At the end of January, rumors of two new cigar lines from Pinar del Río started circulating, with confirmation coming from the company in early February. The Small Batch Reserve is the first to come out, expected to be released in late February or early March. Small Batch Reserve is offered in both a Habano wrapper, the version I am reviewing today, and a Maduro, which I reviewed a week ago.

Pinar del Río Small Batch Reserve

Small Batch Reserve Habano (Top) & Small Batch Reserve Maduro (Bottom) 

It will be available in four sizes:

  • Small Batch Reserve Robusto – $7.08 (Boxes of 20, $141.06)
  • Small Batch Reserve Toro – $7.50 (Boxes of 20, $150.00)
  • Small Batch Reserve Torpedo – $7.92 (Boxes of 20, $158.40)
  • Small Batch Reserve Churchill – $8.33 (Boxes of 20, $166.60)

It was during the 2010 IPCPR Convention and Trade Show in New Orleans that Pinar del Río Cigars seemed to really burst onto the scene. The show was held on what could be considered PDR’s home turf as their distributor, R & F Importers, is based in New Orleans; as is Don Leoncio’s, the retail store that shares an address with R & F Importers and keeps a healthy stock of Pinar del Río cigars in their humidor. The store was a frequent gathering spot for trade show attendees, giving them a chance to try Pinar del Río cigars in a much different and much more relaxed environment than the trade show floor offered. 

Currently, Pinar del Rio offers eight lines of premium cigars:

  • Habano Sungrown
  • Oscuro
  • Clasico
  • 1878 Cubano Especial Natural
  • 1878 Cubano Especial Maduro
  • 1878 Reserva Dominicana Oscuro
  • 1878 Reserva Dominicana Habano
  • Liga Especial Reserva Superior

They also manufactured the BOTL.org Small Batch 2010, which Brooks recently smoked for a redux review after originally reviewing it in September 2009.

In addition to Small Batch Reserve, which still has not shipped, PDR plans to release the Flores y Rodriguez line is slated for release at the 2012 IPCPR Convention and Trade Show in Orlando during the first week of August.The Small Batch Reserve and Flores y Rodriguez lines are among the first to come out of Pinar del Río’s new factory, PDR Cigars, a facility opened after the company spent nearly a decade at Tabacalera Don Leoncio. Both factories are in Santiago, Dominican Republic.

(via Pinar del Río’s Facebook page.) 

Pinar del Río Small Batch Reserve Habano Robusto 1

  • Cigar Reviewed: Pinar del Río Small Batch Reserve Habano Robusto
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: PDR Cigars
  • Wrapper: Brazilian Cubra Habano
  • Binder: Dominican Criollo ’98
  • Filler: Dominican Corojo & Nicaragua
  • Size: 5 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Robusto
  • MSRP: $7.08 (Boxes of 20, $141.06)
  • Release Date: Late February/Early March 2012
  • Cigars Released: 100 Boxes of 20 Cigars (2,000 Total Cigars)*
  • Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 1

*There will be 100 boxes of each size, meaning a release of 8,000 total cigars for each wrapper.

Pinar del Río makes their Robustos to a 52 ring gauge, slightly larger than the textbook 50 ring gauge that you might be familiar with. Their Toro is also a 52 ring gauge and their Churchill is a 54, noticeably larger than the standard 50 and 48 ring gauges, respectively. The dark tan wrapper has a bit of texture to it thanks to some scattered small and medium veins, giving the cigar a solid feel in the hand. Pre-light aroma from the PDR is solid, marked by nutmeg, turbinado sugar, and a bit of spice giving it a very full, complete and complex aroma. The cold draw was just the slightest bit too easy, with spice that tingles the tip of the tongue leading the way, followed by a mild mix of peanut, wood and leather.

The first puffs are a mouthful of wood flavors with a much more pronounced spice and pepper component than would have been assumed to be there. Throughout the first third, flavor becomes a bit more robust with a bit of harshness coming out in the back of the throat. The ash is a bit flaky, but the core holds on well. Pinar del Río Small Batch Reserve Habano Robusto 2 In the second third, the burn line and ash start to struggle as the flavor and strength back off a bit. The smoke maintains its dryness, and that pesky harshness in the back of the throat just won’t go away. Pinar del Río Small Batch Reserve Habano Robusto 3 Pepper picks up in the final third of the Small Batch Habano, particularly via the retrohale and when the smoke wafts into the nose while the cigar rests. The smoke volume also picks up considerably, carrying with it that tongue-tingling pepper. Closing notes are marked by an enjoyable earthy note that shows the chalk in the soil, marred only by the cigar becoming too hot to be enjoyable in the final inches. Pinar del Río Small Batch Reserve Habano Robusto 4Final Notes

  • The cigar needed a few relightsin the second half, though not enough to be truly frustrating.
  • What was a bit annoying was the flakiness of the ash. I know it’s one of those things that comes with smoking a cigar, but having to constantly clean out the laptop and brush off my shirt does get to be an annoying.
  • Like the Maduro, the band features three additional marks. The first is on the back side of the band and has A. Flores y J. Rodriguez in a signature-like font, with “HANDMADE IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC” under that in block letters. Juan Rodriguez is the president of Don Leoncio Cigars and heads up the import business. On the left side of the band is “Cubra Maduro,” which refers to the wrapper; while “SVL Habano” is on the right side, and according to Abe Flores, owner of Pinar del Río, refers to “seco, viso, and ligero – all Cuban seed and proportional in the blend.”Unlike the Natural version, it’s much easier to read thanks to a white band with brown type.
  • In my conversations with the folks at Pinar del Rio, I got the feeling that these cigars could become regular production depending on how the market receives them. That would bring their total number of premium offerings to 12 different cigars – a solid line for what many would still consider a boutique company.
  • Along those same lines, I wouldn’t mind seeing this in some smaller vitolas. In many of their other lines, they make upwards of eight sizes from a 7 1/4 x 38 Lancero to a 6 x 60, so it would stand to reason that if these cigars get a good reception, a new round of sizes could be introduced.
  • In my conversations with the folks at Pinar del Rio, I got the feeling that these cigars could become regular production depending on how the market receives them. That would bring their total number of premium offerings to 12 different cigars– a solid line-up for what many would still consider a boutique company.
  • Along those same lines, I wouldn’t mind seeing this and the Natural in some smaller vitolas.In many of their other lines, Pinar del Ríomakes upwards of eight sizes from Lancero to 6 x 60, so it would stand to reason that if these cigars get a good reception a new round of sizes could be introduced.
84 Overall Score

This seems like a prime example of a cigar that could have used a bit more time in the aging room. With the release date presumably now, I'm hesitant to give it a full-bore recommendation because of that back-of-the-throat irritation that kept showing up. If that goes away, the Small Batch Reserve Habano's score would easily tick up a few numbers. However, I can only review what's in front of me, which is why the cigar earns the score it does. I will say, though, that I'm looking at doing a redux on this in a year or so.

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.