It seems that one of the things cigar smokers often mention as being as one of their bucket list items is to go to a factory and smoke a cigar fresh off the rolling table. There seems to be a certain magic about that experience, and having been fortunate enough to do it myself, I won’t deny that there is something pretty cool about it, as long as you heed the caveats that come with smoking a fresh rolled cigar.
Since being at a factory on a regular basis isn’t a option for the majority of cigar smokers, several manufacturers have tried to bring the factory to them, whether it be through in-store rolling events or by creating a cigar and then shipping it immediately to retail. The latter is the case with the newest cigar from Paul Stulac Cigars, called No Dress Code.
Stulac began mentioning the new project on the company’s Facebook page in late November, and on December 6 told halfwheel a bit more about it in this story. He said, “I have always heard friends and clients get so excited about fresh cigars off the table at rolling events and on trips to Cuba and Nicaragua, so I thought why not give smokers what they want?”
The cigars are rolled in Miami at Guillermo Peña Factory, U.S.A., wrapped in newspaper and then packed into a cabinet box before being sent off to retailers. Each box will have the label pictured below on it, showing when the cigar should be smoked, as noted by a Best Before and Best After date.
The thought behind the two dates is that a cigar has a window of time when it shouldn’t be smoked as the flavors are busy marrying and won’t deliver the desired flavor; smoke it before and get the benefits of a cigar fresh off the table; wait a bit and reap the rewards of the married blend.
In the formal announcement about the cigar, the No Dress Code is described as follows:
Smoking a freshly rolled cigar is an experience like no other. Not everybody gets the opportunity to get their hands on cigars this fresh, so we want to bring that to you. This limited release cigar offers the quality you’ve come to love from us and without all the frills.
From the roller to the smoker; It doesn’t get more fresh than this. Stulac also said that No Dress Code is a way for him to have fun with his existing blends and share it with consumers. This first release is a tweaked version of the Paul Stulac White Blinding Light, an existing cigar in Stulac’s portfolio. Subsequent releases will include tweaked versions of existing blends and new, one-off blends, both coming in singular vitolas that will help to differentiate one release from another. He anticipates new releases to be available on a monthly or bi-monthly basis, also with varying amounts of cigars produced.
The company has set up a website dedicated to the project, SmokeItFresh.com, which is slated to go live around the same time this review is published. Stulac mentioned that he will be taking orders for the cigars as of December 14, with shipping to begin before Christmas.
Cigar Reviewed: Paul Stulac No Dress Code Vitola Torpedo
Country of Origin: USA
Factory: Guillermo Peña Factory, U.S.A.
Wrapper: Ecuadoran Habano
Size: 6 Inches
Ring Gauge: 56
MSRP: $8.00 (Bundles of 20, $160.00)
Release Date: December 18, 2014*
Number of Cigars Released: 250 Bundles of 20 Cigars (5,000 Total Cigars)
Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 2
*The specific release date is still to be determined, but the first batch is expected to arrive at retailers by Christmas.
The Paul Stulac No Dress Code Vitola Torpedo is a sizable cigar in the hand, a bit reminiscent of the Cuban Montecristo No.2 Pirámides vitola but with a slightly bigger ring gauge though it seems a bit lighter than I would have expected it to be. I’m surprised at first by how much give there is in the cigar, though when I remember that these are fairly fresh off the rolling table and haven’t been sitting in an escaparate for weeks to dry out, it makes more sense. They don’t seem underfilled, just a bit soft given what I’m sure is a higher internal moisture content and they certainly feel more supple than your average off-the-shelf stick. The cigar is overall an attractive specimen, rolled well and smooth save for a spot near the head where it looks like the leaf wasn’t laid perfectly smooth. It’s a medium brown that evokes thoughts of soil and leather with fairly uniform color throughout and a fairly pronounced vein structure. The foot of the cigar offers up notes of a tobacco barn or tobacco work room—dry wood, some light soil and a bit of rested tobacco come together for a mild yet distinctive smell. The cold draw is a bit on the open side and doesn’t offer much for the palate except for a very subtle note of cereal grain.
From the get-go I’m hit with the flavors that only seems to come from fresh or unrested cigars — a certain roughness that indicates that the flavors just haven’t had a proper chance to come together. The flavor offering early on isn’t overpowering, but it is enough to grab your attention thanks to a good bit of wood, hay and some leather, all seemingly fighting with each other to be first to your taste buds, but all trudging in with the remnants of the rolling table in tow. There isn’t a lot of pepper found in the first few puffs, but by the time the first half an inch has burned it starts to become more a part of the equation. However, with the fresh factor at play, it’s easy to lose it or confuse it with the taste of the cigar’s youth. The first bit of ash holds on nicely despite a good sized crack running up its length in the first cigar, while smoke production is about average and quickly dissipates in a breeze.
