In 2014, Rocky Patel Premium Cigars filed a trademark for HAMLET. One could have assumed that the company was planning a cigar named after the Shakespeare work; after all, Romeo y Julieta remains one of the most popular brands in nearly every country in the world. But in the cigar world, specifically the Cuban cigar world, HAMLET has a special meaning.
Hamlet Jaime Paredes is one of the most famous cigar rollers in the world. In 2001, he competed in a Partagas rolling competition against a handful of Cuba’s other top rollers and won, at the age of 26 or 27. He began working at the iconic Partagás factory in Havana and eventually rose to an ambassadorial role for Habanos S.A. in 2000, which saw him travel the globe rolling and talking about cigars.
In addition to his work in other countries, Paredes would serve as the in-house roller for stores at the old Romeo y Julieta factory and the La Casa del Habano at the old Partagás factory, further adding to his notoriety and allowing his gregarious personality to shine in those roles.
In 2015, it became known that he had moved to the U.S. to pursue other opportunities. Robert Fox of the U.K.-based retailer J.J. Fox put Paredes in contact with Rocky Patel, who helped him and his family move to the U.S. Paredes began working at BURN by Rocky Patel in Naples, Fla. as well as on his eponymous brand. Because of his visa conditions, he wasn’t able to leave the country for this first year, but he worked on an estimated 100 blends before settling on the final version: a Mexican San Andrés wrapper, dual binders from Brazil and Mexico and fillers from Nicaragua.
The line launched in five sizes, with two additions since.
- Tabaquero by Hamlet Paredes Corona (5 1/2 x 42) — $8 (Boxes of 20, $160)
- Tabaquero by Hamlet Paredes Salomon (7 1/2 x 58) — $9.80 (Boxes of 10, $98)
- Tabaquero by Hamlet Paredes Robusto Grande (5 x 54) — $8.80 (Boxes of 20, $176)
- Tabaquero by Hamlet Paredes Toro (6 x 52) — $8.80 (Boxes of 20, $176)
- Tabaquero by Hamlet Paredes Robusto (5 x 50) — $8.60 (Boxes of 20, $172)
- Tabaquero by Hamlet Paredes Bala (5 3/4 x 58/50) — $9.50 (Boxes of 20, $190)
- Tabaquero by Hamlet Paredes Gordo (6 x 60) — $10.05 (Boxes of 20, $201)1
Both the Bala and Gordo sizes were originally event-only exclusives. Last year, the Bala size was added as a regular production item, but the Gordo size remains a bit of a mystery. I first saw it in an email from Jack Schwartz, a Chicago-based retailer, who acknowledged that it was a “limited edition” size.
“We had made this special size for an event and had some leftover boxes to sell out,” said Mark Weissenberg, vp of marketing for Rocky Patel Premium Cigars. And so, I bought a handful of the Gordo to review because while it’s no longer our core focus with reviews, halfwheel is somewhat known for the obscure and rare.
- Cigar Reviewed: Tabaquero by Hamlet Paredes Gordo
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: Tabacalera Villa Cuba S.A.
- Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés
- Binder: Brazil & Mexico
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Length: 6 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 60
- Vitola: Gordo
- Est. Price: $10.05 (Boxes of 20, $201)
- Release Date: 2017
- Number of Cigars Released: n/a
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
The Tabaquero seems a bit smaller than the 6 x 60 listed size, though after measuring a sample, it checks out and I’m led to believe that 7 x 70s have colored my impressions of the gordo vitola. The wrapper has a simple barnyard and leather aroma somewhere around medium-full. Things are sweeter on the foot with oatmeal raisin cookie, molasses and a bit of barnyard. Given the aroma off the foot, I’m led to believe there’s a fair bit of Nicaraguan tobacco in the cigar. And then it hits me–as soon as I take a cold draw I’m reminded just how large this cigar actually is. Flavor-wise, there’s leather, taco meat seasoning, artificial vanilla, paprika and some blanched nuttiness.
Despite the size, the flavors are pleasant right off the bat: toastiness, earth and some burnt raisins. That toastiness is the dominant flavor throughout the first third, joined by touches of earthiness, acidity, leather and some sweetness. While there’s no inherent creaminess in the Tabaquero, the flavor profile is so smooth that it reminds me of having a plethora of creaminess. Construction isn’t perfect with the draw on all three cigars being a bit tight and the cigar burning incredibly slow with the first two inches, taking over 45 minutes to get through.
There are some slight changes in the second third, though my attention is increasingly turning to the burn rate as it is painfully slow. Acidity gets close to matching the toastiness, though it never quite gets to that level. Secondary flavors include bark, Ritz crackers and a touch of sweetness thanks to some graham cracker. Once again, there’s neither a creaminess nor any pepper, though the flavor isn’t as smooth as the first third. Construction remains the same, the draw is too tight for me and way too tight for the size, and the cigar is burning slow.
A big touch-up is need in the final third thanks to the burn line fading in various points. My hope is that it would increase the speed the cigar is burning, but that’s not the case. Toastiness increases as the profile reaches full, now joined by oak and some saltine crackers. The draw is still tight, the burn is still slow and the profile is still toasty, so score one for consistency.
- Brooks Whittington was critical of the design of the band, calling it “cheap Christmas decoration ugly.” I don’t agree with that, I think the design is fine, though it does remind me of the Mexican flag.
- Rocky Patel Premium Cigars is not a fan favorite of our comments section and cigars like this won’t help. The company makes some really good cigars, though this is not an example.
- I certainly wonder what a box-pressed version of this cigar is like. It would help with the mouthfeel of the 60 ring gauge and more importantly, would require less tobacco to be used, something that would help the draw which was rather tight for this large of a ring gauge.
- Over the last few weeks, Patrick Lagreid has declared that he is over the 60 ring gauge vitola. It’s certainly not my favorite vitola, but it’s one of the most popular sizes on the market and it can be enjoyable. In this particular case, I’d rather smoke any other vitola of the Tabaquero line. Examples like this, where the flavors don’t present themselves as well and it takes so long to smoke are not shining endorsements for the vitola in my opinion.
- Strength starts medium-plus but hits the full mark by the middle portion. The overall effects of smoking the cigar certainly provide an ample dose of nicotine, though my guess is the overall impact is probably in large part due to just how long this cigar takes too smoke.
- I’m really curious about why this vitola was an event-only release and not a production cigar. For the most part, 6 x 60s sell quite well, and at least on paper it’s a bit odd the company wouldn’t try to sell this cigar.
- I made the mistake of smoking my first sample of these a bit later than I normally start my reviews and I paid for it dearly. Final smoking time was three hours and 20 minutes to three hours and 45 minutes.
- Jack Schwartz still has some of the Tabaquero Gordos in stock, 16 at the time this review is published.
It’s a 6 x 60—and yet my final thoughts center around the length, not the girth of the Tabaquero Gordo. This is just not a good example of the blend. While I wouldn’t say the Tabaquero is towards the top of the complexity level of the Rocky Patel portfolio, I find it to be an enjoyable enough cigar—but this was just too much. It lacked much of the finesse that the other vitolas have and instead replaced it with an even longer smoking time. It’s not a bad cigar, but this vitola is a bit boring and far too much of a time commitment to make me ever want to smoke one again.