United Cigars Byron 20th Century Habaneros

Breathing life into defunct Cuban brands or paying tribute to Cuban roots with nostalgic designs and Havana-inspired imagery is nothing new. In fact, you might even say these homages are sewn into the fabric of the industry. There is no shortage of notable pioneers in early Cuban cigar making and the Alfonso family is a part of that history. Around 1848, the Alfonso family began producing a cigar in honor of the great English poet, George Gordon Byron, later known as Lord Byron, author of the famous story, Don Juan. The cigars did quite well, but some time before or after the turn of the century, the family succumbed to financial hardship and the brand was sold off into obscurity.

Around 1998, an Alfonso descendent, Nelson, who is often credited with designing Cohiba’s iconic branding as well as the Humitube, a dual-chamber humidifier for single cigars, decided to resurrect the Byron brand, which is now owned by United Cigar Group. The brand is broken up into three primary blends: Siglo XIX, Siglo XX and Siglo XXI, each representing a different century (19th, 20th and 21st). Each century collection contains 4 vitolas which are packaged in ornate old style porcelain humijars, unique, limited-production dress humidors and Nelson’s own Humitubes. The primary cigar bands of the 20th and 21st century collections are adorned with a copy of the original lithographed relief of Lord Byron.

Tobacco used is aged at least a year and most of the blend components are a closely guarded secret. Cigar production is carried out by Alfonso’s company, Selected Tobaccos, in Costa Rica.

At least three of the cigars in the portfolio contain tobacco aged 5 years and we chose the toro-sized Habaneros from the Siglo XX collection. Visually, this is an exquisite cigar with an impeccable, seamless roll. While veiny, the wrapper feels smooth and offers a light glint of oil. Throughout its length, the cigar is evenly firm without being hard and it feels good in the hand. The rich peanut and cocoa powder aromas forced a double take, but the cold draw was a bit on the restricted side, which for a larger cigar, was disappointing.

The creamy, nutty draw immediately got my attention, but the initial rich intonations of vanilla and cinnamon followed by layers of hardy oak and roasted coffee made me forget about the draw. Around a nutty nucleus, the long finish extends the nuttiness with some woody notes. There is a hint of spice that appears along with mild notes of white pepper. While complexity falls off through transitions and body thickens, the hallmark of this cigar is its ultra-smooth textures and refined manners. Our Habaneros does manage to keep things interesting with spicy rounds of dried fruit, espresso and nuts followed by a hardy blend of cocoa, savory cedar and black coffee.

Performance of this big boy is not its strong suit. While the draw does marginally improve and smoke production is solid, first half combustion is pretty uneven. In addition, a couple of splits in the wrapper near the cap appeared fairly early on. Like Alfono’s Atabey line, there is no arguing Byron’s refinement and flavor wheels, but overall complexity and uniqueness is lacking for the price paid, comparatively speaking. And while visually appealing, the thick draw combined with an annoying albeit mild combustion issue is not expected in a cigar priced over $30. Regardless, Byron Cigars have earned a legion of fans, and while I’d happily smoke the Habaneros again, I’ll do so on someone else’s dime. – In Fumo Pax!

Recommendation: 5-Packer

Did you Know: Byron brand founder, Nelson Alfonso, also owns the super-premium Atabey brand.

  • Profile: Medium
  • Vitola: Toro
  • Length / Ring: 6.0″ x 56
  • Purchased: Online
  • Origin: Costa Rica
  • Wrapper: Ecuadorian
  • Binder: Dominican
  • Filler: Undisclosed
  • Production: Selected Tobacco, Costa Rica
  • Blade: Xikar xi1
  • Fire: Colibri Firebird
  • Price:$33 [Box $824]
  • Humidor Age: 5 mo.
  • Box: 25
  • Other Vitolas: N/A

N O T E S

Smoke Time: 1:44
Draw
: Partially open
Construction: Walnut shade; veiny; seamless; nice cap and form; evenly firm, but not hard; smooth to touch; light oil; nice heft; crisp roll; holds strong 1″+ ash.
Aromas:

  • WrapperLush peanuts; cocoa powder
  • Foot – Musty; cocoa powder

Tasting Notes:

  • Initial: Creamy, nutty draw; lots of cinnamon and vanilla creme; a touch of oak; notes of roasted coffee; nutty finish with subtle layer of wood; nutty core; hint of spice on tongue accompanied by intro of white pepper notes; mild to medium in body; ultra smooth and light on palate; sweet cedar notes added to draw.
  • Transition: Draw of dried fruit; notes of espresso and cedar on retro; finish maintains nutty dominance; small increase in spice; more savory; dried fruit foundation – pervasive in all aspects.
  • Transition: Smoky persona; mix of cocoa powder and cedar notes with tinges of charred oak on retro; another bump in spice; long, toasty finish of cedar and black coffee;

Complexity: Very good
Balance: Excellent
Touch upsN/A
Combustion: Very good
Weaknesses: lacks uniqueness for a cigar over $30; uneven combustion in first half; fragile wrapper.
Recommendation: 5-Packer

Recommendation scale:

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

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