2016 Viaje Exclusivo Reserva | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Size: 5 x 54 Robusto
Strength: Medium
Price: $9.50

Today we take a look at the 2016 Viaje Exclusivo Reserva.
The blend first arrived on the market in 2010. Each year, a new shape and size was introduced. All the while, keeping the blend exactly the same. The only difference is that the 2020 version is box pressed.
A good friend gave me a couple original 2016 sticks in their cellos. I removed them, let them rest a couple weeks naked, and dry boxed the review stick for several days. I’m very curious to see if the Viaje stood up to 4 years of humi time.

Factory: Fábrica de Tabacos Raíces Cubanas S. de R.L.
From Halfwheel.com (8-2-2016):
“A new Viaje Exclusivo shipped earlier this year, but for the first time, it’s getting the Reserva treatment. Previously only relegated to the Oro and Platino lines, the Reserva distinction means the tobaccos used in that blend are from an older vintage, and then are aged longer than usual. The release this year comes in two different sizes: a 5 x 54 Robusto and a 6 x 52 Toro.”

Robusto 5 x 54 $9.50
Toro 6 x 52 $9.70

The cigar is in amazing shape considering it lay dormant for 4 years in my buddy’s humidor. The stick is firm throughout without soft or hard spots. Feels heavy in the hand denoting lots of tobacco in this sausage. The very oily wrapper is paper bag brown, but turns a lighter brown penny rust color in the light.
Seams are tight. Veins are plentiful but miniscule. The triple cap is expertly applied.

First up are two elements in competition for strength: Caramel and black pepper. Following in the conga line are aromas of malt, milk chocolate, cinnamon graham cracker, creaminess, cedar, and a vague summer fruit note. No barnyard present.
The cold draw presents flavors of graham cracker, chocolate, caramel, malt, creaminess, black pepper, cedar, and Cheerios.
In order to complete the cold draw portion of the program, I needed to use my PerfecDraw draw adjustment tool to auger its way through the dense tobacco.

I expect the experience to be more on the mellow side than previous 2016 reviews.
Light ‘er up…

Greta start chock full of complexity from the first puffs. Fat, juicy flavors: Creaminess, red pepper (Your tongue, not the back of your throat), baking spices, graham cracker, sweet black cherries, cedar, malted milk balls, and sloppy good creaminess; like shoving a can of whipped cream into your mouth when no one is looking.

I cannot live without my PerfecDraw. One moment, not a lick of air is passing through the cigar…the next, it’s Free Bird, baby.

More flavors pile on: Savory notes of sliced rare beef, au jus, licorice, and buttered biscuits. I’m not making this shit up my dears. This stick is just exploding with flavors forcing me to concentrate more than I’m used to at this early hour.

The burn is funky. Needs a touch up.
The smoke is definitely in the scale of Three Mile Island. It bellows without stop whether I’m puffing or not.

The cigar became super rich so quickly that I know this is going to be a great experience. I’ve smoked other cigars with some years on them and very few age well. If you choose to multi-year humidor age your cigars, make sure you’ve picked the right ones that will weather the time. I have a lot of sticks given to me with age and they tasted like dust and hay.

There is no way that this cigar could have tasted like this a few months after receipt as shown in the 2016 reviews. Proof of that is that the cigar averaged a rating of around 90. Now, this is a horse of a different color.

“Mother’s Little Helper” by the Stones is playing. They use a dulcimer in the song. I was at McCabe’s Music in Long Beach, CA when some of the Stones’ crew and head luthier came into the store. It was 1965 or 1966 and I was getting my banjo lesson from John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. They spent an hour looking over different dulcimers and split buying half a dozen of the rootsy string instruments.

I love the spicy character. I would have thought this component would have disappeared after 4 years. Not so. It is climbing a ladder to rise above the rest. Oddly, it mutates from red to black pepper and then back again every now and then.

And then the beautifully creaminess swoops in and swats the spiciness. Pop. The pepper diminishes and the sweet factors: milk chocolate…actually, more like a chocolate éclair due to the extreme creaminess. Caramel has been a staple from the start. The black cherries dart in and out never leaving tracks.

I don’t believe the flavor profile is going to expand into a million chards. It will probably stay with the flavors I’ve described and focus, instead, on the complexity, richness, balance, nuances, subtleties, transitions, and finish.

I’m dying to see how the second half, or even the last third, behaves.

The level of intensity increases in the most ridiculous manner that I had no expectations would happen.
And the best part? It is a solid medium…making it an absolutely perfect morning cigar with coffee. Or even an after-dinner cigar with your favorite spirit.

Ever notice how an ordinary cigar seems to take forever to burn through? But a great blend seems to by in several blinks of the eye.

