In early June, Viaje took to social media to announce its upcoming releases, something it has been doing more and more over the past few years. In that group was a new installment of its Summerfest line, a new cigar for the Private Keep series called Lemon, and a new release of its Birthday Blend cigar, which celebrates the birthday of Andre Farkas, the company’s founder and owner.
The Viaje Birthday Blend debuted in 2016 as part of the company’s White Label Project (WLP), though it quickly moved to its own line with dedicated branding the following year. That was because the Birthday Blend was supposed to get its own packaging, but due to FDA’s deadline to get new products commercially available prior to Aug. 8, 2016, the decision was made to release Birthday Blend under the WLP header, which meant using a generic white band, plain boxes and the familiar white sticker on the front that indicates the size, wrapper, production number, production date and production numbers via handwritten details.
The line, and its original blend, is inspired by Old Forrester’s Birthday Bourbon, a limited edition, 12-year-old, vintage dated expression that comes out on Sept. 2, the birthday of company founder George Garvin Brown. For the debut release, Farkas selected a Nicaraguan binder and filler and wrapped them in a Mexican San Andrés maduro leaf.
The blend has changed along the way, as the 2019 version used a Nicaraguan criollo 98 wrapper over a Nicaraguan binder and Nicaraguan fillers. For the 2022 release, the company is releasing two versions of the Birthday Blend, a “regular” version that uses the Nicaraguan criollo 98 wrapper, and a “gold” version that uses a Mexican San Andrés maduro wrapper. Both use a Nicaraguan binder and filler.
While Viaje did not announce the Gold Torpedo alongside the other three June releases, it did ship them alongside those cigars. And while the company has not yet featured them on its social media accounts, it told the stores that received the cigars that a very small batch of the Gold Torpedo were produced as an exclusive release for its preferred retailers, referring to it as a Birthday Blend San Andres Maduro. Outside of the differences in the wrappers—again, the regular Birthday Blend uses a criollo wrapper—the Gold Torpedo comes in boxes with a gold logo, while the regular Birthday Blend comes in boxes with black artwork.
- Viaje White Label Project Birthday Blend (2016) (6 x 52) — August 2016 — 300 Boxes of 38 Cigars (11,400 Cigars)
- Viaje White Label Project Birthday Blend 2017 (6 x 52) — June 2017 — 400 Boxes of 25 Cigars (10,000 Total Cigars)
- Viaje White Label Project Birthday Blend 2018 (6 x 52) — June 2018 — 200 Boxes of 25 Cigars (5,000 Total Cigars)
- Viaje Birthday Blend 2019 (6 x 52) — April 2019 — n/a
- Viaje Birthday Blend 2020 (6 x 52) — May 2020 — n/a
- Viaje Birthday Blend Gold 2022 (6 x 52) — June 2022 — n/a
- Viaje Birthday Blend 2022 (6 x 52) — June 2022 — n/a
The Gold version also comes with a slightly higher price, with a box of 38 cigars priced at $442, as compared to $430 for a box of the other version, which works out to about $11.64 per cigar for the Gold and $11.32 per cigar for the regular version.
- Cigar Reviewed: Viaje Birthday Blend 2022 Gold Torpedo
- Country of Origin: Undisclosed
- Factory: Undisclosed
- Wrapper: Mexico (San Andrés Maduro)
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Length: 6 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 52
- Vitola: Belicoso
- MSRP: $11.64 (Box of 38, $442)
- Release Date: June 2022
- Number of Cigars Released: Undisclosed
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
At first look, this latest Birthday Blend is rolled quite well, with nearly perfectly flat seams, a well constructed head and an overall shape that give me some appreciation for the belicoso vitola. Further inspection reveals that it is a fairly dense cigar with just a bit of give, and in particular the head is quite firmly packed. One cigar is quite dense and showing almost no give, which isn’t inherently concerning, but does make me wonder how the air will move. From arm’s length, the wrapper leaf has a very even color, and while closer inspection reveals just a bit of mottling, that too is evenly distributed across the leaf. The foot has aromas of cake donut and the bottom of a pile of firewood, with a mix of bark, kindling and other wood bits that have fallen off the larger pieces. Sometimes the aroma is dry and woodier, other times it’s a bit damp and shows more bark, and I’m not sure which one I prefer. There’s not a lot of pepper, and while I think I get a bit of sweetness, I can’t identify what it reminds me of at first, other than an extension of the wood. The cold draw is a bit firm, and it seems to be attributed to the already densely packed tobacco funneling to the pointed head of the cigar. I’m a bit surprised not to find more distinct or vibrant flavors on the cold draw, as the profile is fairly tame, though my lips tingle a bit from the tobacco. If anything, there’s a bit of moist earth setting the base and suggestions at pepper, but again, both are very mild.
