As is the norm for RoMa Craft Tobac, Skip Martin’s been teasing Neanderthal for a while. It’s been apparent for most of the year that Neanderthal was the company’s largest new project and we’ve been told that its development has put some other projects on hold.
“Neanderthal is the blend I had in mind when we started working on CroMagnon,” Martin told us in July. “The truth is, I did not have the experience or skill to make this cigar in 2009.”
That blend is a Mexican San Andrés wrapper, Connecticut broadleaf binder, and fillers including Nicaraguan tobaccos from Condega, Estelí, Jalapa and Pueblo Nuevo, Dominican olor ligero and Pennsylvania “Green River Sucker One” double ligero. The latter is described as possessing two to three times the nicotine content of the other tobaccos used at Fabrica de Tabacos NicaSueño S.A.—making this a rather strong cigar.
After a few months of testing, Martin and company settled on a 5 x 52/56 figurado with a flat cap. It will come in cabinets of 50 with pricing set at $12 for its October release.
- Cigar Reviewed: Neanderthal
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: Fabrica de Tabacos NicaSueño S.A.
- Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés
- Binder: Connecticut Broadleaf
- Filler: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua & Pennsylvania
- Size: 5 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 52/56
- Vitola: Perfecto
- MSRP: $12 (Boxes of 50, $600)
- Release Date: October 2014
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
It’s a fairly pretty rendition of the Mexican San Andrés cover leaf, neither as dark, nor as oily as many—but it works well. The flat cap of the Neanderthal is relatively lost from a visual perspective, unless you are looking straight down on the cigar, but it becomes super apparent once you go to cut the cigar. Aroma from the wrapper is a faint leather and barnyard despite being protected by cellophane. From the foot, I pick up a sweeter, roasted profile that also has a lot of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal to it. The cold draw retains some of that, but it’s joined by a heartier and roasted backend that includes some pistachio, touches of pepper and a spicy finish.
There’s a noticeable tightening of the draw once the cigar is lit, although smoke still manages to come out. There’s pepper to start, but then it develops into a rich nutty, salty and wet earth flavor. An acute wasabi-like sensation hits the back of the tongue, although its completely absent through the nose. After 45 seconds the nicotine hits you making it clear the Neanderthal is at least going to start very strong. As it makes its way around the bulge, a damp earth and red pepper become present on the nose, while red pepper is on the back of the throat. The nuts, earthy and saltiness all remain as well, making for a medium-full flavor surrounded by quite a bit of strength.
Things take a pretty dramatic turn as the second third gets going. It begins with the flavor, which becomes very barbecue-like upfront with nuttiness, bread, earth and cream following. The red pepper that was present in the first third is hitting later and later on the cigar and there’s now a touch of lemon in there as well. The draw has been opening since the second puff and reaches a point where it’s now slightly open. As for the ash, it’s not pretty, but it holds quite well.
While the nicotine level seemed to build from the first puff onward, it stalls with about an inch and a half-left; either that or I’m just in shock due to the amount of nicotine so far. Flavor-wise, things bitter out as the barbecue note departs. There’s remnants of it, mainly a charred earth and roasted nut, but the bread is gone and the earth is much reduced. I’m able to get the cigar downs past the one-inch mark, and then the smoke production begins to fade and I feel like the Neanderthal has had enough.
- If you need a good indication of just how much stronger cigars have gotten in a short period of time, CroMagnon was once considered to be amongst the strongest cigars on the market. Now, there are at least three cigars from RoMa Craft Tobac—Neanderthal, CRAFT 2013 and WitchCraft—that are significantly stronger in my opinion.
- The strength does drop off at the two inch mark, or at least it did on all three I smoked.
- I wonder what a punch cut would feel like on this cap. It should work, but it might feel a bit awkward given the cigar doesn’t have a rounded cap. I probably punch one cigar a year, so I did not bother trying it.
- I touched-up one cigar once across the three samples I smoked. Given the heavy tobaccos used, I’m somewhat surprised just how well the cigar burned, as that’s not always the case.
- Much was made about the price per cigar and the decision to place these in 50-count cabinets. I don’t exactly understand that. If anything, RoMa Craft Tobac’s generally aggressive price points have built up some credibility for a higher-priced release like this. While the $600 price point for the box produces some sticker shock, placing the cigar in 50-count cabinets reduces the price per cigar versus 10-count boxes due to the reduced cost of the box. Furthermore it’s not $42, it’s $12, three dollars less than CRAFT 2013.
- I had a few prototype Neanderthals, there were a few different sizes the company tried. From what I recall, this was slightly larger than the other two prototypes I smoked.
- Cigars for this review were given to halfwheel by RoMa Craft Tobac at the 2014 IPCPR convention and trade show.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 30 minutes.
I think RoMa Craft Tobac and Nica Sueño are putting out really good cigars these days. There’s a few gems in the bunch, but more importantly there’s nothing I’ve found to be even consistently below average, let alone poor. Yet, here is Neanderthal. Much like CRAFT 2013, it’s a more expensive cigar, a time-consuming cigar and a stronger cigar than much of the rest of the factory—and I’m underwhelmed. Neanderthal is a unique profile, one that I think a few will love, but it’s a strange array of flavors, particularly paired with the intensity of the nicotine.