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Last year, VegaFina released a cigar to commemorate its 20th anniversary aptly named Gran Reserva 20 Aniversario. That cigar was a a 5 3/4 x 54 vitola that incorporated an Ecuadorian habano wrapper, a Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos from both the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.

Fans of the brand might have done a bit of a double take when they saw the details of the subject of today’s review named the Gran Reserve 2019, a 5 3/4 x 52 double robusto limited edition that shipped to retailers in April. While the name and the vitola are very similar—all the way down to the pigtail on top of the cap—the blend is a bit different on paper, consisting of an Ecuadorian habano wrapper covering a Nicaraguan habano binder and two fillers: piloto from the Dominican Republic and Nicaraguan habano.

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However, two differences between the releases are the numbers being produced and the pricing: while the Gran Reserva 20 Aniversario was limited to limited to 7,000 numbered boxes of 10 cigars with pricing set at €7 ($8.62) per cigar, the Gran Reserve 2019 is limited to 5,350 boxes of 10 cigars, with pricing set at €7.50 ($8.48) per cigar in Spain. As with the rest of the cigars in VegaFina’s lineup, both cigars were rolled at the Tabacalera de García factory located in La Romana, Dominican Republic.

  • Cigar Reviewed: VegaFina Gran Reserve 2019
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: Tabacalera de García
  • Wrapper: Ecuador (Habano)
  • Binder: Nicaragua (Habano)
  • Filler: Dominican Republic (Piloto) & Nicaragua (Habano)
  • Length: 5 3/4 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Robusto Extra
  • MSRP: $8.48 (Boxes of 10, $84.80)
  • Release Date: April 2019
  • Number of Cigars Released: 5,350 Boxes of 10 Cigars (53,500 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

Visually, the VegaFina Gran Reserve 2019 is a gorgeous cigar, with an amazing espresso brown wrapper that is both smooth to the touch and slick with oil. There is a very slight box press visible and the cigar is extremely spongy when squeezed, and the pigtail on the cap looks to be expertly applied. The aroma from the wrapper is a combination of almond paste, plum sweetness, leather, earth, manure and black pepper, while the cold draw is full of roasted peanuts, popcorn, hay, coffee grounds, vanilla sweetness and black pepper.

The first third of the VegaFina Gran Reserve 2019 starts out with a very distinct combination of freshly roasted espresso beans and dank earth as the dominant flavors, followed by notes of salted nuts, dark chocolate, leather and a slight metallic note that comes and goes. While the retrohale is full of both hay and black pepper, the finish is dominated by a plum sweetness that seems to be getting stronger as the first third burns down and there is a bit of spice on my tongue as well. Construction-wise, the VegaFina features an excellent draw after a simple straight cut, but the burn becomes problematic almost out of the gate, forcing me to touch it up once. Although the overall strength jumps forward from the mild mark almost immediately, it ultimately fails to reach the medium mark by the time the first third ends.

While the roasted espresso beans and dank earth combination continue to dominate the palate during the second third of the Gran Reserve 2019, the plum sweetness from the first third increases enough to easily take over the finish, adding a significant amount of complexity to the profile. Other notes of creamy peanuts, leather, black licorice, yeast, tree bark and a slight floral note flit in and out, and although the spice on my tongue from the first third has disappeared totally, the black pepper on the retrohale has stayed about the same. In terms of construction, the draw continues to impress while the burn has evened up nicely, not needing any more attention to stay on the straight and narrow. Strength-wise, the VegaFina easily increases enough to hit a solid medium by the time the second third comes to an end and does not seem to be finished in that regard. 

A virtual carbon copy of the second third awaits me in the final third of the VegaFina Gran Reserve 2019—at least in terms of the flavors in the profile—with roasted espresso beans and dank earth dominating the palate, followed by flavors of hay, roasted peanuts, yeast, floral and leather. In addition, the black pepper on the retrohale remains fairly constant, as does the plum sweetness that is so distinct on the finish. Even the burn and draw continue to give me no issues, and the smoke production is about the same as well. However, the one major change is the strength, which easily blasts through the medium mark, ending up just short of full by the time I put the nub of the Gran Reserve 2019 down with a bit less than an inch left.

Final Notes

  • While the ash was not exactly flaky, it tended to come off a bit unexpectedly—albeit in large chunks which is the reason that the first third’s photograph is missing the end of the ash of the cigar.
  • Having said the above, other than a quick touch up in the first third for two of the samples, the overall construction was excellent.
  • With most cigars that feature pigtails, I just pull the entire tail off of the cap, which opens up a hole plenty large enough to get a great draw without the need to cut anything. That was not the case with these cigars, however, and I was forced to cut each of them in order to get a draw.
  • Puff too hard or too fast on this cigar and it will punish you swiftly and severely with an overwhelming metallic bitterness. Thankfully, the flavor is nowhere to be found if you smoke at a normal pace, so keep it slow.
  • This blend takes a major leap in strength in the final third, so be prepared for it if you are someone who does not like stronger cigars.
  • The cigars smoked for this review were sent to halfwheel by Tabacalera S.L.U.
  • Final smoking time for all three samples averaged one hour and 36 minutes.
88 Overall Score

While I did not have either construction problems or the significant consistency issues that Charlie experienced with the Gran Reserva 20 Aniversario, there were obvious differences between the three samples I smoked, most noticeably with the amount—and nature—of the pepper in each, with one cigar featuring a red pepper note as opposed to black pepper. Having said that, there were a number of similarities as well, including freshly roasted espresso beans and dank earth flavors that dominated the palate and a very interesting plum sweetness that ebbed and flowed throughout each cigar. The red pepper that showed up in one of the cigars really bumped up the complexity of the overall profile, and while I do wish that it was present in all three cigars I smoked, even at its worst the VegaFina Gran Reserve 2019 is a worthy addition to the company’s lineup.

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Brooks Whittington
About the author

I have been smoking cigars for over eight years. A documentary wedding photographer by trade, I spent seven years as a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I started the cigar blog SmokingStogie in 2008 after realizing that there was a need for a cigar blog with better photographs and more in-depth information about each release. SmokingStogie quickly became one of the more influential cigar blogs on the internet, known for reviewing preproduction, prerelease, rare, extremely hard-to-find and expensive cigars. I am a co-founder of halfwheel and now serve as an editor for halfwheel.

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