Viaje Jalapeno | Cigar Review

Wrapper: Honduran
Binder: Honduran
Filler: Honduran
Size: 4.875 x 51 “Petit Perfecto (Figurado)”
Body: Medium/Full
Price: $8.56
Number of Cigars Smoked Prior to Review:
Accompanying Libation: Diet Coke

Viaje_Jalapeñoboxes

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Today we take a look at the new Viaje Jalapeno.

BACKGROUND:
Andre Farkas decided to debut two lines at roughly the same time: Jalapeno and Señor Andre’s Chicharrones. The Jalapeno came out mid March, 2015.
The Señor Andre’s Chicharrones comes in three blends: Original, Bold, and Spicy. I’ve reviewed the Spicy.
The cigar is produced at the Fabrica de Tabacos Cubanas S. de R.L. (Raices Cubanas in Honduras).

DESCRIPTION:
There aren’t many reviews out there but what there is aren’t exactly fawning over the blend. I don’t know if it is because of insufficient humidor time…or..the cigar just ain’t that good. I was shocked to see that Halfwheel gave it an 83. Not good. But of course, you also know that I don’t rate cigars like Cigar Aficionado does. It is too subjective. A 93 to me may be an 87 to you. So why bother?
Let’s see what this puppy has to offer.

The figurado is well made. Perfectly rolled. But the dark coffee bean wrapper is very rustic with loads of veins and visible seams. Half the cigar is covered in either the green circumcision part or cigar band. The green foil is captured by the cigar band so this should take some legerdemain to remove the foil and not the band. Photos just look prettier with the cigar band still on the cigar.
There is a little open ¼” nipple at the foot.
I am always wary of fancy shmancy presentations. But you knew that. Read my review of the Lost & Found Swollen Cock.
The issue I have with small perfectos is that smoke time is drastically reduced due to the tapering of the top half of the cigar.

SIZES AND PRICING:
The Jalapeno is it. One size fits all. I saw it at Prime Cigar in Brookfield, Wisconsin where my buddy Johnny Piette works. He is my pusher for great cigars for review.

AROMA AND COLD DRAW NOTES:
I don’t clip tapered footsies. I burn ‘em. So even clipping the small cap doesn’t allow for much aroma. But from the shaft, I smell barnyard, hay, herbs, earthiness, and a small touch of orange citrus.
The cold draw provides chocolate, spice, and coffee and a rich earthy tobacco element.

FIRST THIRD:
The only roll of the dice that may happen is during the lighting of the foot. Sometimes it burns perfectly; other times it is a mess.
The draw is spot on. Smoke clouds this ruggedly handsome face making him sneeze and causing his eyes to water.
First puffs are full of chocolate, red pepper, coffee and that nice tobacco earthiness.
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Creaminess jumps in moments later. Maybe we will get to taste a bar appetizer of jalapeno poppers? Charlotte and I went to the in-laws to be on Easter and Katie’s father-in-law to be made his own poppers. But he wrapped them in bacon and roasted them in the oven for 40 minutes. I sat there like a pig at a trough gorging myself. Kosher, Shmosher.

Well, I’m not being bowled over by the flavor profile. It has a touch of ordinary.
At half an inch in, things blossom a bit. The spice and cream mix well and I’ve talked myself into thinking I’m smoking/eating a popper. The chocolate and coffee are nice fall backs.
Little cigars need to hit that sweet spot pretty darn fast in order to impress. So far, it is only potential but not in the GPS of the sweet spot.

The strength started out at medium body but quickly became medium/full.
The cap size is really nice for holding the Viaje Jalapeno between your lips comfortably.
Then there is a spice bomb explosion of mammoth proportions.

I want to take this moment to thank Joseph Talotta for sending me a box of Oliva V Melanio Maduros. Haven’t tried them. Haven’t reviewed them. JT; you are on the top of my Chanukkah list!

With an inch burned, I’d say that the Viaje Jalapeno is a very pleasant cigar. Not all that interesting but what it has to work with is nice.

SECOND THIRD:
The first third moves to second third a little too quickly for my tastes. And this is basically the fattest part of the cigar.
Here they are: Spice, creaminess, cocoa, coffee, earthiness, sweetness, dark raisins, wood, leather, and meaty.
Flavors are subtle; not bold.
7third

The ash is hanging tough as is the char line.
A slight touch of mineral enters. A little too edgy.

The Byrds are playing in the background on the TV on the oldies station. If you lived through the 60’s, they were considered the American Beatles. Really. I have a great story about hanging back stage with the band at the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach at the height of their career. I’ve written about it a couple of times so maybe another time.

