StarDust by Isabela Cigars (Pre-Release) | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Des Florada, Aged Nicaraguan Habano (Double aged Nicaraguan Habano picked “Prieto”…”Extra Dark and Powerful and aged down”)
Binder: Nicaraguan Aged Media Tiempo
Filler: Nicaraguan Aged Media Tiempo, Nicaraguan Triple aged Ligero
Size: 5.25 x 42 Corona
Strength: Medium/Full
Price: $8.00

Today we take a look at the new StarDust by Isabela Cigars.
Thanks to John Piette for the samples.
To be released Nov. 15, 2017 at
The MAN:

I recently reviewed the Mash Up and rated it 98. I reviewed the Time Traveler and rated it 98. I’ve already smoked a single StarDust and it will follow in the footsteps of its predecessors.
“Hi Kat
Hope you are getting ready to enjoy a third Indian summer this week!!
I mailed you some of our next upcoming release; Due Nov 15th…the long awaited Isabela StarDust.
Again, this 51/4 x 42 corona was blended and produced during the same sessions that yielded the Time Traveler, and the Mash-Up.

“We used similar tobaccos, only changed up according to vitola, to yield the same surprises and nuances of flavors and multiple transitions!

“The corona format resulted in similar distinct transitions as the Time Traveler, but due to the size format maybe?? The transitions are more of a continuous Ebb and Flow, as opposed to the more linear yield of 8 distinct transitions noted in the Time Traveler, hence the name StarDust !!

“Anyways, I am so excited to get you these beautiful crafts, I have been waiting and wanting to get you them much sooner, but fell they are in Full blossom and Bloom, now that we let them age a full year and a half after production….you will even notice that the cellos are starting to yellow !!

“100 boxes of 25 and 20 Bundles of 25…Once every year and a half…..

“Enjoy !! Email me with any questions etc, and for sure we would relish the opportunity to do a similar Katman promo (KatmanFree Katpack) like we did previously, specific to your readers only….they seemed to really enjoy it, and it sure seemed to spark up excitement for the release

“The leaf stats: Same as TT, different combinations and amounts formatted to corona size.
“-Aged an extra 8 months past the TT….as they were all blended and created during the same sessions !
“Again, when we created the Time Traveler, we also blended and created the Mash-Up and The StarDust at the same sessions…same time… StarDust saw the longest aging after production of any of the 3 , as it the last to be released…
“The Time-Traveler, Mash Up, and StarDust are all once a year. Extremely limited low production releases that come out of our Creative Magic Studio….they are low production due to the small batch procurement of the tobaccos, as well as the multi layered seasons of aging which are so important to the transitions and multiple flavor profiles these special cigars reveal…..”

Isabela cigars are always attractive with their distinctive barber pole wrapper design on most of their blends.
The StarDust has perfect invisible seams, few veins, perfect sweetened triple cap…but very solid to the touch. I’ve smoked two so far and they have differed a bit in construction. I noticed a couple of soft spots near the foot on both. And today’s review stick is a bit too solid. But until I light up, there is no way if this is an issue.

From the shaft, I can smell lovely floral notes, caramel, milk chocolate, malt, pepper, cedar, honey, café latte, nutmeg, and mixed nuts.

From the clipped cap and the foot, I can smell heavy dark cocoa, floral notes, honey, espresso, cream cheese frosting, vanilla, malts, almonds and cashew, cedar, and burnt oak.

The cold draw presents flavors of honey, clove, cinnamon, red pepper, malts, vanilla, chocolate, coffee, and licorice.

I made it a point, based on Piette’s suggestion, that there were 8 distinct flavor profiles in the Time Traveler and the Mash Up. So I reviewed both in ¾” increments. This corona is too short to do that so I will simply break it into two halves and see what happens.

The stick requires a PerfecDraw cigar poker treatment. There is a small plug near the cap quickly dispatched by my cigar tool. Good to go.

The sweet tip has a negligible effect on the cigar as the flavors begin to pile on immediately.
There is queue of bouncing components that are elbowing each other to shine the brightest: Chocolate, malts, black and red peppers, caramel, licorice, cinnamon, nutmeg, intense creaminess, caramel macchiato, cedar, chocolate covered candied lemon slices, and earth, wood, and leather.

