I am a fan of history, which is one of the reasons I write about cigars. When I first started smoking cigars, I was probably more fascinated by learning about cigars than I was with smoking them. It was like a whole new world and I was enthralled by the uniqueness of this industry.
But cigars have also been a way for me to learn about other topics. For example, I’ve learned more about Nicaragua than I ever could have imagined. But even specific cigars have been a great window into history, like say this review of a Jake Wyatt Cigar Co. that made me rethink what I knew about Darwin.
I’m not alone in my fascination with history. While there are plenty of cigars that are named after basic terms like Habano Reserva, Connecticut Epsecial or Maduro Fuerte, many cigars use names that are deeply rooted in history. HVC Cigars’ San Isidro line is one of those.
It’s named after the street in Havana where Alberto Yarini, an infamous Cuban gangster, was killed in 1910. I still remember typing Yarini’s name into Google six years ago when this line debuted, and brief moments like that is something that I really enjoy about my job.
As for the cigar, it debuted in a single box-pressed 6 x 52 size, but has since expanded to three vitolas. The blend features an Ecuadorian habano wrapper over a Nicaraguan binder and fillers from Nicaragua. The line is made at Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. (TABSA) in Estelí, Nicaragua.
- San Isidro Geniales (6 1/2 x 52) — August 2016
- San Isidro Hermoso (4 1/4 x 54) — August 2017
- San Isidro Divinos (6 1/4 x 48) — April 2019
Here’s what I wrote when I reviewed the Geniales size in November 2019:
While there is no harshness, I feel like San Isidro could use some time. It delivers rich and complex flavors, but it requires a lot of work to dig through the earthy core. This certainly lacks some of the balance and vibrancy that I’ve come to expect from HVC Cigar Co., which in my opinion is putting out some of the best cigars on the market for a brand of its size. This is certainly on the shortlist to redux in six months, though I imagine the flavors will be in a much better spot in less than that.
- Cigar Reviewed: San Isidro Geniales
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A.
- Wrapper: Ecuador (Habano)
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Length: 6 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 52
- Vitola: Toro
- MSRP: $10.80 (Boxes of 20, $216)
- Release Date: August 2016
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 1
The cellophane of this nearly five-and-a-half-year-old cigar is slightly discolored, but it’s more murky than yellow or brown. There was a time when I would have put a lot of stock in the color of cellophane or how a white band discolors. More to the point, I would have associated those things with clear signs of substantial age. That’s not always the case. Not only will some storage conditions accelerate these processes, but the bands themselves can be made to yellow quicker than normal. Whatever the case, I know these cigars are from the original box we received in August 2016. The wrapper for this cigar looks quite a bit different than what you see in the picture above: there’s a great reddish-brown color with no real oils and well hidden veins. The aroma from the wrapper has some soy sauce flavors—though at times the saltiness and acidity reminds me of sweat—over barnyard and this weird meatiness that reminds me of the smell of cold steak after it gets brought home on a hot summer day. The foot is quite a bit different: chocolate syrup over green tea flavors and hints of chili pepper. The cold draw has oranges, cocoa, caramel, a milk-like creaminess, minor amounts of soy sauce and a bit of a grape juice.
The San Isidro Geniales starts with a lot more woody flavors than I expect, followed by some classic pepper flavored beef jerky before a dryness brings nuttiness. It is very well balanced and medium-full in intensity. Eventually, a Nilla wafer-like sweetness and some creaminess take over as the main flavors beating out pepper and a toasty cedar. I find the finish to be more interesting: offering a damp cedar flavor with plum sweetness, corn tortilla and a harshness that isn’t distinct enough to show itself as a specific type of pepper. Retrohales have sesame seed, multigrain bread and some mild coffee flavors. There’s some starch flavors that take over as the retrohale transitions into a finish before liquid smoke and white pepper add themselves to the mixture. Flavor is full, body is medium-full and strength is medium. I’m particularly impressed with two facets of the cigar: the profile is very smooth but robust, and the smoke production is impressive. The construction is pretty good, but I’m forced to make a touch-up to help the burn.
There’s a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde syndrome when it comes to the burn of the San Isidro. While the first half wasn’t perfect, it was pretty good. The same cannot be said about the second half of the cigar and I now find myself needing to touch it up quite frequently, including on a couple of occasions where the cigar just went out. Eventually, that changes the color of the ash, which gets a lot darker. Through it all, the smoke production is great so long as the cigar remains lit. Brown rice slowly makes its way to the front of the profile and eventually takes over as the main flavor over a deep bread flavor, earthiness and a something that reminds me of the inside of a pork rib. The finish has a distinct strawberry lemonade flavor over walnuts, earthiness, creaminess and a medium amount of black pepper. Retrohales have bread flavors along with creaminess, leather, some oak and spicy touches that remind me of bourbon, and some honey. There’s corn tortillas, charcoal, leather, white pepper and some Thai mint-like flavors after the smoke leaves my nostrils. Flavor is full, body is medium-full and strength is medium. In the end, it takes me three hours and 20 minutes to finish the cigar, which is more than an hour longer compared to the original review.
My original review said that I should redux this cigar in six months, not nearly six years, but I think the wait was worth it. The cigar’s score is going to get severely punished for its burn issues, but if those were to be ignored, the result would be much higher. Don’t let the score fool you, from a flavor-perspective, this was a true joy: full in intensity, unique flavors and a very smooth profile. Not every cigar gets better with age but this is one of them and if you happen to still have some of these from 2016 lying around, I’d really recommend lighting one up, just keep your lighter close by.