The stick is packed solid. When I take photos while I’m reviewing, it interrupts the writing process by several minutes. Often, I must relight. Not with this baby. It keeps on chooglin’.

Know what this reminds me of? A Casdagli. No shit. Completely different leaf stats but this stick is so smooth and so complex, I can think of no other comparisons.

And over the last 10 years, the price of the cigar has barely advanced to meet the greed of the current manufacturers’ standards of doing business. Less than $10 for an artfully designed blend. Kudos Andre Farkas.

My palate and brain are being pelted by flavors extraordinaire. There is just no quitting in what this cigar is trying to convey.

A sip of water and the spiciness turns into cinnamon. The creaminess component jumps on this opportunity and it somewhere in the realm of a cinnamon Danish with light frosting. The sweetness of the dough is apparent for the first time. Probably won’t last long. In fact, the transitions are on a mission from God to baffle me with their speed of rotation.

Now I know a lot of you smokers have already enjoyed this cigar with time on it and you are nodding like a bobble doll at my descriptions.

I am reflecting on the Viaje blends I wasn’t crazy about. Would time have changed my opinion? Don’t know. The last time I let something marinate for 4 years…actually, I’ve never had the patience or the dough to do this. Thank goodness I have friends who have the cigar overload and patience to do this for me.

Still medium strength.

Gadzooks. I’m only halfway through and this is turning out to be a fucking killer blend. It would absolutely end up in my top 25 of 2020. But as it is a 2016, that would be cheating. Maybe I can put an asterisk next to the name? Like they did with Roger Maris’s homerun record because they played more games than they did when Babe Ruth played.

Naturally, nicotine couldn’t have dissipated over the years. I’m getting a real punch to the gut now. My vision is impaired and I’m listening to SRV. Sorta’ works out.

I dunk my head into the cat litter box to shake it off and it works. Don’t do this at home if you aren’t a professional.

I smoked one a few days ago but it was in the evening and my palate was crispy from smoking all day. Didn’t taste any of what I taste this morning. Just say no to smoking high premiums when you are an idiot like me.

I spoke to Ted Turner of Wishbone Ash the other day. He was celebrating because the Irish government made it mandatory for artists to get their back royalties for songs they played on since Moses was in diapers. I told him that Miles Copeland owes me nearly 45 years of mechanical royalties. Ted said, “Me too.” Wishbone was Copeland’s first band he managed. You’d think there would be some loyalty there. Nope. Not when it comes to a Copeland.

Second sip of water and I must duck to get out of the way of the flood of flavors. Manny Mota and Jesus Alou!
The complexity, richness, and balance have now formed an alliance. The cigar flavors are now greater than its parts. You stick this cigar in the mouth of a smoker who can’t dissect flavors and you will have an amazed subject.

This ride has been a whirlwind. Time has flown by. Yet it’s taken me over an hour to get here.
There is no end in sight for the ascendance.

Jimi is playing. I remember from the 60’s and early 70’s, every cover band I played in would do some of his tunes. The real disappointment came when it was time for a guitar solo. No one I ever played with could do Jimi justice. But then, only the musicians in the crowd noticed. Everyone in the audience was jubilant and dancing.

The Viaje has formed its own eco system. The intensity is mind boggling. Yet the strength is only now making a move towards medium/full. This cigar is a smoker’s dream.

A friend sent me a bunch of Davidoffs. Out of the 6-7 different blends, only two stood out. None of the cigars tendered cost less than $40…some as high as $80. And it became painfully clear that they weren’t made for extensive aging. All of the cigars were anywhere from 5-9 years old.

The nicotine has remained manageable. Most of my vision has returned.
Not a lick of harshness or bitterness or mustiness.

One of the reasons that folks love Isabela cigars is that they receive years of aging after rolled before they are shoved into cellophane. It is one of those rare cigars that is ready to go on receipt. Of course, they get better with naked humi time, but they fly off the shelves at Prime Cigar.

It’s a shame that most cigar smokers never really get the chance to smoke the true blender’s intent of most cigars they purchase.

I have other older cigars I could review but all were limited editions and no longer available; so, it makes no sense to review them except under the title Unicorn Review.
The 2020 versions are plentiful. I would love to buy a box and then squirrel them away for a few years. But since I’m 70, I could be dead before I get to smoke them. Lose/Lose.


And now for something completely different:

Back in the early 80’s, I had a lot of friends because I owned a recording studio in Long Beach, CA. One of them was an L.A. disk jockey on a major rock station. His name is Marshall. He used to get me into to the cool places and clubs in Hollywood.

