“The Neanderthal is a cigar I have wanted to create for a while. I was looking for a cigar which had a ton of strength but also had flavor. I had the concept but couldn’t find the right tobacco to make it a reality. Upping the amount of ligero wasn’t accomplishing what I wanted. I knew what I wanted to make, but I didn’t have the skill or experience to realize it. After a few years here and an introduction to a new, high nicotine content filler leaf from Pennsylvania, I revisited the project. It is a very complicated blend that depends on both structure and content for its aroma, strength, flavor, balance and physical characteristics. It isn’t for everyone, but it is exactly what I wanted to make. We are very proud of it. I personally take a lot of pride in it because for me, in a way, it is my exit exam. It took the the sum of the knowledge and experience I’ve earned here over the last few years to make…and I still have a lot to learn.”
We spoke further for the next 15 minutes and he offered a few snippets I found interesting.
“The sweetness comes from the amount of time the Pennsylvania broadleaf has to cure because it is so thick. Broadleaf is also naturally sweet”
“I wanted to make something in that super strong category that I felt could stand proudly next to the ones I love. It’s a fifteenth cigar at the end of a trade-show day after a 34 oz bone in strip loin and a half a bottle of bourbon cigar, lol”
Rolled: Nica Sueño, Esteli
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Size: 5×52/56 (figurado)
Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés
Binder: Connecticut broadleaf
Filler: Nicaraguan Condega, Estelí, Jalapa, and Pueblo Nuevo. Dominican Olor Ligero
This is CM’s first review of a RoMa Craft and boy did I pick a doozy. I have smoked my fair share of Nica Sueño sticks before and can vouch for their impeccable construction. The Neanderthal looks to be no different. The first thing I noticed when inspecting this cigar was the flat top and the slightly tapered foot. The flat head is said to represent the forehead of Homo neanderthalensis. I love when cigar maker’s add small touches like that to the construction of a cigar or boxes. It makes for a unique experience. With a release set for November 2014, you’ll have to wait a bit to smoke what Martin nicknames “The Velvet Hammer” but keep it on your radar.
The incredibly oily and toothy dark brown San Andres Wrapper gives off an intense barnyard aroma often associated with strong fermented tobacco. The foot smells of earth and barnyard. The pre-light surprisingly didn’t have a whole lot of pepper but I could feel the oils of the leaf already in my mouth.
The first puffs offer up a strong, deep pepper on the tongue and sinuses delivered by an incredibly oily smoke that leaves the palate slick. Key flavors are rich black pepper and mineral-earth with hay and charred oak in the background. There is a slight turpentine-like aroma to the smoke that suggests nicotine laden tobacco. The head change that came within the first 1/4″ was the other indication. There is a touch of sweetness on the palate but the Neanderthal leans more towards the bitter end of the spectrum. The pepper continues to deepen and intensify from medium-low to full by the end of the third, hitting the lips, tongue, back of throat and sinuses with an ever-present tingle. Going into the second third, a dark beady note begins to develop on the retro-hale reminding me of a sweet squaw or pumpernickel (rye bread). Body and strength already maximum levels.
The sweetness is definitely on the rise in this third but the Neanderthal still leans more bitter because of the mineral-earth, pepper, charred oak and turpentine-like aromas. The retro-hale continues to deliver lots of deep pepper and sweet rye bread tones with the addition of a developing meatiness. Since the moment the pepper hit maximum it has never wavered, yet there is an odd interplay at work between the soft undertones and sharp overtones of this cigar. The finish is mainly composed of mineral-earth, pepper and the oily texture the smoke leaves in my mouth. Everything full, especially the strength.
By the final third the pepper finally begins to soften on the tongue, lips and throat but still assaults my sinuses on every retro-hale. Mineral-earth and a burgeoning strong coffee take the helm while the meatiness and oak come up right underneath. In a different blend, this level of sweetness would probably be a feature component but in the Neanderthal it simply keeps everything from getting too dark and bitter. I call it a balancing agent. Just when I think the pepper is finally ramping down it kicks back up on the tongue. Sweetness finally picks up enough near the end to create a naturally sweet yet dark coffee flavor. At the nub, the pepper finally comes down to medium but strength is at 15 on a 10 point scale, leaving me almost nauseas. This is something I haven’t experience in a long while. The flavors do finally char out but at that point I was happy to end it. Burn, draw and construction were all top-notch throughout. Nothing less from Nica Sueño.
Skip’s nickname for the Neanderthal is “Velvet Hammer”. It’s a fitting moniker as it knocked me over the head. More than any cigar I’ve ever smoked, the Neanderthal encapsulates the spirit of our Dynamite classification. “The Dynamite boldly defines itself on its’ own terms. Where most cigars are defined by their flavors and aromas the Dynamite is primarily defined by its’ strength. A nicotine bomb that packs a physical experience with its’ rich flavors.” Perfect.
This is RoMa Craft’s love letter to those who lust for depth, pepper and strength in a cigar. The quality of the tobacco is excellent, the flavor is rich and the construction is top-notch. Then why the somewhat middling IV. Pleasant? I can only gauge something from my own perspective and this cigar will be too much for me in all but a few occasions (when I’m really drunk). For those who like cigars mild in strength, avoid at all costs. For those that love rich, dark cigars full of authority? The Neanderthal will be near exquisite.