It was April of 2011 when word came out that Viaje was releasing a brand new cigar, but only at two stores, site sponsor Tobacco Grove in Maple Grove, Minnesota and their sister store BURN Premium Cigar Specialists in Burnsville, MN. This new release ended up generating a number of rumors and a fair bit of controversy and criticism for Andre Farkas, Viaje’s creator. The cigar? The Viaje Zombie.
First, the rumors: the blend was originally thought to be based off the WMD or MOAB, but Farkas has repeatedly said that the blend is different from those two lines. The name Zombie allegedly came from the effect that one gets after finishing a WMD or MOAB.
Second, the criticism: Pete Johnson was four years into his Tatuaje Monster Series when the Zombie was announced, and his loyal fan base saw Farkas using a name that was a bit too close to the ones used by Johnson. Comments were left on numerous websites and the Viaje Facebook page, where Farkas responded:
Zombie was born out of WMD and was in no way meant to compete with Tatuaje. Pete has created an incredible product that has found tremendous success. It is a shame that comparisons have been made. This was never the intent.
The initial release of the Viaje Zombie consisted of 100 boxes of 20 cigars for a total production of 2,000 sticks, available first at Tobacco Grove, then at BURN Premium in Burnsville, MN, with both stores making a limited amount available online. Brooks reviewed the Zombie in April 2011 and then did a redux review on January 30.
In 2012, Farkas announced the cigar would return to three stores:
- Tower Pipe & Cigars (Sacramento, CA) — 916.443.8466
- Anthony’s Cigar Emporium (Tucson, AZ) — 520.977.7776
- The Humidor Cigar and Lounge (Wichita, KS) — 316.440.4890
The number of cigars released increased from 2,000 to 3,000 with each store getting 50 boxes containing 20 cigars each. It then became known that Andre Farkas would be appearing at launch events at Anthony’s on May 18 and The Humidor on May 19.
As for the cigar, it is the same size and blend as last year’s and the box is exactly the same as the 2011 edition. There is one notable difference though:
The capped foot now has a pin-size hole in it. Farkas tells me that this is to help the cigar breathe and let the excess moisture escape. He says that the idea of a double-capped cigar is so new that they are still learning about the particulars.
Cigar Reviewed: Viaje Zombie (2012)
Country of Origin: Honduras
Factory: Fábrica de Tabacos Raíces Cubanas S. de R.L.
Size: 4 5/8 Inches
Ring Gauge: 52
MSRP: $13.00 (Boxes of 20, $260.00)
Date Released: May 18, 2012
Number of Cigars Released: 150 Boxes of 20 Cigars (3,000 Total Cigars)
Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
The Zombie is toothy but has a minimal amount of veins and a bit of oiliness that gives it a really rich dark brown color at certain spots, while it’s a bit matted at others. The Zombie is firm without being rock hard and has a decent amount of heft given its small size. The cold draw is marked by a range of coffee notes and some bitter chocolate. Even with the closed cap it’s still able to be drawn fairly easily thanks to the pinhole. The pre-light aroma has a bit of sweet barnyard, bitter chocolate, and cool espresso. Prior to lighting, the question of whether or not to cut the cap on the foot is presented to you. As mentioned above, I opt not to cut it, especially given the pinhole. Not surprisingly, smoking through the capped foot provides a big blast of eye-opening and sinus clearing pepper and suggests this could be an incredibly strong cigar. Because the cap on the foot was left in place, the draw is firm, almost to the point of being challenging, though the air is certainly moving.
It becomes noticeable very early in the first third the Zombie is going to have issues with burning, as it almost completely goes out when it’s put down for more than 30–45 seconds. The moisture starts to smother the burning tobacco as soon as I’m not drawing on it. There’s been criticism about Viaje’s double-capped cigars not being able to breath and lose some of the moisture from the rolling process, and it seems to be the case here as well despite the pinhole. The burn line starts to go askew early on as well, as it seems to hit a pocket of moisture that it just can’t overcome. with the wrapper shrivelling and turning black as the spots it couldn’t burn through. Burn issues aside, the Zombie starts big and bold before backing off a bit, offering some big pepper notes alongside earthiness, coffee and a hint of chocolate that seems to have just the slightest bit of bitterness to it.
