Blackbird Raven Cubra | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Brazilian
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Nicaraguan Corojo ’99, Criollo ’98, Pennsylvania Broadleaf
Size: 5 x 50 Robusto
Strength: Medium/Full
Price: $7.00

Today we take a look at the Blackbird Raven Cubra.
Bought a fiver from Cigar Federation.

From Cigar Federation:
“The name of the Raven cigar has been changed to “Unkind”. Still the same great blend…just with a new name.
The reason is because there is already a “RAVEN” cigar that our owners actually own. So, they made a deal with our friends at Blackbird to be the EXCLUSIVE RETAILERS for Blackbird RAVEN Cubra!

“And let me tell you…the Blackbird RAVEN is a phenomenal smoke!
The blend recipe is one of the craziest and most eclectic we’ve ever heard of! Check it out…The wrapper is a gorgeous Brazilian leaf. Binder is from Dominican Republic. The filler tobaccos are Nicaraguan Corojo 99 and Criollo 98 and Pennsylvania Broadleaf!

“Blackbird RAVEN is full-bodied, med/full-strength.
Flavors are so awesome! Expect notes of dark chocolate, earth, espresso, raw sugar cane, cream, white pepper, and caramel!
This is –without a doubt–one of the most delicious cigars to be released this year! I guarantee you that it will grace some Top 10 Lists for 2019!”

Robusto 5 x 50 $7.00
Gran Toro 6 x 54 $9.00

This is an average looking stick. Seams are tight. There is a modicum of veinage. The triple cap is nicely applied. The oily wrapper is the color of black coffee. It has some real toothiness that makes it feel gritty. I dry boxed the stick for a couple days and it feels adequately filled throughout. And it has a closed foot.

The schnoz first picks up elements of sweetness and some floral notes. A lovely maltiness is in play. Dark chocolate mixes perfectly with some coffee aroma. And there is a slight aroma of black pepper.
The cold draw presents flavors of barnyard, chocolate, malt, black pepper, and some Indian spices. But no sweetness on the draw.

The cigar has perfect airflow so I can put my PerfecDraw draw adjustment tool away for another cigar that draws like a flattened straw. Be sure to check out Dr. Rod’s latest release of the PerfecPack cigar accessories case. Boy, I could use one.

Bulbous clouds of smoke fill the room around me.
Flavors kick in with black pepper, some unspecified sweetness components, black coffee, malt, and just the slightest touch of creaminess.

My previous two sticks both had burn issues. It’s been a couple weeks so fingers crossed no issues this morning.
Strength is an immediate potent medium.

I’ve had the cigars for a little over a month. The first two did not impress as they were smoked too early in the effort to understand when they might be ready to smoke. This morning’s stick seems to have reached a good place in its humidor aging.

There is some complexity looming. Transitions need a kick start. The finish is making its move as notes of the above-mentioned flavors linger.
I like the blend. Too bad I had to basically waste two sticks in the process of trial and error. The price is right on the mark.

An inch in, the cigar jumps to attention. Like a flower opening its petals to gulp in the sun, the flavors expand while the complexity extends its prowess.

The caramel described by CF comes into play now giving a sorely lacking counterbalance of some sweetness. It allows the creaminess to surface to a new level. In fact, every flavor is enhanced. And the strength hits medium/full. That didn’t take long.

OK. You buy these sticks, DO NOT smoke one before its rested a month in your humidor. If you do, I will visit you and climb up your gerbil’s ass. (I won’t tell your wife).

Using any number of discount codes, the cigar goes down to $6.30. This is outstanding. I can think of few cigars out of the catalogs at this price point anywhere as good as the Blackbird Raven Cubra. It appears it will be a great go-to stick when you don’t want to smoke those $12 boutique sticks you have sitting; calling your name like a siren at sea.

Tasty, tasty, tasty. To be honest, I was dreading this review as I had feared it might be a dud based on the first two sticks. I was wrong, as usual. I’m a much easier to get along with dope when I get to review a good cigar as opposed to a dog turd on life support.

