Bite Size Review: La Palina Nicaragua Oscuro Robusto
We recently moved our offices a few miles away and thus have had to modify when and where we review our cigars which is a nice way of saying our world has been turned upside down and so it’s whenever and wherever as we keep from tripping over boxes. As we make our way through challenges associated with the move and COVID-19, we’re slowly returning to “normal” and what better way to do that than with a review of La Palina’s 4-year old, Nicaragua Oscuro. In 2018, we reviewed the company’s vaunted Red Label and loved it, except for maybe the intermittent, and as yet apparent source of a, swap gas odor.
Cigars we’ve had on our radar for a while, the Nicaragua line encompasses the Oscuro and a Connecticut, and represents La Palina’s first Nicaraguan puros. These represent two out of 18 total cigars in La Palina’s portfolio and Bill Paley shrewdly turned to tobacco wunderkind, AJ Fernandez, for blending and production duties which is, let’s face it, like money in the bank. The cigars debuted at the 2016 IPCPR show and as recently as November of last year, the Oscuro (gordo) garnered a respectable 90 rating from Cigar Aficionado. Both the Connecticut and Oscuro are rolled in three staple vitolas: robusto, toro and a 58 RG gordo.
Our Oscuro has languished in our over-stuffed humidors for the better part of 12 months, so on an ordinary Wednesday, we commence our first review in the new digs. The oily, seamless robusto presents in a rich bourbon sheen with a nicely crafted cap and a reassuring uniform firmness throughout. Aromas are a tantalizing fusion of milk chocolate, leather, coffee and piecrust and the cold draw delivers a semi-sweet dash of milk chocolate. The draw is a bit on the tight side at first, but fortunately it would open up as it smoked.
In true AJF fashion, the opening profile is a winner, kicked off by a lush draw of coffee followed by a mélange of caramel, leather and black pepper. A crescendo of cake batter on the retro eventually fades into the background where the Oscuro finishes with robust notes of charred wood. A nice spice appears soon after, building up to essentially an assault on the nose and palate, but is entrenched in well-balanced, woodier and chocolate-dominant transitions which are just as delicious. This was a knuckle burner and worth every hair lost.
Balance is excellent as is the combustion the latter of which only got off kilter once or twice but was self-correcting. Smoke production is mediocre at best, but the ash is tightly packed. The draw does improve somewhat, but is the weak link, at least in this particular review. And no swamp gas. However, this cigar is so tasty it’s difficult to keep from puffing on it too often. In fact, the Oscuro would pair nicely with a more fruity and non-spicy bourbon like a Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel. The spice is a bit overwhelming so might want to avoid the spicier bourbons. At over $2 cheaper than it’s Red Label sibling, the Nicaragua Oscuro represents a boxworthy value that also makes a great dance partner with a fine bourbon. – In Fumo Pax!
Did you Know: The La Palina brand was resurrected in 2010 by founder, Sam Paley’s grandson, Bill Paley.
- Profile: Med – Full
- Vitola: Robusto
- Length / Ring: 5.0″ X 52
- Purchased: B&M
- Origin: Nicaragua
- Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano Oscuro
- Binder: Nicaraguan
- Filler: Nicaraguan
- Production: Tabacalera AJ Fernandez Cigars de Nicaragua S.A.
- Blade: Xikar Xi1
- Fire: Colibri Firebird
- Price: $7.20 [Box $144.00]
- Humidor Age: 12 mo.
- Box: 20
- Other Vitolas: Toro [6″x50], Gordo [6″x58]
N O T E S
Smoke Time: 1:12
Construction: Bourbon hue; oily; firm throughout; solid cap; seamless; veiny; holds strong 1″+ ash; average smoke producer.
- Wrapper – Coffee, milk chocolate
- Foot – Pie crust
- Cold Draw – Milk chocolate
- Initial: Semi-sweet draw of coffee with melange of caramel, black pepper and a dominance of cake batter notes; bold finish of charred wood; light spice with hints of mesquite on the retro; body becomes more savory but balanced well with semi-sweet caramel and residual cake batter notes; notes of roasted nuts arrive late as spice increases, particularly on tongue.
- Transition: Rich earth and dark chocolate intonations; Smoky, hickory-based finish; spice dissipates then picks back up; more coffee notes on the finish.
- Transition: Hardy mix of oats, mesquite and cedar; spice overwhelming; retains hints of dark chocolate with black coffee on the long finish.
Touch ups: N/A
Weaknesses: Draw could be better
Recommendation: 2. Boxworthy
- 5 packer
- Yard ‘gar
- NR [No Recommendation]