Summer means warm and sunny days, vacations, and since 2007, the newest release in a series of short and fairly potent cigars. That’s the year when Two Guys Smoke Shop in New Hampshire launched the Don Pepin Garcia Blue Label Firecracker. Since then, the line has become the purview of United Cigars, the distribution company owned by David Garofalo of Two Guys Smoke Shop, and now is available on a much more widespread basis.

Along the way, the series has added cigars from a number of companies including Dunbarton Tobacco & TrustFratello, HVCKristoffLa Flor Dominicana, Perdomo and RoMa Craft Tobac. While the manufacturers are different, the cigars tend to be a 3 1/2 x 50 vitola or thereabouts, often comes from an existing line in the company’s portfolio, and promises to pack a punch as it lives up the Firecracker name.

For the new 2021 installment in the Firecracker Series, United Cigars enlisted Foundation Cigar Co., with Nicholas Melillo using The Wise Man Maduro line for his contribution. The cigar is a 3 1/2 x 50 petit robusto, a size that is distinctive on its own and becomes more so when factoring in the wick that comes off the cap and runs down the side of the cigar. It’s made from a fairly simple, tight twist of tobacco, but it is certainly distinctive. As for the blend, it is the same as the other sizes in the blend, using a Mexican San Andrés maduro wrapper over a corojo binder grown in Jalapa, Nicaragua and fillers from Estelí and Jalapa, Nicaragua. It is made at Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. in Nicaragua.

“This was a fun project to be a part of,” said Nicholas Melillo, founder of Foundation Cigar Co., in a press release when the cigar was announced in January. “Fitting the depth of The Wise Man Maduro into a 3 1/2″ vitola was a challenge but what a flavor bomb it is.”

Each cigar has an MSRP of $7.50, with 500 boxes of 20 cigars produced.

  • Cigar Reviewed: The Wise Man Maduro Firecracker
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A.
  • Wrapper: Mexico (San Andrés Maduro)
  • Binder: Nicaragua (Jalapa Corojo)
  • Filler: Nicaragua (Estelí & Jalapa)
  • Length: 3 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 50
  • Vitola: Petit Robusto
  • MSRP: $7.50 (Box of 20, $150)
  • Release Date: June 21, 2021
  • Number of Cigars Released: 500 Boxes of 20 Cigars (10,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

The bands of The Wise Man Maduro Firecracker both clash and somewhat work together; clearly, they were not designed for each other, but I don’t think the result is something from which to avert my eyes. The cigar is generally very firmly rolled, showing either no or just a little give from head to foot. With the bands on there isn’t a lot of the wrapper to see, but taking them off reveals a fairly dark, earthy brown wrapper with a few spots that are a bit darker due to mottling. The wrapper doesn’t have a lot of oil to it, giving a very fine velvet texture to the fingers. What veins the leaves have are small and each is rolled quite well. The foot of the cigar gives a pretty good indicator that this will be a strong cigar, as the flavor is thick and rich, with a bit of both blackberry sweetness and vines, followed by some black pepper, which doesn’t need to be voluminous or intense to let me know it packs a punch. Much like Charlie Minato wondered in his review of the Viaje TNT, I’m wondering what to do with the fuse. As it is rather well attached to the cigar, I opt to simply cut through it on the first sample, which is the one that was photographed. For the other two, I opt to remove the bands since they will need to come off fairly soon anyway and then remove the wick from the side of the cigar, which works well other than leaving a trail of dried, peeled glue in its wake. The cold draw ranges from being too much on the firm side to pretty near ideal, while the flavors are surprisingly subdued. Given the aroma, I expected more, but other than something that’s between generic tobacco, a bit of earthiness and a bran muffin, it’s not giving me much. There is some occasional sweetness, black pepper on the finish, as well as a tingle on my lips from the tobacco but those vary from sample to sample.

No surprise here, but The Wise Man Maduro Firecracker starts off with some strength and big flavors of earthiness, pepper, and the distinctive taste of high priming ligero. If you find that what the flavor has to offer isn’t quite enough for your senses, a retrohale should do the trick, offering a thick and sharp black pepper that hits the nostrils with strength and punch that is notably different from most cigars. An interesting woodiness comes out in the first inch as well, slightly damp and very tangy on the tongue. In the first cigar, I feel like I’m really having to work the draw a bit, something that is either an unfortunate outcome of a randomly selected cigar or a direct attempt to compound whatever the strength has in store for me. The first third wraps up with some additional dry earthiness that fills out the body of the smoke quite well. Flavor is medium-full, body is medium-full, and strength is medium but building. Combustion has been good, though the draw of the first cigar is labored. Thankfully the other two don’t share that problem.

