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As has become relatively common fare at the IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, larger companies will select booths bigger than their own needs and then sublet some of the space to others. This year, perhaps no one had more subletters than Espinosa Premium Cigars.

One of those is Cubariqueño Cigar Co., creators of the Protocol line of cigars—and now, Protocol Probable Cause.

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Like the original line, Probable Cause is made at Erik Espinosa’s La Zona Cigar Factory in Estelí, and it uses a Mexican San Andrés maduro wrapper over a Nicaraguan binder and Nicaraguan fillers. It’s offered in two sizes: Robusto (5 x 52, $9.69) and Churchill (6 1/2 x 48, $9.89), both of which come in 10-count boxes and feature closed feet, though the Churchill is box-pressed and the Robusto is round.

While the line got a formal debut at the IPCPR Convention & Trade Show in July, it first hit shelves in late May at an event at Berkley Humidor, a store owned by Bill Agathis, who is also a co-owner in Cubariqueño Cigar Co.

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  • Cigar Reviewed: Protocol Probable Cause Churchill
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: La Zona Cigar Factory
  • Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 48
  • Vitola: Churchill
  • MSRP: $9.89 (Boxes of 10, $98.90)
  • Release Date: May 21, 2016
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

There’s some odd light speckling, like a sand color, on what is otherwise a reddish-brown wrapper. The Protocol has a soft, rectangular press with sweet Hershey’s chocolate and some manure. On one cigar the cocoa overwhelms the manure, err barnyard, on the other two it’s quite the opposite. The smell from the bottom of the cigars is consistent: sweeter chocolate, some redwoods, roasted coffee and faint hints of manure. While the aroma is pretty strong, the cold draw is only around medium with a fairly well-balanced mixture of sweet cocoa, peanut butter and some meatiness that reminds me of turkey cold cuts. On one sample, I get a distinct mango, but it’s missing on the others.

As soon as the smoke hits my palate there’s a rush of flavors, though it’s only medium and they are quick. Breads, mild spice, bittersweet cocoa, some meatiness and a touch of floral flavors through the nose. It’s easy to dismiss the intro as just a typical earthy Nicaraguan profile as the flavors cycle through quickly, but if I’m forced to pay attention, I find quite a bit of details. That continues as I get into the Probable Cause’s first third, which once again could be summed up: earthy. I do find pinecone, redwoods and a bitter cocoa. The finish has a dry pasta flavor along with some herbs. There’s also the pepper, which is pretty strong and centered on the tongue and top of the mouth. Construction is good, other than a relatively slow burn and a touch-up that is needed on one cigar. Strength is medium-plus, but it definitely seems like it wants to build.

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The profile dries out quite a bit in the second third, particularly in the mouth where there’s crushed peanuts, oak and some earthiness. Fortunately, retrohales of the Probable Cause have some mango and a vanilla bean sweetness which contrasts very well. The finish is even drier with oak and unsalted cracker. There’s a finicky pepper that comes and goes, though when it’s there it builds into the finish. Construction is quite similar to the first third, not a perfect burn, though not one where I find my lighter needed. Strength is just entering the medium-full range, though it appears its acceleration has slowed dramatically.

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While the Probable Cause still has a dry profile, it does change pretty dramatically. The flavors require a bit more effort to identify, but I’m able to pick up acorns, a generic meatiness, some odd berry flavors, creaminess and some saltiness—though almost all of it is through the nose. The finish remains drier with peanut shells dominating. As for the pepper, it’s reduced a bit and is now in the back of the throat. Construction remains great staying cool even with less than an inch left.

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Final Notes

  • Both Juan Cancel and Bill Ives, two of the other partners in Cubariqueno Cigar Co., are law enforcement officers, which makes sense given both the protocol and probable cause names.
  • The bokeh, the effect you get when you take a picture with a shallow depth of field and an object in front is in focus while the background blurs, of the band is really cool. It almost makes the Protocol logo look like a 3D object.
  • The company described the cigar’s strength as “medium”—I found it to be much more “medium-full.”
  • Espinosa Premium Cigar advertises on halfwheel.
  • Cigars for this review were given to halfwheel by Cubariqueno Cigar Co. at the 2016 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show.
  • Final smoking time is two hours and 30 minutes.
87 Overall Score

I’m curious to see what Patrick Lagreid, our resident San Andrés philosopher, has to say about the Probable Cause. To me, it’s one of the San Andrés cigars that can show complexities of the wrapper that is oftentimes very homogenous despite the manufacturer. A couple construction nicks and an extremely dry profile are my only issues here—and even those are minor. Overall, the Probable Cause is a good cigar and one that I’d gladly smoke again.

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Charlie Minato
About the author

I am an editor and co-founder of halfwheel.com/Rueda Media, LLC. I previously co-founded and published TheCigarFeed, one of the two predecessors of halfwheel. I handle the editing of our written content, the majority of the technical aspects of the site and work with the rest of our staff on content management, business development and more. I’ve lived in most corners of the country and now entering my second stint in Dallas, Texas. I enjoy boxing, headphones, the Le Mans 24-hour, wearing sweatshirts year-round and gyros. echte liebe.

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