As you’re likely aware, Quesada Cigars claimed halfwheel’s top cigar of 2017 honors by way of their store exclusive release for Fine Ash Cigars in Avondale, Ariz., the Quesada Reserva Privada Barber Pole Corona Gorda.

Yet while that cigar garnered some incredibly well-deserved attention, it wasn’t the first project between the cigar manufacturer and cigar retailer, and it wasn’t even the first corona gorda they released. That honor goes to the Quesada Reserva Privada Fine Ash Cigars 5th Anniversary, a 6 1/2 x 46 vitola released in April 2016.

When Quesada started previewing the Reserva Privada at the 2015 Procigar Festival, it was billed as one of the company’s most premium offerings up to that point, and for good reason. The cigar is built around a very specific and special binder tobacco, Dominican San Vicente from 1997 that was the final crop planted and harvested before the untimely death of Manuel Quesada Sr. in 1998. Manuel Quesada Jr. notes that the crop was also special for its physical characteristics, with the plants all the same height and the central leaves all the same size, something he attributes to an even spread of nutrients in the field. He called the crop cosecha pareja, or “even harvest.”

Additionally, the cigar had the hands of three generations of the Quesada family on it: Manuel Quesada Sr. via some of the tobacco; Manuel Quesada Jr. by way of more of the tobacco as well as his ownership of the company and factory; and the fifth generation of the Quesada family, which includes Patricia and Raquel Quesada, Manuel Jr.’s daughters, Hostos Fernández Quesada, Jose Manuel Bermudez, and Terence Reilly, his nephews; and Esther Quesada, his niece.

When it got its soft launch in April 2015 and eventual widespread launch that summer, there were three sizes available in the line:

  • Quesada Reserva Privada Robusto (4 1/2 x 52, $12.95)
  • Quesada Reserva Privada Toro (5 5/8 x 54, $13.95)
  • Quesada Reserva PrivadaToro Gordo (6 1/2 x 56, $14.95)
While it was said that even with the limited amount of the 1997 filler, the line should be able to be produced for a couple more years, the idea of putting out another size didn’t seem the most likely thing to happen.
And then it did.
The Quesada Reserva Privada Fine Ash Cigars 5th Anniversary got a slightly modified version of the Reserva Privada’s blend; while the blend of an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, Dominican criollo binder from 1997 and fillers of Dominican tobacco—including San Vicente—and Pennsylvania ligero remain, the cigar didn’t get the year of aging after being rolled that the regular production line did.
With Fine Ash Cigars’ owners, Sam and Rosie Lopez, preparing for the store’s move to a new location that is scheduled to have its grand opening on April 14, it seemed a reasonable time to revisit the Quesada Reserva Privada Fine Ash Cigars 5th Anniversary almost two years since I first smoked it.

Here’s what I said about the Quesada Reserva Privada Fine Ash Cigars 5th Anniversary when I reviewed it in May 2016:

Much like I enjoyed the robusto vitola, I really enjoy this corona gorda version of the Quesada Reserva Privada, and in particular, when the right piece of ligero ends up in the blend and is allowed to show off all of its best attributes. I almost feel bad saying that consistency is the biggest hindrance to this cigar’s score, but in many ways it is. While the Reserva Privada isn’t the most complex cigar I’ve ever smoked, it still manages to keep the palate fully engaged, but each sample had a bit of a Goldilocks problem: the first cigar seemed too mild, the second too brash, while the third was just right, to borrow from the fairly tale. I wasn’t disappointed by any of them, and I certainly don’t think most conscious palates will be either, but I’d suggest picking up a few to see the range of experiences that this blend offers.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Quesada Reserva Privada Fine Ash Cigars 5th Anniversary
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: Quesada Cigars
  • Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut
  • Binder: Dominican Criollo (1997)
  • Filler: Dominican Republic (San Vicente) & Pennsylvania Ligero
  • Length: 6 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 46
  • Vitola: Corona Gorda
  • MSRP: $12.95 (Boxes of 12, $155.40)
  • Release Date: April 3, 2016
  • Number of Cigars Released: 500 Boxes of 12 Cigars (6,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Redux: 1

