Rumblings of two new cigar lines from Pinar del Río started circulating around the internet in late January, and on February 2, we broke the details of the new additions: the Small Batch Reserve and Flores y Rodriguez.

The Small Batch Reserve will be the first to come out, with a due date of late this month or early March.

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)

Both will be available in Natural and Maduro versions, with the Flores y Rodriguez in similar sizes as the Small Batch Reserve but with prices between $4.55 and $5.55 per cigar. 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.

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 Whittington recently smoked for a redux review after originally reviewing it in September 2009.

Pinar del Río Small Batch Reserve Maduro Robusto 1

  • Cigar Reviewed: Pinar del Río Small Batch Reserve Maduro Robusto
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: PDR Cigars
  • Wrapper: Brazilian Cubra Habano Maduro
  • Binder: Dominican Criollo ’98
  • Filler: Nicaraguan & Dominican Corojo
  • 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 Maduro wrapper is gorgeous, a rich brown color with just a few veins that really carries the Maduro standard well. Pre-light aroma of the Small Batch Reserve Maduro is rich with grape juice and has an unmistakable sweet note. The cold draw is just firm enough with a bit of spice, but the sweetness isn’t as noticeable here.

Once lit, the ash turns a brilliantly bright white, almost startling me with its color. The third starts much spicier than I expected as a good bit of pepper hits all over the tongue, but attacks the tip with a bit more focus. Compared to the Habano version, the first third of the Small Batch Reserve Maduro is much smoother with a more well rounded flavor, though at the expense of the some of the really distinctive notes the Habano put forth. At times, the Maduro’s version flavor seems to be a bit flat, though the smoke had a great smell of grape jelly on toast that made up for what the palate was missing.

Pinar del Río Small Batch Reserve Maduro Robusto 2

The second third is by far the most boring with the flavor hardly moving in any direction, so much so that the only note I write down is: doesn’t develop.

Pinar del Río Small Batch Reserve Maduro Robusto 3

The final third presents the most technical challenges with the cigar struggling to stay lit for what seemed like anything longer than a minute. Most of the final third is spent as follows: relight, puff a few times, put down, pick up and try to puff only to find it has gone out, curse under my breath, relight, repeat. When the cigar stays lit, it almost returned to the levels of spice found in the first third. What sweetness I was expecting from the Maduro wrapper didn’t reappear and the cigar puttered along until the frustration of relighting it won out and it was tossed in the ashtray.

Pinar del Río Small Batch Reserve Maduro Robusto 4
Final Notes

  • Both the Natural and Maduro versions of the Pinar del Río Small Batch Reserve had burn problems in the second half that negatively impacted my enjoyment of them. They could still be a bit too fresh out of the aging room, so I’m hoping it’s a simple problem that will be resolved by the time they hit store shelves.
  • Unlike the Natural, the Maduro’s ash performed much better. Nowhere near as much flaking and blowout –  a definite plus.
  • Like the Natural, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Río makes 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.
82 Overall Score

I readily admit I'm not a big fan of maduros, but when I find one I love, I often buy at least a box of them. The Pinar del Río Small Batch Reserve Maduro had the makings of one I could see myself really enjoying based on the pre-light aroma and the first few puffs, but combustion issues and a flattening of the flavors changed my opinion by the time the band came off. Like the Natural version, this could benefit from a bit more time in the humidor to rid itself of some harsh spots and let the flavors meld together a bit more, something I thought it started to show in the first third before failing to develop. Right now I'd pick the Natural version as the better of the two, though both have some work to do to earn a full recommendation or to make me pick up some when they land at retail.

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.