Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust Umbagog | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: 6 x 52 Toro Toro
Strength: Medium/Full
Price: $6.95

Today we take a look at the Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust Umbagog.
I picked up a few on my dime.

A value priced blend from Steve Saka. Its wrapper didn’t make the cut for the Mi Querida and hence, the Umbagog was born. The DT&T web site has zero information about this blend.

Corona Gorda 6 x 48 $6.45
Robusto Plus 5 x 52 $6.45
Toro Toro 6 x 52 $6.95
Gordo Gordo 6 x 56 $7.45

Beautifully oily, marbled, and dark espresso colored wrapper. Lots of veins. Tight seams. Perfectly applied triple cap.
But it has soft spots and what feels like a couple of plugs; one near the cap and the other in the middle. And yes, thank goodness for my PerfecDraw cigar poker (15% off with promo code Katman). It will make short shrift of the plugs and the draw will be perfect…just like the name of the tool. Man, I can’t begin to count the number of cigars I’ve saved from the trash bin because of this revolutionary tool.

From the shaft, I can smell cola, red pepper, cocoa, coffee, cedar, caramel or butterscotch, dried fruit, dried apricot, and malt.

From the clipped cap and the foot, I can smell espresso, cola, red pepper, chocolate, malt, molasses, raisins, dried apricot, cedar, and heavy cream.

The cold draw presents flavors of super hot red pepper, barnyard, cedar, leather, earth, chocolate, espresso, malt, dried fruit, molasses, and hay.

My PerfecDraw cigar poker makes quick riddance of the two plugs. You can drive Matthew McConaughey’s Lincoln right through the center of the stick now.

The Umbagog starts off creamy with a touch of red pepper. Followed by a gaggle of lemmings: Chocolate, big time malt, sweet items like molasses, caramel, and dried fruit, a wonderful café latte, a warm pretzel, and a few nuts…in order of appearance: Lots of almonds, hazelnut, and Brazil nuts. Also, hues of baking spices to finish the palette of color.

I’m having burn issues. Nothing major but methinks this will follow me throughout the review.

Generally, value cigars don’t use #9 rollers. The janitor’s daughters normally get the job of rolling cigars that retail for $6 or lower. Gotta break into the business somehow.

Strength is nearly medium/full from the start. Black pepper coats the back of my throat as the red variety dissipates.
The cigar is packed solid at the foot and the burn is very slow.

Complexity begins to dabble. Small transitions. Medium finish. Not a bad cigar at all.

The char line issue is annoying. I smoked one before this review stick and had the same problems.

There is a nice even flow to the blend. It starts small and accelerates its potential with every puff. See…you don’t have to buy a Torano to stay in your budget.

Saka has claimed that the Mi Querida is his go to cigar…not the Sobremesa. I liked the Mi Querida but prefer the Sobremesa. Because of all the PR associated with the Umbagog, I expected a less than stellar event. But I am enjoying this cigar very much.

Behind closed doors, I’m not sure if the Saka people consider this a second or not. No matter. The results are what matter. It’s not like buying catalog seconds which are really 5th’s. I’ve yet to taste an advertised 2nd that has any similarity to the original.

The sweet factors are reigning supreme now. The savory elements are on hiatus for the moment. Lots of caramel, molasses, dried fruits, sweet cream, and just a touch of fresh summer peach.

The chocolate and coffee flavors are all but gone now. The black pepper has relented a bit. And oh the horror….my beloved malts are on the wane.

Shit can change on a dime. But I’m nowhere near the finish so plenty of time to assess.

Now the char line is pissing me off. I know that constantly torching the extraneous wrapper to even out the burn has to have an effect on the overall taste.
A strong medium/full at play.

Smoke time is a leisurely 35 minutes.

The complexity isn’t as intense as it was earlier. Transitions tamp down. The finish remains at medium.
I don’t know what happened. We were holding hands and I was getting a hand job from the Umbagog and then it stopped. Hmmm…
Maybe it needs a short nap?

I let it rest for a few minutes to see if life returns.

It worked. We have liftoff. Flavors return. How odd. Must have been a shift in the space time continuum.
The malt returns. But the chocolate and coffee are so faint as to require more imagination than actual contact with my palate.
The sweet things are in place. That’s good.
In most cases, value cigar means no complexity. At this point, I can’t tell if the Umbagog wants to flip, flop or fly.

In most cases, a cigar starts out slowly and builds to its denouement. For some reason, the opposite has occurred. Still early.

Creaminess reappears. The spiciness has vanished. Bummer, dudes. So has the nuttiness.
I believe this is just a lull. Fingers crossed.
Still, for a stick that’s under $7…it is a very decent blend.

Booya. The black pepper returns and paralyzes the back of my throat.
I’m hoping that some extended humidor time will fix the issues I’m experiencing.

Creamy, malty, and peppery.
Strength is steady as she goes.

The halfway point comes at 50 minutes.

Hide and seek. Flavors begin to come out of hiding yelling Olly olly oxen free! (It is speculated that the phrase may be a corruption of a hypothetical and ungrammatical German phrase alle, alle, auch sind frei [all, all, are also free]). We should always learn something new every day. You are now good for the day and can “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream.”

The blend returns to original status. Flavors return that were AWOL. And complexity feels like it wants to get serious. But in contrast, the transitions are still sort of limp.

I thought this might be a kitchen sink flavored blend. It was at the beginning. Now it has become the sum of its parts rather than walking the high wire of exhibiting a plethora of different influences.

