Viaje Bales on Bales Craft Series | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo Clara Especial
Binder: Nicaraguan Corojo ’99
Filler: Nicaraguan Criollo ’98
Size: 6 x 52
Strength: Medium/Full
Price: $11.00

Photo courtesy of Viaje Cigars:

Today we take a look at Viaje Bales on Bales Craft Series
Picked up a couple at Havana Lounge & Cigar approximately 2-1/2 months ago. Yeah. They got a jump on the release of May 2018.
Small Batch Cigar sells a 5 pack for $44.00 or $8.80 per stick before promo code.

From Cigar Aficionado:
“Los Angeles-based Viaje Cigars has taken inspiration from the craft beer movement and created a new line of smokes that brand owner Andre Farkas is calling the Craft Series. The first cigar in this new series is dubbed Bales on Bales, and it’s shipping now.

“No national rollout. No marketing. No campaign. Just beer, a simple can and a label,” said Farkas, offering his take on how the craft beer industry sometimes operates. “This is where the inspiration for Craft Series came from.”

“The key element to the Craft Series is collaboration. Farkas first finds a factory to work with, and then creates a blend showcasing some of the factory’s distinct, interesting tobaccos. In the case of Bales on Bales, he’s working with the TABSA factory, which already produces other Viaje brands.

“Covered in a wrapper leaf that Farkas refers to as Corojo Clara Especial, Bales on Bales consists of Corojo ’99 and Criollo ’98 tobacco, all of which was grown in Nicaragua by agricultural conglomerate Aganorsa.

“The cigars come packaged in 10-count boxes that retail for $110, or $11 per smoke. Measuring 6 inches by 52 ring gauge, every cigar is wrapped in silver foil. Only 1,000 boxes have been produced.
“While Bales on Bales is the first release of the Craft Series, Farkas plans on releasing more in the series with other cigar makers in the future.

“They show me what they like, what tobaccos they have been smoking and which bales they think are special,” Farkas said. “So far I have really enjoyed the process.”

Nice looking stick. A bit lumpy and bumpy here and there. But veins are nearly invisible and veins are at a bare minimum. The cigar is perfectly round…rare these days. But the triple cap is sloppy. The oily wrapper; hues of pecan/caramel/cinnamon. And just the slightest hint of tooth. The presentation is bizarre with most of the stick covered in aluminum foil and the cigar band at the bottom of the cigar. I moved it for aesthetic reasons.

From the shaft, I can smell brilliant creaminess accompanied by milk chocolate and espresso. A lovely sweetness made up of vanilla toffee, cinnamon toast, berries, tantalizing floral notes, lemon citrus, cedar, and somewhat peaty.

From the clipped cap and the foot, I can smell strong barnyard, red pepper, cinnamon, creaminess, peat, chocolate, coffee, vanilla, salt, nuts, floral notes, citrus, berries, and cedar.

The cold draw presents flavors of grapefruit, sourness, red pepper, cream, cocoa, espresso, berries, cinnamon, and cedar.

Big plug somewhere in the middle. Yep. PerfecDraw cigar poker tool comes to my rescue and relieves the issue. A few swipes turn what might have been a real struggle to a clear passageway for the smoke to travel to my lips.

The cigar is a little on the soft side. Some spots softer than others. Normally when this happens, I see an implosion of the stick’s body by the second half. Fingers crossed.

The starting point brings a phalanx of interesting flavors: Red pepper, white pepper, creaminess, interesting malt combos, espresso, salt, chili powder, citrus, cinnamon toast, white cake, cedar, and vanilla wafers.
The burn is on the money exhibiting a nearly white ash.

Strength is solid medium.
Complexity hits earlier than expected with a nice mixture of flavors and intensity. Transitions begin their task at hand. The finish is working on becoming impressive.

Remember Donovan from the 60’s? Did you know that Led Zep bassist John Paul Jones played on some of Donovan’s more iconic songs?

The Viaje Bales on Bales Craft Series has a real bready quality. I read on’s review that a strong taste of plain bagels was present. I wholeheartedly agree. (But this cigar only rated a score of 81. Ouch).

The progression hits a snag. Instead of onward Christian soldiers, it takes a coffee break and is in stasis mode. Hopefully, that will change and the cigar will get off its ass and continue on the more positive impression it made at the start.

I don’t know about you, but I feel Viaje hasn’t been up to snuff over the last couple of years. Except for the Carolina Reaper and a couple other blends, ever since 2016…the brand has seemed to be totally hit or miss. I was a big fan from the start but was startled to see them put out mediocre blends along with some of their finest. So which side of the bed is the Viaje Bales on Bales Craft Series?

And we are off and running. I have no idea what caused the lull; but the cigar is back on track with an even bigger platform of character and complexity.

