Espinosa Laranja Reserva Escuro | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Brazilian Mata Fina
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: 6 x 46 Corona Larga
Strength: Medium/Full
Price: $10.00

Today we take a look at the Espinosa Laranja Reserva Escuro.
Bought a fiver.

According to Cigar Aficionado (April 11, 2019):
“Five years ago, Erik Espinosa debuted Laranja Reserva, a brand named for the unique, orange-hued Brazilian wrapper that covers the cigar. (“Laranja” is the Portuguese word for orange.) The brand was well-received, garnering many scores of 90 points or better in Cigar Aficionado tastings, with the Laranja Reserva Toro being named the No. 13 cigar of 2015.

“This week, Espinosa began shipping a Laranja line extension called Laranja Reserva Escuro. Laranja Reserva Escuro uses the same Nicaraguan binder and filler, but is covered in a dark, Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper. According to Espinosa, it was only natural that the follow-up be called Escuro, the Portuguese word for dark.

“Laranja Reserva Escuro comes in three sizes: Corona Larga ($10), measuring 6 inches by 46 ring gauge; Robusto Grande ($10.50), 5 1/2 by 54; and Toro ($10.90), 6 by 52. The cigars are housed in 10-count boxes.
“Whereas the original Laranja is rolled at Espinosa’s La Zona Cigars S.A., Escuro is being made at A.J. Fernandez’s San Lotano Factory in Ocotál, Nicaragua.”

Corona Larga: 6 x 46 $10.00
Robusto Grande: 5.5 x 56 $10.50
Toro 6 x 52: $11.00

The first thing I notice is that there is smeared cigar glue on the wrapper on the remaining 3 sticks I have left from the fiver I bought. This indicates sloppy rolling. It shouldn’t be there; especially on a $10 stick.

And the sticks are nearly free form in shape. Did someone sit on my cigars before shipping them? All three are bent and not close to being straight and linear. There is no shortage of veins and the seams are relatively tight.
The wrapper is a toothy dark chocolate brown with a little sheen from the oils. The triple caps are applied with some degree of sloppiness. And some of the sticks are not uniformly filled with gaps and soft spots.

Overall, this seems to be a step in the wrong direction for Espinosa as the original Laranja was better built and better looking.
I also notice that none of the sticks are the advertised 6” in length. They are ¼”-1/2” short of that. I mean…WTF?

Opaque aromas associated with Brazilian and Nicaraguan tobacco fill my nostrils: Chocolate, caramel, malt, cedar, black tea, nuts, dried fruit, cream, and espresso.

I try to suck on the cigar and it’s completely plugged. I use a punch cutter but then need my PerfecDraw draw adjustment tool to clear the mess. I carefully insert the poker and it meets resistance from the massive plug. As I turn it and then pull it out, a huge piece of detritus tobacco leaf comes out and causes the wrapper to crack. Sonovabitch. I ruined a cigar. Or should I say, Espinosa’s rollers weren’t top of the line for this release. Hey Erik, you owe me $10!

I move on to another cigar. I guillotine cut this one. It too is plugged but my PerfecDraw does its job without the hindrance of a rose bush in the first third of the cigar messing things up.

As I said, the cold draw presents flavors of malt, chocolate, espresso, caramel, nuts, cedar, and dried fruit. Pretty much standard affair.

First puffs are delicious. Except now, I am smoking the stick that has a really big soft spot in the middle. I detect trouble coming.

In the batter’s box are elements of black pepper, dark chocolate, espresso, creaminess, strong maltiness, almond butter, some lemon citrus, brioche. A little smokiness, cedar, and peat.

Strength accelerates to medium/full without hesitation.

And then a rich complexity kicks in. That’s what I’m talking about. The entire flavor profile coalesces into a grand symphony of intensity. Transitions kick into high gear. The finish is primarily black pepper with a touch of sweetness and creaminess.

Despite all the fakakta construction issues and me sacrificing a good cigar to Bad Rolling gods, the flavor profile is exemplary. In fact, so far, it’s better than the original: which I am a big fan of.
Strength becomes more of an influence.

