During the 2018 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, Viaje showed off a new series that has grown to encompass three different cigars, with each release named after the color of ribbon used to wrap the bundle inside each box.

Named Private Keep, the series is made up of “prized blends which haven’t yet found a home” in other releases. According to brand owner Andre Farkas, for every cigar blend that ends up getting released, there are at least five more that didn’t make the cut for one reason or another. He noted that it’s not just iterations of the final blend, but other trial blends as well.

The debut blend that shipped in August 2018 was Private Keep Light Blue, a 6 x 48 grand corona extra made up of a corojo 99 wrapper covering an all Nicaraguan blend in the binder and filler. That was followed by Private Keep Tangerine in August 2019, a 6 x 52 toro that was wrapped in a bright orange ribbon, although blend information was not disclosed.

Fast forward to last month, when Viaje announced the release of Private Keep Chartreuse, a 6 x 54 toro gordo sold in boxes of 37 with a retail price of $10.97 per cigar. Although exact details about the blend, production numbers and where it was rolled were not disclosed by the company, the new addition to the series does come unbanded and includes both a flag cap and covered foot, the combination of which have become synonymous with the Viaje series.

There are now three different cigars in the Private Keep Series.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Viaje Private Keep Chartreuse
  • Country of Origin: Not Disclosed
  • Factory: Not Disclosed
  • Wrapper: Not Disclosed
  • Binder: Not Disclosed
  • Filler: Not Disclosed
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 54
  • Vitola: Toro Gordo
  • MSRP: $10.97 (Box of 37, $406)
  • Release Date: August 2020
  • Number of Cigars Released: Not Disclosed
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

Visually, the Viaje Private Keep Chartreuse is covered in a milk chocolate brown wrapper that is sandpaper rough to the touch, although it does feature a nice amount of oil as well. The covered foot and flag cap are both nice visual touches, but one sample had two different soft spots: one was just under the cap and the other was about halfway down the cigar. Aroma from the wrapper and foot is a combination of sweet nuts, earth, barnyard, dark chocolate, tea leaves and slight citrus, while the cold draw brings flavors of creamy almonds, earth, leather, cedar and black pepper.

Starting out the first third, the Private Keep Chartreuse features both significant spice on my tongue as well as a noticeable—albeit generic—sweetness, with the same creamy almond note from the cold draw easily taking the top spot in the profile. Secondary flavors of leather, earth, cinnamon, cocoa nibs, cedar, toast and slight citrus round out the profile, while the finish is dominated by bitter espresso beans. In terms of construction, the draw is wonderful after a simple straight cut, and while the burn is a bit wavy, it is not overly problematic so far. Smoke production is extremely high off of the foot while the overall strength starts out fairly mild before managing to ramp up close to medium by the end of the first third.

As the second third of the Viaje Private Keep Chartreuse begins, the profile continues to be dominated by the same creamy almond note while the finish is full of bitter espresso, but the sweetness on the retrohale has exploded into a distinct caramel syrup note that only makes the rest of the flavors more enjoyable. There are other flavors flitting in and out as well, including cocoa nibs, earth, hay, toast, cinnamon and a remaining touch of citrus, while both the black pepper and the spice on my tongue from the first third have receded quite a bit. Construction-wise, the draw continues to impress, but the burn has started to give me issues, leading to a quick touchup to get things back on track. The strength has continued to increase, easily hitting the medium mark and still rising as the second third comes to an end.

The final third of the Viaje Chartreuse features a number of changes, starting with the overall creaminess of the profile, which has been cut in half compared to the first two thirds. With that said, the dominant flavor is still a distinct almond note, followed by additional flavors of cedar, gritty earth, powdery cocoa, leather, tea leaves, toast and floral flavors. The bitter espresso note on the finish has receded significantly, while both the caramel syrup sweetness and black pepper on the retrohale are at about the same level. Thankfully, the draw remains excellent while the burn has evened up nicely, and the smoke production is still quite high off of the foot. Finally, the overall strength easily increases enough to hit a point firmly between the medium and full marks by the time the final third ends with about an inch remaining.

Final Notes

  • In addition to being the name of this cigar, Chartreuse is also a French liqueur named after the Grande Chartreuse monastery located in the Chartreuse Mountains in France.
  • Somehow, I distinctly remember learning that Chartreuse was a pinkish-red color when I was a child, and have thought so until recently when I learned it refers to a light green color. Interestingly, I am not the only one who thinks that, although some people’s explanations for why this is the case are more than a bit odd.
  • The ash on this release is thick and heavy but tends to fall off unexpectedly, something to be aware of if you are smoking over computers or other electronics.
  • While the bundles have different colored ribbons, the cigars are individually unbanded and I find it extremely annoying to have cigars in my humidor with no outward indication of what they are.
  • This became an issue when Charlie couldn’t figure out what the unbanded cigars were in the review humidor.
  • While the construction for two of the cigars was excellent—specifically, my second and third samples—the first one needed multiple touchups in each third to keep it on track. Incidentally, that specific cigar also featured a profile that was not nearly as enjoyable as the other two I smoked after it.
  • The cigars smoked for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time averaged one hour and 39 minutes for all three samples.
88 Overall Score

From the overly spicy and creamy start to the sweeter second half, the Viaje Private Keep Chartreuse seems to offer something for everyone at certain points. The nutty almond flavor remains dominant throughout the cigar, while the finish loses some of its espresso bitterness as it burns down. Unfortunately, one of the samples was obviously inferior to the other two in both flavors and construction—something that is most likely an outlier—but at its best, the Chartreuse is well worth picking up to try for yourself.

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Brooks Whittington

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.