If you did not know any better, you might be forgiven for thinking there is a secret pact between a large number of manufacturers to release specific cigars in the past few years with names and packaging inspired by the Chinese Zodiac calendar.

While certainly not the first brand to release a Zodiac-centric cigar—that prize goes to the Davidoff Zodiac Series, which debuted in 2012 with the Year of the Dragon—Plasencia announced late last year it would be following a long line of cigar makers in the endeavor, a list that includes not only the aforementioned Davidoff, but also Drew Estate, Great Wall and Habanos S.A. and VegaFina.

Plasencia’s Year of the Ox turned out to be a 7 x 58 salomon that is made with Nicaraguan tobacco used for the wrapper, binder and fillers. The new release has a suggested price of $35 per cigar and is limited to 2,500 eight-count boxes, for a total of 20,000 cigars.

“The ‘Year of the Ox’ is dedicated to the hard-working people who are in the trenches, cultivating the very tobacco we used in this blend,” said Nestor Andrés Plasencia, Plasencia Cigars ceo, in a press release. “We at the Plasencia family consider ourselves farmers first. Since 1865, our family has gained invaluable tobacco knowledge, born of unwavering hard work and dedication. ‘The Year of the Ox’ celebrates that passion.”

In addition, unlike the versions of The Year of the Ox from other manufacturers, the Plasencia incarnation is not being sold in the U.S., as it is an exclusive release to the international market.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Plasencia Year of the Ox
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Plasencia Cigars S.A.
  • Wrapper: Nicaragua
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 7 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 58
  • Vitola: Salomon
  • MSRP: $35 (Box of 8, $280)
  • Release Date: February 2021
  • Number of Cigars Released: 2,500 Boxes of 8 (20,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

From a visual perspective, the Plasencia Year of the Ox is an imposing sight, with its large size, bulbous foot and a golden brown wrapper that seems to glow in open shade. The wrapper is parchment rough to the touch and features a number of prominent veins, while one sample has a huge soft spot—more of a crater really—just under the secondary band. Aroma from the wrapper and foot is a combination of sweet cedar, earth, barnyard, generic nuts and slight cookie sweetness while the cold draw brings flavors of dark chocolate, hay, cedar, peanut shells, leather, earth and a touch of indeterminate sweetness.

Starting out, the first third of the Plasenscia features quite a bit of both black pepper on the retrohale and spice on my tongue, both of which seem strong enough to stick around for a while. Flavors of creamy cedar and peanut butter easily top the profile, followed by secondary notes of leather, gritty earth, roasted coffee beans, nutmeg and slight vegetal. There is some nice—but sadly too mild—floral sweetness on retrohale, but it is often overwhelmed by the aforementioned black pepper that is also present. Construction-wise, the draw is a bit loose after a Dickman cut while the burn is noticeably wavy, but both are still very much in the normal range, and the strength ramps up slowly from a strong mild to a point a bit below the medium mark by the time the first third comes to an end.

Thankfully, the spice on my tongue that was overbearing at a times in the first third of the Year of the Ox has calmed down nicely by the start of the second third, although it is still strong enough to affect the profile at certain points. The main flavors remain the same creamy cedar and peanut butter combination—albeit with a bit less butter and a bit more peanut—while additional notes of earth, tree bark, toasted bread, ground coffee and vegetal flit in and out in various amounts. There is a bit more floral sweetness to be had on the retrohale—or perhaps just slightly less of the black pepper note—but it is still far to light to make much of an impact on the overall profile. In terms of the construction, the burn continues to be far from razor sharp, but also far from needing attention from my lighter, and while the draw remains a bit looser than I would like, it is still easily smokeable. Strength-wise, the Plasencia seems to have stalled just after hitting a solid medium, seemingly content to stay there for the time being.

Unfortunately, the final third of the Plasencia Year of the Ox is a virtual carbon copy of the second third, which was not all that different from the first third. The same two flavors easily outpace any other notes in the profile—cedar and peanut butter—while the additional notes list includes hay, earth, toasted bread, powdery cocoa nibs, ground coffee and very light vegetal flavor. Floral sweetness is still noticeable on the retrohale, but so is the black pepper that has accompanied it thus far, and the spice on my tongue remains a constant companion as well. The construction does feature one change—specifically, a touchup that is needed right as the final third begins—but the draw has changed not at all. That lack of change also extends to the strength level, which stubbornly remains at a solid medium as I put the nub down after more than two hours of smoking time.

Final Notes

  • I really love the color scheme, and feel that it works very well when contrasted against the color of the wrapper.
  • While they are not exactly the same, the red color scheme of the Year of the Ox is extremely similar to that of another Plasencia line, specifically Alma del Fuego. Close enough that if you told someone who was not familiar with Plasencia’s products to “Go get the one with red band”, there is at least a decent chance that person would come back with this cigar.
  • Having said all of the above, there is a reason that most of the cigars made specifically for the Chinese New Year, incorporates the colors of red and gold in the packaging: in Chinese culture, red symbolizes good fortune and joy; while yellow or gold symbolizes wealth. In addition, it packaged in boxes of eight, a lucky number in Chinese culture.

  • Interestingly, the box these cigars come in have magnets built into the edges to help keep the lid shut, a feature that works quite well and something I wish more manufactures would incorporate into their packaging.
  • Plasencia advertises on halfwheel.
  • The cigars smoked for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time for all three samples averaged two hours and 11 minutes.
84 Overall Score

I have enjoyed a number of Plasencia's creations since the company started releasing its own branded products, and the Year of the Ox falls somewhere in the middle of the pack. The profile is full of both cedar and peanut butter—the combination of which becomes a bit tiresome at about the two hour mark—and although there is a noticeable amount of floral sweetness on the retrohale that helps the balance at points, there is never enough to have the major impact that the blend needs. In the end, the Year of the Ox is enjoyable without being phenomenal, hitting a number of good notes while never coming close to taking the next step that would make it a truly memorable cigar.

Brooks Whittington

I have been smoking cigars for over eight years. A documentary wedding photographer by trade, I spent seven years as a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I started the cigar blog SmokingStogie in 2008 after realizing that there was a need for a cigar blog with better photographs and more in-depth information about each release. SmokingStogie quickly became one of the more influential cigar blogs on the internet, known for reviewing preproduction, prerelease, rare, extremely hard-to-find and expensive cigars. I am a co-founder of halfwheel and now serve as an editor for halfwheel.