Isabela Cigar Co. Sparkle Robusto | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Connecticut DesFlorada
Binder: Double-aged Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: 5 x 52 Robusto
Strength: Medium/Full
Price: $7.95

Today we take a look at the Isabela Sparkle Robusto.
Samples were provided by Prime Cigar, Brookfield Wisconsin.

From the Isabela Cigar Co. web site:
“Isabela was created in 1997 when my journey to source a truly unique cigar experience led me to the sun-beaten streets of Old Little Havana, Miami. That’s where I met the legendary Cuban Master Vicente Ortiz.

“The rich sweet smells of fresh tobaccos and chatter of ex-pat Cubans in and around his small, gated pink “fabrica” on Flagler street was the perfect setting for Vicente to tell me the history of his cigars. He also mixed in more than a few stories about his life as a young man in Cuba, and our conversations transported me back to a very special time when pride and devotion to craftsmanship truly meant something.

“Over several years, Vicente mentored and taught me about the inner workings of cigar making, and the art of combining, priming and aging various tobaccos to create the unique identity and magical profiles of the Isabela cigars that we created together.

“Now in 2015, we have carefully and meticulously ramped up production to make Isabela available nationwide. Isabela cigars are rolled by one of six pairs of level 9 + Cuban Master rollers, each with over 30 years of experience. We utilize traditional Cuban methods of artisan custom master rolling, each finished in tres capa and sealed with a sugar-based sealant.

“We offer our Isabela cigars in five standard sizes, complimented by limited seasonal releases. We truly hope you enjoy the flavors, personality, history, and the unique identity of the cigars we have created — from the sun-to-seed, stem-to-leaf and to our souls.”

The Connie appearance is deceptive. This ain’t no mild forgettable blend. OK. So now you know that. The wrapper color reminds me of my wife’s hair color in the 90’s. Not quite blonde but close enough for jazz. Seams are tight. A fair amount of veinage. A nicely applied triple cap. The cigar is packed solid. I’ve smoked three and only one needed a poke. Lastly, the wrapper is baby butt-cheek smooth.

First thing you need to know is Isabela sweetens the cap ala the Cuban style of days gone past…I’m not a fan of sweet anything but this is the first sweetie pie cap that I truly enjoy due to its mild nature. It is a nice surprise but tapers off quickly. And does not interfere with the taste of the blend. A lot of smokers think this is a non-starter for them. Fuggedaboudit.

Big floral notes attack the nares with notes of lavender and roses. A wonderful creamy peanut butter aroma snares my senses. Followed by a lovely milk chocolate along with malt, cedar, red bell pepper, salted caramel, green chile, ginger, nutmeg, touch of cinnamon, honey, rich earthiness at the clipped cap and foot, red pepper (3 nano second sneezes ensues), cappuccino, and a slight hint of sandalwood incense.

The cold draw hits you first with the slightly sweetened cap. I like this…almost subliminal. Then right behind that is notes of red bell pepper, creaminess, milk chocolate, malt, cedar, earth, wind, and leather, spiciness, honey, and cappuccino.

The draw is wide open. I put away my PerfecDraw cigar poker. Smoke pours from the foot like a bum projectile vomiting after an evening of Strawberry Hill and Sterno.

These babies don’t need a lot of humi time. I got my sticks in early December. In fact, all of the Isabela cigars I’ve smoked were all killer within two months.
Strength begins at medium/full.

The Sparkle gets down and funky right away. The finish is the first to impress. Big fat slobbery missiles of zest and edge.
Despite the expected giant epistles of creaminess, the blend is blowing kisses of chocolate, malt, green chile, sweet red pepper, marzipan, raisins, and buttered sourdough toast.
This is way more complex than my last Sparkle a few weeks ago. It ages exponentially in your humidor…

I read other reviews and they were simple instead of being pedantic. The same listless flavors were described showing not much interest in the subject. I don’t know if insufficient humi time was involved but I taste a helluva lot more going on than in those reviews.

You need to understand that Johnny Piette takes 1-2+ years to develop his blends. He doesn’t crank out shit like some other boutique brands that exhibit new blends once a month. Of course, a lot of those manufacturers dole out all the hard work to proven blenders and have little input. Now, Johnny is 100% hands on. He works his ass off getting the right ingredients at the right time and with the right aging. He probably has OCD. Which is great for his customers.

