The most controversial cigar of 2018: Viaje Bales on Bales.
It’s the leading candidate to-date, albeit, you’ll need to be following a RoMa Craft Tabac-related social media account. It has nothing to do with the cigar—a 6 x 52 Nicaraguan puro—and everything to do with the name, albeit not the name of the cigar.
Bales on Bales is part of Viaje’s new Craft Series. The company described the series as:
Taking inspiration from the craft beer industry, we are thrilled to offer the first release in what will be a multi-factory, ongoing journey into tobacco.
If the packaging is any indication, it seems inspired by Trillium Brewing Co., a popular Massachusetts-based brewery. The packaging for Bales on Bales is rather similar to the labels used on Trillium’s cans, including the off-white label, an illustration in reference to the name, the general layout and even the font.
Skip Martin of RoMa Craft Tobac took note of those things, but mainly the use of the word Craft, and published a host of social media posts regarding the word, the more colorful of which have been deleted.
As for Bales on Bales the cigar, not a ton of information was put out by Viaje. It uses all AGANORSA tobacco and is rolled at the associated Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. factory, The company says the cigar sold out, though it never announced the amount of 10-count boxes it produced.
- Cigar Reviewed: Viaje Bales on Bales
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A.
- Wrapper: Nicaragua
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Length: 6 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 52
- Vitola: Toro
- Est. Price: $11 (Boxes of 10, $110)
- Release Date: May 2018
- Number of Cigars Released: n/a
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
Despite the attention on the packaging, one thing that’s not particularly noticeable until you open the boxes is the cigars are foil-wrapped. It’s similar to the Bolívar Gold Medal, where part of the cigar is covered in foil, though it’s silver instead of gold. A silver and white band, which says CRAFT SERIES on it, is used—a new look from Viaje. Aroma from the wrapper is mild but sweet with gingersnap cookies on top of leather. The foot has the similar gingersnap flavor, now joined by orange peels, white pepper and something that reminds me of frozen peas. There’s little in the way of similarities between the cold draws. One sample is dominated by potato chips with some strawberries underneath. The other is bright with grapefruit, blueberries and a nuttiness towards the back.
The Viaje Bales on Bales begins with burnt bread, some sour creaminess, a saltiness and a touch of paprika. There’s a varying amount of toastiness to start, something that is likely due to the difference in how the cigars were rolled. One sample is underfilled and quite toasty. Another is tight and the final one is somewhere in between. All three cigars are rather earthy with two providing some additional complexities: orange peel, creaminess, cornbread and white pepper. Like the start, there are varying amounts of toastiness, ranging from a secondary flavor to completely dominating the cigar. Despite the varying draws, all three cigars make it through the first third without needing to be touched up. Flavor is medium-full, body is medium and strength is on the lighter side of medium.
All three cigars turn much toastier in the second third. The bready flavor has transitioned to reminding me of fresh water bagels. Behind that there’s some table salt, earthiness and a white pepper. One thing that’s frustrating is there’s really no layering of flavors, they just sort of sit on the palate all at once and force me to figure out what’s what, which I suppose is my job. A touch-up or two is needed in the second third, largely due to smoke production issues. Flavor remains medium-full, body is now medium-full, while strength picks up slightly, but is still medium.
The final third of the Bales on Bales is much spicier with the paprika returning. It’s still no match for the earthiness and toastiness, which now has more of a burnt woods characteristic. The white pepper fades in and out, but the sweetness that I’m hoping for is nowhere to be found. More touch-ups are needed to get the cigar down to the final inch. Flavor picks up to full, while body remains medium-full and strength sits at medium.
- Viaje’s description of this cigar says, “The best bales have been painstakingly sampled and blended to ensure each release showcases the very best from each factory chosen.” It reminds me of some early Ezra Zion cigars where the company said it was given access to AGANORSA’s special/secret bales. Anyone that knows anything about buying tobacco knows that every bale is the best bale according to the seller. Given the number of great cigars that use AGANORSA tobacco, it would be fascinating to know what AGNAORSA’s blenders and sellers really think is the top 1 percent of bales. If I had to take a guess, it’s probably going into the company’s own Casa Fernández line(s) of cigars and not what goes to clients like Viaje, Alec Bradley, HVC, Illusione or others.
- That being said, what Viaje thinks is the best bale is probably not what Dion Giolito of Illusione thinks, or perhaps even what Arsenio Ramos, the blender for AGANORSA, thinks.
- This is not the first time Viaje has been involved in a controversy regarding copying or similarities. In the early 2010s, Pete Johnson of Tatuaje began to publicly criticize Viaje and its owner Andre Farkas for products he believed were copying some of his cigars and others. Viaje was a much smaller company than it is now and at times it seemed like Johnson had turned into the most vocal Viaje brand ambassador, albeit, not in a positive manner.
- I imagine to a lesser extent the same is true with Martin and Bales on Bales. There are inevitably people who had no clue about this cigar until the Instagram posts started—and some of them probably bought the cigar.
- Personally, I don’t have much thought one way or another. I certainly understand Martin’s frustration, but I’m also not sure RoMa Craft Tobac should have exclusive domain over the word craft in the same way I don’t think Boutique Blends should have exclusive use of that overused word.
- Of note, RoMa Craft Tobac has a trademark on its name.
- And Jas Sum Kral—in what I can only describe as a troll job and waste of peoples time and money—filed for a trademark on “Craft Cigars” last week.
- A holding company associated with Altadis U.S.A. has an active trademark for Craft Syndicate. Big Tobacco also has gotten in on the craft trademarking game; Altria—the world’s second-largest tobacco company—has trademarks for Marlboro Craft Blend and Experience The Craft.
- We will not be reviewing Marlboro Craft Blend.
- One sample had a rather large hard spot about an inch from the foot. Another sample was severely underfilled.
- The Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. (TABSA) factory takes pride in weighing individual cigars. In this case, it didn’t show.
- For those wondering, there was only one band, which means for the pictures above I moved the band up the cigar in a traditional manner. Sometimes, companies have placed a separate band under the foil with the understanding the main band would be removed.
- Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time was rather slow on average, ranging from two hours and 10 minutes to two hours and 35 minutes.
- Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar Co. and Serious Cigars carry Bales on Bales.
Naming controversy aside, I found Viaje Bales on Bales to be rather boring. It’s tough for me to figure out what this cigar was supposed to taste like: one was extremely underfilled and another rather tight. But even if I disregard that, the Goldilocks sample was more of the same: earthiness and toastiness. Whatever you think of Viaje, the company makes some good cigars, this is not one of them.