Wrapper: Nicaraguan Criollo
Size: 7 x 52 “Churchill”
Price: $11.40 ($11.00 in boxes of 10 from Small Batch Cigar minus 10% discount = $9.90)
Today we take a look at the Viaje Farmer Bill Hatchet. The last of the Viaje trifecta of Thanksgiving releases for 2014. The stick was released only a month ago.
As always, I post my review daily on my FB page. And the comments tend to say that yeah the Stuffed Turkey blends are great but wait til you taste the Bill Hatchet. I know if I go into this thinking I’m going to be bowled over; it will be a stinker so disregard this paragraph.
From 2011 on, The Stuffed Turkey blends were part of the White Label Projects. This year marks the first that the Stuffed Turkey line would stand on its own. The WLP was designed for small production sticks, experimental sticks, and the like.
As in the Stuffed Turkey blends, all of the tobacco is Aganorsa tobacco from Nicaragua.
The term Aganorsa is being bounced around a lot lately. This is from Cigar Aficionado:
“Now there is no mystery about who buys his product, as Aganorsa has been transformed from an unknown organization into a major force in the world of Nicaraguan tobacco that has built a clientele by growing tobacco in the old-fashioned Cuban style, using Cuban seeds and the oversight of well-seasoned agronomists from Cuba.
“Aganorsa plants some 1,200 acres annually in Nicaragua yielding some 15,000 bales of wrapper, binder and filler tobacco, all of it grown from Cuban seed, enough to make tens of millions of cigars. Aganorsa claims to be the biggest grower in Nicaragua—Plasencia Tobacco disputes this, saying it is the larger grower—but there is no denying that Aganorsa grows immense amounts of cigar tobacco that is being used inside and around some of the world’s best cigars.
“Giant and boutique companies alike get tobacco from Aganorsa. The Illusione Epernay Le Taureau, Cigar Aficionado’s No. 3 Cigar of the Year, is made with Aganorsa tobacco, as are several others on the list. Altadis U.S.A. Inc., which is one of the world’s largest producers of premium cigars, is a major client. Aganorsa also counts Padrón Cigars Inc.—a company that has scored higher in Cigar Aficionado taste tests than any other—as a customer.
“It’s just unique,” says Aganorsa client Ernesto Padilla. Most of his cigars use Aganorsa tobacco, and some are made entirely of the company’s leaf. “The way they cure the tobacco, the way they process it, it’s what Cuban cigars should taste like and burn like.
“Aganorsa has its own cigar brands—Casa Fernandez—which unsurprisingly uses Aganorsa leaf. Most of its cigars are made in Honduras by Fabrica de Tabacos Raices Cubanas, which uses vast amounts of Aganorsa tobacco. Fernández also owns a small cigar factory in the United States.”
You will see the word spelled using all capitals very often. I don’t know why. Every informational source I could find spelled it as it is shown in this review.
This is a very handsome cigar. From its rather sharp box press to the color of dark chocolate with a reddish tint. The stick has a matte finish. Very little oiliness on the wrapper. The wrapper is as smooth as my tushy. Not a single bit of toothiness. It is also as solid as the rock of Gibraltar.
I clip the cap and find aromas of spice, cocoa, leather, earthiness, sweetness, barnyard, and wood. I get the residuals from sniffing the spice and sneeze three times in succession. I have a sensitive nose.
Based on the sheer size of the Viaje Farmer Bill Hatchet, I think I am in for a long ride. It is 9:00am now. Mark it. Here goes.
Time to light up.
And my lighter goes out on me halfway through the initial burn. Drat! I like the lighters with a fill window. But my Bugatti Zippo-like lighter has nothing of the sort. I suppose you could take out the insert now and again and hold it up to the light. Pain in the ass.
The first puffs are very earthy. And then the transition begins: Red hot pepper, dark chocolate, creaminess, leather, coffee, nuttiness, a touch of cinnamon, and something fruity. Like me. (It gets old doesn’t it?)
The red pepper is powerful. I gasp for air, my nose runs, and my eyes water uncontrollably. It is like eating a fresh habanero all at once. I’ve done that. And lived to regret it. Use to make my owl salsas when we lived in Mesa, AZ in the 90’s.
I’ve burned ¼” and we have hit Flavor Bomb 1.0. There is a sugar cane flavor. There is peanut butter. And a toasty element. The peanut butter becomes very strong, very quickly.
