Billed as one the most premium offerings in the company’s profile, the Quesada Reserva Privada also has the distinction of being the cigar selected by Sam & Rosie Lopez to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Fine Ash Cigars, their store in Avondale, Ariz.

Quesada first previewed the Reserva Privada at the 2015 Procigar Festival, the annual celebration of the Dominican cigar industry. Heralded as the most premium cigar that the company has ever created, with Manuel “Manolo” Quesada Jr. describing the cigar as having roots in three generations. A portion of the the filler tobacco was planted and picked before his father, Manuel Sr. passed away in 1998, while the boxes come from the fifth generation of the family, with a younger and more modern aesthetic that includes a hologram on the inside.

More specifically, the cigar is centered around a crop of 1997 Dominican San Vicente tobacco that was particularly special but which had yet to find a use. Quesada, Jr. said that the plants were all the same height and produced central leaves of the same size, something that was the result of an even spread of the nutrients in the field. He called this particular crop cosecha pareja, or “even harvest.”

Quesada Reserva Privada Fine Ash Cigars 5th Anniversary Box 1 Quesada Reserva Privada Fine Ash Cigars 5th Anniversary Box 2 Quesada Reserva Privada Fine Ash Cigars 5th Anniversary Box 3 Quesada Reserva Privada Fine Ash Cigars 5th Anniversary Box 4

The line made its retail debut via a soft launch in April 2015 with three sizes released: Robusto (4 1/2 x 52, $12.95), Toro (5 5/8 x 54, $13.95) and Toro Gordo (6 1/2 x 56, $14.95). It then got a full release at the 2015 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, though due to the limited amount of tobacco from that 1997 crop, total production is limited, though the company said it should be able to produce the line for a couple more years.

This new size is a 6 1/2 x 46 corona gorda that gets a slightly modified version of the Reserva Privada 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.

Quesada Reserva Privada Fine Ash Cigars 5th Anniversary 1

  • 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 Review: 3

The Quesada Reserva Privada Fine Ash Cigars 5th Anniversary is a beautifully rolled cigar, with its presentation hampered only by a few prominent veins that rise up from the capa and make themselves known even under a wrapped layer. The cap appears well-applied, though it’s an inspection of the head of the cigar that reveals a look at the band, which appears to have been torn to shorten it and fit the corona gorda vitola, or if nothing less cut with less than sharp scissors and not straight enough to have it not catch my eye. From the foot I get a very faint note of buttered popcorn followed by some light, generic fruit sweetness that leans towards somewhat bland apple if anything. The cold draw is just the slightest bit tight and gives off an ever-so-slightly oily impression at first that is consistent with the buttery note I picked up from the cold draw. After that comes more faint notes of cereal grain and breads with a bit of sweetness and no pepper to be found.

I don’t want to call the first puffs of this Quesada Reserva Privada sour, because in all truth they’re not, but I do get some hints of sourdough bread and metals right out of the chute that gets that thought to cross my mind. The flavor doesn’t last terribly long before moving on a mild offering of warmed bread for a few puffs, and depending on the sample take on a toastier profile at times. The sensations provided to the nose and palate begin to separate at this point, with the former getting a warmer, slightly peppery some that starting to show some thickness, while the latter gets a creamier and pepper-deprived flavor, making me think of melted ice cream in terms of the sensation it leaves behind. While the ash reveals itself as near-white when, it quickly grays to a number of shades as it builds to well over an inch in length. Much like my experience with the robusto, it becomes easy to see that the ligero will play quite a role in determining the cigar’s profile; two samples have generally be on the mild side with minimal amounts of pepper, while the third is much more potent and pepper-forward. Construction so far has been outstanding with a crisp and even burn line, rock-steady ash and a zen-like draw.

