Black Label Trading Company Lawless Robusto 
When it comes to design, brand cohesion and marketing, Oveja Negra Brands’ James and Angela Brown got it down to an art, no pun intended. Not only are their brands unique and eye catching, each of their brands complement one another in a brash symphony of what Brown describes as a “dark elegance.” Add in a touch of iconoclasm and distinct, visually edgy personas and the result are lines of cigars destined for icon status. They are the epitome of cool. In fact, no other brand that offers this level of appeal and unity comes to mind.
Oveja Negra Brands now offers four distinct brands, all containing both core and limited release lines: Black Label Trading Company (BLTC), Black Works Studio and the newly-minted Emilio and Dissident lines. The Browns hit the ground running with their first launch of BLTC cigars, growing a faithful following with core blends like Salvation and limited release lines, and fan faves, Morhine and Bishop’s Blend. They’ve grown in popularity so quickly that increasing demand combined with their small-batch ethos has led to supply shortages on retailer shelves.
We’ve had the pleasure of reviewing both Salvation and Morphine (2018), but have held onto a few others including Last Rites and Brown’s experimental Black Works Studio Sindustry, the reviews of which will come later this year. In the meantime, we decided to spring our 2+ year-old, Rosado-cloaked BLTC Lawless for a test drive to see if we could capture the scintillating blends we experienced with the first two.
Interestingly, although our Robusto is over two years-old, after visiting a handful of online retailers, pricing really hasn’t budged from its 2018 $10 price. Lawless’ reddish-hued, gingerbread wrapper also retains a rich, oily sheen and appears almost seamless. The wrapper’s dominant barnyard and leather aromas tickle the nose as does the minty, chocolate whiffs from the foot. The cold draw is nicely open sprinkling the palate with a tang of spiced raisins.
Complexity is off the charts as the initial profile features woody foundations complemented by notes of graham cracker on the draw followed by notes of leather, cinnamon and hickory on the retro. All capped off with a long, rich finish of baked bread and leather. There’s tinges of black pepper on the palate and a light spice in the nose as it settles into a dusky, medium-bodied medley of cedar, dark chocolate and spice with more coffee bean and dark fruit nuances. Transitions offer more strength and body surrounding profiles of charred leather and a chewy plumminess balanced with a residual chocolatey palette and oak.
A toasty, dark-roast coffee core notwithstanding, the last transition doesn’t offer much more and our robusto becomes earthy and harsh in short order. While a strong smoke producer, combustion was an issue throughout as runners appeared several times, two of which required correction. The ash doesn’t instill a lot of confidence, falling at odd moments without movement. I’m not sure the additional age really had any positive effect, though the first couple of profiles were incredibly enjoyable. In fact, the above-board blend palette would seem to pair nicely with a neat Glencairn of Buffalo Trace Bourbon. Unfortunately, Lawless comes up short with a blend that loses its way 40-45 minutes in and construction that can be unruly at times. – In Fumo Pax!
Did you Know: Oveja Negra’s James Brown is a skilled artist and conjures all the designs for each cigar for which he says, “…each one is a personal expression for me.”
- Profile: Full
- Vitola: Robusto
- Length / Ring: 5.0″ X 54
- Purchased: B&M
- Origin: Nicaragua
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano Rosado
- Binder: Nicaraguan
- Filler: Nicaraguan
- Production: Fabrica de Oveja Negra
- Blade: Xikar Xi1
- Fire: Colibri Firebird
- Price: $10 [Box $200] (2018)
- Humidor Age: 26 mo.
- Box: 20
- Other Vitolas: Gordo [6″x60], Churchill [7″x48]
N O T E S
Smoke Time: 1:09
Construction: Deep, rich gingerbread hue; oily; veiny; sloppy triple cap; seamless; uniformly firm; good smoke producer; holds tentative, salt-and-pepper 1″ ash.
- Wrapper – Banyard, scent of leather
- Foot – Mint chocolate
- Cold Draw – Spiced raisin
- Initial: Leathery nucleus wrapped in a swirling mix of cinnamon, black pepper and hickory; graham cracker draw; light spice in nose; long, rich finish of leather and baked bread; settles into dusky profile of cedar, dark chocolate and spices; baked quality to finish with more pronounced coffee notes; hints of dark fruit on palate; draw more chocolatey.
- Transition: Leather nucleus takes on more charred flavor and texture with a persistent spice; dark fruit notes more prevalent; more robust and chewy; retro dominated by notes of chocolate and oak; bold coffee finish.
- Transition: Harsh; complexity gone; core of dark roast coffee and black pepper; finishes earthy with a dash of black coffee; some residual dark fruit.
Touch ups: 2
Combustion: Poor: manageable initially, but worsened over time.
Weaknesses: Prone to runners which needed correcting; unpredictable ash
Recommendation: 3. 5-Packer
- 5 packer
- Yard ‘gar
- NR [No Recommendation]