This little firecracker is pumping out big, flashy, and bold flavors like the fire hydrant on the corner on a hot summer day.

Just like the Time Traveler and Mash Up, the StarDust begins kicking ass from its launch. Not only does it hit the ground running; it also hits the complexity “go” button before you are even aware of it happening.
Transitions are on a rampage. The finish is as long as Johnny Piette’s monthly bank statement.
The construction is on the money. The char line is spot on. The draw loves me.

Piette was correct. The stick is so convoluted with a kitchen sink flavor list that transitions flop into position at faster than light speed.

A lot of passion is shown in this blend. Johnny clearly worked his ass off and it shows.

Watching Isabela Cigars grow over the years has been something else to watch and experience. From the beginning you just knew that Johnny Piette was on a path to greatness. I was impressed with his first offerings but the TT, MU, and now the SD are way off the charts. In a good way, of course.

I’m getting flavors I can barely describe. I’m sticking my palate out on a limb but I do believe I taste churros, sour cream, real German marzipan, thick loads of honeyed vanilla, cinnamon, creamy malts whose parameters are damn near overwhelming…and then there is the savory: cumin, cardamom, clove, smoky meat, and crusty French bread dipped in the best EVOO. I know. Nuts, right?

You smoke this cigar and you need to be focused and in the moment in order to facilitate all the gyrations your palate must excel at so you can pick up the flash sale of flavor points.
Oh yeah…strength started out as medium and at the 1-1/4” burned point, it has strengthened to medium/full.

Red pepper flourishes under the new regime. Bolts of lightning-quick flavors emerge: caramel custard, peanut butter, Mexican mole sauce, dill weed, and summer plums.
I can’t keep up with the flavor transitions. Way too fast for this old man.

I don’t know what kind of pact Piette made with Beezelbub…but it must have been a doozy. Three different blends in a row that careen excellence and passion into a 3 car smash up. This young man has a very bright future. I can only imagine what he will be blending 20 years from now.

The only downside is enough tobacco for his limited edition blends. As you read in Johnny’s own words, these cigars are extremely limited and I highly suggest you buy as many as you can before they run out. Use promo KatmanFree Katpack and get a free traveler or two with your order.

Smoke time is 30 minutes.

First reaction to this cigar is that they might be a tad bit over filled. This is good. Why? Because most guys can go through a Corona in 30 minutes or so. This baby is so packed that it is smoking at a Robusto’s pace.
And the price? Worth every penny of that $8.
Complexity intensifies like a mutter futter. Flavors are piled so high it’s like getting a great multi-layered sandwich from Katz’s.

Instead of the blend heading towards a harsh finale, the blend smooths out instead. Subtlety and nuance are the passwords for the day.
The whole now exceeds the individual kitchen sink list of flavors.

The dill weed ekes its way to the forefront. The savory qualities now dominate with that wonderful smoky meatiness, exotic spices, and charred oak.
I can taste rum. This is a first for me…outside of an infused cigar of course.

The blend is so beautifully aged that the cigar needs very little humidor time. I allowed mine a total of two weeks. But it was ready 3 days after I got the samples. Now that’s New Breed blending.

The difference between a rating of 98 and 100 is non-existent. Since I’ve already rated the TT and the MU, I believe the StarDust should be in the same wheelhouse. A gorgeous blend brimming with delightful flavors and an intense hour of pleasure.

Creaminess diversifies into marshmallow, clotted cream, and caramel custard.
The spiciness does bank shots with a changing style of peppers: White, black, and red. Keeps you guessing.

My palate isn’t good enough to describe all the transitions that Johnny describes. I’m barely hanging on like a cat getting its first bath. Scratching and clawing as I rack my brain to understand everything that is occurring in this blend.

Remember, we all have different palates. Some are learning, some are locked in stone, others cannot identify flavors but know what they like, and with the StarDust the palate receives an avalanche of layers I’ve not smoked in a Corona…ever.

Now all you have to do is wait til mid-November for the release and then you better jump on this.
Piette did me a real solid by allowing me to review this blend prior to release. I’m now doing the same for my readers that appreciate fine premium boutique blends.