As I near the second third, the cigar hits the “It” spot. Complexity is full throttle now. The couple reviews I read did not mention the humi time. I wish reviewers would spend the extra 10 seconds to inform their readers how long their sticks humidor aged…and were they naked (Always) or in cellos.

I think the couple plus months has served the Viaje Bales on Bales Craft Series well…with a couple of startling moments but all in all is heading in the right direction to get a better score than 81.

There are two levels of character and balance now. The flavors of malt, cream, red pepper, chocolate, and toast are shining through to the top of the milk bottle. The underlying flavors include cinnamon, citrus, berries, vanilla, cedar, citrus, nuts, and saltiness.
The balance is working out nicely with little surprises jutting out and teasing my palate every now and then.
Strength moves to medium/full.

Uh oh. A big char line run occurs and I quickly nip it in the bud.

Me neither. (Had to throw that in until I can think of something funny to say).

This is unusual but the strength is playing mind games. It dropped from medium/full to barely medium. How odd.
I’m now wondering if a couple months is sufficient humidor time. May be the reason that the reviews I read did not score the cigar very highly. This just might be an Old School approach that requires a minimum of 6 months naked in the humidor.

Smoke time is 35 minutes.

The Viaje Bales on Bales Craft Series stalls out once again. Sonovabitch.
Either it’s not what it should be or it’s insufficient aging. I have no idea which.
That all-encompassing complexity that became so impressive has died down to a murmur. Transitions disappeared. The finish is only pepper.
It’s now a mildly enjoyable blend. Not outstanding. Not mind blowing. Average.
Where was I when that happened?

Joe Walsh on the music box. I remember I became infatuated with the thought of owning a fretless bass around 1972 or 1973. I saw Walsh on some late night rock n roll show from back in the day. He played “Rocky Mountain High.” The bassist was a really cool looking guy that swayed to the music perfectly all the while hammering away on a fretless. It took nearly 8 years before I found the perfect fretless but glad I finally overcame my coveting complex and purchased one. Haven’t played a fretted bass since.

The cigar went out. And my lighter ran out of fuel…falling well into the parameters of writing a review live; so to speak.

Some flavors return. This is a real roller coaster and I’m not close to the halfway point.

I got an offer last night to become the official driver for the North Korean dictator. As I’m a Kohnhead, I accepted the job eagerly. Say goodnight Irene.

The peppery element has remained static. That is, that regardless of what I taste; or don’t taste, the pepper is on a freedom march to overwhelm flavors when the cigar takes its occasional nap.

I wish I had a crystal ball. I’ve run into this many times. A good brand puts out a mediocre stick and I get all befuddled wondering is it me? Then I allow the cigars to rest a few months and come back to the review only to be let down once again. No change to its state of dilapidated entropy. Some blenders, plain and simple, will occasionally put out a dog turd.

$11.00 used to be a very expensive cigar. Now it’s the norm. If I can’t get a fucking cost of living raise for the last 10 years, how do the manufacturers justify costs going through the roof? Bullshit, that’s how.
I’ve reviewed some good cigars in the $7-$8 range that put the Viaje stick to shame.

I have another stick and I will go through the gyrations of allowing it to simmer for another couple of months and return to this review and provide an update.

The Viaje Bales on Bales Craft Series is just clamoring to be a great blend. It is falling short with its inconsistencies.

Click. It’s back on track again at nearly the halfway mark. Strength returns to medium/full. The peppery components are full tilt. And the elemental flavors described earlier come home to roost.
I believe I’m being losing my marbles or am being hypnotized by the shadowy figure in the corner of my room.

The cigar is reaching that point where it becomes soft. Damn, I hate that. It’s not my humidor’s humidity as it would affect my other cigars the same way and I just don’t believe 67% is too much.
There are great moments that come and go that are infuriating. One moment, the cigar is lying there like my first wife on our honeymoon…or it exhibits great potential with intense complexity. This is maddening.

The halfway point arrives at one hour. Despite the soft spots, the cigar begins to burn slowly.

On again, off again.
I remember that Halfwheel complained that the second half was the big letdown. This does not bode well as the first half was nothing to write home about. If the Viaje Bales on Bales Craft Series takes a dump on me from this point forward, then Halfwheel was being generous with its low rating.

Because of the great presentation of possibilities shown by this blend during its “on” moments, it must be about the aging. There is no other explanation for it to vary from thoroughly enjoyable to absolute boredom.

All you folks know what I’m talking about when I describe a very intense complexity that just takes over the cigar experience. The Viaje Bales on Bales Craft Series keeps exhibiting those traits but in a scatter shot manner.

Caramel, cream, malt, cinnamon toast, nuts, citrus, cocoa, espresso, vanilla, and super peppery. A nice balance. But for how long?

