Viaje Hamaki Omakase | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Undisclosed
Binder: Undisclosed
Filler: Undisclosed
Size: 5 x 52 Robusto
Strength: Medium/Full
Price: $9.89

Today we take a look at the Viaje Hamaki Omakase.
Thanks to Jayson Oertel.
This is a limited-edition release but I found several online stores that carry them. As I don’t recommend stores I’ve never used, I can’t openly stand behind them. You can Google them. But your best for finding this cigar is most probably your local B&M.

BACKGROUND:
According to Halfwheel.com:
“Hamaki was released once before, in 2017, a 6 x 54 box-pressed torpedo. That cigar was a Dominican puro made at Quesada, the 2019 version is being made at Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. in Nicaragua.

“In addition, the Hamaki Omakase will also return as a standalone release. The 5 x 52 robusto has also only been released once before, in 2017. It’s also being produced at TABSA. Viaje declined to talk about any of the details regarding the 2017 release. The company says the foot ribbon on the cigar can be turned into a paper star using an origami technique.

“Omakase is a Japanese dining term where diners allow the chef to choose their meal.
Viaje’s Instagram account indicated the cigars will begin shipping on May 13.

“The White Label Project Series is a wide collection of cigars, some of which have been released one while others have been released multiple times, the one unifying theme throughout is the cigars have been packaged with white bands with black text. Some of the cigars that have been released multiple times have graduated from the WLP Series and become standalone releases with their own packaging.

“Both cigars get new packaging which is similar to labels used on Suntory’s Japanese whisky, best known for the Hibiki and Yamazaki brands.”

APPEARANCE:
I love the way this stick looks. That wrapper is beautifully mottled. Like a brindle colored Boxer dog. Or sprayed by Banksy. It is oily and slippery in appearance.

The cigar band has no skulls on it, but rather Japanese script. Which when translated, means “Little Squaw with iPhone Whose Batteries Exploded.” I don’t understand it but I give it props for being inscrutable.

Seams are clearly visible. A world of veins. It’s lumpy and bumpy like my face in 11th grade. The triple cap is perfectly applied. And it has a partially closed foot.

SMELL THE GLOVE:
I’ve been battling, off and on, a summer cold/flu. So, I’m chock full of cold pills and industrial strength Afrin nasal spray attached to my nose using a beer can cap.

First up is a healthy dose of cinnamon. Following that, nuances of black and red pepper, rich black licorice, malt, graham cracker, cocoa, a bit of cream, cedar, and some barnyard.

Sniffing cigars should only be done by professionals. Especially, when the stick is pepper ridden. I begin a marathon of sneezing fits that seems to never end; totally clogging my sinuses. I release the flood gates on the Afrin and wait a few minutes. I’m going to pay for this later.

First, “Space Oddity” and then “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.” Nice start.

The cold draw presents flavors of licorice, malt, cedar, black pepper, barnyard, cocoa, and cinnamon.

FIRST THIRD:
There is a little more resistance to the draw than I like so I drag out my PerfecDraw draw adjustment tool and loosen the thing up a bit. Good to go.
The Viaje Hamaki Omakase wastes no time in kicking arse. (Sorry Anna).

Flavors spew from the cigar like a thunderclap on a quiet desert night. Big elements of black pepper, malt, cedar, licorice, cinnamon, mocha java, creaminess, and a touch of vanilla.
Complexity immediately digs a foxhole and refuses to capitulate.

Strength goes for gold by hitting medium/full right off the bat. But smooth and balanced in its approach.
The spiciness might be too much for some smokers. I dig it. I dig a pony. My bet it will calm down along the journey.
The burn is spot on.

I enjoy most Viaje blends. But Andre Farkas really swung for the fences with this unusual blend. I adore the Aganorsa blends but the Hamaki Omakase is darker and foreboding. It is a much richer experience than a lot of other Viaje concoctions. Sort of the difference between eating ice cream or cheesecake.

The solid ash does a swan dive and just misses the naughty bits. Forgot the lap Kevlar this morning.

With each puff, I realize I am smoking something special. Nothing like any cigar I’ve smoked lately. The dark, deep richness is nearly overwhelming in its desire to please. The smoke coats my teeth and the finish is bottomless.

I get a lot of correspondence and comments from smokers who can’t taste the crazy stuff that I and other reviewers taste during reviews. For those that like a good cigar but do not dissect them, you need to find this baby and snag as many as your wife will allow. I generally reassure readers that I only taste the intense flavors while reviewing as it takes a lot of focus to rip the guts apart. It takes a lot of me. But it does allow for me to convey what I think the blender intended. After that, it is up to me to decide whether I think it’s a good cigar to recommend. And remember how selective the palate is and how subjective it is in every person. Some flavors are irrefutable, but a lot are merely what my palate picks up. Your palate will be different.