Strength reaches full. Only a few minutes to go and the curtain drops.
A brilliant blend. Perfect.
Final smoke time is one hour.


And now for something completely different:
The Hardship of Filming an Eddie Munster Music Video- “Whatever Happened to Eddie?”

We had both sides of the 45 single recorded and the master passed on to the record company for pressing and distribution. We did the promo photos ourselves with the assistance of a real pro.
Now we needed a “rock video”

Mind you, this was 1983. God help us… the music at the time was very different…and we were going to add to it. The following was the top 10 songs of the 1980’s.
1.Love Shack – B-52s
2. What I Like About You – Romantics
3. Dancing With Myself – Billy Idol
4. Rock The Casbah (Mustapha Dance) – the Clash
5. Antmusic – Adam and the Ants
6. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
7. Train In Vain (Stand By Me) – the Clash
8. Just Like Heaven – The Cure
9. Situation – Yaz (Yazoo)
10. Sledgehammer – Peter Gabriel

Butch was parking cars for his dad at a casino in Gardena, CA. He was certainly down on his luck…and prime for molding. I had a studio… and a mutual friend. It became a project. “Whatever Happened to Eddie?” was born.

The film crew was manned by famous cinematographer, Marvin Rush. He filmed most of the Star Trek series and movies….as well as TV shows: “Bob Newhart” and “TAXI.” And he was mine for free because he was intrigued about the project. At this time, Butch wasn’t doing promotional overkill with signing conventions like he does today. He had just disappeared.

We were a day away from filming at the mortuary and I hadn’t written the shooting script yet. There was no story. So, at some point in the evening, I did a line of coke and sat on the recording studio couch with a legal pad and pen. In 25 minutes, the script was done. I tweaked it a bit, but it pretty much was canonized. 33 scenes in 2 minutes.

I had the shoot catered for the mortuary. The mortuary was the biggest chain in Southern California and the kid that worked there gave us permission to shoot later in the evening. Except, as it turned out, he didn’t have the authorization to allow us to do so.

Marvin Rush today:

As Howard sat up a nice Kosher buffet, the extras rolled in. It was a full on Jewish deli. Everyone was excited. So was I. Until I noticed that children were coming in. I blew my lid. I screamed at the crowd, “Who brought children into this mortuary?”

Hands raised. I took them aside and asked them if they were fucking crazy? I told them to leave…and they did, unhappily. We had the first shot set up: the extras in the pews, the smell of brisket and corned beef wafting in the air and the “Monsters” in full make up.

Just before I yelled, “Action,” a bunch of goons stormed the mortuary, with baseball bats, threatening to beat the hell out of me and everyone else if we didn’t get our asses out immediately. I grabbed the kid who gave us approval and he admitted that he didn’t ask his betters if it would be OK? So, instead, he bragged about it at the mortuary to his co-workers and they formed a scheme to bush whack us.

One of the goons asked who was in charge. I stepped forward and as I did, I felt something hard trying to crush the back of my skull. A fight broke out. The goons were outnumbered; so they called the cops. We managed to get everyone out, the film crew packed up and burned rubber and we were all gone before the cops showed. Harvey was the only one still there, trying to pack up his delicious food, and miscellaneous shit. The cops tried to arrest him but he talked his way out of it, made them brisket sandwiches, and he split.

We were in big trouble. I ended up at the E.R, and got some stitches. All the while.., trying to figure an alternate plan. I assured Marvin we would get this right and please don’t bail on me. He was a great guy and said he would follow me to San Quentin, if necessary, to get this done.


The next day, I took a ride to the Princess Louise, docked at San Pedro Harbor. It was an old, 3 deck private yacht that had been transformed into a tourist attraction. Two restaurants and a chapel on top. I met with the chaplain and negotiated a fee of $200. It was a lock. We shook hands and moved to the next step. The filming on the boat would take place about 4 days later. I used that time to do another dangerous shot.


There is a line in the song that Eddie sings that says, “I got up and split from school.” So we headed to Hollywood High on Sunset Blvd. Butch managed to borrow John Travolta’s Trans Am that George Barris was customizing. The only way we could have the car was if George provided the driver. No problem.

