To my knowledge, this is the third time this cigar has been mentioned on halfwheel. Its name is the La Aurora Excepcionales and unless you live in New York — you’ve probably never seen it. Given its limited nature, and the fact that it’s been nearly five years since the cigar debuted, I thought it was most certainly extinct at the retail level, but turns out I was wrong.

A July 26, 2007 article from the now defunct CigarCyclopedia reads:

La Aurora introduces a really regional cigar:
The Dominican Republic’s oldest cigar factory – La Aurora – has introduced the Excepcionales, a 5 3/4-inch by 48-ring robusto that has been produced in just 100 boxes of 50.
That’s not very many cigars to go around, so the Excepcionales will only be sold in cigar stores on the island of Manhattan – New York City!

The cigar comes unbanded and features Dominican-grown wrapper, binder and filler leaves plus a little Nicaraguan-grown leaf in the filler to add balance. The wrapper is Corojo and the cigar is full-bodied. It will retail for $13 each, plus local sales and tobacco taxes. In New York, that makes the out-the-door price a hefty $15.45 per cigar.

Michael Herklots, the general manager of the Davidoff of Geneva store at Columbus Circle, helped develop the blend while working with Manuel Inoa, the factory manager at La Aurora over the past six months. He reports that the blend was introduced last week at Fumee, a new cigar store in the Washington Heights area of New York. It’s in the center of the Dominican section of the city, so the guests were more than ready to try the new Excepcionales, enjoy some Rum Zacapa and plenty of good food.

The reality is the cigar is based on the León Jimenes Don Fernando with an added Nicaraguan filler. The wrapper actually was the same Dominican corojo from La Aurora’s 100 Años, just one priming lower.

According to Herklots, ten different stores in Manhattan got ten boxes each. Amongst them were Arnold’s, Barclay Rex, Cigar Inn, Davidoff of Geneva, De La Concha, Nat Sherman and the now defunct Fumee.

La Aurora Excepcionales 1

  • Cigar Reviewed: La Aurora Excepcionales
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: E. León Jimenes Tabacalera
  • Wrapper: Dominican Corojo
  • Binder: Dominican Republic
  • Filler: Dominican Republic & Nicaragua
  • Size: 5 3/4 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 48
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $13.50 (Cabinets of 50, $675.00)
  • Release Date: July 2007
  • Number of Cigars Released: 100 Cabinets of 50 Cigars (5,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 3

It doesn’t look at all like the 100 Años, the Excepcionales is quite a bit darker, but there’s still a bit of a golden hue. Honestly, this looks like it was made in Cuba — and that’s not a compliment. The Corojo wrapper isn’t applied cleanly, the lines are far from even and the overall roll is rough. Aroma off the wrapper is an incredibly sweet barnyard and a bit of cedar. It’s medium-full, and despite not being packed in cellophane, it is stronger than any 100 Años I’ve had. From the foot, it’s once again strong, sweet woods, smooth leather, a bit of fruit and hints of cedar. Cold draw is open with sweet earth and sugar cane coming through, very Cuban.

The Excepcionales begins the first third with a draw that is open, albeit not as bad as the cold draw, and flavors of a complex and cedar with just a touch of black pepper on the front. There’s great smoke production, although I honestly wish the draw was just a touch tighter. The flavors change a lot through the first ten minutes with notes of coffee, earth, sugar cane, fruits and red wine, although the flavor settles into a creamier cedar. With the exception of the beginning, there’s never an abundance of flavors, despite what the text of the review might be.

La Aurora Excepcionales 2

Into the second third and there’s a bit of sourness along with some earthiness breaking free. Cedar and pepper both die down, but there’s some bitter coffee notes, sugarcane and some harsh spice in place of the former flavors of the Excepcionales. Perhaps most shocking is the dense barnyard aroma, it’s a bit unexpected to say the least. The draw continues to remain open, but the construction remains quick. My only complaint is the finickiness, mainly the need to remain slow, but also the Excepcionales seemingly constant desire to go out.

La Aurora Excepcionales 3

The final third of the La Aurora makes what I expected — it’s got something left, but it’s also falling apart. On the positive side, the great cedar returns. But, the harshness overwhelms the enjoyable portions that are still left. The aroma has shifted from the wonderful barnyard to something more generic, which I guess is the best way to describe the final portions of the Excepcionales. Construction-wise, things remained unchanged.

La Aurora Excepcionales 4

Final Notes:

  • Like the Don Fernando, the boxes are relatively plain. Also like the Don Fernando, there is a small amount of writing to show its differences, this time it reads, “Hecho especialmente para La Isla Manhattan.”
  • The Excepcionales might shock those expecting for a mild cigar, it’s nothing about medium, but it starts with an edge.
  • There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding how many boxes were released, 100 boxes of 50 is the correct answer.
  • When the Excepcionales first debuted, New York taxes weren’t what they are today. Given today’s taxes, the Excepcionales would retail for $17.88 a cigar if they were reintroduced. The price is difficult to swallow, unless of course you are accustomed to buying cigars in New York, or in restaurants.
  • While Herklots was at Davidoff of Geneva, he had numerous exclusive cigars to the retail stores. One was an unbanded Don Fernando known as the La Aurora Choix Supreme.
  • Last year, a 6 x 54 La Aurora Excepcionales La Isla Manhattan was given out at an October event at Cigar Inn.
  • I have a feeling this was an unbelievable cigar around the time of release.
  • EloGio made a cigar called Excepcionales last year.
  • La Aurora would join a host of manufacturers introducing cigars in 2010 for the entire state of New York after the summer brought upon an OTP tax of 75%. The cigar was the La Aurora Broadway, a Maduro version debuted in 2012.
  • Both the Don Fernando, in the form of the Fernando León Reserva Familiar, and 100 Años are expected to return at IPCPR 2012. Interestingly, the Fernando León Reserva Familiar will feature a Dominican Corojo wrapper instead of the Cameroon wrapper, which adorned the production versions of its predecessor, the León Jimenes Don Fernando No.4.
  • Final smoking time is a lengthy two hours.
85 Overall Score

The other day Brian posted a review of the Quesada Q d'etat Howitzer. He mentioned how great the cigar would have been if the first few moments would have been indicative of the entire cigar — that's along the same vein as my thoughts on the La Aurora Excepcionales. The first third was excellent, the latter two couldn't live up to it. If you are a fan of the Don Fernando, the Excepcionales is a must try. If given the choice, it's simple: Don Fernando, another Don Fernando, the Excepcionales, another Don Fernando and then the Fernando León. The original was just better.

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Charlie Minato

I am an editor and co-founder of Media, LLC. I previously co-founded and published TheCigarFeed, one of the two predecessors of halfwheel. I have written about the cigar industry for more than a decade, covering everything from product launches to regulation to M&A. In addition, I handle a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff here at halfwheel. I enjoy playing tennis, watching boxing, falling asleep to the Le Mans 24, wearing sweatshirts year-round and eating gyros. echte liebe.