When the dark, dirty gray ash falls off at the beginning of the second third, another big hit of pepper and spice comes through both on the palate and in the nose, and while it’s strong, it leaves the equation after a few puffs. The flavor begins to change a bit into a much earthier note with the coffee becoming much more of a dark roast variety. There are times when the smoke becomes a bit harsh in the back of the throat and loses flavor for strength and it becomes hard to pull out any individual notes. At points I wonder if the struggle to keep the cigar burning through harder draws and relights is having an adverse affect on the flavors.
There’s a bit of a flavor build that happens in the final third with rich earth, some pepper, coffee and chocolate coming together again to make a very enjoyable final two inches both on the palate and in the nose. The draw alternates between firm and firm but tolerable, and combined with the excess moisture makes this a real challenge to fully enjoy – when the Zombie is able to stay lit. Only one managed to finish the final third without requiring an inordinate number of relights or just becoming too frustrating to deal with.
- This is the first time I can recall seeing a pinhole in the foot, which isn’t surprising given how few cigars have capped feet. It may help accelerate the drying process, but as of now the cigars are still too wet to be enjoyed without several relights. I’d have to think that this will be part of future Viaje cigars with capped feet, or some other solution will come along to help the drying process.
- A customer at the release event in Tucson was puzzled by the capped foot and asked me what to do with it – clip it off or light it – and I suggested leaving it on, which is what I did with each of the cigars I smoked.
- It was amazing how the burn problems seemed to start at the same spot in each cigar. Within half an inch from the foot, things got off track in a hurry.
- The first Zombie I smoked was at the release event and while I didn’t take written notes on it, the most vivid memory I have of it is the burn problems. I feel like I used up all the fuel in my lighter trying to keep it lit. Burn issues on newly shipped cigars were a noted issue for Viaje in 2011, but something that has largely been corrected in 2012.
- The second most vivid memory I have is that while the Zombies have pockets of pepper, it wasn’t a non-stop assault on your senses that turn you into the walking dead. The name seemed like a bit of mismatch for the strength of this cigar, but it is certainly a medium-plus to full bodied cigar that will challenge the palates of the most experienced smoker.
- The other cigar available at the event was the Exclusivo Corona Gorda, which Brooks reviewed here. It was my first time smoking that size, and it had my attention from the first puff until it burned my fingers. It seems to be the most balanced of the line, and offers a complexity that isn’t found in the Zombie.
- As a side note, while we’ve reported that the Viaje Exclusivo Corona Gorda is an event-only cigar that isn’t for sale, this has changed. It was available at the release party for the Viaje Exclusivo Lancero at Atlantic Cigar and was very much available for purchase at Anthony’s Cigar Emporium in Tucson.
- There were also two other cigars ‘available’ at the Tucson event – a pair of cigars slated for release in 2013 that Farkas was pulling out a duffle bag and handing out to select customers. The first was the Potato Masher, a Salomon with a triple-capped foot that will join the Skull & Bones White Label line. The other cigar was a pre-release of the Exclusivo Super Lance, a 7 1/2 x 48 parejo that looks more like a Churchill. However, the pre-release has a bigger ring gauge than the actual cigar will – Farkas says it will be a 46 ring gauge.
- After smoking the first cigar at the event and the next two at home, I decided to dry-box the third cigar for the review to see if it would help the burn issues. While it only got about 12 hours, it seemed to help a good bit. If I had to smoke another, I’d probably give it at least a day, maybe two to help the excess moisture leave the cigar.
- At The Humidor’s event on Saturday, May 19, customers could pick up a Zombie Survival Kit, a promotional item put together by a member of the store staff. It included two Viaje Exclusivo Corona Gordas, a Viaje Shotgun Shell 12 Gauge cigar, a 12 gauge shotgun shell full of matches, a Viaje Zombie hat, a .44 Magnum bullet punch, a hat, a sticker and a Twinkie. The one thing it surprisingly didn’t include was a Viaje Zombie 2012 cigar. The Humidor had some kits available when we called them; they sell for $40.80 and they will ship to you. They look like this:
- Final smoking time was about one hour, 40 minutes.
If you managed to pick up some of the 2012 Viaje Zombies and want to smoke them now, I highly recommend dry-boxing them for at least a day and packing a good amount of patience and some extra lighter fluid. There are some really tasty flavors in the cigar, but with the moisture levels being as high as they are, it takes a lot to patience to get to them. Unfortunately this cigar seems to reinforce the notion that some Viaje cigars just aren't ready to smoke when they hit store shelves, which is a shame because it sure seems like there's a tasty, peppery, full bodied cigar under that soggy blanket.