Heading into the 2013 IPCPR Convention and Trade Show, one of my most anticipated cigars was the Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary. Not only was it going to be the only true new release for the company and thus their showpiece, it was a milestone cigar coming from a company fresh off winning Cigar Aficionado’s #1 Cigar of 2012 and who was one of the most well-known and talked about manufacturers in the industry.

As mentioned above, the DPG 10 was given center stage at the My Father booth, as both the My Father and Jaime Garcia Limited Editions were shelved for the year so as to not distract from this release. The only other new release it had to compete with was El Centurion, which had been released a few months prior and had largely exhausted its new-release buzz.

Given the nature of this cigar, it’s only fair to include a brief history of Don Pepín García and just how he got to this point of celebrating the 10th anniversary of his own company.

José Garcia was born on October 24, 1950 in the town Villa Clara province in Cuba and began working in his uncle’s cigar factory in the town of Báez, also in Villa Clara, in December 1961 when he was just 11 years old. Less than 18 months later, he moved on to the Félix Rodríguez export cigar factory, where he worked until 2001 when he left Cuba for Nicaragua.

Upon arriving in Nicaragua, he went to work for Tabacalera Tropical, a company that was started by Pedro Martin before being acquired by Eduardo Fernandez of AGANORSA in 2002.

In June 2002, he founded El Rey de los Habanos, Inc. and opened a small factory in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. He became known for a cigar that bore that name, as well as others including the Don Pepin Garcia Blue Label, the Don Pepin Garcia Cuban Classic (aka the Black Edition), the Don Pepin Garcia Series JJ, and more. He also began working with Pete Johnson and a new line of cigars called Tatuaje, who is also celebrating a 10th anniversary this year.

It bears mentioning that the history of El Rey de los Habanos and the subsequently formed My Father Cigars S.A. is not without its bumpy spots. Charlie Minato explained in detail a lawsuit filed by Fernandez against the García family. His article goes into much further detail about the history of the company and is highly recommended reading. The lawsuit was settled in September 2011.

What began as El Rey de los Habanos, Inc. has morphed and evolved into what we now know as My Father Cigars, the Doral, Fla. based company with a pair of factories in Nicaragua and has become one of the biggest names in the cigar industry, with a trio of faces representing the company, as Pepín’s children, Jaime and Janny, have stepped to the forefront of the company, each with their own blends of cigars and as much of a presence as their father.

In halfwheel’s coverage of the My Father Cigars booth at the 2013 IPCPR trade show, José Ortega, the company’s VP of Sales, said that the Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary is “very true to the DPG Blue Label,” though due to the Pelo de Oro being added to the filler, it picked up a bit more sweetness. There’s also the very noticeable difference in wrapper: the blue-banded Don Pepin Garcia Original, as it is now called, uses a Nicaraguan Corojo, while the 10th Anniversary uses an Ecuadoran Habano.

Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary Box 1

Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary Box 2

Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary Box 3

Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary Box 4

Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary Box 5

As would be fitting for such a special cigar, the Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary comes in the most ornate packaging the company has used to date, on par with if not surpassing what was used for the first My Father Cigars Limited Edition, released in 2010.

Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary Coffin

The two coffins side-by-side look like this:

My Father Limited Edition 2010 Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary Coffin

Charlie Minato relayed the following experience when it came to the boxes the Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary cigars are packed in:

We opened the box fine at first, but after shutting and it locking the latch, opening the box a second time wasn’t possible. We couldn’t lift the lid more than an inch from its closing point without a significant use of force. The right hinge had actually loosened, causing a nail to come free and kept the side from opening. Ultimately, we realized there was really nothing we could do besides apply extra force, this ripped the hinge out from the side of the box and cracked the wood. It also undid a bit of the left side as well, probably just from the awkward angle and amount of power used to open it.

The problems were far from over. Even using the ribbons to lift the coffin out on the far left, the cigars wouldn’t move out. We heard the wood cracking when we tried pulling out the first coffin, but it didn’t matter, it wasn’t coming out. Eventually, we cut the thinner pieces of wood on the side and used a thin blade to pry the coffin out. If that wasn’t bad enough, all but three of the coffins had a decent amount of lacquer smell on the interior, At this point, the cigars were in a bag with a Boveda, the box is in a few pieces with the lid and bottom completely separated and a whole bunch of empty coffins. It’s a shame in more ways than one.