SECOND THIRD:
The first third took 25 minutes to complete.

The stick is very consistent. On point for an upward trajectory is my guess.
A delicious delivery system. As predicted, the spiciness relents to a more balanced approach.

This is more of a savory cigar with touches of sweetness that give the blend just the right amount of point/counterpoint. The sweetness seems not so much from made up flavors in my head; but rather, a natural, organic sweetness emanating from the quality of the tobacco and its aging.

If you get all those online cigar emails every day, you can go crazy trying to decide how to spend your hard-earned dough. And those damned limited editions that come and go in a blink of an eye can cause extreme bitterness that you just don’t have the dough to go nuts. When I started doing this 10 years ago, there was no onslaught of brilliant boutique blends hitting the shelves daily. Hence, 80% of my reviews in the archives are catalog cigars that are still sold today. There are also a lot of reviews for cigars now defunct.

The 4th is my grandson’s 2nd birthday. The proud parents are throwing him an over the top birthday party. Of which, little Scotty will have absolutely no idea what’s going on. They live 10 minutes from us. Their neighborhood is full of cops and firefighters. They have a parade that goes up and down the streets of their neighborhoods. So, we get to celebrate our freedom baby’s birthday and Independence Day at the same time. That’s a good birth date to have. My birthday is on the same date that Moses descended from Mt. Sinai and destroyed the tablets while telling the Israelites to go fish…not as good.

One thing I think today’s smokers take for granted…the absolute intensification of disparate blends being released at breakneck speed. Unless you have cash leaking from your orifices, it’s hard to keep up. Just 10 years ago, supplies were limited to only a few boutique brands.

The Viaje Hamaki Omakase is cruising. I like how Farkas took a different route with this blend. The same way I like how Alec Bradley took a different route by introducing his Magic Toast.

I hate using this term, but the blend is very earthy. I don’t know what dirt tastes like. The dictionary describes the word: “Resembling or suggestive of earth or soil.” This is why I don’t like the term. Maybe it’s the rich soil the leaves were grown in that creates that indescribable depth to the blend. While other cigars seem to taste like they were grown in a sterile lab.

Pretty sure that Farkas is proud of this stick.
This is a pure wonder of masterful blending. I don’t have a single complaint or criticism.

The strength has remained at an easy going medium/full. So far, no nicotine.

Creaminess has been leading the pack for some while. The sweet factors are making their voices heard now: vanilla sponge cake, honey almonds, and sweet coffee. (I wouldn’t have tasted these flavors if not for twisting and contorting my face into a Salvador Dali painting).

I’m also happy that the decision was made to display the workmanship of this blend presented in a Robusto size…instead of some giant Gordo.

Steppenwolf is playing. Back in the late 60’s, your band had to play all their hits at gigs. I remember being excited the first time we played “Born to be Wild.” And I got to play that iconic bass line at the end of the tune.

LAST THIRD:
Smoke time is an hour.
Nicotine creeps in.

The last third of a Robusto is tricky. There is only 1-5/8” left. What remains of the journey? Does it increase the peace or does it go down in flames?

I have the answer. The Viaje Hamaki Omakase excels at excellence. There is no harshness or increase of strength. Sure, the nicotine is beginning to blind me but I have a leash for the cat to guide me around for half an hour after I finish a nicotine laden blend.

I overuse the term, smooth. But in this case, it is the true identity of the Omakase. It is slippery like an eel while at the same time a warm blankey bringing me infantile, gleeful emotions.

Van the Man. Never saw him live. My bad. Back in the day, when he was in Them and did the song “Gloria,” it was the song to play at every gig. We’d play love-ins with blacklights and strobe lights. We would always use the middle section for a ‘freak-out.’ I did an extended solo on the bass using one of the first fuzz boxes available. The stoned Hippies went nuts. And I got laid. (Sorry Anna).

One note to my musician readers…I believe it was we players that put an end to strobes being used at gigs. Try and play your instrument while you are having an epileptic fit.

I’m now in the reclined position like at a Passover Seder. Just enjoying the blend without dissecting it. Sure, lots of flavor…but this stick is a comforting blend that puts the soul in full appreciation mode. Good will to all men and women.

Call around to your B&M’s to see if they still have some. Google the cigar for online stores. If I had Jayson’s money, I’d have bought a few boxes.

We smokers are always full of remorse. Buyer’s remorse for being tricked into buying a crap cigar. Remorse for not pulling the trigger fast enough on a limited blend. And remorse for not being born rich and good looking.