Not a single burn issue with this stick. I’m sure the dry boxing helped a lot as the humidity in Wisconsin the last week has been pretty tolerable. Dry boxing your cigars when there is 75% humidity in the air doesn’t bring the stick to fruition.

A big leap occurs twice now in the first third. The complexity becomes serious. Transitions make their move.

Strength remains at medium/full.
The balance is coming together. The blend continues on its upward trajectory…doing everything I expect from a well-made boutique stick.

I never find myself accustomed to the reality that there are so many inexpensively priced cigars on the market that taste every bit as that $12 stick. Blackbird Cigars doesn’t do much PR as far as I can tell which allows them to focus on keeping their prices down and allow word of mouth to do the work for them. I applaud that. Especially, when a small company is fighting the battle of a million new boutique cigars being foisted on the smoking customer every year. Word of mouth almost always wins over manufacturer PR campaigns.
More flavors kick into gear…the sweetness is now on a parity with the savory portions.

Elements of caramel, bittersweet chocolate, some dried fruit, my palate is picking up apricot…go figure, creaminess converts black coffee to cappuccino, a nice smoky woodiness appears for the first time, the black pepper (not white pepper), is perfectly applied, the malt is now very potent; which is good in my eyes, some nuttiness, and a touch of vanilla fills out the cast.

I get my first burn issue. Fixed toot suite.

This Robusto is a slow smoke. Amply filled with the right amount of tobacco…no hard or soft spots. Nice. If the 6 x 54 Gran Toro is filled adequately, you are looking at a two-hour smoke…so the Robusto is just fine, thank you.
I could smoke the Blackbird Raven Cubra all day long.

CF sells a 6-count sampler of Blackbird blends for $40. That’s a deal. Here are the blends:
Blackbird Crow San Andres Robusto (5 x 50)
Blackbird Unkind Cubra Robusto (5 x 50)
Blackbird Rook Sumatra Robusto (5 x 50)
Blackbird Jackdaw Connecticut Robusto (5 x 50)
Blackbird Cuco Criollo Robusto (5 x 50)
Blackbird Finch Sumatra Robusto (5 x 50)
The Raven is still available.

This is exactly the type of cigar I love to smoke when I’m driving…until I was no longer allowed to smoke in the car. It has a gorgeous aura, Dora. Very satisfying.

A great cigar blend that doesn’t require dissection to enjoy. Everyone should dig this stick.
It’s taken a full 45 minutes to get to the halfway point.

The cigar is now in full bloom. Complexity is not shy. The blend is smooth as frozen custard.

No new flavors. And in fact, the level of complexity and the speed of transitions nearly make the detailed flavor elements moot. This is now a well-rounded blend that finds its center and dishes out super fine satisfaction.
The best part is it just keeps getting better…it never retreats.

I don’t review enough of CF boutique blends. I guess it is due to getting some sticks that did not impress. No one ever says this stick is just OK. Rather, it gets an onslaught of positive PR. And I’m not talking strictly about CF. Everyone does this. So, you never know what the fuck is going on. Sometimes I feel like a guinea pig. And that ain’t kosher. Besides, guinea pig bacon is funky tasting.

This following anecdote has nothing to do with anything but a close friend sent me an email describing his day waiting to be selected for jury duty and I just feel the need to reprint it here:
“I was in the courtroom and the offense was a child molestation case. I was sitting there silently brainstorming for an easy excuse to get dismissed from the case. The judge seemed like he wanted to place me on the jury. I decided to throw all my self-respect out the window and ruin my “good guy” image.

“I said, “The defendant seems innocent to me, your honor. I mean, he doesn’t look like a child molester….”

“Immediately after saying that, everyone in the courtroom suddenly gasped in a unified uproar of shock and awe. Some people seemed even angry at such an ignorant statement. The judge blinked his eyes in surprise and then asked, “So what does a child molester look like?”

“I shrugged my shoulders casually and said, “I dunno. Religious maybe?”

“Then everyone burst out laughing, some even went into a hysterical fit of laughter. Others happily applauded. Even the district attorney, whose face was fixated in serious concentration, cracked a big smile and shook his head. The judge just sat still with his mouth hanging open in utter bewilderment.

