First came The Hulk, followed by Bruce Banner, then Johnny Blaze, Ghost Rider and Mephisto.

No, these were not the members of a new Marvel movie—although that would be a fairly amazing lineup—but instead additions to Viaje’s largest series, namely Skull and Bones. While the original members in the series that debuted more than 10 years ago bore names inspired by nicknames of nuclear bombs and other weapons of mass destruction, the most recent additions have been named after various Marvel superheroes and their alter egos.

Last month, Viaje announced the newest releases in its Skull and Bones series, which now numbers 46 cigars by our count. Named Skull and Bones Frank Castle and Skull and Bones The Punisher, both cigars share the same 6 1/4 x 54 vitola and are made up of “a proprietary blend of Nicaraguan tobaccos.” The company also confirmed that the cigars were rolled in a factory located in Nicaragua, but declined to provide specifics about which factory, how many cigars were released or any blend details.

For those of you not familiar with the Marvel Universe, Frank Castle is the name of the person that turns into Punisher, a vigilante anti-hero. Although he appeared for the first time in Marvel’s “The Amazing Spider-Man #129” comic book published in early 1974 as a vigilante who had no problems killing criminals—a rarity in Marvel comics—subsequent versions of Frank Castle’s character have added quite a bit of nuance to the character, including a history as a Marine war veteran and as the husband of a wife and two children who were murdered by the mob for witnessing a killing in New York City, the latter of which is the impetus for the creation of Frank’s Punisher alter ego and his never-ending campaign against crime.

Each cigar—Frank Castle and Punisher—has an MSRP of $13 and was packaged in bundles of 25 that started shipping to retailers on April 19.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Viaje Skull and Bones The Punisher
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Undisclosed
  • Wrapper: Nicaragua
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 6 1/4 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 54
  • Vitola: Toro Extra
  • MSRP: $13 (Bundle of 25, $325)
  • Release Date: April 19, 2021
  • Number of Cigars Released: Undisclosed
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

Covered in a milk chocolate brown wrapper that is fairly smooth to the touch, The Punisher, the cigar is nicely firm when squeezed and has a touch of oil visible. In addition, there are a few visible veins running up and down its length. Aroma from the wrapper is a combination of cedar, earth and toasted bread, while the foot brings scents of leather, hay and graham cracker sweetness. Finally, the cold draw brings flavors of granola, dark chocolate, brewed coffee, earth, lemongrass and slight vanilla sweetness.

As first third of The Punisher starts out, there is some slight spice on my tongue along with main flavors of popcorn and earth followed by secondary notes of generic citrus, creamy peanuts, cedar, cinnamon and hay. In addition, there is some vanilla bean sweetness on the retrohale that combines nicely with some black pepper that is also present. Construction-wise, the burn is very close to razor-sharp, and the draw is giving me no issues so far with just the right amount of resistance after a simple straight cut. Body is medium, and while the strength is fairly light so far, it definitely seems to be increasing as the first third burns down.

There are a number of changes in the profile of The Punisher during the second third, starting with the main flavors in the profile. They have morphed into a combination of charred meat and leather. Additional notes of coffee beans, cedar, cinnamon, lemongrass and sourdough bread flit in and out in various amounts. While the spice from the first third has receded quite a bit, the vanilla bean sweetness and black pepper on the retrohale have not changed all that much. In terms of construction, both the burn and draw continue along their excellent path and the smoke production has increased noticeably, pouring off of the foot like a house on fire. The amount of strength easily has jumped quite a bit and easily breaks through the medium mark by the time the second third ends.

Although the final third of the Viaje The Punisher is a virtual carbon copy of the second third—including the top flavors of charred meat and leather—the major changes are the strength and the amount of black pepper, the latter of which continues to increase as the final third burns down and ending up at a point just north of the full mark. Early on in the third, the profile features secondary flavors of cedar, bread, earth, dark chocolate, hay and cinnamon that are all on display at various points, but near the end, the combination of increased strength and black pepper becomes so overwhelming that most of those flavors are all but drowned out. That also includes the vanilla bean sweetness on the retrohale, which—while still noticeable—has receded to the point that it is unable to have any impact on the profile. While the draw continues to impress, the smoke production has fallen off a bit from its high and the draw becomes problematic enough that it needs a quick touchup with my lighter just before I put the nub down with a little more than an inch remaining.

Final Notes

  • To be honest, I am unsure how I feel about these recent comic book-themed releases from Viaje: on one hand, it is kinda cool to have cigars named after some of the comic characters I read and collected while growing up. However, from the lack of any actual Marvel logos or art, it seems like these are just cigars using the names of the characters that are part of the Marvel IP and nothing more, which I find to be more than a little lazy.
  • Along with the above, I would not be surprised if Viaje gets a cease and desist from Disney for copyright infringement at some point. Sometimes companies will send these letters out as a threat to get a cigar company to stop using it without any real plans of funding a legal battle, other times, cigar companies have found themselves spending money to defend something that seems pretty inconsequential.
  • Long before the Netflix Punisher show debuted, Phil Joanou created and released a Punisher bootleg short named “Dirty Laundry” starring Thomas Jane as Punisher (along with a bit of a part for Ron Pearlman.) It is everything you might expect from a Punisher creation that is trying to stay true to its roots, so if you have not seen it, be warned: there is quite a bit of violence.

  • When I went to cut my second review cigar, I noticed what looked like a strip of green tobacco that was used on the cap. This cigar shipped to retailers at the same time as Viaje’s White Label Project Banner / The Hulk—which incorporates candela tobacco into its barber pole wrapper—so that may have something to do with it.
  • Editor’s Note: I think an equally like explanation is that there was a water spot that turned the wrapper green in some places. — CM.
  • The cigars smoked for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time for all three samples averaged one hour and 37 minutes.
  • If you would like to purchase any of the Viaje The Punisher cigars, site sponsor Atlantic Cigar Co. has them in stock.

Update (June 9, 2021): The original review stated that the Frank Castle cigar has a blank white band, which is not the case as the band does feature art on it. 

84 Overall Score

Although it starts out surprisingly tame, it turns out that the cigar inspired by one of the most brutal comic book anti-heros in Marvel’s history—as well as being a member of one of Viaje’s most powerful lines—easily lives up to its namesake by the time it comes to an end. While the more restrained strength in the first two thirds allows for more nuanced flavors of popcorn, charred meat and vanilla beans sweetness to take center stage, those are all but overwhelmed by an increase in both strength and black pepper in the final third, which also has the effect of throwing off the overall balance.

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.