We had no permit for filming. No permit. Let me say that again: NO PERMIT!!

I did this shot without extras. But still, my crew was large….maybe 25 people. 4 of us had walkie-talkies and were positioned strategically around the shoot. It was 7PM. Night school was in session.
The shot was to have Butch run down the steps of this ancient school wearing a graduation gown and cap and jump into the Trans Am. He then peeled rubber, did a couple of fish tails, and headed down Sunset Blvd. Cut.

The steps were at the front of the main entrance. It was lighted nicely. A huge class was going on just above on the second floor. 75 people had moved to the windows to see what was happening. The streets started to flood with onlookers.
I was the director. I was in charge. Huge klieg lights lit the area to be shot.

We did several takes. And then one of the guys, on a walkie talkie, called me and said cops were driving up to check things out. I put a temp hold on production while I watched 3 squad cars slowly drive to where I stood in the middle of Sunset Blvd.

They got out of their cruisers and stood beside their cars. Not a word. Obviously, they assumed we had a permit because no one would have the balls to shut down this heavily trafficked area.
I said “Action” for the last time…the shot went without a hitch, and then I yelled “Cut and… Print!!”
Everything went perfectly. We quickly packed up. Applause came from everywhere. It was deafening. Even the cops were clapping.

We got into our vehicles and headed over to the Brown Derby where I treated everyone for dinner.
We would be ready for the Princess Louise…..I just needed to make a visit to Cassandra the Casket Queen.

I got the L.A. Yellow Pages out and searched. There she was. Casandra the Casket Queen. Butch and I took a ride to her beat-up Hollywood home. No furniture except for a bedroom. The place was laden with real caskets but painted in psychedelic colors. Wild. Crazy. Nuts! Cool! Perfect!

We negotiated a rate for renting 5 of them for one night. Butch called George Barris, the car customizer to the Stars, and asked to borrow 2 hearses. We managed to shove all of the caskets inside.

We parked it at my house in Long Beach. The shoot at the Princess Louise in San Pedro was set for that night. Everything was lined up. People were paid off…either in cash or coke. Marvin Rush, the cinematographer, was set to meet us there at 6PM. Our makeup artist would be there on time, or so she promised.

Even my financial backer would be there. He was an ex-San Quentin con that was a big dealer of cocaine. He and I became good friends because I wasn’t a mooch. Everyone around him constantly hung on the hope of hand-outs. I never asked. And for the most part, I turned his offers of a toot down. One little snort and I was good for hours…whereas, his hangers on needed a toot every 20 minutes. And I just didn’t like the shakes it gave you if you did too much. I was the only one in his life like that. And more importantly, we liked each other. Rick was a big bear of a man who you wanted on your side. Never betrayed his trust. Another story there.
* * *
We stood outside the boat waiting for everyone to assemble. Rick had driven his Rolls Royce. So that was our focal point for assembly.


Once everyone was there, around 100 people including extras, I went up to the chapel to finalize and make sure we were set….I met with the chaplain and he was sweating bullets. He was dressed in his captain’s clothes. Looked very cool.
Standing next to him was a dapper man that I had never seen. He OWNED the boat and told me we could not use it because the chaplain had no authority.
Fuck! Shit! Piss! Cunt! Cock! Screw! Motherfucker! Motherfucker!
He told me to calm down and told me that for $4000 we could use his chapel for filming.

$4000. If I fucked this up, Marvin would bail on me and the whole project would go up in smoke. I ran down to Rick and told him. Rick, at first, offered to tune this guy up. I told him no. I asked Rick for $2000 in cash. I would go home and get my $2000. Rick did not like this one bit but got into his Rolls and headed for Torrance to get his dough. I headed to Long Beach.

An hour later, Rick and I handed the guy his $4000. Then…..he said, “I’ve changed my mind. I want $6000. And in a blur of fists, the owner of the Princess Louise lay on the floor moaning, bleeding, and probably wondering what happened to him?

