Last year, Villiger Cigars North America introduced its first cigar for the Tobacconists’ Association of America (TAA) Exclusive Series Program.
This year, Villiger has another TAA exclusive cigar, though it comes from a different factory. While I haven’t done extensive research on this happening before, I imagine it’s pretty rare for a manufacturer to produce consecutive TAA exclusives from two different factories, particularly given that the majority of the companies that participate in the program operate their own factories.
While the 2020 release came from Ernesto Perez-Carrillo Jr.’s Tabacalera La Alianza S.A., the 2021 cigar is being made at Jochy Blanco’s Tabacalera Palma. The Villiger TAA Exclusive 2021 is a 6 x 54 toro extra that uses an Ecuadorian habano wrapper over a Dominican binder and Dominican fillers.
It has an MSRP of $9.50 per cigar and is limited to just 350 boxes of 20 cigars, a quantity that was reduced from the originally announced 500 boxes.
The TAA is a fairly small group of some of the country’s top tobacconists, about 80 retailers, as well as 40 or so manufacturers. The association gathers annually to discuss issues facing the industry and retailers, as well as to have its annual trade show, a unique event that works on a group buying format in order to secure exclusive deals for these generally high-volume merchants.
During the event, the organization holds two selling events, one known as the Dream Machine where the retailers collectively order to secure larger discounts, while the other is a more traditional trade show. Typically, around a dozen manufacturers release new exclusive cigars for the retail members of the organization under the TAA Exclusive Series Program banner. Those manufacturers agree to give a portion of the proceeds to the organization, a minimum of 50 cents per cigar.
TAA hosted a virtual meeting in March and is planning on having an in-person meeting later this month at Casa de Campo in La Romana, Dominican Republic.
This year, a total of 13 different companies announced TAA ESP releases, more than half of them have shipped to stores. It would appear that just two of the 13 cigars—the Gurkha and La Flor Dominicana—have not begun shipping.
- Crowned Heads
- E.P. Carrillo
- Forged Cigar Co.
- J.C. Newman
- Joya de Nicaragua
- La Flor Dominicana
- La Palina
- Rocky Patel
- Cigar Reviewed: Villiger TAA Exclusive 2021
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: Tabacalera Palma
- Wrapper: Ecuador (Habano)
- Binder: Dominican Republic
- Filler: Dominican Republic
- Length: 6 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 54
- Vitola: Toro Extra
- MSRP: $9.50 (Box of 20, $190)
- Release Date: July 2021
- Number of Cigars Released: 350 Boxes of 20 Cigars (7,000 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
Sometimes companies try to incorporate the TAA logo and it looks out of place, but the overall appearance here is quite seamless. People probably have varying thoughts about the color combinations of red, white and blue; given the American market and companies’ attempts to make products look very Cuban—I’m a bit surprised the color combination isn’t more overplayed. I will say, the overall effect here reminds me more of a Russian theme than an American one because of the prominence and color of the blue. The appearance is helped by the wrapper, which has a deep red color amongst the dark brown hues. The only visual blemish is that one cigar has a cap that could have been applied better, but given that I’m going to cut it off anyway, I don’t really care too much. Aroma-wise, the wrapper reminds me of a potato roll with sensations of table salt, a sugar cookie-like sweetness and some acidity. While the wrapper aroma was around medium-plus, the foot is milder and sweeter. It’s tough for me to figure out the specific aromas, though my notes say fruitiness and peanut butter cookies. The cold draw is medium-full with flavors of oatmeal, lemon, dry wheat pasta and some weird fruitiness—almost like a vitamin—that I struggle to correctly place.
