Rodrigo Cigars La Fortaleza | Cigar Review

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Dominican
Size: 5.5 x 50 “Forte”
Body: Medium/Full
Price: $9.25


A new cigar for me and I will be smoking it for the first time for this review. Yes, I bought it at Cigar Federation. It’s nice to have such a large diversity of first rate boutique brands at my disposal.

Let CF describe a bit about the Rodrigo:
“The Rodrigo La Fortaleza shatters the image of the traditional Dominican Puro. Everything about La Fortaleza is full. It gives you full strength, full flavor and full complexity. The Dominican Natural Oscuro wrapper lets you know you’re in for a ride while the Dominican binder and fillers keep things balanced and flavorful. The Rodrigo La Fortaleza will take you on a ride, but are you ready for it?”

Or from the Rodrigo web site:

“La Fortaleza breaks the common stigma that flavor and complexity must be sacrificed in order to gain fullness. That tends to be the case but La Fortaleza offers something rare and different: full body AND full complex flavor.”

George Rodriguez is a man, who after many years of enjoying cigars, decided one day in 2010 to produce his own. The story is long and best told by him on the Rodrigo Cigars web site.

There have been two prior releases to the La Fortaleza: the Habano Classic and the Boutique Blend. The reviewed stick came out in 2013.

The cigar is the epitome of rustic. But construction is solid and with a gentle give to the shaft. The wrapper has that Colorado look of medium brown with reddish tinge. Seams are tight. But not invisible. There are lots of veins, both big and small. Actually, some extraordinarily large veins. The triple cap has a nice little pig tail atop it.

The cigar band is simple and to the point. Silver lettering on a black background with the company logo behind the name of the brand. There is nothing on the band that tells us the blend.

I clip the cap and find aromas of grassiness, spice, rich earthiness, and some cedar with just a touch of cocoa.
Time to light up.

The draw is great as I get a huge swath of sweetness on my palate. Plus the blend is full of nuts. Like me. The spice kicks in. Black pepper. Some cedar. But, clearly, sweetness rules the day…for the moment.

The rich tobacco has its own flavor unto itself. Lovely medium bodied earthiness.

The char line is on point.

The sweetness has some sub-elements…red cherry, dark honey, and something like treacle. Which means creaminess is not far behind.

I continue to be amazed at how little humidor time is needed for every boutique brand I buy from Cigar Federation. I’ve had this cigar for less than a week. I decided that if it wasn’t ready, I’d smoke it, wait a couple weeks and try again. But as usual, the cigar is good to go.

The flavor profile expands at the 1” mark. Creaminess and a gooey caramel join the big top.

The cedar becomes stronger. The black pepper moves to the front of my mouth and becomes red pepper; and is on an upward trajectory.

Smoke is filling the room to the point I must turn on the standing fan next to me to allow me to see the bloody laptop screen.
The char line is dead nuts. And the cigar is moments away from flavor bomb status.

Emilio Cigars is the main distributor for a lot of the cigars at the Cigar Federation Store. Obviously, CF carries the entire Emilio line. But it also carries what Emilio distributes such as 1502, Ezra Zion, Epicurean, Rodrigo, Herederos de Robina, and Guayacan. There are 35+ more boutique brands at the CF store.

Since most of the cigars I’ve reviewed have had similar, but individually distinct, flavor profiles, I need to explore the nuances of this cigar.

First, this cigar has the richest earthiness of the other brands. It has a unique sweetness element. While there is some cocoa, it is subtle and not at all leading the pack. This stick shines with its variation on a theme: Sweetness. It is discovering little back alleys of sweetness. One moment, the honey is strongest, then the cherry is strongest, then the sweet cream is running the show. The butter sweet caramel. But there is more. The sweetness branches out to become like scones with clotted cream. A British favorite that if you haven’t tried it, a ticket to England is in order.

There is sweet cedar. Or chewing on a sugar cane stick. I taste a brown sugar component. And lastly, a sweet floral element.

