Bite Size Review: La Barba Red
There’s nothing we like more than discovering an underrated cigar that really blows our hair back. I’d been listening to the din of rave reviews from many on social media about this cigar or that stick and La Barba (“beard”) seems to feature in many posts and side discussions. Suffice to say, it was enough to get them onto our list.
Founders, Tony Belatto and Craig Rossi, originally released the Red in 2013, but sporting a very different blend. Originally outfitted with Honduran and Nicaraguan leaf, the Red’s blend evolved into a Dominican puro complete with a zesty corojo wrapper. Good call. Produced at the Tabacalera William Ventura alongside many of Robert Caldwell’s boutique fan favorites, the Red along with the Caldwell-influenced Caldwell X La Barba One & Only and its 3 stable mates – Purple, Siempre and newly-released, Ricochet – have blazed a trail within the boutique and craft brew set.
The Ohio natives’ focus on “culture”, I think, is key, but not necessarily new – essentially that a good cigar can make any situation special and it’s uniquely personal. While the founders espouse that the cigar is the “why” philosophy, it doesn’t explain why I had to drive 400 miles to find them. Actually, I was on a business trip and found some Reds and Purples in a nearby humidor. Hey Tony and Craig, send San Antonio, TX some love, huh…
Our Red was nice and firm throughout and looked delicious in that enticing caramel-colored corojo skin. The aromas while not super fragrant gave just enough to tease the senses with hints of vanilla, baked bread and caramel. This thing is really packed tight which may have affected the draw quality, but it is still good.
The initial tasting provides a mesmerizingly good profile of caramel (there’s that flavor again!), marshmallow and chocolate. The Red is incredibly rich and smooth, produces nice fragrant billows of smoke and finishes toasty. The spice is just right and look for it to ratchet ever upward as you smoke, but it doesn’t become annoying. The hints of marshmallow and some graham cracker linger into the first transition and nicely balance more woodier profiles. Notes of leather and cedar give way to more earthy and chocolatey intonations into the last transition.
Our little Red never gets harsh or stale, but there is a funny, albeit fleeting, aftertaste about midway that was enough to cause some worry. The Red finishes strong, but as the complexity wanes the finish becomes dry and the Red gets hot with about 1” remaining. Combustion is solid, the char line behaves well (no touch ups) and our robusto holds a tight, strong ash. Initially, I was a little worried about the robusto’s $8.50 sticker, but this boutique Dominican puro offers 1+ hours of priceless smoking bliss. A definite go-to for a box of 12. – In Fumo Pax!
Did you Know: The founders, Belatto and Rossi, also dabble in wine.
- Profile: Medium-Full
- Vitola: Robusto
- Length/ Ring Gauge: 4.5″ x 52
- Purchased: B&M
- Origin: Dominican Republic
- Wrapper: Dominican Corojo
- Binder: Dominican
- Filler: Dominican
- Cutter: Colibri V
- Lighter: Colibri Firebird
- Price: $8.50
- Humidor Age: 3 mo.
- Box: 12
- Other Vitolas: Toro [6″x54], Lonsdale [6.5″x40], Corona Gorda [5.7″x46]
Build: Hard body; veiny; marbled caramel-colored corojo wrapper; almost seamless; lumpy cap; toothy; tight, 1″ ash.
- Shaft – Vanilla, orange zest
- Foot – caramel, baked bread
- Cold Draw – Licorice
- Initial: Chocolate, marshmallow and caramel with a toasty finish; light spice; rich and tasty; profile becomes woodier and more spicy; noticeable cedar tang.
- Transition: Woody profile with notes of leather; hints of marshmellow linger; another uptick in spice; sweetness on inhale; faint, momentary aftertaste; very smooth; chocolate returns.
- Transition: Earthy core with chcolate and espresso intonations; uptick in strength; still very smooth, but complexity wanes; finish is bready and dry.
Complexity: Very good
Balance: Very good
Touch ups: None
Weaknesses: Draw could be better.
Recommend: 1. Go-to
- Go-to (boxworthy)
- 3rd stringer (keep 1 on hand)
- Smoke a banana instead