While I wouldn’t say the Villiger TAA 2021 delivers all of the classic fall flavors—those of you hoping this was the review where pumpkin spice latte would get mentioned, you will be disappointed—it does seem like a great list for the season: cedar, butter-like creaminess, raisins and dry espresso. As the first third develops the core shifts between dry grains and nuttiness, though there’s a great floral sweetness that accents everything around it. Some plain cracker flavors take up the rear, drying out my palate ever so slightly. The finish has a lot of generic bread flavors that transition into a vibrant cedar bout 15 seconds after the smoke has left my palate. There are touches of both crackers and black pepper, though the show is basically bread followed by cedar. Retrohales are similar in the sense that the cedar and bread are still co-leads, but now the black pepper has made it a trio. That dramatically changes things because it’s not just a normal type of black pepper, instead, it’s a more vibrant and complex version. There’s also some citrus which does a great job to accent things out. Once the smoke has left my nostrils there’s a defined saltine flavor along with some herbal touches that remind me of a basic gin. Flavor is full, body is medium-full and strength is medium-plus. Construction is fantastic on two cigars, though one of them—the third sample—sees a bit of the foot come undone. It doesn’t affect anything other than that that cigar doesn’t have the near-perfect ash that the other two have. That being said, the first cigar smoked for this review is overfilled and has a tight draw. It’s not plugged, but it is tighter which leads to the flavors lacking some of the vibrance compared to the other two and the burn rate is much slower.
The second third is dominated by cedar. Similar to the early parts with the bread, the Villiger TAA 2021 seems to enjoy having one flavor lead the pack, but then delivering all sorts of slight variations of that singular flavor to amplify it. Behind the cedar is black pepper, fruitiness and bread. The finish is interesting as it initially reminds me of some sort of Japanese rice seasoning that I’ve had before, but can’t figure out where. After about 10 minutes of trying to figure this out, I realize that even if I were to figure out where I had tasted this before, it’s not like I would know the name of the brand or type of seasoning, so I instead go back to paying attention to the other parts of the cigar. Beyond that umami seasoning, there’s cedar, an underlying sweetness, an inconsistent creaminess and some mineral flavors. Retrohaling provides a big earthy flavor along with some mineral flavors, a poultry-like meatiness and some more of that umami. It’s the first time the cedar isn’t a major player in the profile, though I can taste a bit of it. The bread flavors return once the smoke has left my nostril, joining the umami sensation that was also present on the mouth. Flavor is full, body is medium-full and strength is medium-plus. Construction is similar to the first third: two cigars are excellent while one cigar has a tight draw and a slow burn rate.
There’s a noticeable shift from the cedar-forward profile to one that combines the bread flavors with some grains. Eventually, it begins to taste more and more like corn flakes, though there’s some white pepper, a sharp earthiness and a bland creaminess joining the fray as well. The finish has a lot of saltine crackers and cornflakes over top of white pepper and some herbal flavors. The retrohales remind me of Martin’s potato rolls, corn flakes, citrus and coffee. That coffee tries to take the top spot once the smoke has left my nostrils, but it stalls out and instead, the cornflake flavor remains the most prominent. Behind those two flavors are creaminess and some floral sensations. Flavor is nearing full, though maybe not there, body is full and strength is medium-plus though increasing. Construction is the same as it’s been from the start: two cigars are great, one cigar has a tight draw.
- When reviewing cigars that have consistent construction issues I often mention that it’s tough to feel confident about how good the cigar is as the flavor of a cigar typically seems negatively impacted by poor construction. That was exactly the case here. While the individual flavors were similar with all three cigars, the two cigars that were bunched well tasted a lot better. The flavors were richer, a bit less harsh, and more harmonious.
- The cigar with the tight draw tasted fine and certainly was better than many other cigars in a humidor, but it was in a different league compared to the other two cigars.
- The burn line is about as pretty as you are ever going to see on a cigar: even chunks of ash with the thinnest of lines.
- I finish the tasting notes before I start working on the background portions of this review so I wasn’t sure which factory produced this cigar for Villiger. If I was going to guess, Tabacalera Palma would not have been my first or second guess.
- Villiger advertises on halfwheel.
- Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel. Villiger sent a box of cigars to us, those cigars were photographed for the box shots above and then we put them in a box to be sent to Cigars for Warriors.
- Final smoking time for the two cigars with good draws was around two hours and 20 minutes, the first sample—the one with the bad draw—took over three hours.
This is my favorite Villiger cigar I've smoked to date and I'm not sure it's quite close, at least not if the cigar has a proper draw. That's the one knock here: one cigar was overbunched. Even then, that cigar is still probably one of the better Villiger cigars I've ever smoked, though it wasn't as close to as good as the other two cigars I smoked for this review. All of this is both an indictment—at least from my palate—of the Villiger cigars that have come before the Villiger TAA Exclusive 2021, as well as this cigar itself. Simply put, it's that much better.