Bolivar Belicoso Fino | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Cuban
Binder: Cuban
Filler: Cuban
Size: 5.5 x 52 Belicoso
Strength: Medium
Price: $13.00

Today we take a look at the Bolivar Belicoso Fino.
A gift from Zach Dinning. The cigar came from a 2015 box.
I do appear to be the last reviewer on the planet to review this iconic blend.

Rated #9 by CA for Top Cigars of 2017. Rated 94.
From Cigar Aficionado:
“Perhaps the single most consistently full-bodied smoke that Cuba produces, the Bolivar Belicoso Fino is a perennial favorite for those favoring strong Cuban smokes. It’s named after Simon Bolivar, who led the effort to liberate much of South America from Spain. Consider him the George Washington of America’s Southern hemisphere. The brand was created in 1902 and features a bold, prominent portrait of the man on both the bands and the boxes.

“The Belicoso Fino is the only figurado in the Bolivar line, which is probably why it registers as the strongest smoke across the brand. The fairly heavy ring gauge provides an abundance of smoke while the tapered head concentrates it before it reaches the palate, resulting in an elementally earthy smoke, heavy in minerals, raw cocoa and coffee bean. But the tapered head also adds piquancy to the already full-bodied cigar.

“Strong and earthy, Bolivar Belicoso Finos are offered in both wooden slide-lid cabinets and paper-lined dress boxes. Some believe that the cedary environment of cabinets is ideal for long-term aging, while others prefer the neutrality of paper. The cigars we smoked for this test were from traditional dress boxes (with a March 2015 production stamp), so they were packaged as 13 cigars on the top row, 12 cigars on the bottom, causing the tightly packed Belicosos to take on the kind of squarish, box-pressed appearance that cannot be achieved in a cabinet.”

A very rustic looking stick. Seams are typical sloppy Cuban style. Seams look like they are ready to pop which in this cold weather is a possibility. The wrapper has a nice amount of tooth. Veins, lumps, and bumps cover the cigar’s exterior. Plus the stick feels very hard.

From the shaft, I can smell caramel, generic sweetness, coffee, chocolate, malt, floral notes, fruity, and creamy.

From the clipped cap and the foot, I can smell hot red pepper, chocolate, malt, floral, caramel, fruit, and very creamy.

The cold draw presents flavors of malt, pepper, cream, chocolate, espresso, nutty, and a slight touch of lemon zest.

As it is a foregone conclusion that the Bolivar Belicoso Fino is a superior blend admired by all, I will have to find a way to enter the Xander zone and make this review a stunning example of my wit and stupidity.

The draw is impenetrable. Out comes the PerfecDraw cigar poker to create a tunnel down the center of the cigar. There are huge plugs near the cigar band and in the center of the cigar. But the cigar poker does what it is designed to do and all is free and clear now.

Lots to display at the start: Creaminess, malt, cocoa, dried fruit, floral, coffee, and a nice nutty exposure.

Immediately, a run takes off. So many Cubans do this. Smokers love to rave about the Cuban experience but it’s overblown. There are some great blends coming out of that little commie country. But the façade does not make up for the fact that we have some brilliant blenders working out of Central America that do just fine thank you.

I perused a lot of reviews of this blend. They are all the same describing the exact same small list of flavors. There is no variance among writers.
The run is tamed and the flavor profile takes off.

Delicious. It is here that the Cuban tobacco makes its first real impact. No surprises from the small amount of different characterizations the blend brings to the table.
Smooth and medium in strength.

The run rears its ugly head once again. Mother fucker.

Complexity? Check. Transitions? Check. Long finish? Super check.
Now this is what I’m talkin’ ‘bout.

We’ve all smoked our share of Cubans. Why do these folks put such a low priority on its construction? I know not every brand or blend suffers from laziness but I’ve seen it way too many times. The run begins again. It becomes a real distraction while trying to truly enjoy your cigar experience.
Creaminess, malts, cocoa, espresso, caramel, toasted nuts, red and black peppers, and nutmeg. Nice.

Smoke time is 20 minutes. Quick little bugger.

The Bolivar Belicoso Fino has its own distinct “It” component that makes it sail along my palate like prancing naked among a large field of daisies. (Damn. That settles it. I’m gay). If I were to prance naked, there would be police, helicopters, and Humvees trying to take me down. I’d avoid them of course by accelerating my prancing. (I don’t know what’s wrong with me…you pick).

Now here is a semi expensive cigar and it is worth every shekel. Flavors are so nuanced and yet bold at the same time that it causes fluctuations in my heart beat.
Flavors that drive this flotilla of exotic leaves are spectacular. This is a blends that makes you crave more with each puff…expecting massive disappointment as it nears the grand finale.

It’s no secret why this cigar is so popular. It finds common ground among serious cigar smokers…very few blends can do that.
While this is a great smoke due to its complexity, it is a one trick pony in the sense that it keeps the parameters of its flavor profile in a very linear trajectory. Nothing veers off track. Straight ahead Captain Jack.

The run situation seems to have given up trying to piss me off and is settling down.
Even with the questionable construction, I’ve had no issues with the wrapper. I go through all types of gyrations when I smoke in my tiny man cave here in West Allis, WI. I have to keep the windows open so I don’t choke to death on the prolific smoke. And what follows is usually the cold affecting the wrapper and cracks form that precedes me grabbing for my PerfecRepair cigar glue. (Did you like how I stuck a plug in for the glue? Yeah, I’m a shill but this stuff is fucking lifesaving.)