Lemon vanilla pudding dabs its spoon on to my palate. Green chile and sweet pepper are acting as a perfect backdrop for the other flavor elements. I like the veggie influence. I find this rare. Vegetal notes are usually bland and non-descript. Not here.

A salty caramel with almonds and pecans is pushing its way to the forefront. I find myself not keeping up with the blend’s transitions. It has shown complexity from the start only to keep on keeping on.

Once again, ladies and germs, I direct your attention to the price point of $7.95. I have a ginormous list of $12-$15 cigars I’ve reviewed that aren’t close to the passion I taste in this blend. Isabela garners attention with Piette’s limited editions which are always killer and reasonably priced. But this baby finds itself in the shadows of the newer blends. This can easily be a stalwart companion to my other cigars on a regular basis. It just doesn’t disappoint. It is consistent from cigar to cigar.
The burn is spot on. No construction issues.

Strength slyly inches into full territory. I feel like I’m floating…maybe peyote ain’t such a good idea an hour before a review. (Shrug).

I don’t relish repeating myself or becoming redundant, but the Isabela Sparkle is rich, deeply complex, balanced, smooth, and possesses a wonder of transitions with a fine finish.

I taste all the creaminess that other reviewers pounced on but it is a solitary element that does not overwhelm or stop there. It’s like a big stir fry with a gazillion luscious ingredients. Each flavor complements the others. That’s balance.

A balmy 35 degrees allows me to open all of the windows in my mini man cave. Even our cat is sleeping in a big overstuffed chair oblivious to the cold. He too, has gone to the dark side of living in Wisconsin. Still, it’s 90 degrees warmer than it was on Wednesday and Thursday.

I get a strong honey taste along with walnuts and clove that reminds me of baklava. Friggin delicious. Add the marzipan and we have a fat belly.

The spiciness has receded allowing the more subtle influences to shine: mild milk chocolate, caramel, vanilla, nutmeg, golden raisins, and just the slightest hint of raspberry. Wow. In fact, it reminds me of those kosher candies I was brought up on…you know…the raspberry gel covered in dark chocolate. Damn. I’m ready for my Bar Mitzvah now.

This is one of the most balanced super full strength blends I’ve tasted in a very long time.

Yes, Isabela is a sponsor. But I get sponsor requests all the time and I turn most down. Unfortunately, I could use the dough, but I won’t put something up on my web site that is bullshit. So, I get to be poorer than if I had no scruples. Believe it or not, but I’m read in over 140 countries every day. I get offers from some odd folks that could turn my blog into an intermediary for terrorist activity…or I’m just paranoid. (What is that? Get off!!).

I’m a true believer of Isabela. I drank the Kool Aid.

Eric Clapton’s “I Shot the Sheriff” version is playing from his “461 Ocean Blvd” album. I know it well because the two asshole brothers that produced that album came over to Britain on the behest of Miles Copeland to re-produce the Curved Air “Midnight Wire” album. They told me they hated our band. That’s always a good start. But I needn’t have worried as I got the blame for the entire fiasco when RCA rejected the first go around. It’s always the bass player’s fault when the song writers fuck up.

The Isabela Sparkle is a cool breeze on a warm day at the beach. It is a highly controlled strong cigar. I even recommend this blend to newbies. It is a great intro to stronger blends without the dry heaves.

Halfway point. Smooth as gelato.

“The End” is playing. I cannot begin to count the number of times I went to ‘Love-Ins’ during the 1960’s and found myself stoned and swaying to this song while in a large darkened room with blacklight posters everywhere and strobe lights making everyone dizzy. Groping. Dancing. All under the umbrella of peace, love, and understanding parameters.

The ash is 2” long and while it is a pretty thing, I knock it off to save the family jewels. You never know, Charlotte might want to get pregnant again.
The ash is stubborn so out comes my ball peen hammer and that does the trick.

The second half is zero dark thirty. It screams with a primal rage that illuminates the palate into a receiver of alien signals from the planet EcuaNicAnus.