This ain’t no newbie blend. I’m not even to the second third, and the strength is daunting, all the while, I’m getting blasts of nicotine that has my head spinning. Oy.

I only review cigars on an empty stomach and the first stick of the day. There is a price to pay for this ritual…like hallucinating from a very strong cigar while my stomach does flip flops. I’m willing to die for the sake of a good review. I’ve had a good life.

The complexity is on an even keel. If I hadn’t smoked and reviewed the Stolen Throne Crook of the Crown yesterday. Now that was a beautiful cigar in all ways a cigar can be gorgeous. A constantly moving complexity that pounded my palate with every puff.

Can’t say the same about the Laranja Escuro. A good cigar so far but not in the same league as the Stolen Throne…and both in the same price range.

“Stealin” by Uriah Heep is playing. I remember seeing Heep at the Long Beach Arena around the late 60’s. We had lousy seats near the back of the arena. At one point, the keys player did a 10-minute solo that was so loud that every single person in that 25,000-count arena had their heads buried in their lap with their hands covering their ears. It was painful. First and last time I saw the band live.

The smoothness of the Escuro comes through loud and clear now. The complexity and balance are now quite intense. The transitions are laying back which is surprising. And the finish remains mostly hot and spicy pepper. The stick is becoming dangerously close to becoming a pepper bomb.

There is a heavy caramel and malty influence now accentuated by a gooey dark chocolate element.

The Laranja Escuro is a nice tasting blend. A couple of the reviews I read went bat shit crazy over this cigar. I definitely like it but I’m definitely not impressed by its construction.

The stick finds cruise control. No movement in either direction. It hovers in the same place producing fine flavor points but the complexity is not consistent. One moment, the cigar is pointing to the stars and the next, it feels comfortable standing in the same spot. Odd.

I’ve had my fiver for over a month now. Don’t know if I’m only tasting potential or this is the real deal.

The ash is as flaky as a box of corn flakes. I don my Teflon lap protector to keep my naughty bits safe in case of an accidental discharge by the ash. I like my naughty bits to remain unscathed and useable. You never know when an anniversary rolls around and I can get laid…35 years with the same woman. Ouch.

I do admire the balance of sweet and savory. It seems a small matter but not to me. A good blend knows exactly how to juggle these two essentials. The Escuro is doing just fine.

It’s amazing. Lee and JR of Stolen Throne have zero experience blending and do not have the resources that an Espinosa has and yet they produce an $11 stick that could easily sell for $25. Espinosa has the world at his fingers and produces an $11 stick that could have easily been sold for $9…or less.

You want to try a great cigar? The Bespoke Daughters of the Wind Calico is only $15 after promo code: Katman…and can be purchased from Small Batch Cigar. The Calico was my No.1 cigar of 2018. For a couple dollars more, you can reach nirvana and a higher level of existentialism. Cigar pricing is a tricky business. You gotta keep your eyes open and your ears at high alert. The Calico is a great affordable stick to introduce you to one of the finest cigar manufacturers on the planet.

The flavors: Black pepper, creaminess, espresso, caramel, nuttiness, ton of malt, licorice, chocolate, cedar, citrus, almond butter, smoky meat, and vanilla frosting.

The strength is at full tilt. Nicotine is raging. A good cigar.

The soft middle did not cause any consternation as expected. Whew. The cigar has smoked consistently and the burn is spot on.

I like my spicy cigars but this one is overwhelming. I suppose a few months of humi time will mellow the effect dramatically. So, no points taken off for setting my nasal hairs on fire.

I was 16. My dad decided to take me to Baskin Robbins and get some ice cream for the family. As soon as we got there, I noticed how crowded it was on a weekday night. Which coincided with an urgent need to take a dump. No public bathroom. I was in panic mode as we stood in line.
I told my dad I’d be right back.

Next door was a big car wash and I saw a public bathroom with panels around the entrance for privacy. It was locked.
My guts would have none of it. I dropped my jeans, bent over, and exploded.
What I didn’t notice til I pulled my jeans back on was that I didn’t bend over far enough and took a dump into my own pants.