Not being the usual Nicaraguan blend that most of us get used to, the ES wrapper and Dominican binder and filler give the cigar a nice switch from the norm.

The second third started a few minutes ago. The body has remained at medium strength. And the char line spot on.

The creaminess begins to give the sweetness a run for its money. At the same time, some cocoa brightens the flavor profile.

The floral notes get stronger and with that, we have flavor bomb status. To be honest, it balanced on the sharp edge of being a flavor bomb from almost the beginning.

I near the halfway point. The cigar is damn delicious. Woody and leather flavors show up and steer the cigar in a different skewed direction.

The price point is a bit high. But boutique brands costing more is something we can do nothing about. None of the brands are regular production cigars. The blenders do not have the big distribution outlets to help them. And for a lot of the owners, this is them testing the waters for future releases. So word of mouth is very important. If a large cigar company were to get behind the Rodrigo, it would probably be in the $7 range. But I would buy this cigar again. It is a real treat.

The three sizes: Absoluto 5.12 x 53, Forte 5.5 x 50, and Elegante 6.75 x 48 run from $8-$10 a stick.

The last third begins and I’m loving this medium bodied treasure. The complexity and balance are perfect. Not only would I love to have more, but I would love to buy a box of these sticks. They are that good. Most of the cigars on the CF store are in 5 packs. I’m too lazy to itemize the brands.

Some nicotine kick shows up. Drat. Not very strong but I have less than two inches to go. And I hate nicotine.
The cigar is a candy bar now.
The strength moves to full bodied.

As the cigar slowly finishes, I am totally sated. This was a really great cigar experience.

This stick is for the experienced smoker. The complexity would be wasted on an undeveloped palate.

I say, suck it up, and get yourself a 5 pack.

And now for something completely different:

I love music. I love playing bass. And my body of reviews has shown that.

Since the height of me being in the big time music industry lasted between the ages of 24-34, it is becoming harder and harder to remember all the stories.

And here is another….It was Passover and I was stuck in the studio with Hal Blaine and a full orchestra. Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood.

Hal got me on board to do a Barbra Streisand album. It paid better than scale and it lasted two weeks.

On my last night, Passover, Streisand showed up in the booth. I could see her and was blown away. I never thought I would see her, let alone, meet her.

The session broke around 7pm. I was packing up when Streisand approached Hal. Hal had played on many of her albums and they were old friends. Hal was courteous and introduced me. My knees were knocking.

When she heard my last name, she asked if I had any family? I nodded yes as the ability for speech eluded me.

She looked at both Hal and me and asked why we weren’t at home for Passover Seder?
We both shrugged our shoulders. Passover was at my dad’s that year.

I told her that. She said that because she was there to begin doing her vocals, she would totally miss out on the Seder.
I began packing my gear into my 1971 Datsun station wagon. She followed me out.

“The hell with it. I’m coming home with you.”
I gasped.

Before I could say anything, she got into the front seat. Her manager came running out and asked what the hell she was doing? Back in 1983, Sunset Gower charged $250 per hour.

She told him that she was going to a Passover Seder at my dad’s house in Long Beach.

The manager flew off the handle and started screaming at her. I didn’t say a thing. I just watched as they argued. She told him he had no right to make her work on Passover and she would do what she damn well pleased.

I was pissing my pants.

A moment later, she got out of my Datsun. She gave me a hug and winked at me as she walked back into the studio. She had never really intended to come home with me. She was just pranking her manager.

I was relieved.

When I got to my dad’s, I told everyone what happened and my evil step mother went bananas.

She was from the same neighborhood as Streisand in Brooklyn. She was on Cloud 9 at the thought that maybe Streisand would have attended our Passover Seder.

For years after that, she told everyone who would listen about this story.
And it was quite a story at that.


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1 reply

  1. I am hooked on the Dante. Worth every dime. But I must wait a couple weeks. And then I can go nuts again. By then, I will have smoked all 13 sticks from the five packs I bought a couple weeks ago and can pick and choose with a selective eye this time.

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