I wanted this to be a better cigar. I guess the point of this value priced cigar is so everyone can experience a piece of Steve Saka. Not his best work but certainly should arouse your interest in his other blends.

I think it’s time for my Joe Bonamassa DVD “Live at the Greek Theater.” I’m in real need of some head bobbing music.

Strength moon walks right into full tilt. And everything jumps to attention.
I’ve hit the Sweet Spot. Huzzah!

The Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust Umbagog is now a fucking contender. Would have loved it if the great start had continued on an upward trajectory and this sweet spot would have hit sooner.
I would consider buying a 5 pack…not so sure about box worthy.
Consistent burn issues are a pet peeve.

Smoke time is one hour 15 minutes.

Finally seeing some interesting transition notes. And the finish has lengthened.
Nicotine begins to peek around the corner.

I’d like to try the Corona Gorda but according to its size, it’s more a cross between a Toro and a Churchill at 6 x 48. I prefer the 5.5 x 46 size. Close enough for jazz.
If the Umbagog had tasted this good throughout and consistently, it would have gotten a sizeable rating.

I will leave the balance of my sticks to hibernate for a couple more months and see if it changes the output.

There is no question that Steve Saka is a master blender. And I respect his decision to produce a cigar in the wallet friendly neighborhood. I just think he could have done better. I realize this will get me off Saka’s Christmas card list but it is what it is.
Not a bad cigar at all…just not a great one.

I decide to take a break and check out other reviews and discover most agree with my assessment. A good cigar but could be better. Most describe a minimum of flavors and not much complexity. And importantly, we all agree that it is the last third when the blend takes off. So I now take back my hypothesis that plenty of humi time might cure my criticisms.
Ratings vary from 80 to 90.

The Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust Umbagog is killing it now. But I only have 1-1/2” to go.
So close.

The blend rests on its creaminess, malts, pepper, and sweetness.

I like to shop at http://www.cigarpage.com. I love their 3 minute flash sales. I’ve paid half or less for some good cigars.

The point is if you watch your budget, or your wife does…buying everyday cigars requires research and patience.
The cigar finishes a bit harsh and bitter. I’m done.
Final smoke time is one hour 40 minutes.


And now for something completely different:
The Hal Blaine Chronicles…

Hal was part of the legendary L.A. Wrecking Crew. The most elite group of session musicians in the world. I idolized them.
As a teen, I would always read the liner notes on my albums. They always told a wonderful story. Something kids today don’t get to do as you need an electron microscope to read liner notes on a CD.

I would lie on my bed upstairs, 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 (drums), Joe Osborne (bass), and Larry Knechtel (keys).

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 as his temp residence; 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…and those of other customers to the studio.

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 and touring Europe fronting his own jazz band. 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 back in 1968.

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 black 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 had been around forever. If you wanted great matzoh ball soup in L.A., you went to Canters.

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…8 days per week. I did manage to get Hal to do several sessions for me. I paid him a paltry $300 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.


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8 replies

  1. Katdude! Just wanted to thank you again for your dedication to the budget-minded smoker! Greg

  2. Hey Greg,
    Don’t you get damn tired of having to pay $16 for some special limited edition that ends up in the clearance aisle for $5 a year later? Like any other big industry, greed runs the show.
    Thankfully, there are a few manufacturers out there that remember what it was like to be strapped for a cigar budget.
    All the best,

  3. Absolutely! Love finding gems like the Charter Oak that smoke above their budget price of $6!

  4. Thank you again for your reviews.

    Someone gave me an Umbagog months ago, and my newbie palate liked it so much that I ordered a bundle when it came up online somewhere. Liking those is what prompted me to order some Mi Querida when I went to the US for more than 48 hours. If I enjoyed the “seconds’ so much, the originals are bound to be outstanding!

    Only had one of those so far, and really enjoyed it.

  5. There you go Phil. Saka provided the perfect cigar for new palates. I’m glad you enjoyed the cigar.
    All the best,

  6. I actually enjoyed the Umbagog more than the Mi Querida. I know they’re supposed to be very similar, but I thought the Umbagog had a really nice sweetness. It’s not that the MQ is bad, but that it tastes like a ton of other full-bodied Nicaraguan cigars with Broadleaf wrappers. I guess I’ve always been more of a “natural” guy than a maduro guy.

    Of course, the Sobremesa is an absolute opus. One of my favorite cigars. The rest of the DTT lineup has been solid, but unspectacular to me.

  7. Just as it name implies, the Umbagog sounds like a rambling road trip, with all that goes along with it. I’ll try it based on your experience. At the least, “..it is not dying.”
    I’m in awe of your life, Phil. Having been a wannabe musician my whole life, I get a real kick out of your incredible stories filled with incredible musicians. The only time I actually did something in music, was to compete on the island of Maui to get in the Hawaii Stars weekly television show. After winning first place for singing Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight”, I went on to eventually make the finals in Las Vegas at the Tropicana Hotel, singing West Side Story’s “Maria”. I took second place and was greatful for it as the first place singer had a five octave range and burned the house down. My ever-suffering parents (because of me) came from New York to watch me perform. Biggest day in my life, man. I hope you’re Health has taken a turn for the better. I want to continue reading, learning (about cigars and music) from you for a long time to come. Aloha

  8. Hell yeah, the Charter Oak is one of the best bargains around. My local shop can barely keep them in stock they fly off the shelves so fast. Imagine that. Offer a good cigar at a reasonable price and people will buy the hell out of it.

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