Rick had no truck for cheats. A person’s word is everything and this guy was a hustler. He tried to hustle us so Rick spanked him. We all helped the owner up to a chair and Rick whispered in his ear. I could not hear what he said… And Rick never told me what he whispered to the owner. I think it was better that way.

We started loading the equipment up a ramp and 3 decks to the top of the boat and into the chapel.
The last thing we took upstairs was the outrageous caskets..

This had to be the funniest thing I had ever seen…worthy of a Mel Brooks movie…..The second deck had a swanky restaurant on it and the only stairs to the chapel was inside the eatery. We carried 5 caskets, like pall bearers, through a crowded restaurant…”Oh. Excuse me….sorry…may I get through there please?”, etc. You could hear utensils drop to the plates. You could hear 50 people inhaling but not exhaling. No one blinked. I wish I had filmed, or at least taken photos, of that. It was priceless.

I handed Marvin the latest shooting script. One of his guys looked at it and said, “No way. 31 scenes???” Marvin immediately chastised him for questioning the director, me.

Our song was exactly 2 minutes long. We had already filmed the high school which accounted for 2 edits that lasted 2 seconds each. In all, the script had 33 scenes. That was an average of 4 seconds per edit.
And I had to do it that night. I would not have Marvin again because of his schedule.

We started filming around 8PM and finished at 6AM. I got every scene I wanted and got them in no more than two takes. I improvised on the fly as situations presented themselves. The out-takes are hysterical.

The last scene has Butch sitting by a lagoon with the moon reflecting on the water. We had only minutes before the sun rose. We ran down to the shore by the boat mooring. Butch sat next to a small body of sea water…pebbles and rocks. There was no moon that night but the Cosmic Muffin smiled on me that night. There was a light standard on the boat dock and the light from it was reflected in the water looking exactly like the moon.

“Action!” Cut!” “Print!”

We were done. Marvin took me aside…the man that went on to become the cinematographer of the many Star Trek series and some of the movies…..and told me that he thought that it would be impossible to get all the shots I had written down, but we did it and he patted me on the back and hugged me. I broke down. The stress of this shoot had finally hit home.

My adrenaline was running high. The night started with a hundred people. At 6AM, there were maybe 15 left. I offered breakfast but we were so tired that we just wanted to sleep.

Oh no. I had to take the caskets back. So we loaded them into the 2 hearses and I drove it to Cassandra’s with a few guys. We unloaded them; I dropped people off, and headed home. The hearse stayed parked in my driveway all day while I slept with a smile.

The next part will be the torturous editing of the video, the fight with Rocshire Records, and the illegal bribing of radio stations and distributors. Then the fall of Rocshire Records to the F.B.I.
To be continued….




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6 replies

  1. I wish you’d stear me wrong once! I’m too cynical to be this trusting of anyone. You are always dead on correct, though

  2. My brother upon your opinion on Isabela cigars, which by the way is Hometown of my parents. I have ordered these cigars. I have no doubt I will love them. You see I think we are so similar in so many ways, too long to discuss here. Your honesty, intergerty and great writing skills ( am I sucking up? ) is why I continue to follow you. My brother keep up the work for us who look to you to save time and money. That being said if you email me I will promise to send you a care package as my way of saying. THANK YOU. My brother

    • Wow. So Frank, who do I make the check out to? You or your brother?
      Thank you for such kind words. Makes this man humble and honored.
      I wish you only the best in the coming year and may your badger and hedgehog collection rival the great zoos of the world. If you don’t own any badgers or hedgehogs, ignore this remark.
      Best regards,

  3. Went off your recommendation and bought some to try. Not disappointed at all (as usual). I especially enjoy the very unique progression of sweet/savoury flavours from the second half to the nub.

    I only wish that they’d make the draw more consistent. I’ve only had five so far, but two of them required some degree of unblocking with an awl 1-2″ from the foot before the cigar could really shine.

  4. Just smoked one of these last weekend with my uncle over at Exploring Brewpub at Southridge, Milwaukee, WI. Spot on with the sensation you described! Never tried Isabela cigars before but now I’m looking for them at my local smoke shops. Had a Brick House mighty mighty afterwards afterwards; couldn’t keep my mind off the stardust though…