“No further questions were asked. I was dismissed from duty shortly after that.”
Yes, my friend is nuts.

Back to the Raven Cubra…
Strength hasn’t risen to a lethal dose yet. No nicotine.
Ever notice how some cigars are totally relaxing? This is one of those blends. It’s a beautiful morning, music is playing, and I don’t need to take a dump.

There isn’t much left to say about the Raven Cubra. It is a solid, tasty cigar. The price is affordable. And now I’ve been introduced to a new boutique brand that I will continue to follow.

I will snag a sampler but I just refuse to review a cigar without having a couple extra to try first.
I most definitely recommend you try this cigar. And maybe grab a sampler to see what’s up with the other blends.
I had a good time.


And now for something completely different:

I’ve played in countless bands. But my favorite band I played in was “Homegrown,” circa 1970-1972. I’ve told stories about them before. A 5-piece hard rock band that was booked all the time. We could mimic the best hard rock from Zep to Black Sabbath to the Stones to the Beatles. And everything in between.

We played the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in Tustin, CA all the time for the EM club. Our idiot booker put us in the officer’s club for one night. It was more dough and she thought it would be a welcome reprieve from the Lawrence Welk type of music usually played there. And we were young and dumb and believed her.

It was like a hooker’s bar. Lots of black leather and red velvet. The officers wore their dress uniforms and their women wore their best dresses.

Immediately, we knew we were in the wrong place. Halfway through the first song, an officer approached the band stand and told us to turn down. Naturally, we turned up.

We were really pissing everyone off. They wanted to hear country music. WTF?
Our booker must have had brain damage.

Our lead singer, Mark Baird, handed us all one hit of acid each and we popped them. Might as well make the best of things.
45 minutes later, God knows what we were playing but we were having a great time. Long extended solos on every instrument that drove the crowd apoplectic.

They tried to make us stop but we ignored them. Mark got on the mic and began spewing poetry from various beat generation poets.

A call was made to our booker. They tried to get us to stop but we wouldn’t. The booker showed up around 30 minutes later. She had a confab with the boss at the club and she came over and told us to shut ‘er down.

We were frying and just laughed. We played one last song….I remember. It was “Wild Thing.”

Now here is where the real problem set in. We were flying and couldn’t figure out how to pack up our gear. We laughed continuously. Took us almost 90 minutes to figure it out.

We had two roadies with us. One guy, Rich, was about 6’-6 and muscle bound. One of the officers tried to stuff our gear away without asking permission. Rich, who was also frying, picked him up and threw him across the room.

The MP’s were called. They stood there bouncing their night sticks into the palms of their hands while they made sure we packed up and got out. One of the MP’s was a regular when we played the EM club. It was Eddie!
Eddie knew right away we were high. And he asked for some. So, Mark gave him a hit of LSD which he immediately swallowed.

He sneaked over to the side of the stage and drank an entire pint of beer in one swallow. This facilitated the acid working faster.
We were fumbling around when we heard Eddie laughing at nothing. The other MP asked if he was OK?

The drum kit was partially set up and Eddie went over to it and grabbed a pair of sticks and started to bang the snare drum and cymbal.

All hell broke loose as more MP’s were called. One of the new MP’s got in our big roadie’s face and a fight broke out. The booker stood there with her hands in her face.

We were banned from the Officer’s club forever. Like we gave a shit. The next weekend, we were booked for the EM club where they loved us. They had actually tried to ban us from the EM club but the Marines made such a huge deal over this action that they reinstated us and just shook their heads and threw up their hands.

It took us 2 hours to drive the 15-minute way home. We kept getting lost. We saw a Taco Bell that was open and stopped and fed our faces. Mike, the guitarist, pulled out a joint and we smoked it and woops…we were really frying now.

We managed to all get home around daylight.
It was a really fun night.
Now El Toro has been shut down. Not our fault.
Good memories.

And now for something completely different; Part 2:
Another rock n roll story….

