Disclaimer: As of 2014 the La Barba reviewed here with the red label is no longer in production. Though Tony Bellatto and his partner Craig are continuing with the company using a different factory and a new band to differentiate. That cigar has not been released as of this time (Aug. 2014)
“After college, Craig returned to his hometown of Warren, Ohio where he began hanging out at the Havana House in Niles, Ohio. It was there that he met Tony. Craig soon realized that the two shared a love for wine and cigars. A few years later, they decided to put their knowledge and passion of the industry to good use. Thus, La Barba was born.”
It’s a story like many others in the cigar world, and just one more example of the younger generation attempting to put their stamp on the industry. The La Barba is rolled at Christian Eiroa’s (formerly of Camacho) Aladino Factory and composed of at least some Eiroa tobacco’s from Honduras. If anybody doubted the pedigree of the La Barba, doubt no more. They’ve got the look, they’ve got the background and the connections but at the end of the day the cigar is all that matters.
Rolled: Aladino Factory in Danli, Honduras
Size: 5×50 Box-Press
Filler: Honduran and Nicaraguan Ligero Corojo, Criollo Habano, and 10% top secret.
Of the two cigars we received for this review one of them had more tooth, a reddish hue and more visible veins than the other. Both had beautiful triple caps, no soft spots and tight seams. The colors and texture of the band look great on top of the smooth wrapper leaf. The art of the band reminds me of a tattoo.
The wrapper had aroma’s of mineral-earth and cayenne. When I first received the cigar the foot reeked of gingerbread. When I smoked it for review two weeks later, the gingerbread was still prominently featured along with hay, dry earth and a subtle floral tone. The perfect pulling cold draw endowed salt, cayenne and nutmeg while hints of citrus and vegetal tobacco loomed behind.
Shortly after the light-up a massive dose of tongue tingling pepper descends on the palate. The tingling sensation reminds me of pickled ginger. The spice follows into the retro-hale, sharply assaulting the sinus as it passes, leaving clove, earth and a touch of sweetness. The dominant notes on the palate in the first third are cayenne and cedar. The backing notes are a faintly sweet dry earth and toast. Hints of coffee would wane in and out of the mixture. The spice lingers the full length of the finish while the cedar lingers for around 5-10 seconds. Body med-full because of the intense spice. Strength medium.
The most noticeable change in the second third is a rising sweetness in the form of caramel and a decrease in the tongue tingling pepper. Dry earth, cedar and nutmeg, as opposed to cayenne, continue to linger on a medium length finish. Coffee is almost the forgotten flavor even though it comes through on both the retro and the tongue. The retro-hale is a bit more gentle yet clove and cedar remain. The resting smoke smells of toasty ginger snap. Body mild-medium. Strength medium.
The final third takes the qualities of the second third but intensifies: sweetness, nutmeg, coffee, cedar with the addition of salt. It’s a collective arrangement of flavors wrapped in a toasty package. The tongue-tingling spice of the first two thirds has disappeared. The smoothed out retro-hale still has a subtle bite with a toasty, floral quality instead of spicy clove. Going into the nub the dry earth has been completely replaced by coffee. The La Barba is incredibly toasty at this point and hints of subtle citrus and salt pair with the previously mentioned menagerie of flavors. The aroma’s and retro-hale are comprised of a petrol and cedar. The La Barba is at its best and richest point at the nub but the finish is short and sweet.
Our Santa Fe class was practically made with the La Barba in mind and we didn’t even know it. The dominate flavors throughout were cedar, toast and mulling spice delivered by an arid smoke. The retro-hale had a unique clove note. A toasty quality dominates throughout. The only note that deviated slightly from Santa Fe is perhaps coffee but it was always in the background, accentuating the cigar. Creator Tony Bellato told me that the La Barba was blended with whiskey in mind, and I can see how the dry spicy qualities would be in complete concert with a good bourbon.
The La Barba Robusto lacked some richness but the subtle changes from third to third made it stand out. Even with these subtle changes, it kept its core intact. The first third is Pepin-esque and hits with an almost overbearing, tongue tingling pepper but fortunately it drops off by the final third. The toasty quality featured throughout was easily the most savory aspect of this cigar and also our favorite. Construction and draw were perfect throughout the smoking experience on both samples. The cigar reaches its peak at the very nub which is rare in this day and age of power bombs. A solid debut smoke and one I’d like to try in other sizes. Next time I’ll take Tony’s advice and pair this one with a bourbon, any recommendations?