Leaf by James Toro Grande

These days it seems many cigar makers are cautious, maybe too cautious, about crafting cigars with too much strength or body. Instead, some focus on complex, flavorful blends while others try to strike a balance between strength and flavor. And this is a problem, like you know, winning the lottery?

It takes skill to blend a cigar with a bold, savory character yet still stimulate the palate and caress the olfactory senses. Strength, for the sake of itself, appeals to some, especially if you enjoy spending your idle time huffing bus exhaust and paint thinner. But, for the rest of us, why not a little finesse to go with that perceived throat punch. Let’s see what bold yet flavorful looks like, shall we?

It’s rare that a contract/house blend goes viral, but that’s exactly what happened when Oscar Valladares’s Leaf by Oscar series, in collaboration with “Island” Jim Robinson’s Pittsburgh-based Leaf & Bean, took off and ended up gracing the shelves of over 1,500 tobacco shops nationwide. Not resting on his laurels with the Leaf by Oscar, Island Jim recruited Black Label Trading Company’s James Brown to deliver the next installment in Jim’s Leaf By line up.

The Leaf by James, debuting at the IPCPR 2018 show, strays from Leaf by Oscar’s Honduran leaf recipe by mixing things up with a Pennsylvania Broadleaf cloaking an Ecuadorian Habano binder and Nicaraguan filler. The cigars are crafted by Brown’s Nicaragua-based Oveja Negra factory and are packaged in either bundles or boxes of 20.


As expected, the Broadleaf wrapper takes on a rough, rustic aesthetic with its dark, bumpy skin and coarse texture. Our toro is firm throughout and the roll is seamless. As a side note, the bands of the Leaf by series cigars are made from processed tobacco, not recycled paper as some presume. The Broadleaf offers fragrant honey and chocolate aromas while the foot hints of toffee. I’ve been punching my cigars as of late and with it the draw is semi-open with just a tug of resistance. Cold draw flavors hint of apricots and more chocolate.

 The opening salvo is the calm before the storm: a tantalizing medley of cream, caramel, graham cracker and maplewood notes swirling around a lush, leathery nucleus. The draw smacks of oats and the long, savory finish is punctuated by notes of ginger and oats. There’s a generous helping of spice in the nose with a tinge of red pepper on the palate. Transitions are bolder that maintain woody foundations, but introduce a well-balanced mix of earth and cedar notes with hints of graham and caramel playing peek-a-boo on the retro. The finishes take on a tasty baked quality for the duration. 

The bold meter keeps climbing, yet complexity and balance refuse to give in till the nub. The Leaf by James is a cigar that will have you drooling for your favorite bourbon, trust me. This toro produces lots of smoke and likes to be smoked, so don’t dawdle. Combustion is solid, but it is difficult to coax this gal to burn evenly. This is a great example of a cigar that balances a rich, flavorful profile with a full-bodied, spicy demeanor. Our Leaf by James is a sultry, well-executed, and delicious edition to the Leaf by series and proof that flavor and strength can play well together. – In Fumo Pax!

Recommendation: Boxworthy

Did you Know: Leaf by James is the fourth installment in Island Jim’s collaborative  “Leaf by” series and is preceded by the uber popular Leaf by Oscar, Leaf by Esteban and Leaf and Bean by Noel.


  • Profile: Full
  • Vitola: Toro Grande
  • Length / Ring Gauge: 6.0″ x 50
  • Purchased: B&M
  • Origin: Nicaragua
  • Wrapper: Pennsylvania Broadleaf
  • Binder: Ecuadorian Habano
  • Filler:  Nicaraguan
  • Blade: Xikar Punch
  • Fire: Colibri Firebird
  • Price: $10.25
  • Humidor Age: 8.5 mo.
  • Box: 20
  • Other Vitolas: N/A


Smoke Time: 1:16
: Mostly open
Construction: Rustic appearance; rough broadleaf texture; triple cap; nicely firm; lumpy; bumpy; veiny; seamless; holds 1″ ash; voluminous smoke production.

  • WrapperFragrant honey, chocolate
  • Foot – Toffee
  • Cold Draw – apricots and chocolate

Tasting Notes:

  • Initial: Creamy initially, settling into leathery core; maintains caramel, cream and graham cracker and maplewood notes on retro; savory finish of ginger and toasted oats; toasted oats on draw; generous spice in nose; tinge of red pepper on palate.
  • Transition: Savory, woody core with notes of earth and oak; spice in nose lingers; maintains caramel and light graham notes on retro; baked finish with cedar notes; oats become more prominent on retro;
  • Transition: Earthy profile; lots of oak and woody notes on retro; malty; long finish of cedar and espresso.

Complexity: Excellent
Balance: Excellent
Touch upsN/A
Combustion: Very good – mostly wavy char throughout
Weaknesses:  Cap integrity with a punch not the best.
Recommendation: Boxworthy

Recommendation scale:

  1. Boxworthy / Go-to
  2. 5-packer
  3. Yard ‘gar
  4. NR [No Recommendation]

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