In 1857—156 years ago—Dante became one of the first brands to use lithographed labels. It is the same brand also credited as being the first to market their product with pictorial labels.
Fast forward to 2013 and a new Dante brand is being released next week. Owned and distributed by Mike Huff and Mo Fakhro, who are the general manager and owner, respectively, of Cigar Connection in Arlington, Va. The initial blend is a combination of Mexican San Andrés Maduro wrapper and the filler and binder tobaccos coming from Nicaragua.
From the Dante Cigars Website:
Hidden amidst the dangerous shadows of the Underworld, buried deep in its smokiest corner, lay a cigar so tempting it aroused the Wicked One’s envy: Dante. After years of perilous searching, we managed to retrieve this devilishly delicious smoke and now introduce it to you. A reimagination of its turn-of-the-century namesake, Dante balances strength, spice, and sweetness . . . with a diabolical twist. Hand made by master rollers in Miami using the finest Aganorsa leaf, Dante reflects the pinnacle of premium boutique cigars. We made a deal with the devil so you wouldn’t have to.
The idea behind the naming of all of the cigars as well as the brand name itself comes from either Dante Alighieri’s name or his poem, The Divine Comedy, which was written sometime between 1308 and 1321. Both the Petite Corona and the Corona Gorda vitolas have names that are from the poem—Imp and Asmodeus respectively—and each of the five cigars names or vitolas are preceded with Canto, which is the name for a major form of dividing up a long poem.
Michael Huff adds some details behind his reason for the Dante name:
This is a re-imagining of the early 1900s brand which was made in the states. Which is one reason why we wanted to do it in Miami, to keep part of its history alive. The boxes utilize the image of Dante on the box top.
The story of the Divine Comedy is very close to my heart. I wrote on about its many parts during my time at university studying the history and symbolism of religion. It still remains to this day one of the greatest works in history, so to be able to pay homage to it again in my first cigar brand was an opportunity i could not pass up.
At launch, there will be five different vitolas in the Dante lineup. They are:
- Canto I: The Imp (Petite Corona) – (4 x 44) – 100 Boxes of 45 (4,500 Total Cigars) — $8.50 (Boxes of 45, $382.50)
- Canto II: Short Belicoso – (4 1/4 x 52) – 200 Boxes of 20 (4,500 Total Cigars) — $11.00 (Boxes of 20, $220.00)
- Canto III: Robusto – (5 x 50) – 200 Boxes of 20 (4,500 Total Cigars) — $10.50 (Boxes of 20, $210.00)
- Canto IV: Toro – (6 1/2 x 52) – 200 Boxes of 20 (4,500 Total Cigars) — $11.50 (Boxes of 20, $230.00)
- Canto V: Asmodeus (Corona Gorda) – (5 1/2 x 46) – 200 Boxes of 20 (4,500 Total Cigars) — $11.30 (Boxes of 20, $226.00)
All of the vitolas of the Dante cigars are sold in boxes of 20 except for The Imp, which come in boxes of 45. Here are what the boxes look like:
Cigar Reviewed: Dante Canto I: The Imp
Country of Origin: USA
Factory: Casa Fernandez Miami
Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés
Size: 4 Inches
Ring Gauge: 44
Vitola: Petite Corona
MSRP: $8.50 (Boxes of 45, $382.50)
Release Date: April 2013
Number of Cigars Released: 100 Boxes of 45 Cigars (4,500 Total Cigars)
Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 2
The Imp is an interesting looking cigar with a very dark espresso brown wrapper that is fairly smooth to the touch. There is some slight oil present and a nice—yet small—pigtail glued to the cap. The aroma coming off of the wrapper is a combination of strong barnyard, hay, dark chocolate, coffee and a touch of black pepper.
The Dante Imp starts off immediately after lighting with a very strong black pepper note intermingled with just a touch of cinnamon heat that is evident not only on the retrohale but on the tongue as well. The retrohale is punishing for about 10 puffs or so, then begins to calm down, allowing me to taste other flavors of espresso, earth, leather and oak. There is a dark fruit note in the background that I can’t place as of yet, but it is enjoyable and adds to the overall profile. Construction-wise, the draw is just a bit open, but the burn is fine and there is an above average amount of smoke emanating from the foot. Overall strength falls just short of the medium mark by the end of the first third.