Blam. The cigar takes off and as it nears the halfway point, we have touchdown Houston…a big flavor bomb.
Wow. I wasn’t expecting this. I believe I have an erection.

I’m asked a lot about the safety of buying Cubans online. I’ve found that Cigars of Habanos is more than reputable. They sell it for less than $10. If you have a fave online store, please inform us.

“Squeeze me baby, till the juice runs down my leg
Squeeze me baby, till the juice runs down my leg
The way you squeeze my lemon, ah
I’m gonna fall right out of bed
Bed, bed, bed, yeah”

That seemed totally inappropriate.

I get it. The halfway point shoots for the cosmos as I float on a magic carpet ride. (I can do classic rock lyrics all day long).
Getting to the halfway point took its time unlike its short journey to the second third. 40 minutes.

Such a well-rounded cigar blend. Perfectly circular in its completeness. (I don’t think that’s a word).
Godamm the Pusherman. The Bolivar Belicoso Fino is a great cigar.

Someday, around Star Date 2235.06, we will have Smell-O-Vision and Taste-O-Vision and readers will be able to experience everything the reviewer experiences. Until then…you are S.O.L.

Clearly, the first third was under filled. But not the remaining portion of the cigar. It has become a slow boat to China taking its time bathing my palate in decadent pleasure.
I feel dirty.

There is this incredible finish. It just goes on and on and on. The cat bites my ankle in an attempt to get me to stop smacking my lips. I bite his ankle and he goes for my face. I will go to the ER later. Gotta finish the Bolivar.

Another fucking run. I don’t mind torching the shit out of the wrapper. What could go wrong?
Strength seems to be a mystery over this cigar blend. I’ve read it’s a mild blend, a medium blend, and a full blend. Without equivocation, I can tell you it is a medium strength cigar.

Smoke time is an hour.

For once, I have to agree with Cigar Aficionado. Normally I ignore their ratings. I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes and all the shenanigans being played out. The obvious notion is that it is all about favoritism. And buying ad space in the magazine. Ever notice that Davidoff rarely advertises and always gets the worst scores?

I’m having such a good time that after I finish the cigar; I’m going to beg the wife to do the Hully Gully on my partially denuded body. After 33 years of marriage, begging becomes an art form.

On one hand, I’m surprised that there is no change in the flavor profile. Yeah, it’s a bona fide flavor bomb with intricate amounts of complexity and transitions. There is an underlying force at work that comes from the aged tobacco that makes this blend special. Sometimes, it’s just better to enjoy the ride rather than dissecting it.

The first time I met Pete Townshend, he was doing the soundtrack to the “Tommy” film at George Martin’s Air Studio. In fact, Martin built two adjoining studios right next to each other. We were mixing the 1975 Curved Air “Live” album. Sonja and I sat at the back of the plush studio listening to some playback. Pete is a good friend of Sonja’s and sat with us listening. He asked who the bass player was? I gulped and raised my hand. And he said to me, “Phil, we need to jam. How about tomorrow night?”
Of all the experiences in my decade long tenure in the biz, this was the highlight. I can remember every nano second of that experience like I have Polaroids.

What I didn’t know at the time was this was Townshend’s heroin period. But Stew Copeland and I jammed with Pete every night til he said he wanted to produce our next album. It just doesn’t get any better than that for the old memory banks.

Where was I?

The Bolivar Belicoso Fino has me in such a fine mood that I’m inserting totally irrelevant rock stories in the body of the review.
Jesus Mary and Joseph. I cannot believe how wonderful this cigar is. It’s like manna from the gods.
If you’ve never tried the Bolivar Belicoso Fino, I advise you to do so. Afterwards, send me all your personal info and half of your 401k.
A smashing blend.
Final smoke time is one hour 25 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. Check out what Wikipedia says about Hal Blaine.

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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9 replies

  1. One of my favorite Cuban blends, you never can go wrong.

  2. Cool review as always.. (even the the bad cigars). So, if I wanted to buy some of these Cuban Bolivars, do you suggest letting them rest for a few years?

  3. I’m no expert on Cubans. I had a box of Ramón Allones Specially Selected (2015) that I received in early 2016 took another 9 months after I removed the cellos and placed them in my humidor.

  4. I think the corona gigante offers even better flavor complexity…starts milder and grows boldly. Problem is that half of them need major surgical draw assistance. But better nuance than the BBF. I will send you a stick for review.

  5. I would say Cubans get better with time I have some from the 90’s that are utterly fantastic. The Bolivar’s are one of my favorite stix. Good job Kat

  6. My own 2 cents,, I’d buy a box, let them rest for 30-60 days, and try one. If they taste right, smoke ’em. If not, stash them away and try another in 3-6 months. Or you could buy a box, smoke half young, and set the other half down to age. If they have dark and oily wrappers they may need more time to rest and acclimate to burn well, but ultimately, your tastes will decide when they’re ready. Bolivars do age well, but if you don’t mind the strength there’s no reason you MUST age them.

  7. The Coronas Gigantes are wonderful. I’d love to see Phil review one. Habanos SA is out of their mind discontinuing it. I actually had just discovered it a year and a half or so ago, right before they cut it. Such a shame.

  8. Ramon Allones in cellophane???

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