We used to hang out at this club, that is long gone, that was very small and on the Sunset Strip. I met Ray Manzarek of “The Doors” there. He was very laid back and we saw him there the one or two times we visited the club per week. We got friendly and I made my bones by playing bass in Curved Air. So, we talked music…we traded road stories. And tooted nose candy together.

The Fabulous Thunderbirds used to play at this club fairly often. And this was when Jimmie Vaughan was in the band…that’s Stevie Ray’s brother for those of you who are not sure.

There may have been a dozen tables and a bar where the tiny bandstand was. The FT’s were getting airplay back then and since Marshall was a big shot DJ, the boys of the band would always visit with us for a while.

One night, Jimmie suggested I bring my bass with me next time they play there. I was in shock. Actually, what was shocking was that this band of extreme talent only filled half the room of a dozen tables. We sat maybe 6’ from the bandstand. And would kibitz with the band between songs. We turned into good natured hecklers. Sometimes, Manzarek would join us at our table and heckle.

The very next time we visited the club, I had my bass. I studied some of their songs at home so I wouldn’t make an ass of myself. I was ready.
Sure as shit, the boys asked me up to jam on their fourth set when there was basically no one left in the club. I played my Schecter fretless. I got to play 4 songs with them and did pretty well. No clams.

After the gig, the band sat at our table, with Manzarek, and shot the shit while the roadies packed their gear. We sat there until 5am. These boys were hard drinking fellas. No way could I keep up with them. I had to do a fair amount of toot to stay conscious…which I spread around the table….in fact, everyone shared. So, we talked all over each other and laughed all night…of course, with the club closed, out came the herb. So, it was crazy nuts.

Jimmie told stories about his brother. It was about 8 years later that Stevie died. Ray told stories about The Doors that had us all rapt with wonder….

Jimmie told us how a roadie would super glue the tips of Stevie’s fingers back on during concerts. None of us could fathom that and wondered if he was pulling our leg.

The night ended and it wasn’t til that afternoon, that I was calm enough to go to bed. Marshall and I continued to visit that club, but I never took my bass back. I figured it would be presumptuous of me to bring it without being asked.

The Thunderbirds disappeared into the night playing much bigger gigs…but Ray Manzarek was always there. We eventually began to feel sorry for him. He always seemed to be sad. He took a big fall from grace from the 1960’s to the 1980’s.
But I had the time of my life back then.


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7 replies

  1. Awesome music story, as usual.

    They weren’t kidding about Stevie’s fingers. Go to about 34:40 here (should be timestamped, just in case). Look at those insane calluses. I can’t see how they would not need superglue!

  2. Holy shit. His fingers look like something from a monster movie.

  3. Phil, I miss a few people I use to converse with at my local cigar lounge as I no longer patronize the store, having your reviews makes me feel I’m still in touch with someone I can relate to. The music memories are super interesting. I can’t say enough to let you know how much your blog means to a disenfranchised smoker like me. Thank you…


  4. Hi Kevin,
    We need to get together to do some peyote.
    Cigar lounges are strange places. Most patrons are loners. Some groups are exclusive and no one is invited in. Or it’s a place for a businessman who needs a work space.
    I’ve tried over the years to find a place where I fit in…yep, never happened. I have always found myself sitting at the bar next to some old fart who has no friends and unloads his entire life on me. Good times.
    The trick is finding the right concierge/bartender/host of a lounge that is fun and gets you involved in the conversation.
    To be honest, I enjoy a cigar much more when I’m alone. I can focus on it. I can fiddle with my laptop while the TV is on and get up and go to the fridge if needed.
    I thank you for your kind words. It is truly appreciated.
    I will email you soon.
    All the best,

  5. Your reviews are simply amazing! I love the depth and truth that comes from these reviews and music knowledge. Kudos to you my brother

  6. Hi Jim,
    Thank you so much. Comments like yours mean the world to me. It gives this decrepit old man a good reason to continue. If I can spread more inappropriate and profane stories to the smoking world, then I’m happy. With a heavy dose of honesty…
    All the best,

  7. re: peyote, I’ll have to ask my wife first…
    re: cigar lounges, totally agree…always playfully condemned for sitting in a chair as far away as I could to get away from the main crowd. We did however have a great group at one time, maybe 2013-2017…Sundays we bbq, booze flowing, NFL games…not anymore, store was sold, moved up the street and everyone kind of went their separate ways…
    I’ve been home since March, thank God I still have a job and can work from home…my 2 stations keep me busy and at my age I think it’s best to lay low and not go out too much.
    In the meantime, I have my screened in deck here in North Carolina and I can get pretty far away from my wife and enjoy my cigars. Take care Phil…


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