A sip of water, and the flavors explode. A whole new world opens up with an inch to go. Flavors become distinct rather than flailing in mosh pit. It’s like my palate is in a paint ball fight…and I’m being pelted by an onslaught. The nicotine actually calms down.

The balance is now perfect for those that dig sweet and savory.
A beautiful experience.

RATING: 94

And for something completely different:

My mother’s cousin, Fred Selden, is an award-winning reed player. He is 4 years older than me. He was my hero growing up as no one else in my family were musicians.

Fred is a brilliant player. So much so, that at the age of 13, he took his own jazz band to Europe to tour. He has played with just about everyone. And in the last couple of decades, he has been heavily involved in the movie industry. Either as a player or composer.

From the Fred Selden web site:
“Dr. Fred Selden is a Grammy nominated conductor, arranger and composer, and one of LA’s top session players. His musical talents have been featured in countless television and film projects, and he has a long history in the music business. He has recorded with such illustrious names as Don Ellis, Ringo Star, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Natalie Cole, Bill Holman and Lionel Hampton to name a few. Fred is also one of the pioneers in the use of the “Electronic Wind Instrument” (E.W.I.). He has received a Grammy Nomination, a Gold Record and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences “Most Valuable Player Award” for three years running. He has also written numerous music education books and composed, arranged and performed on many albums.”

Back in the mid/late 1960’s I would visit him and his family in Studio City, CA. His dad was one of the biggest entertainment lawyers in Hollywood.

I had very little family. And my Aunt Gussie and Uncle Frank were terrific people. I really loved them.
I used to take a drive and visit my cousin. I loved hearing his music stories.

Fred had an older brother, Bobby. Bobby had a serious drinking problem.
Sometimes, I’d get there and Fred was doing a last-minute session.
So, I sat with Bobby and his neighbor, William Holden. Yeah, their family was that upscale.
Holden was a major movie star from the 1950’s-1980’s.
I remember him in Sam Peckinpah’s “The Wild Bunch.” Man, he looked old.

We would sit on the back porch and kibitz. Bobby had a liquor cart on wheels. He sat it next to the round glass table and I basically just listened.
Holden would get shit faced and start dishing dirt on Hollywood. I was entranced.

But you could see in Holden’s face that the mass consumption of alcohol was taking its toll…a lot of miles.

I must have visited a dozen times when Holden was there. Bobby and Holden must have had this drinking buddy thing going. I was only in my late teens and had nothing to offer to the conversation. Still, I was a big movie buff and I had lots of questions that Holden was glad to answer. I was especially interested in “Bridge on the River Kwai.”

Well, as expected in the human experience, things change. My life was moving forward and I just didn’t have the time to visit as much. Plus, I got tired of watching two men getting drunk out of their minds in the middle of the afternoon.

One time, Aunt Gussie came outside to the patio and began screaming at Holden. She felt he was a terrible influence on her son. She told him to get the hell out of there and don’t come back.

I do remember, several years later, hearing that Holden died a miserable lonely death. All because he was a lush.

This is from Wikipedia:
“According to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s autopsy report, Holden was alone and intoxicated in his apartment in Santa Monica, California, on November 12, 1981, when he slipped on a rug, severely lacerated his forehead on a teak bedside table, and bled to death. Evidence suggests he was conscious for at least half an hour after the fall. It is probable that he may not have realized the severity of the injury and did not summon aid, or was unable to call for help. His body was found four days later.”

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Categories: CIGAR REVIEWS

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14 replies

  1. Dammit Katman, another cigar I gotta look for. Nobody takes better pix of cigars. You oughta turn professional. I remember Holden in Sunset Boulevard, before the decline, and Stalag 18, or whatever the Stalag number was. He was great in that. Remember The Animal, somebody Strauss, Robert maybe. I’m too lazy to look it up. Or it’s the Isabela and bourbon or the imminent pizza delivery. Stay healthy.

    • Thank you Razzie,
      My ability with a real camera has taken years to get it right. My early reviews were peppered with funky photos using a $75 digital camera. They were terrible. I do find myself astonished when I watch a show on one of the Discovery channels about wildlife photography. But then these folks have spent $1.2 million on equipment.

      I apologize for causing uncontrollable loss of precious bodily fluids when I give a cigar a good review. My bad.
      Phil

  2. These was all over social media, and my inbox was flooded with pre-release alerts… I had the opportunity to get some, but felt the motif was a cheesy rip-off of a certain Japanese Whisky, and promptly passed on it — preconceived notions about how only a mediocre cigar would exercise that degree of imitation. Also find Viaje/EZ/et al.’s gimmick of releasing small tranches of 69 cigars or whatever in the dead of night quite disagreeable.

