me reaching for some white sugar. This was also a trait shared with the HVC 10th Anniversary.
- Illusione advertises on halfwheel.
- The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 50 minutes on average, though the range of the three cigars was from 90 minutes to just over two hours.
- Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar Co. carries the PIV Robusto.
The cigar industry is no stranger to cigars made by or for celebrities, whether they be sports figures, comedians, producers or actors, and generally the results have been average at best. The PIV Robusto is by no means average, but it does have some issues to resolve. First, and this is something that I noted in my review of the HVC 10th Anniversary, is the consistent harshness and irritation delivered via the finish of each puff. I mention that HVC because I'm intrigued to see whether or not this might be attributed to the corojo 2012 in the blend, which the cigars have in common, as well as the fact that they are made from AGANORSA Leaf tobacco and rolled at the company's factory. Overlooking that aspect, the cigar is generally good if a bit tame with its flavors; it lacks the kind of depth and complexity that I not only associate with Illusione but that I have come to expect from Dion Giolito. Third is the consistency of strength. After the first cigar, I was really wondering what I had gotten myself into, especially as I navigated the path from my office to the kitchen in search of white sugar and water. The other two cigars didn't deliver that same effect, but I must caution that some of the cigars out there could be real nicotine punches. Put all that together, and I find myself thinking of the PIV Robusto as a better-than-decent cigar but one with some issues around it, although that's before putting its price up against the field of options, which includes Illusione's numerous and less expensive core line offerings.