In May, Altadis U.S.A. announced that it would take over the distribution and sales of Boutique Blends, the company behind the Aging Room line of cigars that was previously known as Oliveros. Rafael Nodal, one of the company’s co-founders, would then join Altadis U.S.A.
His role, which was later expanded to head of product capability is to help the company—as well as its related retail operations, JR Cigar and Casa de Montecristo—develop cigars. Before he was hired, sources at the company told me that Altadis U.S.A. was looking for someone to work with the company in order to better develop brands and blends for the modern cigar market. It wanted someone from outside the company and someone that had experience and success developing brands; enter Nodal.
In October, the company released the first product developed by Nodal: Trinidad Santiago. In what should come as little surprise, the release is being made by Jochy Blanco’s Tabacalera Palma factory in the Dominican Republic, the same factory responsible for producing Nodal’s own brands.
The cigar is a Dominican puro, using habano tobacco throughout, and is offered in three sizes.
- Trinidad Santiago Toro (6 x 54) — $9.40 (Boxes of 20, $188)
- Trinidad Santiago Belicoso (6 x 52) — $9.90 (Boxes of 20, $198)
- Trinidad Santiago Robusto (5 x 48) — $8.90 (Boxes of 20, $178)
- Cigar Reviewed: Trinidad Santiago Robusto
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: Tabacalera Palma
- Wrapper: Dominican Habano
- Binder: Dominican Habano
- Filler: Dominican Habano
- Length: 5 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 48
- Vitola: Robusto
- MSRP: $8.90 (Boxes of 20, $178)
- Release Date: October 2017
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
There’s a foot band and as such, the process for smoking the cigar starts: remove cellophane, ponder why a foot band was needed, remove foot band, proceed to the normal part of the experience. The wrapper has some leather and barnyard over earthiness, some nutmeg and ammonia. It’s medium-plus, but the flavor is super compact. The foot is much sweeter with nuttiness, chocolate and nutmeg. That continues with the cold draw: lots of nutmeg, a sweet creaminess that reminds me of frothed milk at Starbucks, a bit of raw vanilla and some slight grassiness.
The Trinidad Santiago starts predictably enough with nuttiness, some creaminess and a touch of saltiness. That’s pretty much the story as the first third develops: nuttiness on top of a generic creaminess with lemon, saltiness and a bit of spice through the nose. There’s some cumin on the back of the throat, but there’s not a ton of irritation. Flavor is medium-plus, body is medium-full and strength is medium-plus. Construction is good with nothing needing any corrections.
And then there’s the second third. A massive harshness and acidity develop at the center of the tongue—and while there are still other flavors—each puff begins and ends with that. Beyond that, it’s toasty with some oats, though the nuttiness is still the main flavor in terms of intensity. The finish has burnt breads, some nuttiness, cumin and a bitter grapefruit—and towards the final puffs on the second third, some black pepper. Each cigar has burn issues in the second third, with two samples beginning to tunnel, which doesn’t help.
Once again, the saltiness and acidity are the main things that stand out flavor-wise. There are other flavors: an underdeveloped raspberry, saltine crackers, lemon and at times a flavor that reminds me of bad store-bought salsa, but each puff begins and ends with the salty and acidic combination—sometimes with earth and sometimes without—and as such, it’s challenging to focus on much else. Deep retrohales produce some creaminess, but are then followed by a lot of harsh pepper and as such, I abandon the efforts. Flavor and body re medium-full while strength is medium-plus. Two of the three cigars need touch-ups to deal with uneven burns in the final third, but the smoke production is good until the last puff.
- I understand why Altadis U.S.A formed the partnership with Rafael Nodal, the company wanted someone who could help with blending and branding in the modern market, which it—correctly—thought had passed them by. However, I’m not sure what was accomplished with this release. Even for the relatively dormant Trinidad brand, the packaging on this cigar is amongst the plainest and generic-looking branding in the company’s portfolio. It’s just boring.
- And then there’s the cigar. In case you didn’t gather as much, it’s not very good.
- While I like Jochy Blanco as a person and respect his operation, for whatever reason, very few cigars by the Tabacalera Palma factory that have been made over the years are ones that I would gravitate towards. There have been exceptions—including some very good cigars—but this is another in a long list of things from the factory I just don’t care for. What’s different here is that I don’t think it’s a personal preference thing, this was just bad.
- Which brings to my final point: is there any reason to believe that Altadis U.S.A. couldn’t have done this on its own? I’m not suggesting that every cigar needs to look like Foundry or is going to earn 92 points, but this is the debut release from a big partnership and there’s nothing outside of a press release that would suggest it was anything noteworthy. I was expecting a splash and what we got instead was more of a raindrop.
- Furthermore, it doesn’t appear that the cigar having a ton of success at the retail level either. While it’s certainly available, I’ve yet to see it at any of the half dozen shops I’ve been in in the last month, though they’ve all been in Dallas, so perhaps it’s a regional thing. Yet this cigar shipped five months ago.
- One last thing, the tagline for this cigar is “A Dominican born cigar with a Cuban soul.” It’s not my favorite sentence in the world, but I sort of think it should be the other way around.
- For those that aren’t familiar, the Trinidad brand has one of the most interesting histories of any brand, particularly when you consider just how young it is compared to the rest of the Cuban brands.
- On a different note, the cigar is affordable with prices below $10, which is nice.
- For those wondering this is not the first time Nodal and Blanco have partnered for a cigar with Altadis U.S.A. In 2015, the trio released the ROMEO by Romeo y Julieta Aging Room Small Batch F25, a cigar I like a lot better.
- Altadis U.S.A. and its related companies advertise on halfwheel.
- Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 40 minutes on average.
- Site sponsors Cigars.com, JR Cigar, Serious Cigars and Thompson Cigar Co. all carry the Trinidad Santiago Robusto.
After I smoked three cigars and finished the scoresheets, I did a quick Google search to see if anyone else had reviewed the cigar. It’s something I rarely do, but I was curious to see if anyone else had the same experience I did. Save for one review from a retailer, there are no reviews, so that wasn’t helpful. As the score would indicate, I didn’t enjoy this. There were construction issues, but more importantly flavor issues. For three nights in a row my mouth was covered in a salty and acidic mixture that can’t help but make you think of sweat, which honestly isn’t too far off.