“Taking inspiration from the craft beer industry, we are thrilled to offer the latest release in what is a multi-factory, ongoing journey into tobacco.”
That is how Viaje describes its Craft Series, one of its most talked-about creations in recent memory. The line debuted in 2018 with Bales on Bales, a a 6 x 52 Nicaraguan puro produced at Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. (TABSA) in Nicaragua, followed by For the Love of the Leaf, a 6 x 52 Nicaraguan puro that was also rolled at TABSA.
The newest incarnation is Wilshire And La Jolla, a 6 x 54 Nicaragua puro produced at the Raíces Cubanas factory located in Danlí, Honduras.
The series is not without some controversy, for two main reasons. First, the packaging—specifically, the art, font and overall look of the label on the outside of the boxes—seems to be extremely similar to the art used on some of Trillium Brewing Co.’s releases. Secondly, RoMa Craft Tobac’s Skip Martin has complained about the use of Craft in the name, pointing to both RoMa Craft’s name and its Craft Series.
There have now been three different releases in Viaje’s Craft Series so far:
- Viaje Bales on Bales (6 x 52) — May 2018 — $11 (Boxes of 10, $110)
- Viaje For the Love of the Leaf (6 x 52) — September 2018 — $11 (Boxes of 10, $110)
- Viaje Wilshire and La Jolla (6 x 54) — November 2019 — $11 (Boxes of 10, $110)
- Cigar Reviewed: Viaje Wilshire and La Jolla
- Country of Origin: Honduras
- Factory: Fábrica de Tabacos Raíces Cubanas S. de R.L.
- Wrapper: Nicaragua
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Length: 6 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 54
- Vitola: Toro Extra
- MSRP: $11 (Boxes of 10, $110)
- Release Date: November 2019
- Number of Cigars Released: Undisclosed
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
Although thick and mostly square when I first looked at it, the Viaje Wilshire and La Jolla is surprisingly light when held in my hand, almost to the point of distraction. Another distraction is the sliver foil wrapping that covers up at least three-quarters of the total cigar. Once that is removed I can finally see the entire cinnamon brown wrapper that features a multitude of smaller veins as well as some obvious oil. The cigar is extremely spongy when squeezed and the combination of soft box-press and smooth closed foot are interesting touches. Aroma from the wrapper is a combination of strong oak, sweet leather, creamy milk chocolate, earth and black pepper while the cold draw brings flavors of asparagus, aged oak, cocoa nibs, rich espresso, creamy almonds and black pepper along with some slight spice on my tongue.
Stating out the first third, the profile for the Wilshire and La Jolla is immediately evident with a dominant combination of leather and bitter espresso on the palate, followed by lesser notes of gritty earth, generic nuts, vegetal, hay and a touch of floral. There is plenty of both spice on my tongue and black pepper on the retrohale—both of which are a bit surprising considering how restrained they were in the cold draw—the latter of which does a very good job of drowning out any sweetness that my be present, at least so far. In terms of construction, the burn needs a couple of touch-ups fairly early on before evening out and the draw is a little more open then I would like—albeit within normal limits—but there is so much smoke coming off of the foot I would feel bad for anyone sitting around me if I were smoking in a public space. Strength-wise, the Viaje opens well below the medium mark and has trouble reaching anywhere close to that as the first third comes to an end.
There is one major—and very welcome—change in the profile of the Viaje during the second third, as the profile adds a very obvious and extremely distinct cinnamon note on the palate that is almost strong enough at points to fight for placement with the still dominant leather and bitter espresso flavors. This in turn bumps up the overall complexity of the entire profile, which also includes notes of peanuts, hay, oak, nutmeg, baker’s spices, French bread and cocoa nibs. Thankfully, both the black pepper and spice that were so overwhelming in the first third on the retrohale have abated, which in turn allows a honey sweetness to make itself known, albeit not as aggressively as I would have liked. Construction-wise, the draw has tightened up enough that I am no longer thinking about it, but the burn once again has issues that need correction. The overall strength has increased enough to hit a point very close to medium by the end of the second third.
Unfortunately, the amazing cinnamon note that made the second third so much more enjoyable than the first third disappears as almost as quickly as it showed up, leaving behind the familiar leather and bitter espresso flavors as the dominant combination. The rest of the profile is worse off for it, but I still taste fleeting flavors of tree bark, dry hay, generic nuts, yeast, charred meat and slight chocolate, along with a reduced amount of honey sweetness on the retrohale. Although the draw continues to give me no issues whatsoever, the burn continues to be problematic enough that I have to use my lighter a couple of times, while the smoke production is still very much above average. Finally, the strength has increased enough to easily put it above the medium mark, although it stalls out long before threatening to go much higher than medium-full by the time I put the nub down with a little more than an inch remaining.
- Wilshire and La Jolla are streets in Los Angeles.
- As Charlie Minato pointed out in his review of the Bales on Bales, the aforementioned RoMa Craft Tobac has a trademark on its company name, while Jas Sum Kral filed for a trademark on “Craft Cigars” in 2018.
- While the Viaje brand is not exactly known for its amazing construction, it has been a long time since I have had three of the brand’s cigars perform this poorly: basically, I had to touch up each sample at least once during every third or risk the burn really getting out of control.
- Each of the Viaje Wilshire And La Jollas I reviewed featured a smooth closed foot that instantly reminded me of the La Colmena Unico Especial I recently photographed for Charlie’s newest Redux review.
- The silver foil that covers three-quarters of the cigar’s exterior are two parts attached together. So if you remove one the other comes with it. Having said that, I detached the main band from the foil—which was not as difficult as I thought it would be—and put it back on the cigar in order to make the photographs more visually interesting.
- The cigars smoked for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time for all three samples averaged one hour and 34 minutes.
- If you would like to purchase any of the Viaje Wilshire and La Jolla cigars, site sponsors Atlantic Cigar Co., and JR Cigars have them in stock now.
I mentioned in comments about the Exclusivo Nicaragua Leaded Corona Gorda that it was one of Viaje’s best releases in the past year, but unfortunately the Wilshire and La Jolla does not follow suit. While there are moments of real promise—including a very nice strong cinnamon note that showed up for a while in the second half of each sample —the vast majority of the profile was fairly pedestrian, with almost no deviation in the dominant flavors of leather and espresso on the palate. In addition, the extremely problematic burn issues that each cigar I smoked had really made sitting back and enjoying the actual smoking process difficult to say the least. As last year's Top 25 shows, Viaje can produce extremely impressive cigars, but the Wilshire and La Jolla is not in the same ballpark.