Holy shit…this cigar is way more complex than it was a month ago. I would naturally be salivating by this point but my salivary glands were destroyed in a bizarre gardening accident.

This is, bar none, one of the best $8 sticks I’ve ever had. No shit. I’m going to kill Piette and take his identity.

The Sparkle is at a place where those with unsophisticated palates will just fall in love with this blend. Like a black hole, the flavors have imploded on themselves and become a mystical blend of oneness. Not a single flavor outweighs the other. The balance is outstanding.

This blend has been out for a while and I have absolutely no idea why I haven’t reviewed it before now. I was probably distracted while I was stacking my Depends in the closet…it’s a walk-in.

I choose not to list all those earlier flavors I described but every single one is in play at some level. This cigar also has one of the most divine and delicious finishes of all time.
There is an on the mark collaboration between sweet and savory.

For those that must know what John Piette looks like…plus his adorable 11-year-old daughter. We have had discussions on puberty and girls. Mine is 33 and I believe no longer terribly embarrassed by me. But I’m not really sure.

As potent as the Sparkle is, I’m not being mugged by nicotine. I’m surprised as I’ve been girding my loins for it. R U listening newbies?

I’m almost 70 and I’m not dealing with it well. My brain tells me I’m 35 but my body laughs.
I had a dream that I die at 73. I gotta write more reviews and stop fucking around.

A splendiferous cigar blend the Sparkle is.
I rarely use a roach clip for cigars but here goes.

The Isabela Sparkle is a real sleeper in their catalog. It is overlooked way too often for the newer blends. So, we will keep this a secret and not tell anyone. I don’t want to see the words “Out of Stock” next to the web site’s photo.
No brainer. Spectacular blend. Reasonable. Well-constructed. And comes with a waffle.
Get some. Don’t forget the promo code.


And now for something completely different:
I was at George Martin’s (The Beatles’ producer) recording studio, AIR Studios, in London participating in the mixing of the 1975 “Curved Air Live” album. For those of you who know, and for those that don’t…half the fun of recording an album is just hanging in the control booth watching and listening to the exciting mix of the music. It beats the hell out of staying home and watching TV. You never know who you will run in to. Plus, they feed you. Free food.

Since it was a live album, the recording was finished. Now it was just watching the producer and engineer mix it. At age 24, I didn’t have any producing experience yet; so, this was pretty much Alice peering through the Looking Glass. I asked a lot of questions which annoyed the producer who was a real schmuck. Miles Copeland was a cheap bastard and got a C rated producer because his monetary needs saved money for Copeland. But of course, costs passed on to the band.

I kept telling him that he was mixing the bass line old school…in the background.

He hadn’t caught up with the times, especially from the likes of the jazz fusion bands breaking through in America. I played well and I wanted to be able to hear it pounding away. I had introduced da funk to the sound of the band. He kept telling me to be patient which was his way of saying, “Get away from me boy, you’re bothering me.”

I sealed my fate with the band, and not in a good way, when during a playback with management; and the band present…the managing director of BTM Records announced to the group “I guess we know who the star of this album is.” Hand to God he said that.

I cringed. I was just a hired gun for the band. The leader, Darryl Way, had a horrified look of disgust on his face at that declaration. I kept my mouth shut. Way was totally insulted that a backwater California boy had stolen the spotlight from his classical violin playing. He was backwards in his thinking too about the way rhythm sections were recorded and mixed.

After the album had been released, I ran into our producer at some club. The first thing he said to me was: “You were right. I should have had the bass more upfront.”

I thought: “You rat bastard fuck face cock sucker.” I certainly appreciated his smug comment during mixing that he relayed while laughing; “Bassists always want to hear more bass. Sit down and let me do my job.”
Ass wipe.

I am proud to say that while the others in the band had to come in, and spend hours, to overdub their mistakes, I had one single dub. One note. Just one note had to be fixed on a live recording. The others gave me the stink eye because I sat back and watched them struggle with placing new notes on an already recorded song. Timing had to be perfect. Sort of like lip syncing.