While the first third is an introduction to the cigar and a fairly quick and intense one at that, the second third brings about a lull in the conversation. Everything that was new on the palate previously has mellowed save for some earthiness and a bit of pepper, leaving me to wonder both where the flavor went and when the next round will be coming. If the first third of The Wise Man Maduro Firecracker were some impressive aerial shells, this section is closer to sparklers. That’s not to say that the cigar is bad by any means, as there is still a decent amount of sensation on the taste buds, but I’d equate it to sipping beef broth versus having a multi-ingredient soup. One sample is notably more vibrant in flavor as compared to the other two, largely due to the firewood and black pepper note, and just like with the first third, there’s more peppery kick waiting for me in retrohales, but it’s a bit too much for my liking, so I take them sparingly and in smaller quantities than an average cigar. Combustion has generally been very good through this point, though the burn line has a tendency to start getting uneven here. Flavor is medium to medium-plus without much in the way of distinctive flavors, body is a chewy medium-full, and strength is medium-plus.

The final third of The Wise Man Maduro Firecracker starts with a more pronounced physical sensation from the smoke, which I’m attributing to the strength of the ligero giving all the taste buds a good workout. it’s a bit more of an aggressive flavor on the palate, but that’s more in relation to the previous puffs than a knock on anything. The pepper isn’t heavy on the palate but it does taste more concentrated, while it feels like many of the supporting flavors have reduced their presence. It’s a profile that makes up almost the entirety of the final third, though the very last puffs get a bit powdery to my taste buds, adding a bit of chalk to affect both taste and texture. Flavor finishes medium-full, body isn’t far behind, and strength is still medium-plus, not nearly what I was expecting from the cigar, though the lingering tingle of ligero on my tongue has me rethinking that assessment a bit. Construction remains very good and problem-free, as long as I give the cigar a regularly paced puff.

Final Notes:

  • The wick is adhered to the side of the cigar with the same kind of adhesive used to affix the cap, hold the wrapper in place and link the two ends of the bands. As such, it’s not terribly hard to remove should you choose, but you will end up with a bit of glue residue.
  • As mentioned above, if you want that extra bit of kick from The Wise Man Maduro Firecracker, you will find it in the retrohale, but beware because it can be quite potent.
  • I’m not often one to use a draw poker, toothpick, roach clip or other similar tool to extend the smoking time of a cigar, however in this case I think it might be merited. There’s enough good flavor in the final third to merit it, and I think that given the short length of the cigar, it makes sense to try and squeeze a bit more out of it than I would try and do with a six-inch long toro.
  • I can’t say I got a ton of nicotine strength from The Wise Man Maduro Firecracker, which surprised me. Much like I think the flavor could develop, I wouldn’t be surprised if the strength did as well.
  • I would have to think that this cigar could be smoked in well under an hour if so desired or necessitated, though I’m not sure it would be great for the flavor. It probably wouldn’t hurt it too badly, but I always lean towards the approach of smoking slowly whenever possible.
  • The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time was one hour and 35 minutes on average.
87 Overall Score

If you've smoked some of the other Firecracker releases, you have a decent idea of the ride that the cigars in the series will take you on, and if nothing less the name does a good bit of implying what lies ahead. In the case of The Wise Man Maduro Firecracker, the cigar certainly starts on down a path that seems like it's going to produce a real show of flavor, but the second third takes more of a lull than I would have expected. The first and final thirds do a good job delivering flavor and strength on their own, yet there seems to be something lacking from the entirety of the cigar. It's not to say that the cigar is bad or off in any way, far from it in fact. It's more a matter of being left to wonder if I just smoked these at a particular point in their lives where the flavors may be a bit more subdued than what I was expecting, and that's before even factoring in my own expectations for the cigar. Certainly an enjoyable cigar now, and one that I'd be interested to revisit even with a few months of rest to see what kind of changes may be noticeable.

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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 previously the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for Major League Baseball, plus I'm a voice over artist. Prior to joining halfwheel, I covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.