I did a wobble back to the store where my dad was waiting with all the sundaes. We got into the car and about a minute later, my dad asked: “Do you smell something funny?”

We get home and I dive for the bathroom and spent the next half hour cleaning myself up. Needless to say, my ice cream had melted while listening to my parents pounding on the bathroom door asking what I was doing in there. (At my age, the acid flashbacks come more often).

The Escuro is doing a fine job. But to be honest, I intend to wait on my next purchase of these cigars when I see them on some daily special and the price is affordable for the product at hand. I can’t see spending $50-$55 on another fiver. I see the original Laranja on sale all the time and can be had for around $6-$7 a pop.

The blend is tasty. But a $10 cigar should provide a whole lotta’ love. If I were to spend that kind of dough on this price point again, it will either be a Bespoke or an Isabela blend.

I get all the same emails you get from the online stores. New cigar prices are fucking ridiculous. When did the average new release become $15+ a stick? In the 60’s, I could get a BJ on Anaheim St. for $20. You need to question the online store or your fave B&M if you put in another $5, can they send you a cheap call girl to your home for 15 minutes?

No significant changes. A solid blend with lots to offer. Just not a milestone for Espinosa.
But I’m sure that my opinion will not hamper mass sales for this cigar blend.

I don’t know how the really big reviewers do it. Instead of a fiver or a ten pack for review, most of these guys demand a full box before they agree to review the blend. Of course, they have industry relationships to consider; whereas, I do not. So, I don’t expect real critical comments about an Espinosa stick. Certain elements are ignored.

The strength is making me cross eyed. I’m going to be in a psychedelic haze for half an hour after finishing the cigar…bouncing off walls and calling for my mommy.

This is not a flavor bomb…even though there is a host of interesting flavors at play. The complexity and balance keep the elements at bay while focusing on the whole; rather than its parts.

I guess my only serious criticism, besides the funky construction, is that the blend does not provide a flow of changes to the flavor profile. Instead, it is rock solid with a determination to be industrial consistent…no surprises, no shocks to the system or palate. Nothing wrong with that. But it does detract from the possibilities of being a great cigar instead of just a good one.

The last vestiges of the stick finds itself getting a little bit harsh. The spiciness ramps up even more…wiping out the more subtle influences and flavors.

Giving this cigar a few months of humi time may just eliminate my criticisms. It’s hard to tell.
Try it and see if you feel the same way.


And now for something completely different:
It was the early 80’s….

I love music. I love playing bass. And my body of reviews has presented that to you.
It was Passover day and I was stuck in the studio with Hall of Fame drummer Hal Blaine and a full orchestra. Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood.

Hal got me on board to do a Barbra Streisand album. It paid better than scale and it lasted two weeks…because we didn’t layer. It was done live. Nothing is scarier than sitting with some of the finest studio players who sight read and get it right on the first try with no rehearsal. So, I furiously re-taught myself to sight read note charts. I was already doing a lot of sessions; both at my recording studio and in L.A. That was very intimidating. Now? Charlotte has to remind me every time I leave the house to pull my fly up.

On my last night of recording, it was Passover night. Streisand showed up in the booth. I could see her and was blown away. I never thought I would see her; let alone possibly meet her. I didn’t know if she would have a phalanx of bodyguards to keep the lowly musicians away from her. From my vantage point, this didn’t seem to be the case. (My cousin, Fred Selden, is an iconic session reed player. He has made a very nice living doing TV and movies as well as playing pop and playing on serious jazz albums. At the age of 13, he led his own jazz band to tour in Europe. Back in the 70’s, he played on a lot of TV shows. One was the “Donnie & Marie Show.” I remember the day he told me how much he made being in the orchestra of a TV show. Remember, this was the 70’s. He made $600 per show. One night of taping. And then $400 per rerun. So, he would do 20 shows and then maybe 10 reruns during summer. That works out to $16,000 for 20 hours of work. Not bad.)