This is most definitely a jalapeno popper. The creaminess just really does a number on the spiciness of the blend. One of the reviews I read said pretty much the same thing I am discovering….that the creaminess is mind fucking me and making me think it is Suzy cream cheese.
Speaking of Frank, I have this very cool can cooler that I bought at cafepress.com. Wasn’t cheap. But it’s cool. Had it for years.
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HALFWAY POINT:
The draw becomes difficult. I hate to knock a perfectly good ash off but I think it will help. The ash lies in the ashtray and I need to re-light the Viaje Jalapeno.
The mineral quality is a bit annoying at this point. It comes and goes but when it comes, it ain’t wanted.
At this time, I feel confident in saying that this is not one Farkas’ best work. I’m itching to start writing about the price point.
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The smoke time is 30 minutes. It slowed down as the cigar headed towards the halfway point.
I’m a big Viaje fan. But I do believe his earlier blends were his best work. As part of my cigar budget, I got a couple of Viaje Oro Reserva Aficionado and a couple of Casa Fernandez Miami Reserva Maduro. Now those are stunning blends. Yes, I know Casa Fernandez is not a Farkas blend. I just chose to treat myself with a total of four great cigars along with my budget cigars I got on the CI Clearance List. I’m still doing the dance keeping this from Charlotte.
The Viaje was $11.20 and the CF was $9.75. I got them at Cigar Federation so I got 10% off.
Back to the Viaje Jalapeno. That annoying mineral quality disappears. Much better.
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LAST THIRD:
By all accounts, I should have hit the sweet spot by now. But the Viaje Jalapeno is a one trick pony. Consistent but not all that interesting.
In fact, some flavors have gone away leaving: Spice, creaminess, wood, leather, and sweetness. I feel like Farkas concentrated his efforts on getting that jalapeno flavor and forgot about the rest of the flavor profile.

The strength makes its move to full. And with it, some nicotine.
Smoke time is 40 minutes.
11third

I haven’t decided on whether to nub it using my cigar roach clip yet. My gut tells me the last portion of the cigar is going to be harsh.
With less than 1-1/2” to go, there is no sweet spot.
What a shame. What a disappointment.

While the Viaje Jalapeno was not a long smoke, it failed to succeed. And I choose not to nub it. It gave all its got and that was insufficient.

PRICE POINT:
While the Viaje Jalapeno isn’t expensive; say in terms of the beloved Lost & Found cigars, even at $8.56 it is overpriced. (BTW- The “beloved” crack was sarcasm).
I’ve had the cigar for several weeks. Maybe it wasn’t enough humidor time. Maybe not.
If I had blind taste tested the blend, I would have guessed it was in the $6 range. Especially, when you read my list of “The Katman’s Best 166 Boutique Brands/Blends in the $6-$9.50+ Range.”

Since this is a limited edition cigar, I’m pretty sure they are difficult to find now. I was pleasantly surprised on my visit to Prime Cigar that they had a full box of them. And everything they sell is at the retail price point. No jacking it up. The Wisconsin tobacco tax must be low. I do some quick research and find that Wisconsin taxes cigars at 71 percent of the wholesale price, with a cap of 50 cents. That’s pretty damn good.
Minnesota has a similar tax rate.

SUMMATION:
I think Halfwheel hit the nail on the head with his review. I’m in complete agreement.
The Viaje Jalapeno isn’t a bad cigar. But it didn’t meet my expectations.
I have no complaints about the construction. Burned nicely without burn or wrapper issues.
It appears to be another case of presentation vs. quality. The odds of a quirky presentation being a good cigar seems to be slim these days.

I’m glad I got a chance to smoke the Viaje Jalapeno. I see people on the forums raving about it so now I don’t get it. But then, those same people rave about the cartoonish old Camacho throwaway cigars from Lost & Found.
I’m sure most of you have smoked the Viaje Jalapeno by now. But for those who haven’t, don’t bother. I suppose you could hold on to the green foil wrapper to be used at later time as a condom.
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And now for something completely different:
The Hal Blaine Chronicles…continued..

Hal was part of the legendary L.A. Wrecking Crew. The most elite group of session musicians in the world. I idolized them.
Back as a teen, I would always read the liner notes on my albums. They always told a wonderful story.

I would lie on my bed upstairs at home, smoke a doob, and kick back. If I did it in the evening, and I would come downstairs to grab some chips for the munchies, my mother would always ask what that strange smell was? The den was directly below my bedroom which my dad built as an add on to the house. It was huge and it was all mine.

The albums would always list the musicians that played on the record. That’s how I learned of Hal Blaine, Joe Osborne, and Larry Knechtel.

They played on almost every Top 10 hit of the 1960’s and 70’s. Hal literally played with everyone and had dozens and dozens of number #1 hits.

And boy, did he know how to tell a story. He was the Uncle Remus of the music world. He couldn’t talk about his life without dropping 10 famous names in a single paragraph.

And he loved that I found him fascinating so he would tell me stories for hours on his yacht in Marina Del Rey, Ca. He was going through his umpteenth divorce and was relegated to his boat to live on; while the wife took the mansion in Bel Air.