Smoke time is one hour 20 minutes.
Strength is nearly full on pedal to the metal.

I’m afraid of jinxing it but for the last 15 minutes, the Viaje Bales on Bales Craft Series is behaving beautifully. Consistency at last. I’m having the exact opposite experience as Halfwheel. But then I’m not done yet.
The blend is on cruise control now. Complexity is on the upswing. Transitions are performing admirably. The finish though is still mainly pepper.

The first half was psychotic. The second half is proving its value.
Nicotine arrives just in time to make the last part of my review miserable. The laptop screen becomes hazy.
Now a strong cigar that is gnawing away at my balls.

Remember when you were a kid and your dad took you rock hounding? And you discovered that the Arizona agate field in the middle of a WWII practice spot for training with weapons of all sorts leaving 30 year old bullet casings. And then you took them home and poured all the remaining bits of gun powder on the sidewalk and lit it. And it exploded in your face wiping out your eyebrows? Glad that never happened to me.

The Viaje is behaving as expected per Farkas. Old School. This cigar needs a lot of humidor time and I’ve only touched the surface of what it has to offer. It’s not the cigar behaving poorly. It’s just a surprise as most Viaje blends are ready to go in a couple of months.

If the blend had started with a bang and kept its shit in one bag, this cigar would have gotten a sky high rating. I must project into the future and come to the conclusion I just reviewed this cigar too soon.

Fortunately, SBC is selling them for less than $9. Way better than $11 a stick. But then as I just checked, they are out of stock except for an 8 stick sampler that contains two of these cigars.
Even though I pissed and moaned throughout this review about inconsistency, I believe it is worth trying. But patience is the word of the day. Buy some and forget about them for 4+ months. That should do the trick.
The Viaje Bales on Bales Craft Series finishes beautifully. Full of all things that make a smoker smile.
Final smoke time is one hour 45 minutes.


And now for something completely different:

In 1982, Long Beach, California had around 400,000 inhabitants.
And only one recording studio…mine.
It was in downtown Long Beach only blocks away from the beach. We had to shut down every year, for a whole week, during the Long Beach Gran Prix.

My partner did most of the engineering. I did everything else…which included producing all the bands that came in. And shoveling my grandpa’s money into modernizing the place.

The state of the place was a friggin wreck when I walked in. Totally disorganized. And needing serious updates to equipment and design.

So I did my thing and transformed the place into a modern, efficient company that turned a profit. We ripped out the guts of the recording area and rebuilt it so it had perfect acoustics. I even brought in an acoustics engineer to redesign it for us.

We ripped the walls down from the ceiling to about 5 feet above the floor. We then brought a dump truck full of sand and filled the inside of the walls with it…then closed it up again. We reshaped the walls and corners so that they bounced sound perfectly or deadened it perfectly.

We owned a 1960’s “Wally Heider Studio” 8 track reel to reel recorder. 3” tape. That damn tape cost a fortune even back then. Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead all recorded using our machine.

We bought a brand new 16 track board. A Carvin. And lots of electronic doo dads. And we got as high tech as the 80’s would allow. My partner was a true journeyman engineer.

We worked 12-15 hour days 7 days a week.
As it was the early 1980’s, you don’t have to guess how we stayed alert during grueling recording sessions…sometimes 3-4 per day running 4-6 hours each.

On top of that, I was picking up session work on my bass for a lot of bands that had no bassist. I couldn’t play while they recorded, but instead, I would come in around 11pm, when the studio was closed, and I would lay down the tracks sometimes seeing the sun come up through the glass block windows in the lobby. It was my favorite time in the studio. Alone in the booth, just my bass, headphones, and I ran the recorder and the board while I found the right bass lines for the song.
I’d then go home and catch 4 hours sleep and then be back at the studio by 10am.

I sometimes brought in members of the famous L.A. Wrecking Crew, and also some local musician friends that went on to the big time, to help me when we had clients that were flush with dough.
It didn’t take long til our studio became its own rock star.

We did a lot of advertising and it worked. I wrote music columns for the two underground newspapers. And I bartered that for lots of free advertising.

We recorded bands, radio commercials, soloists, and video production; pre-MTV.

We were merry pranksters….Right in front of the door to the booth, we nailed a nickel to the floor. Countless clients tried to remove it and struggled…but never got it. When they walked into the booth, they found my partner laughing at them. It never failed to amuse. People not giving up on a free nickel taking minutes out of their lives to remove it.

My partner was previously head engineer at a film company in Hollywood. He engineered the sound for the only type of films they made: Pornography.

The actors in these films would come in and overdub moaning and groaning and slurpy sounds while watching themselves on the big screen. They brought vats of lotion to rub on their hands and fingers to get that sound as they shoved their greasy hands just above the microphone. My partner said it was pretty gross and that all the women were horrifyingly skanky.

