A great sign that you might be in for a good meal is if you are presented with an amuse-bouche.

It’s a French term that describes a small, oftentimes one- or two-bite-sized dish that is presented to guests at the start of a meal. The idea is to awaken the palate and preview what the rest of the meal might have in store. Unless you are an inspector for the Michelin Guide or someone who flirts with gout, it’s unlikely to be commonplace in American dining, though plenty of higher-end restaurants—particularly those with tasting menus—will give guests an amuse-bouche. In addition to its more petite size, one of the other major differences between an amuse-bouche and an hors d’oeuvre is that the amuse-bouche is usually served to the guest without the guest actually ordering it, as it’s considered a gift from the kitchen.

Unfortunately, halfwheel is not a blog about cheese wheels and so you are probably wondering why this French dining tradition is being mentioned; that is of course because there’s a cigar named Amuse-Bouche.

Technically, there are two cigars named Amuse-Bouche, the Amuse-Bouche and Amuse-Bouche II from Viaje. In January 2020, Viaje released the first Amuse-Bouche, a 4 1/2 x 48 Rothschild made entirely of Nicaraguan tobaccos. This past January, the Amuse-Bouche II was released. It differs from the original in that the Nicaraguan habano wrapper found on the 2020 version has been replaced by a Mexican San Andrés leaf. The Amuse-Bouche II is made at AGANORSA’s Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. (TABSA) factory in Estelí.

It has an MSRP of $7.60 per cigar and it is limited to 300 boxes of 25 cigars.

Both cigars are part of Viaje’s White Label Project (WLP) Series, a loose collection of cigars that Viaje says otherwise don’t fit into one of its more defined series for any number of reasons.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Viaje WLP Amuse-Bouche II
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A.
  • Wrapper: Mexico (San Andrés)
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 4 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 48
  • Vitola: Rothschild
  • MSRP: $7.60 (Boxes of 25, $190)
  • Release Date: January 2022
  • Number of Cigars Released: 300 Boxes of 25 Cigars (7,500 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

If you’ve ever had an amuse-bouche, you’ll know they tend to be quite petite in size and Viaje’s tribute to the concept stays true to that. I know that this is the WLP Series, so the general approach is to stick with the plain white band, but if Viaje wanted to lean even further into the theme of amuse-bouche, it could make the band more colorful, which is something that I find is quite common in amuse-bouches as food items. The cigar has a very dark and oily wrapper that shows some signs of discoloration on one sample as the top part of the cigar is lighter in color than the bottom. My inspection of the first cigar reveals a very firmly rolled cigar, a description I’d use for the other two samples as well. The aroma from the wrapper is medium-full with scents of hickory, toastiness, a muddy earthiness, lots of barnyard and sweetness. A prototypical mixture of sweet chocolate and black pepper emanates from the foot, a good sign there are probably some heavier Nicaraguan tobaccos inside; there’s also secondary aromas of vanilla. Cold draws are also medium-full with black pepper, cocoa, red pepper, vanilla, leather and something that reminds me of the smell of newspaper.

The Viaje WLP Amuse-Bouche II starts how you’d hope an amuse-bouche would hit your palate: lots of instant flavor. There’s chocolate, earthiness, Lay’s potato chips, a starchy potato flavor and some mild pepper. The sensation is not entirely unique, I’ve had cigars that have started with lots of flavors, but it’s certainly a more appreciated start than a medium-plus mixture of pedestrian flavors found on many cigars. An inch in, toastiness and buttermilk lead the profile, relatively even overall though every puff is a bit different in terms of which one is stronger. Secondary notes include the potato starchiness, hints of black chocolate and some black pepper on the back of the throat. The finish has peanuts, hickory, buttermilk creaminess, some harshness and a mild amount of brown sugar. Retrohales have more bread flavors than the main flavor; there’s also some cranberry, leather and hints of fish sauce, which accents the rest of the flavors somewhat like what happens if I had a touch of fish sauce to some tomato sauce. The finish has a sweet peanut butter flavor that reminds me a bit of Reese’s along with lots of hickory, a medium amount of toastiness and some black pepper. Flavor is full, body is medium-full and strength is medium-full. The draw is tight, not too tight for me but I definitely think it’s having an impact due to the volume of smoke that’s being restricted.

