Review: Roberto P. Duran Signature
As usual, my buddy Raph’, who is far more open-minded at trying new things, came over for some drinks and sticks one evening and brought with him a handful of new wares. Among his booty of sticks was this delicious-looking, hard-as-a-rock gordo made by Roberto P. Duran. My first impression of the stick was its weight and firmness. It felt as if I were holding a lead pipe. Gave it the pinch test and there is almost no give. S-O-L-I-D. Additionally, this beauty had almost invisible seams and a sumptuous Colorado wrapper, a testament to the skill of their torcedores, roleros and buncheros. Wow. I’ve seen few cigars of this vitola so well-made. I was getting excited at the prospect of lighting this baby up, even if I’d never heard of Roberto P. Duran. I would get a hardy glimpse shortly and so glad I did.
The boutique Duran brand was kicked off by its namesake, Roberto Pelayo Duran, the current President of Duran Cigars and has been selling them in the US. through its office in Miami since 2014. Jack Torano, of Torano Cigars family, joined Duran cigars that same year and serves as head of sales in Florida and the Caribbean. Duran, a Havana native, spent much of his early twenties around the cigar industry being mentored by Francisco Padron of Cubatabaco and eventually moved into management positions with The Pacific Cigar Company Ltd. After paying his dues in high-level positions throughout the cigar industry, Duran resurrected a pre-Castro brand called Azan. The Azan story is fascinating and is worthy of its own article, but suffice to say the original Azan brand originated from a Chinese-Cuban émigré named Kwan Ben Sen. After serendipitously winning the Cuban National lottery, Sen set up his own cigarette factory in 1928. He adopted a more Cubanesque nom de guerre, Domingo Azan. Unfortunately, after the 1959 revolution, his factory was taken over by the state-run Empresa de Tabaco Torcido to make cigars for import. Some fifty odd years later, in 2012, Duran relaunched the Azan brand.
With his NicaTabaco operation now in the famed Esteli, Nicaragua, Duran proudly asserts the tobacco for his cigars are both grown in his own fields and rolled by his own torcedores in his own factory. Duran has come to be such a fan of the different tobacco flavors offered by Nicaraguan climates and soils that he favors the Nicaraguan tobaccos over the Cuban, even going so far to add the tagline on his website “These are the cigars that get smuggled into Cuba.” That’s bold baby.
This Duran beauty I’m holding is from his Signature Line in the Cacique Guama vitola, presumably named for the famed Taino rebel chief and leader of an indigenous community in the Baracoa mountains of eastern Cuba. The aforementioned densely packed gordo is wrapped in a lovely Ecuadorian-grown Habana Criollo Colorado wrapper with Nicaraguan binder leaves and long fillers from Nicaragua and ‘other Latin American tobaccos.’ The aromas from the nicely textured Criollo wrapper indicated notes of cedar and a hint of vanilla. The foot and cold draw are nuttier with some tangy spice. The cold draw even for this gordo is easy with a 9mm punch.
Here are the stats:
- Profile: Medium-Full
- Vitola: Cacique Guama
- Length / Ring Gauge: 6.0″/ 60
- Purchased: Gift
- Origin: Nicaragua
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habana Criollo Colorado
- Binder: Nicaraguan
- Filler: Nicaraguan & undisclosed Latin American
- Cutter: Xikar punch
- Lighter: Colibri Firebird 4-jet
- Price Range: $10-$12
The first third kicks things off with a blast of toasted nuts, pepper and cedar which continue into the second third. There is some complexity here, but it seems well-balanced and is definitely medium to full in character. I am geeking out over the build of this cigar – she simply doesn’t flinch. The burn on this baby is as even as a ruler. Fair warning, don’t rush this lady, she likes it nice and slow. Puff away on this thing and you’ll end up with an overheated foot and a pointed coal.
The second third keeps things going, but there’s some fruity/citrus notes now and the pepper and spice are more pronounced. She definitely has a bolder character than some other similar blends I’ve smoked. There’s some savory aspects to this cigar which is a bit Cubanesque. This same profile gets you into the final third where she seems to lose her legs a bit. She may have become too hot as the cedar began to really take over and became a little one-dimensional. But to be fair, I probably smoked her a little farther than what her design allowed.
This cigar gets top, I mean T-O-P, marks for construction and quality. You just don’t find this level of quality in even 3 out of 10 cigars you might smoke. This also has to be the best rolled cigar I’ve ever smoked. I really thought that due to the tight roll it’d require the sucking power of a Dyson, so I was blown away when the punch nailed it. It also gets top marks for keeping good flavors down to about the final third, where I think it gets a little too woody. Although it maybe a bit pricey for an everyday smoke, at least for this herfer, this is a solid choice for an anytime smoke or a night out with a great bourbon or IPA pairing. I’m going to try a smaller vitola next time as I think some of the complexity was overwhelming and thus lost with the beefy Cacique. Go get an RPD Signature and marvel at what construction should look like! – In Fumo Pax!