    Doubly aggravated now that it’s turned out to be a great cigar. Thanks, Katman.

    • Exactly. Funny thing is that more than one outfit endorses that ploy of releasing 200 cigars at a time. The funny thing I’ve found is that days later, I still get emails telling me that the cigar is still for sale. They couldn’t sell 200 cigars in 2 days? Something is up. Like paying too much for drek cigar blends or smokers tiring of the PR blitz.

    • Hi Phil,

      I agree that the EZ/Nomad/Cfed marketing hype is too WAY too much. Their list of flavors would make even your palate quail if they all manifested. I think they cut and paste the descriptions and rearrange the order. Sometimes simple is better.

      All that being said, they do make some fine ‘gars and they have a large slice of the pie chart in my monthly budget.

      I’m waiting “patiently” for my stolen throne order (based on your review) to arrive. I’m glad you chose to review them as you don’t seem to do much cfed stuff anymore. Picked up a mazo with the 22% off code this week. Much better price @ roughly $8 a stick. Keep up the good work!

      Happy independence day!

      Jeff

      • Hi Jeff,
        I felt guilty. I bought a fiver of Leche de Mama Maduro from CF after reading your comment. I just don’t have the cigar budget I did before I landed at 7 decades on the planet. Thankfully, friends and readers help me out of my Social Security situation. Most of my reviews are cigars from manufacturers, online stores, and readers. If I were a rich man, biddy biddy bum….
        Only 10 years ago, my wife would complain to anyone who would listen that I spent $1300 per month on cigars. Now I spend $50. Getting old ain’t for the young.

        Just got back from my grandson’s 2 year birthday party and Independence Day BBQ. So, that meant lots of cops and firefighters. My son-in-law’s compadres discovered I’m the gunslinger at a Milwaukee synagogue (volunteer) and loaded me up with a ton of expensive tactical gear I could never afford.
        These are wonderful people. I see the terrible shit on TV when something goes south on a cop and someone gets killed. But if you knew my cops like I do, you’d see that these are the bravest and most compassionate people around.
        I hope everyone’s 4th of July is as wonderful as mine.
        Happy birthday little Scotty!
        Phil

  3. I saw this stick a few days ago next to the other fancy Viaje and passed on it. Damn! You’re never wrong.

  4. Phil,

    Great review and I too loved this cigar a lot. Viaje has done in my book either really amazing or a dud. This one in my book was the best cigar I’ve had in 2019.

    I’m glad I purchased 2 boxes.

    John

  5. Grabbed one of these at a shop the other day after reading your review. Delicious and the finish was insane. It lasted after eating, after sleeping all night and waking up and brushing my teeth. It was close to 24 hours before the taste completely went way.

  6. Picked up of these at a shop the other day after reading this. Delicious and finish was insane. It lasted close to 24 hours. After eating, a full nights sleep, getting up and brushing my teeth, etc. It just wouldn’t die.

  7. Don Ellis and his band played at a club called Bonesville back in the 60s. I think it was Monday nights. He had two drummers. One of them was a kid named Steve Bohannon who usually wore a suit and tie and one of those tall fur Russian hats and no shoes or socks. He always knew the count whether the band was playing in 17/8 time or 13/4 or whatever. Of course I couldn’t tell, but Ellis said so and I believed him. Ellis had a custom made trumpet with 4 valves that could play quarter tones. The band played loud weird Indian inspired jazz that swung in a wild cacophonic fashion. I’m wondering if maybe I heard your cousin. I loved that band and was there almost every week until the Navy moved me out of L.A.

    • Fred turned me on to Don Ellis around the mid 60’s. I believe the band was the first to electrify the horn section and other orchestral instruments. Something that Maynard Ferguson did as well. Fred played with Ellis for years. I had all the albums.
      And yeah, the band played using all the time signatures available. Saw them a few times in concert. It blew my hair back.

      He also played a couple of tours with Elvis, heading the horn section, towards the end. The Colonel flew in one jet, Elvis in the second jet, and the band in the third jet.
      He did the entire first tour and never met Elvis…only saw him on stage. He got to meet the man near the end of the second tour when he had a private audience with Elvis in his suite. He got a hearty handclasp and “You did good, son…thank you.”
      An interesting anecdote about his time in the Elvis band…Fred had to play “Dixie” on the flute in the middle of some song. Fred is a jazzer. One night, he got tired of playing it straight and jazzed it up. After the show, the band director took him aside and said, “You ever fuck with ‘Dixie’ again, and you’re fired.” Needless to say, Fred didn’t fuck with the solo again.

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