The second third of the Paul Stulac No Dress Code brings with it a nice smoothing of flavors; there’s still a bit of freshness in the taste but it has picked up a coating of brown sugar that provides a bit of smoothness. I’m a bit surprised by how quickly the cigar burns, as it seems as if it was just moments ago that I knocked off the first clump of medium gray ash and already the burn line is at the midpoint. A retrohale here provides a good bit of white pepper that fills the nose with a good amount of tingle but stops short of being too much to handle. Flavors are fairly subdued, with some light wood and pretzel sticking out backed by just a touch of pepper, leading me to think this cigar is more designed for the person walking down Calle Ocho in Miami who doesn’t smoke a lot of cigars—if any at all—but wants something that isn’t too overwhelming for the palate and lets him feel like part of the scene. It’s definitely not mild, but rather subdued, save for a subtle but very enjoyable aroma. Given Stulac’s track record of producing fairly strong, upfront cigars, this mellower approach is a bit of a shock.
The final third leaves me wanting for more distinct flavors and maybe a touch more strength, though I’d be fine if the latter didn’t come around. Again, it’s not that the cigar is lacking for flavor; rather what is there seems hard to pick out and really enjoy. The progression to this point has been fairly linear, without much variance in strength or components, save for the fact that by the midpoint, the freshness factor has nearly completely left the cigar and it is now more like something you would find on a retail shelf as opposed to a roller’s table. Notes of wood, cereal grain, leather and a touch of dry earth come across most pronounced, with no sweetness to be found and just a touch of pepper to keep things somewhat lively. Both cigars have performed flawlessly, never needing a touchup and maintaining a straight burn line. If anything, the only complaint stems from a bit of flaky ash that tends to blow off with the occasional puff. I’m very impressed by how far down this cigar can be smoked without turning the least bit harsh, hot or bitter. Stick a draw poker or other similar implement in the side and you’re good to go almost down to the cap.
- Stulac estimated that the cigars smoked for this review were rolled around December 2, while they were smoked on December 11.
- When Stulac mentions that this is a cigar without all the frills, I’m assuming he means a band and decorated box.
- The company put out this brief promotional video for the release. They have also put out this video which tells the story of how the company came to be.
- The No Dress Code Vitola Torpedo reminds me of the abundance of freshly rolled cigars you find in Havana, at La Casa del Habanos and some other locations.
- In fact, the second cigar’s wrapper had a Cubanesque appearance to it, much more so than the first one did. In fact, I can’t recall an Ecuadoran Habano wrapper leaf that looked as much like a Cuban wrapper leaf as the one on this cigar did.
- There is a 6 x 54 Torpedo in Stulac’s White Blinding Light line but no 6 x 56 Torpedo vitola, making this both a unique blend and size.
- Various companies have hosted events with rollers. José “Don Pepín” García once toured the country rolling fresh cigars. La Gloria Cubana has also done a number of rolling events with Leo Peraza, though those seem to have slowed as of late, save for at The Big Smoke. Casa Fernández and Willy Herrera both still have rolling events today.
- Wynwood Cigar Factory has also produced a similar style of cigar under the header Factory Fresh, which had three blends produced under it as well as a fourth related cigar, The 15th & The First, which Brooks Whittington reviewed.
- I am bit puzzled by the timing of this release, being that it is so close to Christmas and New Year’s, which would seemingly be a hard time to cut through all the existing noise and introduce a new product.
- Given that No Dress Code is a series and not just a singular release, complete with tweaked blends of existing cigars and one-off blends, my interest has been piqued to see what all will be released under that header.
- Having been fortunate enough to try cigars fresh off the rolling table, I can tell you that it is an interesting experience and one that is worth seeking out, but you do have to keep in mind that the cigar that just had its wrapper put on will be notably different from the cigar that ends up on a retailer’s shelves.
- While I won’t get into it here, if you want to get me ranting about something, ask me my thoughts about how casual our dress code has become.
- The cigars for this review were provided by Paul Stulac Cigars.
- Final smoking time is about one hour and 45 minutes.
Heading into this cigar, I expected it to be a bit rough around the edges given that it is marketed as being fresh off the rolling table and my experience to this point has been that without a proper bit of aging, fresh cigars often deliver flavors that haven't married together yet and come across more as ingredients than finished product. It was, and that's by and large what you're going to find with cigars that bypass the escaparate. Keeping that in mind, The Paul Stulac No Dress Code Vitola Torpedo is a perfectly enjoyable cigar, at least on the Best Before date part of the equation. It lacks a bit of depth and transition, but once it shakes the bulk of its newness off, it's an enjoyable cigar that leans just a bit to the mild side of medium with consistent flavors and a pleasing aroma. My bigger question with this cigar is that unless they are being smoked almost upon arrival at a store, doesn't this just become another cigar on the shelf? And wouldn't it be a challenge to get someone to buy it between the Best Before and Best After dates? Then once the Best After date arrives, the idea of it being a fresh rolled cigar has passed, and now the cigar has to stand on its own merits without the benefit of being in a proper aging room at a factory. Whether or not it can do that remains to be seen; for now, it remains an admirable try at bringing the fresh off the table flavor to the consumer that is worth a try if you can find one that has just arrived at your nearest retailer.