While it’s not in the name of the cigar, the Quesada Reserva Privada Fine Ash Cigars 5th Anniversary reminds me how much I like the corona gorda vitola; it’s sizable without being girthy, and elegant without being affected. This particular example with its golden wrapper is particularly attractive, with only some thin, dark vein lines and visual seam lines as a minor visual distraction, at least on the tobacco itself. An interesting fold on the band creates a ridge that lifts the paper off of the cigar, though I’m not overly bothered by it. The leaf itself feels very soft in the fingers, though the core of the cigar is firm, offering just a bit of give when gently inspected. The cigar for this redux has been stored in cellophane and the fairly delicate notes from the foot as well as my olfactory nerves are the beneficiaries. There’s a bit of floral sweetness up front, followed by a hint at sourdough bread, buttered popcorn, and closed out by fruit cup syrup. The cold draw is smooth and easy but shows none of the sweetness found with the nose, instead leaning more towards buttered bread and rolls, with still no appreciable pepper to be found.

The first puffs of the Quesada Reserva Privada Fine Ash Cigars 5th Anniversary are a bit of a departure from what the cold draw and aroma would suggest, leaning towards bread up front but with a solid backing of earthy robustness and the emergence of some black pepper. Much I like remember from this cigar when I first smoked it, the burn line moves quickly, and I’m through the first inch before I know it and before the ash suddenly breaks off. The robust earthiness begins to fade slowly after, with some white pepper coming trout on the retrohale and the smoke beginning to refine itself to become rather soft and light in the mouth. A bit of mint comes along to redirect the profile, and where there a bit more creaminess in the profile, I’d peg it in line with mint ice cream. It’s a fleeting note, however, and while the cigar picks up a bit of creaminess to thicken the texture of the smoke, it revisits the thick bread and earthiness from earlier on, though it is much more well-rounded and balanced this time around. The cigar has burned beautifully with ample smoke production, the flavor peaking at medium and strength at medium-minus.

There’s isn’t much in the way of drastic changes from the Quesada Reserva Privada Fine Ash Cigars 5th Anniversary as the burn line crosses the midway point, though the smoothness of the smoke continues to catch my attention and garner points. It’s not long after that the cigar changes gear a bit, suddenly picking up a much more robust earthiness thanks to some tame but potent black pepper that goes after both the front of the tongue and back of the throat, while the overall profile gets a bit rockier and vibrant, so much so that I wouldn’t be pegging this as a cigar with two years of rest on it, let alone a now 21-year-old filler as its centerpiece. It’s an interesting balance that continues to evolve through the tail end of the second third and almost the entire final third, slowly backing off the rockiness, only to trade it for some increased sharpness from the heat of the cigar’s core that adds a metallic bite to the cigar’s finish. It’s not the best closing puffs I’ve ever had from a cigar, but it doesn’t stop me from taking it down to a rather small nub after an hour and 40 minutes of smoking.

89 Overall Score

Time has been remarkably gentle to the Quesada Reserva Privada Fine Ash Cigars 5th Anniversary, both in leaving most of the core flavors alone while also smoothing out some of the rougher spots that existed when the cigar was released. The first two thirds remain markedly different from the final third, something that was shown in the original review, yet also varied between the samples quite dramatically. This particular cigar didn't seem to show the full strength of the Pennsylvania ligero, but it certainly stepped up its strength and robustness in the final third, turning it from a relative medium into a medium-plus conclusion. While this isn't as good as the Quesada Reserva Privada Barber Pole Corona Gorda, it's still a worthwhile smoke, that also happens to still be available from the store.

Original Score (May 2016)
Redux Score (April 2018)

Patrick Lagreid

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, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.