The other day, a reminder went off on my phone reminding me that it had been a year since the whole COVID-19 pandemic had set in, and that I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the past year, what we’ve learned, what we haven’t, and where not only society was in that time but where I was.
I bring that up because I find it both interesting and beneficial to take a moment to think about what has changed over a certain period of time. When I went to my redux humidor, I came across a cigar I knew that I’d passed over for one reason or another way too any times and for way too many reasons, the Viaje Exclusivo Lancero from 2014.
The cigar originally debuted in 2011, not all that long after the Exclusivo line debuted in 2009. It was a size that was released for Atlantic Cigar Co.’s 15th anniversary, with just 150 boxes of 25 cigars released. Two and a half years later, the cigar would return, but with only 96 boxes of 25 cigars produced, and now using a pigtail cap instead of the fantail cap found on the original.
Here’s what I said about the Viaje Exclusivo Lancero when I reviewed it in May 2014:
With the Viaje Exclusivo line expanding to more than a dozen releases, the opportunity to compare vitolas and ages is somewhat readily available, and I have been fortunate enough to sample more than half of the line. This incarnation of the Exclusivo Lancero left me lacking in a few ways, but mostly from the finish that seemed to be aiming for full-bodied but ended up in harshness. Age may resolve this, and if experience is the guide it should, which would turn this into a much more elegant cigar that delivers a more pure flavor experience without sacrificing the strength that it has. Good for now, hopefully great before long.
- Cigar Reviewed: Viaje Exclusivo Lancero (2014)
- Country of Origin: Honduras
- Factory: Fábrica de Tabacos Raíces Cubanas S. de R.L.
- Wrapper: Nicaragua (Criollo)
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Length: 7 1/2 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 40
- Vitola: Lancero
- MSRP: $9.60 (Box of 25, $240)
- Release Date: April 22, 2014
- Number of Cigars Released: 96 Boxes of 25 Cigars (2,400 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Redux: 1
I’m still not sure how the Viaje Exclusivo Lancero made it almost seven years without being pulled out for a redux, but it certainly doesn’t look any worse for the extended rest. The wrapper still has a supple and oily texture, and like it did originally there is a bit of mottling and some small veins. It’s still firm when squeezed, though I’m not going to test the fragility of the leaf that much. Honestly, were it not for knowing the age of the cigar, I don’t know if there is anything that would suggest this didn’t just come off the shelf. The foot of the cigar has a slightly meaty aroma but it is otherwise very mild. The cold draw is slightly tight but not problematic, especially considering the vitola. The flavor is also mild but has a bit more of a chocolate chip brownie flavor.
I’ve always considered the Viaje Exclusivo blend one of the more refined ones in the company’s portfolio, and that combined with several years of rest gives the Lancero a smooth start with just a bit of tingle on the tongue and lips. The profile isn’t necessarily creamy, but there is a very light aspect of that word to be found in the profile. Retrohales are a bit more lively thanks to white pepper, though even that is on the mild side of the spectrum. There are a few puffs where I get a bit of a coffee grounds aroma, or more likely, the smell of a coffee shop. A bit of waxiness comes along as the first third progresses, bringing with it a bit of subtle mint as well. There are some points in the second third where the profile picks up a bit of black pepper and chocolate milkshake, which then touches on a bit of earth, but through the first half, the cigar is definitely showing its age and relaxed profile. Flavor is a smooth medium-minus, body is closer to medium, and strength is approaching medium. Construction and combustion are both very good.
The start of the second half sees the profile wake up a bit as a vibrant natural wood note emerges and the earth and pepper intensify their offerings. There is also a bit more creaminess to the profile, which also helps the body of the smoke fill out a bit. The one thing that I notice is that the earth in the profile doesn’t add much of a grounding effect to the profile. While a lot of Nicaraguan puros tend to have an earthiness that grounds the cigar and gives it an anchoring note, this doesn’t seem to have it, though I’m not sure it’s any worse off for it. The final third starts with a bit of a chocolate milkshake flavor, with another layer of dark chocolate on top. The earth and pepper flavors have become a bit more intertwined and have a bit grittier component, while the woodiness fills in the spaces between and complements the other flavors quite well. There are points where the combination picks up a bit of a warm root beer flavor and aroma, an interesting and enjoyable byproduct of a fairly vibrant and progressive second half. That fades fairly quickly as the woodiness picks up, the creaminess dials back, and white pepper takes over the duty of tingling the front and sides of the tongue. I smoked the cigar fairly slowly and managed to get two and a half hours out of it, with no notable construction or combustion issues. Flavor is mostly medium-plus but floors it up to full to get it across the finish line, while body is medium-plus and strength hangs closer to the medium level.
The Viaje Exclusivo blend has long been my go-to choice in the company’s portfolio, mainly for its balance, complexity and refinement. I'm pleased to find that seven years of rest hasn't done anything to take away from those three attributes, while also smoothing out the handful of rough spots that I found when the cigar was released. It is definitely mellower in the first half than I would expect for anything with a Viaje band on it as well as for the Exclusivo blend, but never skeletal or too mellow to be enjoyed. Rather, it has smoothed out and just hints at what is to come, saving that for a very quickly developing second half that shows that the cigar has plenty of vibrance left to it. If you still have some, I'd certainly say this is as good a time as any to smoke them; if you don't have any, it's as good as a reminder that this is still one of Viaje's best blends.