Somewhat surprisingly the buttermilk creaminess ends up as the strongest flavor by the midpoint of the Viaje WLP Amuse-Bouche II. I’ll admit that might sound odd given that I previously mentioned it was one of the two strongest flavors in the first third, but the trajectory of the cigar suggested that it was fading and other flavors were getting stronger. But then the second third started and the buttermilk was the strongest flavor left standing. Other flavors include grains, a muted amount of white pepper and hickory, though the hickory is much stronger as an aroma of the smoke than a flavor in the mouth. It finishes with more bread flavors but the buttermilk remains one of the two strongest flavors. Behind those two are flavors of burnt coffee, chocolate and red pepper, the latter mainly sitting at the top of my mouth. Retrohales have raisins, buttermilk, hickory and a mild wasabi-like tingling sharpness. It finishes with buttermilk and woody flavors over a restrained, but acute pepper tingling in the nose. It’s not the same as consuming too much fresh wasabi, but it’s very acute. Flavor is full, body is medium-full and strength is medium-full. By the middle point of the cigar, the draw’s tightness is clearly limiting the cigar in some capacity, though without an a/b comparison, it’s tough to know just how much.

Red and black pepper pick up a lot and create a much toastier profile than before. The buttermilk is gone, replaced by a toastier profile that includes meatiness and burnt coffee. I can still tase some remnants of the black pepper and burnt coffee during the finish, but a generic creaminess emerges and changes the overall profile quite a bit compared to when the smoke is in my mouth. Retrohales have oak, hickory, burnt coffee, meatiness and black pepper, each puff a bit different than the one before. They finish with buttermilk and black pepper—the latter ultimately a bit stronger than the former—though the wasabi-like tingling is completely gone. Flavor is full, body is full and strength is medium-full. Due to issues with the tight draw and the need for touch-ups—no doubt in part because of the draw—I’m forced to deduct a couple of points from the construction category on each sample.

Final Notes

  • I have no idea if I ever smoked the original Amuse-Bouche, so I cannot offer any comparison thoughts.
  • Viaje has a lot of cigars, which means a lot of cigar names. There’s one other food service-themed cigar that comes to mind—Hamaki Omakase—and the company has released cigars named after specific food items.
  • One cigar had a very obvious patch job right below the band. While this isn’t uncommon, typically factories will try to avoid having the patch on the front-facing panel of the cigar.

  • That area ended up having substantial problems because the wrapper and binder split there. Fortunately, it didn’t seem to impact the flavor, unfortunately, it didn’t seem to make the draw any looser.
  • As for whether this cigar would be a good amuse-bouche, it works and it doesn’t. It very much awakens the profile, but it also has a lot of pepper that could too heavily impact the rest of your tasting enjoyment.
  • This cigar reminds me a bit of some of the original marketing behind Oliva’s NUb, which the company said was a cigar that didn’t need any warm-up and instead was a cigar that was in its sweet spot from the moment it was lit.
  • If there’s one company that has avoided price increases more than others, it’s probably Viaje. It seems like when there’s a subsequent release of a previously-released Viaje cigar, the MSRP is typically the same as the original release. That’s true here as the original Amuse-Bouche also had an MSRP of $7.60 per cigar.
  • I was familiar with the term and concept of an amuse-bouche, but I had no idea that the etymology behind the word is quite peculiar. According to Wikipedia, “In France, amuse-gueule is traditionally used in conversation and literary writing, while amuse-bouche is not even listed in most dictionaries, being a euphemistic hypercorrection that appeared in the 1980s on restaurant menus and used almost only there.”
  • Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time was a relatively slow one hour and 40 minutes. I smoke slow and the draw slowed that pace down even a bit more.
88 Overall Score

If you are going to call a cigar Amuse-Bouche, this is what it should taste like. It’s a tour de force of flavor from the first puff to the last—and while it got a bit pepper-heavy at times, I really enjoyed the flavor profile from this Viaje. I always am curious to know how a cigar would taste without obvious construction issues, but few times am I more curious than this cigar. The increased airflow would almost certainly change the profile, the question is whether that would be for the better. I tend to think it probably would and that cigar is probably a great one. For better and worse, a lot of Viaje’s massive library of cigars tastes very similar to one another, this is an example of cigar with some similar flavors, but ultimately a very different profile. I’d love to smoke an Amuse-Bouche III, though with a slightly looser draw.

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Charlie Minato

I am an editor and co-founder of halfwheel.com/Rueda Media, LLC. I previously co-founded and published TheCigarFeed, one of the two predecessors of halfwheel. I have written about the cigar industry for more than a decade, covering everything from product launches to regulation to M&A. In addition, I handle a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff here at halfwheel. I enjoy playing tennis, watching boxing, falling asleep to the Le Mans 24, wearing sweatshirts year-round and eating gyros. echte liebe.