Coming into the second third of the Dante Imp, and the black pepper and cinnamon notes that was so strong from the first third has dissipated by at least half, but are still a major part of the profile. Flavors of dark and slightly bitter espresso, chocolate, leather, gritty earth and grass shift in and out, and the dark sweetness from the first third has become identifiable as a raisin note. The draw has tightened up nicely and the burn is still fine, while the smoke production shows no sign of letting up anytime soon. The strength has increased slightly and is solidly in the medium category when the second third draws to a close.
The final third of the Dante Imp sees more of the raisin sweetness and the gritty earth notes take the dominant spots in the profile, although other flavors of wood, hay, espresso, dark chocolate and cloves are also present. There is a meatiness to the overall profile that shows up right around when the final third starts and stays that way until the end of the cigar. The construction continues to be fine, and the smoke production continues to be above average. The overall strength ends up solidly between the medium and full marks, and the nub stayed cool until I was ready to put it down.
- Normally with cigars that have pigtails on them, I just pull the pigtails off the cap, and that is usually enough to open up a channel to smoke, but that was not enough with these cigars, and I had to cut each on of them.
- In case you are wondering, it is not a mistake that there is no Canto V at launch. According to Michael Huff:
The 5.5×46 is my favorite size, so I gave it the number VI (6) because I was born on the 6th of April. A further meaning is that Canto 6 in Dante’s Inferno takes place in the 3rd circle, where gluttony resides. when I blend a cigar, I want to smoke it in the 5.5×46 vitola. I want to make sure that everything I want out of a cigar (flavor, aroma, appearance, etc) can be found in that size. In my mind, I want this particular vitola to FEED all the wants of the cigar smoker.
- There will be two new vitolas of the Dante line released at the IPCPR show in July: the Canto VI (7 x 50) and the Canto VII (6 1/2 x 60).
- According to Huff, there will eventually be nine vitolas in the Dante line to symbolize the nine Rings of Hell in the poem.
- Another interesting fact is that the violas with separate names are the sizes that Huff himself likes to smoke the most. Says Huff:
As this line grows and I add sizes that I personally enjoy smoking, like a lancero, corona gorda, corona, Lonsdale etc, I will give them a demonic or angelic name to identify them as a personal favorite.
- I absolutely love the color scheme (red and gold on a black background) and simplicity of the band, but I really wish the actual name Dante was more obviously embossed, as I think that would add that little extra something in regards to the band.
- In his most popular incarnation, Asmodeus is known as a King of demons and one of the Seven Princes of Hell.
- I was quite surprised at how slow this cigar burned, and both samples final smoking time was right at just under an hour.
- I smoked two of the Imps and two of the Asmodeus (Corona Gorda) vitola to compare to each other, and the differences are extremely noticeable. The Asmodeus viola is noticeably creamier, sweeter and does not have near as much black pepper on the retrohale at any point during the cigar. However, the basic profiles are extremely similar overall. Basically, if you are looking for a stronger, more peppery smoke up front, go with the Imp. If you are looking for a more creamy, sweeter version with a little less strength, go with the Asmodeus.
- Oliva produces a house blend for Famous Smoke Shop named after the first part of Dante’s most famous work, Inferno
- There seems to be a renewed interest in releasing smaller vitolas made to be stronger than average, especially by boutique manufacturers. Other recent examples include the Viva Republica Guerrilla Warfare and the Ezra Zion TANTRUM.
- I am very interested to see how these specific vitolas age, and what they will taste like in a year or so.
- The samples for this review were provided by Dante to halfwheel.
- The final smoking time of the Imp was surprisingly long, and ended up averaging about 55 minutes for both samples smoked.
While I was not overly surprised at the onslaught of black pepper and hot cinnamon at the forefront of the cigar—especially considering the name—I was surprised at how well those two notes blended with the rest of the flavors in the cigar in the final two-thirds. I was also happily surprised at just how much I liked it. Dark, earthy, strong and with a surprising amount of complexity for such a small cigar, this is a nice stick to enjoy when you want that specific profile but don't want to spend two hours smoking it . A very nice cigar for a debut release of a brand.