Shortly before the 2014 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, Warped Cigars announced its second release, La Colmena. At its heart, La Colmena was supposed to be a play on custom roll cigars that are prominent in the Cuban cigar world. Each of the two vitolas, No. 36 and No. 44, would be rolled at El Titan de Bronze, each by a single roller. They were finished off with pigtail caps and covered foot, another common feature of custom roll cigars in Cuba. Those cigars would be limited in production, but not a limited edition.
At that time, it was known that Warped also had a release in the works that would be exclusive to retailers who showed up at the company’s booth at the trade show and placed an order. As it turns out, that cigar would be the La Colmena Unico Especial, a 5 x 48 belicoso that also features a covered foot, with a literal twist—the rollers would take the excess tobacco and twist it into essentially a tail.
- La Colmena Amado No. 36 (6 x 46) — $12.50 (Boxes of 10, $125) — Regular Production
- La Colmena Amado No. 44 (5 1/2 x 44) — $14.50 (Boxes of 10, $145) — Regular Production
- La Colmena Unico Especial (5 x 48) — $15 (Jars of 10, $150) — 1,000 Jars of 10 (10,000 Total Cigars)
Jose Santiesteban is tasked with rolling the Unico Especials, which feature the La Colmena blend: an Ecuadorian DeFlorada wrapper, dual Ecuadorian binders and Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers.
While the rest of the La Colmena line is packed in wooden boxes, the Unico Especial is packaged in metal tins of 10, which are placed in a presentation box. Pricing is set at $15 per cigar or $150 per tin with production limited to 1,000 units total. Warped owner Kyle Gellis told halfwheel, the plan is to ship 250 units every quarter, which equates to only one shipment so far this year.
- Cigar Reviewed: La Colmena Unico Especial
- Country of Origin: USA
- Factory: El Titan de Bronze
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian DesFlorada
- Binder: Ecuador
- Filler: Dominican Republic & Nicaragua
- Size: 5 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 48
- Vitola: Belicoso
- MSRP: $15 (Boxes of 10, $150)
- Release Date: Oct. 9, 2014
- Number of Cigars Released: 1,000 Jars of 10 Cigars (10,000 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 3
While there’s more on it below, I struggle to keep the bands on. Naked, the La Colmena Unico Especial could easily pass as a custom roll. The crisp lines and covered foot really help the look, as does the relatively unique size. The tanned leather appearance of the wrapper is not perfect, two cigars out of the box we purchased show noticeable discoloration issues, but for the most part it looks very good. Texture-wise, the wrapper has a parchment-like feel to it and a fair bit of sweetness aroma-wise. The foot is pretty much similar with a bit more sweetness overwhelming the cedar. A huge barbecue note is present on the cold draw along with a touch of twang—another step towards the custom roll moniker.
None of the barbecue is present once the Unico Especial is lit. Instead, there’s a big vanilla cream before transitioning into a cedar and then some nuts. On the tongue there’s some softer pepper notes with a bit more nuttiness on the finish. Unfortunately, lighting the pronounced covered foot is challenging and on two samples, it produces a slightly uneven start and an anemic smoke production. After the burn straightens up the La Colmena produces sweeter barbecue notes through the nose with an acidic lemon on the tongue and a boozy finish that has big oak flavor on top of some grossness. It’s incredibly full in both body and flavor, but only medium in strength.
I’m able to get two inches of ash without much issue, but I eventually tap it off for fear of both my lap and the overall flavor. The barbecue has left the La Colmena Unico Especial, although it’s still quite sweet in the nose thanks to a floral flavor, although the oak flavors from the mouth overwhelm it a few seconds after the smoke has left. Finish-wise, popcorn, acidity and the oak make-up a very interesting flavor, one that I find quite enjoyable. For a good 15 minutes in each sample it seemed like the cigar wanted to get grassy, but it fortunately avoids heading down the path, one that I normally not a fan of. Strength-wise, there’s a noticeable uptick with the cigar touching the full range right after the halfway mark, although slightly decelerating from there.
On two samples I struggle keep the Unico Especial lit for the beginning of the final third. While that normally degrades the flavor quite a bit, it actually doesn’t leave me with many complaints. On the one sample that remained lit all the way through the popcorn notes are far more extended in the smoking experience, but the same coffee and pepper notes are added to the mixture in the final third. There’s definitely more detail when the cigar stays lit, but it’s hardly the normal difference I find. While I don’t want to go as far as praising the Warped for performing like this, it’s making the best out of a bad situation. The strength ends the cigar at medium-full, stronger than it began, but lighter than it was right around the halfway mark.
- Warped is not really a new company, although this version of the company is much different than that which was started in 2008 by Gellis. In short, after making a few lines that were mostly sold online, Gellis took a year or so off to finish school and then started back up at El Titan de Bronze with completely new branding, names and distribution plans.
- As far as the branding goes, I think Warped is doing one of the better jobs in the industry.
- La colmena translates into the hive, which explains the logo used on the band.
- I’m a huge fan of the Unico Especial packaging, including the use of a protective cardboard box and tax stamp. Inside the metal tin, there’s cedar in the container to help with the aromatics and the logo on top of the lid is a really nice touch. That being said, the retailer we purchased the cigar from said that almost all of the cigars that came in the two units he received were without the signature tail on the foot due to shipping.
- Size-wise, the Unico Especial is pretty small, meaning the tin is actually surprisingly small the first time you see.
- Fortunately, the size means that three Unico Especials fit nicely in the Warped Series I Fire Belly case I reviewed earlier this year.
- I have smoked all three vitolas, the Unico Especial is my favorite followed by the No. 36 with a gap to the No. 44.
- The samples used for this review had individual price stickers on them at the back of the bands. I tried removing them and the glue that was being used to hold down the original band was fairly weak, causing me to detach the band in most cases.
- On two samples there was a slight gap between the covered foot and the actual foot meaning that while the covered foot was even lit, some parts of the cigar were not. That created an awkward start and the poor smoke production, although once the cigar was actually lit there was a plethora of smoke.
- While I have not been the largest fan of how many El Titan de Bronze-made cigars taste, there’s no question the small Miami factory can roll a very good cigar. I think for many years the factory was working with inferior tobacco, something that is definitely changing.
- I’m not sure how I feel about spreading out the release so much, particularly the idea that it might be before July before the last 250 units are shipped. It definitely has made finding the Unico Especials challenging.
- If you are wondering about the selling cigars exclusively to retailers who purchase them at the IPCPR Convention & Trade Show and think it sounds familiar, it’s because it is. L’Atelier Imports has done it for two years in the form of the Racine.
- Final smoking time was a relatively quick one hour and 20 minutes.
- Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
The price is steep, real steep. It’s barely justifiable in my mind, but I definitely wouldn’t take issue with those that found this to be slightly under what you expect from a $15 cigar. We do not factor price into scores and as such—as far as ratings are concerned—the Unico Especial does quite well. While I’m a bit annoyed by the burn issues that plagued the final third of two samples, it didn’t take away from the flavor, something I rarely ever find. Paying $5 or $15 has no bearing on whether the tobacco itself produced a good cigar; in that elementary test, it passes with high marks.