Nutmeg joins the cinnamon. There is a small amount of ginger and allspice. Pumpkin pie spice!
Clearly, this is a totally different blend than the Stuffed Turkeys; both Dark Meat and White Meat.
The Viaje Farmer Bill Hatchet is a more sophisticated blend.
The strength is classic medium body.
Flavors keep pounding out like being expelled from a blacksmith’s bellows.
The first inch was all about boldness. Now it is about subtlety and nuance. The Viaje Farmer Bill Hatchet finds its complexity. Nice balance. But a short finish.
At the moment, the cigar has all the makings of a good Nicaraguan puro. Nothing unexpected. No unknowns. The stuff you expect. You’ve smoked enough Nic puros in your life to know what the blend will provide.
At this point, I beg to differ with the pundits who thought this was a better blend than the two Stuffed Turkey blends.
Alas, the potent spiciness has dissipated to the back of the line.
The pumpkin spice components are gone…leaving a touch of cinnamon.
The char line has been on a continuous wave from the start. I’ve had to give it several touch ups. Minor ones, though.
This is a good time to discuss price point. $11.40. $9.00 in the Small Batch Cigar Viaje Thanksgiving Mix – Pack of 5 for $51.00 before the 10% discount. You get two each of the Stuffed Turkey blends and one Farmer Bill Hatchet. That is how I procured the blends.
There are way too many char line issues. It feels like every few minutes, the burn line needs adjustment or it will get out of control. An $11 stick shouldn’t do this.
The Viaje Farmer Bill Hatchet is clearly a premium blend. I hate this trend of all new cigars hitting double digit prices. It seems like pure greed. These same companies were putting out great cigars a few years ago for $7-$8 a stick. The cost of living has risen only 1.8% on average since 2009. So I don’t want to hear how the manufacturer’s costs have gone up exponentially. It just ain’t so Moe.
I know a lot of you can afford this uptick in prices. Good job. Maybe a two person household with two earners. And then there are the rest of us shlubs. Who have to think twice before spending this kind of money.
I was gifted three La Aroma de Cuba Noblesse cigars. $16.00. I like the Jaime Garcia Reserva Especial better. $6.00.
The creaminess, peanut butter, coffee, dark chocolate, dried fruit, and leather are really screaming laughter now.
I compare everything to my favorite cigar from the Cigar Federation: The Collective by Ezra Zion. An $11.00 stick that once seemed expensive. Now… it seems to be a sensible price for such a fantastic cigar. If you haven’t tried any of the Ezra Zion blends, you must march over to Cigar Federation Store and snag some. The Sampler (6 cigars) is a great way to try all the blends. $60.00. One warning. These sticks need a full month or more of humidor time. This makes a great Christmas gift.
The second third begins. 40 minutes of smoke time.
New flavors arrive….the fruitiness is yellow raisins, cashews, orange citrus, and a much stronger coffee that becomes espresso.
The char line is beginning to behave itself. And I’m getting a nice long stiff ash. The cigar, not me.
The Viaje Farmer Bill Hatchet is a very well rounded blend. A little something for everyone. Because of its strength, this is a great cigar for newbies to train on. The mellow flavors that occurred somewhere in the first third become bolder once again. Just like the start of the cigar.
Goddamit. I jinx it every time I boast about a long ash. It fell into my lap but not before bouncing off my camera hanging from my neck. Sonovabitch.
A nice vanilla note along with some nougat appears.
My only disappointment is that I am not surprised by any of the flavors. Nic puros work with the same parameters. Something new rarely appears.
The fruit also morphs into dried apricot. Sweet and tart.
Flavor bomb status has not changed. I’m hoping the last third makes me the fool and really explodes.
I am a member of Cigar Federation. I also belong to a Face Book cigar group. I am amazed at how most of the members have got some serious dough. They show photos of some of their stash and it blows me away. Thousands of dollars’ worth of new cigars.
When I had steady employment, before the skydiving accident way laid me for good, I would spend around $1000-$1300 per month on cigars. These good fellas must be spending that; plus a lot more. I am so jealous. A while back, I begged readers for some dough to buy singles for review. Any idea how humiliating that was? Thank God, six good men sent me enough dough to keep up or else my blog would have gathered dust.