I was the new member. And I played some very complicated bass lines. So, my near perfection caused some temporary jealousy. I had only been with the band two weeks before we took off on the road. And the live album was recorded over two gigs in the first week of the tour. I feared I’d become self-conscious and play a ton of clams. But the music took me away on a magic carpet ride and I lived in the moment…playing my ass off. I literally led the band during a couple songs where there were very long improv segments in the middle of the tunes.

Air Studio had two studios in the same location. Next to each other. While we were using Studio B, Pete Townshend was using Studio A to mix the movie soundtrack to the movie, “Tommy.”

One late night, Sonja and I were sitting on the floor with our backs against one of the plush sofas. We had just smoked a doob and were conversing about life. The sofa was in the farthest location from the door. And the room was huge. George Martin spared no dough in making this booth a plush living room.

I noticed the door opening, about 20 feet away, and looked up. The studio was dimly lit. For mood, I guess. Helps with the artistry.

In walks a man who I can’t quite make out. As he looks our way, he heads toward us. The closer he came, the more my jaw dropped. It was Pete Townshend coming over for a visit with Sonja. Curved Air was a legendary band in Europe from the late 60’s to the late 70’s. And Pete and Sonja were good friends.

Pete was thin. Very thin. I later found out that this was the period in his life where he did a lot of heroin.

He sat down next to Sonja making it a Sonja sandwich putting her between the two of us. They hugged and exchanged kisses. I was close to shitting myself. I didn’t blink or take a breath. Fucking Pete Townshend was sitting two feet from me.

Now if you want to be taken seriously in any business, you must act natural at meeting anyone of note or your presence is ignored, so I did my best to be cool. Be a peer, not a fan.

A minute or two in, Sonja nodded in my direction and introduced me to Pete. We shook hands. I was literally shaking. I muttered something unintelligible. Clicks and whistles.

We sat there for a couple of hours, rolling and lighting one joint after another. I normally did not chain smoke joints. But in the presence of greatness, one did not say “Sorry. I’ve had enough.”

Before long, all three of us were laughing like idiots and Pete told Sonja that he thought I was an all-right chap.

Pete got to listen to my playing on the play back in the studio and when he felt it was time to leave, he stood above me, shook my hand, and asked if I wanted to jam tomorrow night?
Of course, I said yes and told him I would make sure our drummer, Stewart Copeland, was there.

I barely slept or ate in the next 24 hours in anticipation. Back then, long distance calls to America were really expensive. But I didn’t care and called every friend I could think of to tell them what was about to happen.

The night came and we played for countless hours. Time had no meaning except when we stopped to light one up. We were in their little side studio of Studio A (8 x 10) and I was touching distance to Keith Moon’s drums, John Entwistle’s basses, and a mic stand belonging to Roger Daltrey with a schmata/scarf wrapped around the shaft. But the band hadn’t even come into the studio that day. They were fabulously rich and didn’t need to hang out in the studio for fun.

We didn’t play one Who song. We just jammed. And because I was into the jazz fusion scene which really hadn’t made it the English shores quite yet, I had the responsibility of providing pounding Stanley Clarke-like riffs for us to woodshed on.

At one point, he teased us with the offer to produce our next album, which never happened. My only regret was that while tape was running the whole time, I never asked for a copy.
I was in the mode of: “I will always be in the music biz and this was only the start.”
The strange musings of a naïve 24 year old.


Tags: , , ,

6 replies

  1. “It’s always the bass player’s fault when the song writers fuck up.”

    Of course, that’s why bands HAVE bass players. Around my house it’s also the bass player’s fault when the toilet seat is left up, if the dog is pregnant, when the newspaper is late, etc…bass players are very versatile like that.

    Sounds like Isabela has another winner here. I’m still waiting for my wallet to recover from buying a box of Shape Shifters. Which was actually the bass player’s fault, as well.

    Gol’ darn bass players…

  2. Great to have to back Phil!
    I just ordered a 10 pack!
    This will be my first experience with Isabela.

  3. Try the Corona if you haven’t. It’s a fantastic smoke.

  4. Katman, thanks so much for pushing the pusherman for the Katpack. I just opened my 10-pack of Sparkles on Christmas Day and was literally choked up when I saw what was included in the ‘Katman free Katpack’.

    Thank you.

  5. Cool, Daddy-O…

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s