Today we take a look at the new Swag Black from Rafael Nodal at Boutique Blends. The cigar is made by Jochi Blanco at his Tabacalera La Palma factory.
According to Nodal, they have taken a Dominican puro and given it Nicaraguan strength. Nodal said that Dominican tobacco is known for its flavor but not its strength. I found myself impressed by the fact that the cigars have been aged 8 years.
Blanco and Nodal have worked on several projects together including the original Swag, the new Aging Room Small Batch M20, and the new Aging Room Bin No. 1.
The Swag Black comes in four sizes: 4.5 x 48 ($6.95), 5 x 54 ($7.90), 6x 54 ($8.49), and the 6 x 60 ($8.98).
I am inspecting the cigar and it is stout, hearty, manly and well made. Seams are tight. Very few veins. Packed solid. A perfect triple cap. And an oily medium brown wrapper that is very smooth.
I clip the cap and find aromas of spice, cocoa, earthiness, nuts, cedar, and leather.
Time to light up.
This may be a first. In the first 1/8”, it becomes a flavor bomb!
The strength begins at medium/full.
I am going to like this cigar.
Other flavors, like cedar and earthiness with a big belt of leather join the happy crowd.
There is a buttery element that feels oily on the lips. The Swag Black is shooting flavors at my palate faster than I can discern what the hell they are.
I’ve only smoked the original Swag Puro Dominicano and while a very good cigar, the Swag Black is a major breakthrough in the line. I have tried the Sobe and it was good too but not like this stick.
I want to type in a kitchen sink list of flavors. But I won’t. Let it take its course.
The draw is spot on even though it is a hard cigar.
There is a touch of camp fire smokiness element that reinforces the manly quality.
Strong espresso shows itself. The chocolate and creaminess manifests itself into tasting like a Fudgesicle. Takes me back to the days of the lecherous man in the ice cream truck as a kid.
In my 20’s, I got a Popsicle from a driver of one of those trucks who also sold pot as a sideline to the frozen treats. He played drums and we played together for a while. I should note that he didn’t sell weed to kids. Just their parents. He wasn’t a total low life.
A new, interesting flavor is applied. Some sort of dark berry. Either blackberry or boysenberry. Too early to tell.
Sadly, the strong red pepper has dissipated to the point of being relegated to the back of the pack.
I received a free 5 pack of these with some coupon code I found. I blew my monthly wad on something on sale for $40 and got the Swag Blacks for gratis. Methinks, the real deal was getting the Swag Blacks.
The strength remains at medium/full but becomes very smooth now. Complexity begins. The finish is incredibly long. And the balance is on the money.
I close my eyes and smack my lips trying to discern other flavors I cannot yet identify. It is always a problem when a cigar contains a kitchen sink full of flavors and then trying to pick them apart. Well, not a problem. But a conundrum at least.
The maple syrup is playing tricks on my brain and allowing me to taste French toast…the cinnamon, the nutmeg. And that buttery fried bread flavor.
Now I get it. What was in Rafael Nodal’s wily brain? I am getting these wonderful bold, but smooth, flavors from the Dominican leaves but that Nic element is present without a single Nic leaf being present. And it’s just not the strength I am referring to. The Nic cigar has a deep rich quality that is sometimes missing in DR puros. And of course, aging the sticks for 8 years helps a bundle to create that beautiful richness and smoothness quality.
It is blackberry, not boysenberry. As my regular readers know, I worked part time at Knott’s Berry Farm in high school. And they are famous for inventing and producing boysenberry jam. Plus you can buy their product in every California market. So boysenberry flavor is etched in my brain. And this is not it. But blackberry suffices nicely.
I am barely past the 1” burned point and I’ve enjoyed it for 20 minutes. I predict this will be a 90 minute cigar.
The Swag Black is a magnificent surprise.
The price point. $7.00 per stick for a box and $7.50 per stick for a 5 pack is a killer deal. Nodal could have been greedy like a lot of the other brands coming out of the 2014 IPCPR trade show, but he chose to keep it simple and wallet/wife happy.
