25. Leaf by James
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: Fabrica Oveja Negra
- Wrapper: U.S.A. (Pennsylvania Broadleaf)
- Binder: Ecuador (Habano)
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Length: 6 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 50
- Vitola: Toro Grande
- MSRP: $9.95 (Bundles of 20, $199; Boxes of 20, $209)
- Release Date: June 8, 2018
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Original Score: 91
Several years ago, a finished cigar wrapped in a tobacco leaf took retail humidors by storm, seemingly as much for its unique presentation as much as for its flavorful profile and wallet-friendly price. Likewise, in much that same time an upstart cigar brand out of Nicaragua has been winning over fans of full-bodied, full-flavored cigars.
Put those two things together, and you get the Leaf by James. The Leaf Series was originally created as a store exclusive for Leaf & Bean Strip, a retail store in Pittsburgh, Pa. owned by “Island” Jim Robinson, he of the yellow sunglasses and “Wahoo!” exclamations. While the Leaf by Oscar is the most well known, other blends have had a chance to contribute to the series as well. This year, James Brown of Black Label Trading Co. and Fabrica Oveja Negra was given the opportunity to deliver his take on the Leaf series, and the result was quite good.
Using a Pennsylvania broadleaf wrapper, Ecuadorian habano wrapper and Nicaraguan filler, Brown takes the line to some of its fullest points to date, which should come as no surprise given the general profile of Black Label blends. There’s plenty of rich earth, chocolate, coffee and chocolate at the outset, building to a full-bodied finish that will give both new and seasoned palates plenty of flavor with which to contend.
While it doesn’t come wrapped in a tobacco leaf—that is a signature touch reserved for the Leaf by Oscar—the Leaf by James is an impressively bold and flavorful addition to the line and one worth checking out. — Patrick Lagreid.