(Size: 5 1/2″ x 54 — Time: 2hrs)
Romeo y Julieta is one of those iconic Cuban brands. It has one of the largest ranges of current production cigars, providing something for everyone. Whether you’re a beginner taking your first steps into the cigar world, or you’re a seasoned Brother of the Leaf, there is a cigar aimed at you. Indeed, it was an RyJ that helped kick-start my love of Habanos. There are a few different flavour profiles in RyJ circulation too; no-one could claim that a Cazadores and a Short Churchill display the same characteristics.
With all of this in mind I approached the Duke with an open mind – especially in light of some mixed reviews. Having given it a year in the humidor, I thought that it was about time to let it make smoke! Would RyJ’s contribution to the 2009 Limted Edition line-up live up (or down) to expectation?
First impressions are good. There’s something about the RyJ band which shouts class – subdued, understated, but impressive. Combined with the EL band, it just makes you relish lighting it up. The Duke, which has a reddish tinge, has a deep yet vibrant colour to it’s smooth and sheeny wrapper. There were just a couple of very small veins, nothing to worry about. The cap was applied beautifully. The only minor issue I had with the wrapper was the big difference in wrapper shade along one of the seams. To the touch this cigar was very firm, perhaps indicating that dry-boxing it for a couple of days may have been a bad idea on this occassion… 14
The pre-light aroma from this cigar was quite pleasant, though nothing extra-ordinary. A nice, low-key, tobacco smell was off-set with some sweet, chocolatey aromas. Unfortunately, the way it smoked didn’t live up to this pleasant nose. It took a good while to get the cigar lit (perhaps a sign that this cigar is too thick!?) After it had finally lit there were a few touch-ups required simply to keep it going at the start. The burn was a little off-kilter at the start but evened up within five minutes. However, within quarter of an hour the burn was seriously canoeing, and no matter what tactic I employed throughout the smoke, this continued until the very end. The draw was okay for the first two-thirds (perhaps a little tight, but nothing much to worry about), but tightened up just a little more than I would like towards the end. The biggest issue which I had with this particular Duke was the lack of smoke which it produced – the draw was acceptable and the ring gauge thick, I was hoping for billowing clouds of smoke, I didn’t get them. Strength and body wise, this was a good medium-full cigar. 19
What an odd cigar this was. At the very start there were strong, manly flavours; then they drifted away to leave something a little less than satisfying; then the flavours increased again. That’s not unusual in a larger cigar, giving you the multi-stage experience is something I think is important in a good example. There was just something about the timings which didn’t feel quite right. There you go… At the start, as I say, you are greeted with a powerful and manly profile – solid tobacco flavours and dark roast coffee beans. You certainly feel at this stage as though you are in for a rollicking ride. This quickly fades away, leaving a fairly straightforward cedar flavour, soon given a little extra depth with hints of black pepper. As the cigar approaches the end of the first third the power falls away considerably, producing a very mild, largely vanilla flavour. By half-way this has gained in complexity with some accompanying notes which are very reminiscent of those great salted almonds you get with your drink at a good bar. It’s still quite understated and smooth at this stage, providing a very mellow retro-hale. It was around this stage that the Duke began its decent into plain mediocrity. As well as contending with dreadful burn issues, the flavour started to move towards something more leathery, meanwhile increasing in intensity again. However, the defined leatheriness which marks so many Cubans out as greats was short-lived; it soon gave way to a mish-mash of indistinct flavours which lacked a nice structure. A real shame as the first half had the potential to be a good, reasonably complex cigar. 20
Overall Impression /35
I’m torn what to think about this cigar. The burn issues were a real issue for me, and really detracted from the smoking experience. The flavours in the first half were nice, moving from one to another in a logical and enjoyable sequence. It would have been nice had the intensity of the flavour not dropped off quite as much as it did at one point, but that’s nothing major. Unfortunately, the burn issues had a partner in crime – the flavour of the final third and a bit of the cigar, which were really not up to standard for a Limited Edition made of two-year aged tobacco. I was probably disappointed and underwhelmed as much as anything else, but this didn’t quite do it for me… 29
Grand total… 82/100
NB. I’ve decided that, given the mixed reviews that these cigars have had, I should give this another chance. As such, there will be a re-appraisal of the Duke in the coming months. Friends of Habanos gave this cigar 90+ in their video review (though acknowledged that they seem to be very inconsistent), and Cigar Aficionado gave it a round 90. There must be something to it…