I was regularly invited to lunch on his boat in which a few of his friends would always be there as well. I would drive from Long Beach to Marina Del Rey in my 1981 Datsun station wagon. And parked it as far away from the Bentleys and Ferraris as possible.

I was nervous on my drive from Long Beach to Marina Del Rey. My history with Hal was a broad stroke of meeting some of the most famous people in the music business. Who would I meet this time? And how would I contain the fascination and drool?

I met Hal through my musical partner, Rick Tunstall. We were recording original music at Sunset Gower Studios. Rick had worked for a cartage company and, on a regular basis, would move Hal’s drums and then set them up. Hal never touched a drum case. We spent two weeks with Hal and I was star struck. Later, when I opened my recording studio, I had the cajones to hire him, for almost nothing, to play on my projects.

So who would I meet that day on the boat?

I got there a little before 1:30. Two guests had already arrived. I was thrilled to see my old bass teacher, Carol Kaye. This was the most famous female bassist in the world and part of the L.A. Wrecking Crew. The other guest was a stranger.

I started to introduce myself to Carol, thinking she wouldn’t remember me, and before I could finish, she gave me a big bear hug. I was Fred Selden’s cousin. Fred is one of the most successful session reed players in L.A. He was a savant and doing sessions at age 13. He, too, played with everyone and besides doing sessions, also composes music for the movies. And it was Fred who made the connection for me to take lessons from Carol.

The guy I didn’t recognize was Larry Knechtel…the third player in the Wrecking Crew. He was a keys player and was also a member of the charting rock group, “Bread.” I hated that group. Stupid music.

A few minutes later, the last two guests arrive. They were Neil Diamond and Phil Spector. Hal had recorded dozens of songs under the production tutelage of Spector. But Spector was known to be a hermit and an odd ball. How Hal got him to remove himself from his Beverly Hills mansion was never explained. And for the most part of the luncheon, he said nary a word. Hal told me he was once invited to Spector’s home. He was ushered to the huge living room and all the curtains were closed with one dim light on. Hal sat there for 45 minutes and Spector never said a word. Then out of nowhere, Spector asked, “So what is Sinatra like?” Hal, the great storyteller told him of his impression. Then more silence. Hal had enough and excused himself. Spector never said goodbye.

I had met Diamond once before while visiting Hal. Diamond was a very down to earth fella. And now we had a gaggle of Jews: Hal, Neil, Spector, and me. So it didn’t surprise me when the catering truck rolled up from Canter’s deli in West L.A. The very famous deli that went back decades and owned by the famous vaudeville comedian, Eddie Canter.

A huge spread of deli was laid before us. It was Jew heaven.

I did little talking. Although, The Police were very big at that time and I had played in a band with the drummer, Stewart Copeland, back in England. So they found my road stories interesting. But that was all I had to offer. Besides, I was more content to listen to these icons discuss their stories then me telling them how great Sonja was at giving head.

We sat there until dusk, drinking and eating til we all had to unbutton our jeans. Except for Carol. She wore a dress.

Hal told us how he was in Frank Sinatra’s house when Nancy Sinatra and Tommy Sands first met and locked eyeballs. He saw them fall in love with each other right there in front of him.
Neil told a story about him and Elvis. How Elvis had visited Neil’s home and they stayed up all night singing.
Spector continued to seem distant and uninterested.

And on and on it went. I was writing a column for a Long Beach underground newspaper (Uncle Jam) and while I couldn’t take notes, on my return home, I wrote down as much as I could remember. And then turned it into a story for the paper.

Except for Hal, I never saw those people again. I was about to begin my Eddie Munster project and my duties at my recording studio had me working 15 hour days; 7 days a week, or longer. I did manage to get Hal to do several sessions for me. I paid him a paltry $200 in cash each time. What a mensch. He would actually blow off big time sessions to come work for me.

My studio was downtown and his Bentley parked at the curb got a lot of stares.

My biggest regret is that I never took photos of the incredible people I met through Hal. There is a rule in show biz. If you act like a fan, you will be treated as such. If you act like a peer, you are treated as one. And the latter is what I chose. Pulling out a camera would have doomed me. And embarrassed Hal. He was my hero.

Hal later retired and moved up to Washington State and I lost contact with him. But I have oodles of cassette tapes of him and I playing together. What a joy!

The crappy photos below show Hal and me at my recording studio. And below that is a photo of drum charts that Hal wrote for some song we recorded.
halandme

hal

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2 replies

  1. Kat, your stories make me want to pack up the family and move back to Nashville. Thanks for the great stories that jump start my own memories. I think I’ll try to dig up some of the old crew on Facebook today.

    • It does my heart good, Mike, to know that fellow musicians read my stories.
      My musical partner has set me up with Sonar Artist and Focusrite so that I can record using the software’s recording studio. It’s fun but alien to an old dog like me.