Bite Size Review: Onyx Reserve
“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something…”. Tasty. Ok, taking some liberties with an old wedding quote. But, in describing a cigar that has been critically acclaimed for over 18 years and still fills humidors far and wide, it seems to fit the bill. The Onyx Reserve is that cigar.
Largely a catalogue brand owned and distributed by tobacco giant, Altadis, the Onyx brand includes only two lines: Onyx and Onyx Reserve. Among Altadis’ other brands are boutiques like Aging Room and Casa de Garcia, but also the widely popular US versions of Cuban legends, Montecristo, Romeo Y Julieta and H. Upmann.
Most of Altadis’ cigars are produced in the Dominican Republic at the Tabacalera de Garcia factory, originally founded by Cuban Montecristo’s Pepe Garcia (not to be confused with Pepin Garcia of My Father fame) in 1971. Released in 2000, Onyx Reserve quickly became a popular maduro and at a wallet friendly $4, reset the market.
In 2001, Cigar Aficionado bestowed a lofty 94 rating to the diminutive belicoso, with its vitola siblings only managing to hang around in the 80s through 2007, the last time the brand was reviewed by the famed lifestyle mag.
It is unknown as to how much the blend has changed since 2000, but there have been recent reviews lamenting draw, taste and burn issues. In addition, earlier this year Altadis revamped Onyx’s packaging. Our mini belicoso was purchased early in 2018, so it retains the original banding, which is very simple yet projects a stately air.
The belicoso treatment is very nicely done, it’s overall firmness is reassuring and the seams are invisible. The near-black broadleaf wrapper is oily and delights with fragrant chocolate and caramel. The draw is open, but could be better.
Our maduro comes to life with a rich profile of caramel, cream, leather and black pepper. Throughout the smoke, there is a nice spice which increases in the last transition. Intonations of caramel, sweet bread and mesquite can be experienced on retros and the nice finishes include a smooth earthy-coffee flavor.
Transitions include smooth woody, chocolate and earthy profiles with the first transition especially savory. Caramel notes disappear, but return to balance the heavy earthiness in the last 2”. Our little maduro never becomes harsh or stale and retains good complexity and balance throughout.
The combustion is spot on and the burn remains sharp for most of the smoke. It’s hard to believe the mini belicoso has only increased $1.90 over 18 years and at $5.90, this little gal is simply amazing. A most enjoyable maduro that can hang with some of the best, yet at a fraction of the price. A boxworthy treat. – In Fumo Pax!
Did you Know: The Tabacalera de Garcia factory in the Dominican Republic is the largest factory producing handmade cigars on the planet, producing tens of millions cigars annually.
- Profile: Medium
- Vitola: Mini Belicoso
- Length/ Ring Gauge: 5″ x 52
- Purchased: B&M
- Origin: Dominican Republic
- Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaraguan, Dominican, Peruvian
- Cutter: Colibri V
- Lighter: Colibri Firebird
- Price: $5.90
- Humidor Age: 9 mo.
- Box: 20
- Other Vitolas: No. 4 [5″x44], Toro [6″x50], Torbusto [5.5″x60], Robusto [5″x50], Churchill [7″x50], No. 2 Belicoso [6.2″x52]
Build: Square press; carbon black wrapper; oily; seamless; uniform firmness; nice belicoso treatment/cap; semi-veiny; toothy; holds tight, 1″ ash;
- Shaft – Chocolate, caramel
- Foot – Sweet bread, chocolate, barnyard
- Cold Draw – Anise, citrus
- Initial: Very smooth and rich profile of caramel, black pepper, cream and leather; light spice on palate; buttery inhale and sweetbread on retro; earthy-coffee finish;
- Transition: Light spice hangs around; chocolatey and wood profile; anise and mesquite on retro; toasty, coffee finish; savory;
- Transition: Earth, chocolate profile with hints of leather and caramel; uptick in spice, strength and body; tea leaf finish; charred wood on retro; heavy earthiness dissipates and finishes nicely.
Touch ups: None
Recommend: 1. Go-to
- Go-to (boxworthy)
- 3rd stringer (keep 1 on hand)
- Smoke a banana instead