Quesada Reserva Privada Fine Ash Cigars 5th Anniversary 2

While the first third and the beginning of the second third have the Quesada Reserva Privada Fine Ash Cigars 5th Anniversary staying on the mild side, it doesn’t take too long for pepper to get introduced into the profile, moving down from the nose to the middle of the tongue and adding a slightly toasty, slighty charred note to things. The flavors remain on the delicate side while building up strength and slowly becoming more forward, with a bit of the sourdough bread coming back just past the midpoint to provide more complexity and nuance to the profile. On one sample—the strongest and seemingly most ligero-laden of the three—an incredible aroma of warm, lightly herb-coated nuts comes along just past the midpoint and really helps the cigar sing; The final puffs of the second third are where I find the cigar’s first true evolution, building up the warm bread notes before bringing in a bit of pepper to add depth and complexity, setting the stage for what could be a vastly different final third.

Quesada Reserva Privada Fine Ash Cigars 5th Anniversary 3

While far from overpowering, the pepper becomes much more prominent in the final third of the Quesada Reserva Privada and gives it a level of strength that I have had yet to experience. It’s also where the most variance in the cigar is noticed, and in particular, how the cigar comes across to the senses. With such a mild blend surrounding the ligero, it doesn’t have a lot of competing or complementary flavors to shield or support it, meaning that a particularly potent piece will be particularly vigorous on the palate. However, a rich and juicy piece of ligero is allowed to show off all of its glorious sweetness and strength in one sample, with notes that jump from jerk glaze to peanut butter in an unfortunately all-too-brief showing. The burn line starts to get a bit uneven with just under two inches to go, the first such time it hasn’t been near perfect, but all other aspects of the cigar have been flawless. A slightly more charred and sharp note of pepper that goes after the tip of the tongue takes the cigar to its conclusion, which for me comes right at the point I’d have to employ a draw poker to get any more out of it.

Quesada Reserva Privada Fine Ash Cigars 5th Anniversary 4

Final Notes

  • It’s not everyday that a hologram appears on a cigar band, and while it’s fairly subtle on the Quesada Reserva Privada, it doesn’t go unnoticed.
  • Also not going unnoticed is the construction on these cigars; they are incredibly impressive and darn close to perfect.
  • As I say with every release such as this, I would have really liked for there to be a secondary band added that denotes just what this particular cigar is.
  • This is also why I advocate having a supply of blank cigar bands on hand so that you can add a note or two to the cigar and remind yourself what it is, when you bought it  and so forth.
  • As noted in my review of the robusto, the phrase Quesada Reserva is repeated eight times on the band, yet the word Privada doesn’t appear at all.
  • There’s a bit of color variation on the box between the primary Quesada logo and the text denoting that this is a special release. It works, but when colors are similar yet different, it seems to be that much more noticeable.
  • The Quesada Reserva Privada Oscuro is scheduled to ship to TAA retailers in the spring, and it will feature a corona gorda in the same size as this release.
  • Avondale is located about 22 miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, on the west side of what’s collectively known as “the valley.”
  • Quesada was the first company to roll cigars in Santiago’s original free trade zone,. That factory was known as Manufactura de Tabacos S.A., or MATASA, it moved in late 2011.
  • Just like on the regular release sizes, the bottom of the corona gorda box bears a gold foil stamp that says “12 Premium Cigars, Made by Hand with Love, At The Quesada Cigars Factory, Licey, Dominican Republic.” It’s become one of my favorite touches to a piece of packaging in recent memory.
  • The third sample, which happened to be the strongest, was also by far the slowest to burn, finishing closest to an hour and 45 minutes, while the others were more like an hour and 20 minutes.
  • Final smoking time was one hour and 25 minutes on average.
  • Quesada advertises halfwheel.
  • The cigars for this review were provided by Fine Ash Cigars.
  • The only place to get the Quesada Reserva Privada Fine Ash Cigars 5th Anniversary is Fine Ash Cigars in Avondale, Ariz. You can also reach the store by phone at 623.444.7230. Be sure to tell them you heard about it on halfwheel.
87 Overall Score

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.

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.