Back to the Viaje Farmer Bill Hatchet. This is an excellent cigar. Would I buy it again?
No. If I was to spend that kind of money per cigar, I’d be checking out with my Ezra Zion sticks at Cigar Federation.
I’ve found that Viaje, Andre Farkas, is a hit or miss blender. Farkas really cranks out a lot of blends. Some are great. Some are just good. And some I wanted my money back. I don’t like the fact that Farkas only distributes cigars in very limited quantities. It creates a rush on the cigars and prices are fixed. You won’t find cigars for less than MSRP. Except at Small Batch Cigar or CF. They give you a 10% discount. And let’s face it; there aren’t that many boutique brand online stores.
As long as the cigar prices are fixed, you have a better chance of snagging some great cigars at your local B & M than online. Especially if you have a relationship with the owner of the store.
Milwaukee is a real shit hole for B & M’s. My local store doesn’t carry Pepin Garcia cigars because their patrons don’t buy them. They buy Punch and La Gloria Cubana and Rocky Patel.
The halfway point arrives with a bang!
Here are the flavors: Dark chocolate, creaminess, citrus, leather, earthiness, peanut butter, cinnamon, dried fruit, vanilla, nougat, espresso, nuts, and toastiness.
Time smoked: 90 minutes. This is going to be a 2 hour cigar. Maybe longer.
The strength remains at medium body.
Should I continue to write reviews and keep up with the newest trends, the ever upward mobility of prices is going to stop me dead in my tracks. I used to buy 5 packs. Can’t do that anymore. If I’m lucky, I buy 2 sticks. The second one is for safety. In case there are serious problems with the first.
The last third begins with the introduction of nicotine. Blecch.
One word to describe the Viaje Farmer Bill Hatchet? Smooth.
It’s now been 2 hours. And it looks like another 20-30 minutes to go.
Except for the wavy char line, the construction has been impeccable.
I take a break otherwise this will be a 20,000 word essay.
The cigar finishes out beautifully. The nicotine levels out so it is tolerable. No crash helmet necessary.
I would love to have a box of these sticks. They come in boxes of 10. $110.00.
The Viaje Farmer Bill Hatchet certainly proves Andre Farkas knows what he is doing. But the price point is just out of my financial range. There are plenty of $8 cigars just as good. But the limited edition component of this story allows Viaje to charge whatever they want. And get it.
Remember to tell Small Batch Cigar that the Katman sent you.
And don’t forget about the Viaje Thanksgiving Mix – Pack of 5 which will give you a taste of all three blends. Oddly, Cigar Federation carries 10 Viaje blends but not this one.
And now for something completely different:
The first time I met Hall of Fame drummer Hal Blaine was at Sunset Gower studios. Rick Tunstall and I were a team and recording his music.
Rick knew Hal back when he worked for a cartage company. Hal never set up his own drums. He paid others to do it for him.
We got to the studio an hour before Hal arrived. I was so excited that I almost pissed my pants.
In the 1960’s, reading the liner notes of albums was almost a hobby. There was so much interesting info.
And on almost of my favorite groups had Hal listed as the drummer. He was part of a trio that consisted of Joe Osborn on bass and Larry Knechtel on keys.
I patterned a lot of my bass riffs on Joe’s playing. He was a brilliant bassist.
Hal was the Master! If ever a man knew when to play and when to lay back, this was the guy.
Hal arrived. He was all smiles and shook my hand vigorously. We kibitzed for a bit.
He sat down on his kit to make final adjustments. I stood right next to him. Like a groupie.
He asked if I wanted to see something? I nodded.
In his stick bag, he carried with him the drum charts that Paul Simon wrote for him for “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.”
I gently took it from his hands and rubbed my hand over it.
Hal had a big smile on his puss. He was very proud of it.
We played back some of the tunes we had already recorded. Hal listened taking notes.
Rick was nonchalant. Me? I was bouncing off the walls.
We spent two weeks in the studio with Hal. He had lots of suggestions for the new songs that we almost wrote in the studio rather than having a song already complete.
I thought his suggestions were brilliant. But these songs were Rick’s. He didn’t always agree.
We worked on songs for each 4-6 hour session. Hal was going through a divorce at the time and was glad to be around folks who idolized him. Good for his ego.
He complimented me many times on my bass playing. Pure heaven.
Categories: CIGAR REVIEWS