Why should I spend $15 on a new My Father when I can have a Swag Black for half that price?
Things have gotten way out of control. I’ve been smoking cigars since I was 18. Almost 47 years. And in the last decade, I’ve witnessed the ridiculous pricing become out of control. Especially in the last 3 years.
Boutique brands have upped the anty on the regular production cigars. Manufacturers are cashing on the boutique blend cache. They present their regular production cigar as if it should be in that exclusive boutique branch of the cigar market.
It is shameful. Sure the economy is doing better. But not that better. Most of us look for the deals. The specials. And the great cigars in the $5-$7 range for their humidors. There are so many great cigars in that category. Take a look at my “Katman’s List of 117 Great Cigars in the $5.00-$6.50 Range.”
The ash is gently disengaged in the ashtray at the 1-1/2” mark.
I’ve only had to give the Swag Black one minor touch up to the burn line. The cap is rock steady. And not a single wrapper issue.
The strength hits full bodied. Nicotine begins to flood my puny brain.
Another interesting point. Remember how recently, cigar manufacturers were claiming that their new blend was the strongest cigar on the market?
Once that race began, everyone has jumped on that band wagon trying to outdo the next fella. If you are a fan of the full bodied cigar like me, then this is a good thing. More variety to choose from.
I love everything Nodal puts out through his Boutique Blends company puts out. Rafael doesn’t know how to make a mediocre blend. The Aging Room Maduro is one of my all-time favorite cigars.
The flavors: Creaminess, earthiness, cocoa, blackberry, espresso, maple syrup, leather, cinnamon, cedar, and spice.
The Swag Black is a real treat. But I definitely recommend you have a nice meal in your belly before lighting one up. Me? Nothing. I may have to take a break and eat some cereal.
I take my own advice and eat a big bowl of cereal. All is good.
I am the halfway point.
Eating some food can provide a clearer palate. The break allows your palate a short rest and the flavors become emboldened.
I am in complete awe at the incredible flavor profile. Nothing has changed. Except that flavor profile is so out there that it is circling Mars.
Caramel shows up now. It complements all the flavors and the intensity steps up another notch. With half still to go, I am flummoxed as to where else can this cigar go. It keeps getting better and better.
I’m happy I still have four left in my humidor. And since this is a regular production cigar, it will be a Talmudic directive to always keep the Swag Black in my regular rotation.
I’ve never smoked a cigar that is so bold in strength and flavor at the same time. Just crazy, man.
If you don’t seek out this cigar, then I disinherit you from my will.
For my tastes, the Swag Black is about as close to perfection possible. As you know, I don’t rate cigars because I am not a professional aficionado; but if forced to do so, I would give it a 95. I’m sure that Cigar Aficionado will review it and if I see a score any less than my score, I will yell: “Rigged!”
The last third begins.
The Swag Black is a mighty powerful cigar. Those 8 years of aging has made it easy to smoke. As it turns out, the nicotine isn’t so bad. I expected that by now, I’d be hallucinating. But no, just a mild buzz.
Again, I love this cigar. I don’t think it matters if you are a chain smoker like me or a one a day guy. After six dozen cigars, your palate is pretty much fried by the time evening rolls around. But my gut tells me it doesn’t matter with the Swag Black. The blend will bring life back to your palate without any trouble. So I see myself smoking this cigar at the end of the evening and then wobble upstairs to bed with a smile on my puss.
Construction is first rate. I cannot begin to count the expensive cigars I’ve reviewed lately that don’t have the chutzpah of the Swag Black. There is no other word to describe it.
Rafael Nodal and Jochi Blanco are my new heroes.
This is a brilliant blend. The price is not only perfect but I am surprised that it doesn’t cost more. Thank goodness that Nodal has the common sense of Yoda. Make a great cigar and make it affordable so everyone can revel in its quality. The other manufacturers don’t get it. You buy a $13 cigar and then it is 6 months later before you might try it again. The Swag Black price point allows all of us tight budgeted cigar smokers a chance to smoke a cigar that could have easily been a double digit price.
Categories: CIGAR REVIEWS