The original 2010 box, which is the last time My Father used coffins, suffered similar problems as well. The wood warped once it took on humidity making it impossible to shut correctly. For whatever reason, the problem doesn’t seem to affect any of the Jaime Garcia LEs or the 2011 and 2012 My Father LEs, though it should be noted that neither of those projects used coffins and the Jaime Garcia boxes are quite a bit different.

As for the coffins themselves, we’ve photographed the big differences. The 2010’s coffin was quite a bit longer than the cigar itself so it used a packing peanut at the foot to keep it snug in the container, while the DPG 10’s coffin is cut to size. In addition, My Father had a piece of cedar on top of each of the 2010 coffins; there is none on the DPG 10.

Brooks Whittington, ever the stickler for detail, added that despite the above mentioned issues, none of the cigars looked like they suffered any ill effects, describing them as looking “totally untouched.”

Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary Box Hinge

Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary Box Broken

Since 2010, the company has released an annual limited edition in the 6 1/2 x 52 format, the four releases are:

My Father Limited Editions DPG

Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary 1

  • Cigar Reviewed: Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: My Father Cigars S.A.
  • Wrapper: Ecuadoran Habano 2009
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Size:  6 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $22.00 (Boxes of 14, $308.00)
  • Date Released: May 4, 2013*
  • Number of Cigars Released: 2,500 Boxes of 14 Cigars (35,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

*The cigars first debuted at the company’s 10th anniversary party in May, the boxes were not released until August.

The Don Pepin Garcia is an impressive specimen in the hand, its 6 1/2 x 52 Toro vitola is significant, even in a time of much larger ring gauges, possibly attributable to the gravitas of the cigar itself. Between the veins, the Ecuadorian Habano wrapper is fairly smooth with a bit of oiliness to it, its rich brown color uniform from top to bottom. There is so much to take in on the band that it naturally draws your eyes to it; from its royal blue background to the gold lettering, not to mention a thin gold lattice work behind the main text and the crown that sits above it all. The cigar feels well packed from top to bottom, offering a slight bit of give but no overly soft or hard spots. Pre-light aroma offers a bright note of tobacco, truly reminiscent of putting your nose into a stack leaves fresh out of a pilon that’s ready to go into storage. There’s just a touch of musk and some brown sugar sweetness, both fitting complementary notes to the tobacco. The cold draw is just a bit firm, something which generates no objection. The flavors here aren’t very pronounced, offering just a bit of a natural tobacco note with a sprinkling of pepper, and leaving the cigar’s main flavors tucked away until released by the flame.

The Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary doesn’t explode out of the gate, at least in the way that seems to have become almost expected from cigars bearing his name. The flavors are balanced and smooth, with tempered notes of wood and pepper as the opening sequence. It’s in the nose where the cigar makes its first bold move, as the pepper-laden smoke generates much more of a result in the nostrils than in the mouth. I’m a bit surprised by how mellow the flavors are; all very refined, smooth and balanced that seemingly force you to pay attention to their subtleties. Notes of banana bread creep out at times, interspersed with some sweet wood that just barely glance against your taste buds. There is no shortage of smoke coming from the cigar, though it diminishes quite a bit when at rest. The cigar burns about as perfectly as you could ask for, with a sharp burn line and even progression.

Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary 2

After the initial clump of ash breaks off at about an inch in length, the transition to the second third seems to begin in earnest, with a delicate and slightly sweet note starting to come out that reminds me of custard or well made flan. Again, flavors are mellow but incredibly clean, the pepper is about as minimal as could be while still being noticeable, and the balance of the cigar is outstanding. The burn line is sharp and even, while the ash stays tight and holds on well. In terms of attention-grabbing notes, it’s the pepper in the nose where those are found. I’m also a bit surprised by how cool the Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary is – there is little if any noticeable heat coming from the cigar, and it doesn’t seem to be affecting the flavors at all. Right around the midpoint, a touch of chalkiness comes out along with subtle notes of campfire in the smoke that keeps the cigar from fading into the background of whatever else you might be doing while smoking it.

Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary 3

The final third is where the Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary really seems to wake up in terms of flavor and strength, delivering notes of chalk and white pepper to both the nose and tongue. It’s medium-bodied at most, with about as minimal of a nicotine kick as you’ll find from a cigar at this strength level, and those looking for something with more horsepower will likely find this underwhelming. However, what has become readily apparent is that the Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary isn’t about wowing you with big flavors that grab hold of your tongue in an attempt to wrestle it to the mat; rather this is a smooth, seductive dance of delicate notes that demand your full attention and almost force you to block out any distractions, lest you miss the subtle cues and transitions it offers. The white pepper notes continue to build until the cigar’s conclusion, which comes at pretty much whatever point you want it to. If you have a draw poker or other similar device, you can smoke this as far down as your lips and tongue can stand it, which in all three cigars reviewed is pretty far down.

Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary 4

Final Notes:

  • I’d debate anyone that there is an active blender with a more signature style than Pepín, at least among more informed cigar smokers. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard his creations described along the lines of having “that signature Pepín big-pepper start.” I’ll admit, I’m certainly guilty of it.
  • I’m still undecided on the band. I get that this is supposed to have some correlation to the Don Pepín Garcia, aka the Blue Label, but it almost seems to cling more to that aesthetic than to stand out as a special 10th anniversary band. If there was a time to go over the top, this would have been it. The crown is one thing that just feels slightly out of place from an aesthetic standpoint.
  • Thinking about José Ortega’s comments about the Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary staying true to the DPG Blue Label, I’m not sure I agree with that. I wouldn’t say I see an immediate connection from a flavor perspective.
  • The My Father Cigars website has been under renovation for quite some time; it says it is due for a relaunch in Spring 2013.
  • Also notably quiet is the My Father Cigars Facebook page, having not been updated since late July. This may be due to a former employee leaving the company, who incidentally is getting ready to launch her own cigar.
  • This is not the first time the company’s annual limited edition debuted while before its release. The My Father Limited Edition 2011 debuted months in advance at Federal Cigar.
  • I’m inclined to think this cigar could start a number of debates among passionate Pepín fans, much like the My Father LE 2010 did amongst me and a number of my friends. I thought the 2010 sort of missed the mark, while the 2011 was much more dialed in; LEs such as that need to be the purest form of what your brand is known for, and I thought the second edition did the better job capturing that signature My Father flavor.
  • That said, I don’t know if this is the purest expression of the Pepín flavor profile. It certainly shows off his blending skills and ability to create balance, as well as the rolling ability of those whose hands graced these cigars, but I can’t help feeling that some fans of the “signature Pepín taste” mentioned above won’t be a bit disappointed here, and that’s before taking the price into account.
  • While this is not the most expensive cigar wholesale-wise for My Father/El Rey de los Habanos—the Baseball Bat and Pipe were a bit higher—this does carry the highest MSRP ($22.00 per cigar) of any cigar from the Garcías, two dollars more than the previous limited editions. I hesitate to answer the “is it worth it?” question, since value is reserved to each individual. Personally, I would be a bit hesitant to buy a bunch of these, especially if you end up smoking them in a distracted environment where you’ll overlook the nuances.
  • That said, I wouldn’t be disappointed by having a box of these in my humidor, nor would I advise anyone thinking of doing the same to reconsider.
  • If you’re looking for a recommendation on a beverage pairing, my suggestion is water. The flavors are so subtle that I fear a spirit, coffee or soft drink would either detract from them or overpower them.
  • Enjoying this cigar requires you to pay attention to it. Smoking it reminded me how hard it is not to multi-task while enjoying a cigar.
  • The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time is about two hours and 5 minutes.
  • Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar, Cigar KingFamous Smoke Shop, and Mike’s Cigars all have the Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary for sale online. Tobacco Grove (763.494.6688), Superior Cigars (800.733.3397) and BestCigarPrices.com (888.412.4427) also carry Don Pepín García cigars; call them for availability.
93 Overall Score

It's hard for me to recall a cigar that has challenged me to come up with a score for it in such a way as the Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary has done. From the moment I first smoked it, I've struggled to resolve the dilemma of rewarding its fantastic subtleness of flavors that demands your attention with the fact that if you smoke this with anything but full attention, you're likely to miss almost everything it has to offer. Every cigar seemed to sway the argument back and forth several times, and each time someone told me what they thought about it, it only muddied the waters further. However, I am forced to issue a score, which I've done below, but it comes with this caveat: if you smoke this with anything but a completely present mind and in a distraction free environment, I'm guaranteeing that you'll disagree with my numerical assessment. Smoke this with your buddies, in a crowded cigar lounge, watching a game, reading a book, or while doing anything that competes for your attention, and I have a feeling you'd rate this several points lower than I did here. Maybe it is a bit of an overscoring, but I'm willing to take that risk and have the comments fill up with people saying it was too thin or too mild for them. The real bottom line when it comes to the Don Pepin Garcia 10th Anniversary is that if you decide that you're willing to relinquish the $22 plus taxes it takes to acquire this cigar, also be willing to hand over your undivided attention when you decide to light it up.

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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 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.