Back to Donnie and Marie. During pre-recording of the show’s numbers in the Gower recording studio, Marie was ushered out of the studio and into a special movie star trailer every time the band took their union sanctioned break. The Mormon family didn’t want her to associate with any of these iconic Hollywood session players.

The session broke around 6pm. I was packing up when Streisand approached Hal. Hal had played on many of her albums and they were old friends. Hal was courteous and introduced me. My knees were knocking.

When she heard my last name, she asked if I had any family? I nodded yes as the ability for speech eluded me.
She looked at both Hal and me and asked why we weren’t at home for Passover Seder? Hal’s real name is Harold Simon Belsky.

We both shrugged our shoulders. Passover was at my dad’s that year. And I was a good hour on the freeway away to get there from Hollyweird.

She was fretting she was in the studio to begin doing her vocals…buyer’s remorse that she would miss out on her Seder. Though why she allowed this scheduling is a mystery that will go to my grave.
I began packing my gear into my 1971 Datsun station wagon. She followed me out.

“Screw it. I’m coming home with you.”
I gasped.

Before I could say anything, she got into the front passenger seat. Her manager came running out and asked what the hell did she think she was doing? Back in 1982, Sunset Gower charged $250 per hour. That’s $175,000 in 2019 dollars.

She told him that she was going to a Passover Seder at my dad’s house in Long Beach.

The manager flew off the handle and started screaming at her. I didn’t say a thing. I just watched as they argued. The manager leaned into my window. Streisand leaned over me to yell back. I was sandwiched with no way to escape. My heart was racing so hard that it felt like my carotid would explode.

She told him he had no right to make her work on Passover and she would do what she damn well pleased.
I was pissing my pants.

A moment later, she got out of my Datsun. She leaned in and gave me a hug and winked at me as she walked back into the studio. She had never really intended to come home with me. She was just pranking her manager.

I was relieved. What could I have possibly talked to her about? Not to mention that if she did come home with me, the scene would be right out of the movie, “My Favorite Year.” My evil stepmother was Lainie Kazan. Just in spirit, of course.

When I got to my dad’s, I told everyone what happened and my evil stepmother went bananas.
She was from the same neighborhood as Streisand in Brooklyn. She was on Cloud 9 at the thought that maybe Streisand would have attended our Passover Seder.

For years after that, she told everyone who would listen about this story. The near miss. I never had the heart to tell her that it was never going to happen.

A couple weeks later, I got a nice letter from Barbra. Hal gave her my address.
Sometimes, you just never know where life will take a strange turn.

The next bass session I did, with Hal’s endorsement, was a national Chevy commercial. No celebrities or stars attended.


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5 replies

  1. Hmmm…I also bought a 5er of these and the construction was pretty good. Haven’t had one yet tho. Just looked at them after reading your review, and mine say they were put away on June 3rd. I think I will let them simmer for at least another month.

    My husband and I have been together for 21 years, and he is 25 years older than me. I get that ass, twice a week, without fail. Sometimes you just have to step up and handle it. Show her who’s boss.

    I lived in SoCal about 14 years ago, and have been back there several times in the last five. You can probably still get a BJ on Anaheim Street for $20, but you might not WANT that BJ unless it comes with a couple shots of penicillin. SoCal has become a ginormous cesspool. But hey, I still love a good cesspool now and then. Every day is a crap shoot, and every day above ground is a good day.

  2. Just had this one. Immediate impression was that it was good, but not great. 90 sounds about right to me too… Slapping a different wrapper on a proven binder/filler combination seems to be an inherently unpredictable endeavour. In that regard, I quite like the new Blind Man’s Bluff maduro… do you have that one lined up for review? Would love to get your thoughts on it…

  3. I haven’t the opportunity to purchase the Maduro yet.

  4. Aren’t these rolled by AJF?

  5. “Whereas the original Laranja is rolled at Espinosa’s La Zona Cigars S.A., Escuro is being made at A.J. Fernandez’s San Lotano Factory in Ocotál, Nicaragua.”

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