While it’s not a surprise, the Viaje Birthday Blend starts with a peppery beginning that makes me think of the reaction one gets when turning on the lights to find a group of friends shouting “happy birthday!” The intensity varies across the three cigars that I smoked, and one has me rethinking that sentence given its relative restraint, but I’ll stand by it given what it does offer. There’s a bit of dry wood that occasionally takes on a dry corn flakes flavor, with suggestions of an earthy base developing. The body also feels a bit thin given my general expectations from Viaje, though it’s not lacking and offers a bit of creaminess. I’m not even to the one-inch mark in the first cigar where I find myself needing to cut the head a bit more in hopes of opening the draw up just a bit. I also begin to think that I might be getting a bit of tar, but thankfully an inspection doesn’t reveal any. Pepper continues to build as the burn line progresses, and a blast of white pepper comes in and amplifies things around the one-inch mark. While the initial experience could be considered a bit much, the lingering tingle is quite good and engaging, and adds just a touch of chili pepper heat. The flavor and aroma both skew to the dry side, and thus far the experience has been enjoyable if a bit familiar, which is not to be taken as a criticism, but rather an acknowledgment that this cigar is in line with what I’ve come to expect from Viaje on the whole. A bit more creaminess joins the profile near the end of this section, which I note almost as much for how it changes the body of the cigar as it affects the flavor. Combustion has been very good, though the variance in the draw presents some challenges when it is on the firmer end of the spectrum. Flavor is in the medium-plus range, body is mostly medium but now flirts with medium-plus, while strength has been medium-minus.
The second third of the Viaje Birthday Blend 2022 Gold Torpedo starts with the pepper becoming a bit sharper, particularly through the nose, as there is more of a pointed stimulation effect as opposed to a general nostril-filling tingle. For me it’s not too intense, though I know several people who I smoke cigars with regularly that would likely find it too be too overpowering. That said, I find myself drawn to the softening of the profile as the second third progresses; particularly after the midway point the profile gets much more subdued, which allows the overall profile to become much more approachable. There’s a soft earth setting the tone that gets accented by a bit of mixed pepper, though in contrast to where it was earlier, the pepper is no longer driving the profile. There’s a touch of sweetness that I continue to find flitting in and out of the profile, and it continues to be hard to pin down. In some cases it reminds of a bit of honey glaze, though is by no means as distinct as having a taste of honey straight out of the bottle. In addition, there’s are moments where dry wood is prominent and others where a dry corn flakes is most noticeable. The draw continues to vary, but when it is right, it certainly makes for a much more enjoyable experience. That said, near the end of the second third of the first cigar I smoked, I find myself needing to try and open the draw a little more, so I clip a bit more off the head of the cigar, and it finally seems to do the trick. While the head still looks like it is tightly packed, the air is finally moving closer to an ideal rate. Combustion is very good, smoke production is good, and the burn line isn’t perfectly even but is nowhere needing correction. Flavor intensity has backed down to medium, the body is still medium, and strength is generally shy of medium, though the draw issues of one cigar come with some corollary effects that makes it seem like a stronger cigar.
The final third starts off with a resurgence of the pepper, particularly through retrohales, where white pepper returns with a more pointed nature and expression. After the mellowing that went on during the second third, the change is immediately noticeable, and begins speculation about what lies ahead. In the first cigar, it is hard to say that the Viaje Birthday Blend 2022 Gold Torpedo starts off on a good note as it enters its final third, as the tight draw is seemingly giving me a headache and contributing to a flavor profile that is sharp, out of balance and suddenly packed with nicotine. The other two cigars—which have better draws—don’t go down this road, and for the most part stay enjoyable, continuing on with white pepper, a dry wood, and a shift towards a drier earth than the cigar has shown thus far. At its best, the blend becomes one led by white pepper both on the palate and through the nose, and while it may not be a deep or complex profile, it is enjoyable. A bit of chili pepper heat comes in as the burn line moves through where the band would be, while the flavor begins to pick up just a bit of grit from its earth component. Much like one cigar stood out for being really rough in flavor, another stands out as showing some impressive changes, as that one adds a bit of coffee beans and grounds in the final inch to add to the earthiness.
- I would be intrigued to try this blend in a toro vitola, just to see how it would smoke without the tapered head, and in the case of the first cigar, the tight draw.
- It’s not apparent at first glance, but the silver parts of the band have a bit of a holographic quality to them, reflecting light with a prism effect.
- Editor’s Note: If you are wondering why the cigar bands look link in the first two photographs but silver in the next three it’s due to how the light is hitting the band, both the type of light and the angle of the light. Interestingly, our old studio set-up made the details in the bands look silver and not pink. — Charlie Minato.
- While many cigars have traditional design elements like gold coins, this one uses party hats, balloons and streamers.
- This is one of those things you raise when you’re a bit too deep in the weeds, but it does slightly irk me that Viaje’s box MSRPs do not always divide evenly when calculating single cigar MSRPs. Just divide $442 by 38 and you’ll see what I mean.
- The first cigar that I smoked seemed to be a prime example of how a tight draw can have a myriad of ill effects, not just on the cigar, but on the person smoking it.
- One cigar—the repeatedly mentioned first cigar—really hit me hard, while the other two weren’t as impactful. There is a bit of nicotine strength, but it is generally not enough to have me feeling negatively.
- The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time was two hours and 35 minutes on average.
- Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar Co., JR Cigar and STOGIES World Class Cigars carry the 2022 version of the Viaje Birthday Blend 2022 Gold Torpedo.
My experience with the Viaje Birthday Blend 2022 Gold Torpedo was a bit of a frustrating one, but also one that improved as each of the three cigars was smoked. I have to believe that the first cigar was a victim of construction woes, in that the cigar was simply overfilled and it adversely affected the draw and performance of the cigar, while also making that particular cigar challenging to smoke. The second cigar was better on all fronts, even reaching points in flavor that would have me consider picking some more up to have in my humidor. The third cigar fell somewhere in the middle, not quite hitting the high notes but also avoiding most of the issues. If you're a big fan of Viaje and your local retailer has these, or you're just interested in this cigar, I think it's worth giving a shot, but with the kind of consistency issues that I experienced, my recommendation comes with a bit of a reservation.