I passed the audition and was now a member of the band. I had never heard of Curved Air. They were/are huge all over Europe, South America, and Japan. But they bombed in the U.S. No idea why. Over the band’s lifetime, 18 albums were produced and all did well in those markets. I have to beg and threat to get my royalties every 6 months from London.

Yet hardcore fans of British progressive rock still look up to Curved Air as a mover and shaker in this genre of music.

The band had to complete a record deal with Decca. The path of least resistance was a live album. Again, I had no idea who Curved Air was. No idea how huge they were.

All of the original members joined up for one last hurrah…and me. They had problems with bassists like Spinal Tap had problems with drummers. I was always afraid I’d spontaneously combust. Or choke on someone else’s vomit.

The band hadn’t played together in two years but remembered the songs like they played them yesterday. Only two weeks were reserved at a rehearsal hall in Covent Garden. And those rehearsals were lax, very lax. Lots of tea and biscuit breaks.

I wasn’t learning the songs. This was a progressive band in which all the members had classical degrees. They were brilliant musicians and their music proved that out. Lots of chordal changes, complex time signatures, and very complicated themes.

The keys player, Francis Monkman, was very patient with me and helped me tremendously in learning the tunes. We rehearsed two dozen songs so we could change the 90-minute line up if we chose. Amazingly, the band averaged 5 encores per concert.

At the end of the two weeks, they were ready, but I wasn’t. I made copious notes on my own handwritten charts. In their songs, the bass was out front a lot. And the riffs had to be exact.

Our first gig was at the Royal Albert Hall. Sort of the Carnegie Hall of England.
Only I didn’t know that. I thought we were going to play some decent sized club. Again, I had no idea who they were.

I had moved into the suburbs of London to Edgeware. A very nice, modern apartment. One day, my young neighbor came to visit and we sat in my living room where I had a couple CA posters from gigs.
He was in the British Air Force. He asked what I did. I pointed at the posters and said I was with them.
“What do you mean? You’re a roadie?”
“No, I’m with them. I play bass in the band.”

His face dropped and he nervously promised me that he would tell no one where I lived. I laughed hard and told him not to worry. No groupies were piled up on my doorstep. But I couldn’t get him to act naturally around me from that point forward. That was my first realization of the enormity and popularity of Curved Air.

The night of my first gig, the band’s road manager picked us all up and we drove to the gig. As we got closer to the hall, I kept asking, “Where are we going? What’s going on? Where are we going?” No one replied. I was ignored like an errant mosquito.

We were inside the hall and the roadies had finished setting up all the equipment. The stage was humongous. I looked out to the seats and saw thousands of them, including a huge balcony.

I had a panic attack. Thinking it would be a club, I had brought my charts and a music stand that I could set up next to me. I couldn’t set a music stand on this stage. Holy shit!!

We were the headliners and a couple other bands played before us. Then we were up.

“For the first time in two years….CURVED AIR!!!!”

We dove immediately into the first song. The lights and the giant PA system and all those people. The gig was sold out. I was dying inside. I barely knew the songs and now I had to do it without cheat sheets.
But…it went off without a hitch. I hit a few clams but they weren’t noticed. Thankfully, they were in the same key as the song.

At the end of the gig, I was soaked in sweat. I left the dressing room and went back out to the stage, sat down on its edge, with my feet dangling…and just watched as people exited. They were all staring at me wondering what the hell I was doing.
I was drinking it in.

Two gigs later, we began recording for the live album. It was recorded from two gigs. Not only did I not make any mistakes, but I soared with the eagles. My playing was so good that the managing director told everyone that I was the star of the album. Heads twisted convulsively as the band members looked at him like he was crazy. Egos. That comment did not go down well with the band members.
That single comment started the slow, torturous end to my rock star career.


2 replies

  1. Good review. Loved the Zappa reference, ever meet him?

  2. Thanks Dave.
    Never met the man. Though I did attend a New Year’s concert at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion where he was the only act.
    He came on stage and told the crowd he would play for 3 hours and then he would leave…no encores.
    And then the aural assault began…each and every tune melted into the next without a single break between songs. When it ended, everyone had tinnitus.
    I did meet and hang with drummer Terry Bozzio for a time. That’s about as close as I got.

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