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Two years ago, Powstanie entered the limited edition cigar arena with SBC 16, a barber pole design with a distinct look and bold band. After a year off, the cigar returned with the fitting name change to SBC 18, as well as a change to the primary wrapper, but kept pretty much everything else the same as the original.

That means a 5 1/2 x 46 corona gorda vitola with the primary wrapper now a Mexican San Andrés leaf in place of the original’s Pennsylvania broadleaf. The accents still come by way of an Ecuadorian Connecticut leaf, while the binder and filler both hail from Nicaragua.

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The packaging remains largely the same as well, with 20-count wood boxes bearing the company’s red, stylized P logo, and pricing set at $16 per cigar. The company produced just 250 boxes, meaning a total run of 5,000 cigars. One notable change is that this year’s version went to a natural wood color for the box instead of the red paint, while the bands also updated from silver on black to black on red.

  • Powstanie SBC 16 (5 1/2 x 46) — 2016 — 250 Boxes of 20 Cigars (5,000 Total Cigars)
  • Powstanie SBC 18 (5 1/2 x 46) — 2018 — 250 Boxes of 20 Cigars (5,000 Total Cigars)

As for the name, while it would make sense that it could stand for Szczepankewicz Brothers Cigar given the last name of brothers Mike and Greg who founded the brand and related companies, it actually stands for surrounded by champions. A description inside the box of the original explains the meaning:

This truly limited cigar has a production of only 250 boxes. It’s important to recognize that great accomplishments require the team to be successful. Too often we see success only as a face of a single man. Surrounded by Champions 16 is a cigar that pays homage to the people that made Powstanie possible. The main ingredient of greatness is the rest of the team.

The cigars, like the rest of the Powstanie line, are produced at Fabrica de Tabacos NicaSueño S.A. in Estelí, Nicaragua, best known as being the home of RoMa Craft Tobac.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Powstanie SBC 18
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Fabrica de Tabacos NicaSueño S.A.
  • Wrapper: Mexico (San Andrés) & Ecuador Connecticut
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 5 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 46
  • Vitola: Corona Gorda
  • MSRP: $16 (Boxes of 20, $320)
  • Release Date: September 2018
  • Number of Cigars Released: 250 Boxes of 20 Cigars (5,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

The Powstanie SBC 18 looks immediately familiar thanks to its barber pole design and thick, glossy red band with the graffiti-style black text on it, which while updated is instantly recognizable if you’re familiar with the first installment. It’s a firm cigar, with closer inspection revealing a few dips in the roll but otherwise no major construction issues, particularly as it pertains to the barber pole and caps. The foot of the cigar offers raisin sweetness out of the gate, quickly developing into a more developed, moist raisin bread, though samples show some variance in how intensely that sweetness manifests. The cold draw is a bit firm but doesn’t require extra effort, while the flavor has more of the raisin bread note but without the overt sweetness, with a bit of very dry cedar and a sprinkle of pepper in the background, and the occasional bit of graham cracker sweetness and peanut.

The Powstanie SBC 18 starts off fairly innocuously with a familiar profile of woods, pepper, a bit of leather, some earth and just a slight bit of sweet creaminess filling the spaces between the other flavors. It’s quite enjoyable and seems well suited to be the first cigar of the day. An early retrohale shows the smoke to be on the peppery side, but again far from all-encompassing of what the cigar has to offer. The ash builds up quite nicely, meaning this qualifies for my once-a-year stack of dimes reference. Nerves take over and I tap it off, and the cigar begins to pivot just a bit to include a bit of clean chalk and white pepper through the nose, while the gravitas of the earth departs and leaves a lighter bodied impression on the tongue. The cigar is smoking beautifully through the first third, with no draw or smoke production issues and a very clean burn line. Strength has settled in comfortably just shy of medium, while the body has backed off a bit and hits that same mark.

The start of the second third sees the Powstanie SBC 18 develop a bit more earth in the profile, a sensation reinforced by a bit of coffee and coffee grounds. It’s not overtly robust, but the changes are noticeable and eventually become readily apparent. Around the midpoint, the cigar has become just a bit drier, and as such, the mouth feels like it’s drying out a bit as well. There’s also a bit more black pepper beginning to manifest in the profile, with the heavier samples showing more of it and leaving more of an impression on the tongue after each puff. If you like white pepper, the retrohales of the SBC 18 are quite enjoyable as they offer very clean and tingling white pepper that stimulate the olfactory nerves without overpowering them. The SBC 18 sits at an increasingly pepper-forward profile in the tail end of the second third, still medium in body and flavor, but offering more in the way of stimulation to the senses. The technical performance remains stellar as well.

Entering the final third, the first Powstanie SBC 18 I smoked hits a bit of a snag as the burn line goes awry, but it is an issue quickly remedied with a touch-up from a lighter. The ash also begins to flower and crack a bit more, though again, it’s nothing I’m overly concerned about. Flavor-wise, the white pepper has receded a bit. In terms of flavor, the profile moves away from the heavier notes it showed earlier, picking up a bit of fragrant dry cedar in the aroma, with the flavor steadily become present on the tongue. There’s still some white pepper to be found, with some samples toying with a bit of creaminess in the final inches. Even with less than two inches to go, the cigar shows it has plenty left to deliver, quickly pivoting back to black pepper and a black coffee note, which wakes the front of the tongue up quite quickly. As the smoke gets hot thanks to the approach of the burning center, a bit of sourness enters the very final puffs of the SBC 18 and goes after the tip of the tongue, signaling that the time has come to put the cigar to rest after a very enjoyable and impressive flavor journey.

Final Notes

  • People often find it interesting when I tell them that there are left-handed and right-handed cigar leaves, but barber poles such as the Powstanie SBC 18 are a perfect example of this. A quick look at a box will show the stripe going in two directions, a reflection of how the cigar is rolled differently based on which half of the tobacco leaf is being used for the wrapper.
  • For those curious, Powstanie is pronounced poh-shan-yah.
  • Brian Burt visited the Powstanie booth at the 2018 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, where Mike Szczepankiewicz talked about the cigar.
  • Also for those curious, Szczepankiewicz is pronounced shep-PAHN-keh-vitch. At least, that’s how I’d write it phonetically. You can hear Mike pronounce it in the video if you’re interested.
  • As someone who pronounces a lot of names due to my voice over and public address announcing work, I find names like this absolutely fascinating.
  • For as wonderfully as the first sample burned, the second one seemed to struggle. I’m not sure if I was a bit more distracted or just not in rhythm with it, but it needed a couple of relights whereas the first didn’t need any.
  • Other than a bit of lingering sourness and tingle from the white pepper and chalk, I didn’t feel a ton of strength or lasting impact from the Powstanie SBC 18.
  • The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time was one hour and 30 minutes on average.
  • Site sponsor Atlantic Cigar Co. carries the Powstanie SBC 18.
92 Overall Score

If you've read the above notes, there's little more I can say about the Powstanie SBC 18 other than that is simply a fantastic and very enjoyable cigar. It excels in balance, complexity and flavor progressions, while the construction, draw and burn are icing on the proverbial cake. Where other limited editions have fallen short, this cigar excels, and makes it worthy of its price tag and the search to find. This is a cigar I enjoyed from start to finish, and one I know I'll be seeking out again and would easily recommend nearly anyone to do so as well.

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Patrick Lagreid
About the author

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 the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.

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