New engineer hires were tested to the max. They were forced to start off engineering the sound for gay porno. Most never lasted more than a few days. They sat in the booth facing a big movie screen watching guys doing guys while gay men overdubbed all the sounds.

When my partner told me about this, the very thought of that gave me the shivers. It’s something you’d never be able to get out of your head for the rest of your life.

I got tired of my partner embezzling while I was on the road promoting the Eddie Munster project, so I dissolved the partnership. Each time I went on the road, he stole and no matter how I threatened him, he ignored me. He was so coked up all the time that he had no control.

I discovered a band playing out in Orange County; headed by a guitarist I had known in high school. Excellent band. I was impressed. Two brothers. One played drums and the other keys. A bassist. And my buddy who was leader, vocalist, guitarist and played violin. All sang perfect harmonies and they were just a killer band playing the hippest and coolest music around.

Every time they broke into The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly” or Charlie Daniel’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” the club would go nuts. They had a great sound system so that is what I began doing; running the board…in addition to managing them.

They played locally for a couple months while I did their sound. But their headquarters was in South Lake Tahoe, Ca.

I had nothing to lose so I went with them. I was in dire need for some decompression.
The band leader’s wife’s parents owned a gorgeous multi-bedroom cabin in Tahoe and that’s where we lived from May to October.

The band was a big deal in Tahoe and had lots of gigs lined up. I got a cut as a 5th member of the band. Didn’t get rich but I fed myself. And if you’ve never seen in person the gorgeous mountains, lake, and forests of Tahoe, you’ve missed out on one of the great experiences of life.

While setting up for the first night’s gig, I was introduced to Charlotte Reichardt. A friend of the band.
The band had a plan. Set the Jew up with a German Catholic. Should be hilarious.

We took a break from hauling the gear and sat down for a beer in a big half circle booth. In walked Charlotte. Caught my eye right away.
She sat down opposite me and gave the boys hugs while saying hello.
Then she spoke.

A steel worker, or dock worker, would be offended by the way she talked.
She dropped four F* bombs per sentence.

The boys told me that my mouth was hanging open the whole time she was there.
We all swore of course, but I had never heard a woman swear like this.

Within a couple weeks, she asked me out. She claims it was the other way around. We had set a date and then I had to cancel as the band was going into the recording studio and I promised to produce them.

We did go out the following week and hit it off. Really smart lady and very funny. Made me laugh.

She felt bad for me because I was sleeping on the floor of that cabin so she took me in and I became a kept man. She had a condo right on the shore of the lake. Just feet away….Beautiful.

I grew very bored with the band and music. The novelty had melted away. Four months was enough.

Charlotte and I high tailed it down to Long Beach and I went to work for my father at his steel shop as a project manager.

I had had it with the music business. It was no longer fun. It was a chore. I tired of constantly dealing with big egos and assholes. “The customer is always right” syndrome wore thin.

6 months later, Charlotte and I got married at Indio City Hall. The county seat for the Palm Springs area. My dad had a condo there.

They had no courtrooms available so we got married by an official in a clerk’s office with a huge picture window that overlooked people in line paying their traffic tickets. It was so humiliating.

We started out our lives together like 18 year olds. Small apartment. Saving money. And then had a baby 11 months later. But nothing compares to having a steady pay check and having health insurance. It took a couple years before I was ready to go back to playing. By then, all the bad shit had been compartmentalized.
I was happy.


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8 replies

  1. Katman, Love your stories as much as your in-depth reviews. Appreciate your detailed review approach. Having grown up around the L.A. area during the same time period the music and events, just wondering if you have any stories of the Whiskey a Go-Go or the Roxy theater.

  2. I do Curtis.
    Thank you as well for the lovely kind words.
    I shall dig up those old Sunset Strip music stories.

  3. LOL yeah, what Curtis said…. those stories are wonderful.

  4. Lake Tahoe truly is amazing. I kind of kick myyself for not getting up there more offten as I live about 3.5 hours away. I don’t think it was ever a “cheap” place, but it has become very yuppified and expensive. But unlike a lot of yuppified and expensive places in California, Tahoe is truly worth the all the BS.

    Nothing like going out with a woman, and finding out she’s smart, funny, pretty, and most importantly, into you. You lucked out, dude!

  5. that is the best story ….EVER! lol. Thanks for taking the time to share this stuff. Most of us have lived boring lives in comparison 🙂

  6. I’ve made up for it by becoming incredibly boring in my Golden Years.

  7. I assume you meant Joe Walsh played “Rocky Mountain WAY”, rather than the John Denver song, “Rocky Mountain High”? 🙂

    Can’t help it. Journalism major.

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