Sensei’s Sensational Sarsaparilla 2021 | Cigar Reviews by the Katman

Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan (Condega & Esteli)
Size: 5.5 x 42 Belicoso
Strength: Medium/Full
Price: $10.00

A couple sticks of the new release were gifted to me by good friend, Aaron H. He is currently in the Fed’s hands as he goes through de-programming for posting the truth on social media. Big no-no. The government will find you. Aaron is the rare individual who has a stellar I.Q. of 187 when he is asleep…but only an I.Q. of 78 when awake.

From (4-5-2021):
“Sensei’s Sensational Sarsaparilla, the collaboration between Espinosa Premium Cigars and Cigar Dojo that first debuted in 2014, is coming back for a national release later this summer.

“The cigar returns in its original 5 1/2 x 52 belicoso vitola, using a Mexican San Andrés wrapper, Nicaraguan binder, and fillers from the Condega and Estelí regions of Nicaragua. The cigar got its name due in part to the distinct flavor of sarsaparilla root beer that the companies say is found in the profile.

“The original Sarsaparilla was the first Dojo collaboration where we had full control of the final product,” said Eric Guttormson, owner of Cigar Dojo, via a press release, adding that “the Espinosa team let us run wild with the branding, marketing, and promotion, as well as picking the final blend.”

“Now, Sensei’s Sensational Sarsaparilla gets a more refined presentation, as the first version came in paper-wrapped bundles. Production numbers have also increased, though the company has not disclosed them other than to say that the cigar is becoming an ongoing, seasonal release, as opposed to the one-time run of 1,000 bundles of 10 cigars for the original. Additionally, while the original version was a store exclusive, this new version will be available to retailers nationwide.

“Bro, when you think of Cigar Dojo and Espinosa Cigars, your first thought is Sarsaparilla,” said Erik Espinosa, owner of Espinosa Premium Cigars, via a press release. “It’s the one that started it all. It’s time for everyone to get a turn with this cigar.”

“Each cigar has an MSRP of $10, with boxes priced at $99.95. It will be formally released at the 2021 PCA Convention & Trade Show, which runs from July 10-13. The cigar is scheduled to begin shipping to retailers in August.”

The cigar certainly looks like root beer on a stick. A dark maroon wrapper that is extremely toothy…but dotted with hard spots and soft spots. It’s very lumpy and bumpy. Nice Belicoso cap. And a root beer colored cigar band.

No root beer aroma but I do smell creaminess, floral notes, cinnamon, nutmeg, licorice, malt, espresso, cedar, barnyard, some kind of pepper, a little honey, and some black cherry.

The cold draw presents flavors of cinnamon, red pepper, nutmeg, creaminess, espresso, licorice, a hint of dark chocolate, cedar, and a wishful thought of wintergreen.

The draw is fine, so my PerfecDraw draw adjustment tool is left in its special shrine.

The sticks have had two months of humi time.

From Wikipedia: “While no standard recipe exists, the primary ingredients in modern root beer are filtered water, sugar, and safrole-free sassafras extract, which complements other flavors. Common flavorings are vanilla, caramel, wintergreen, black cherry bark, licorice root, sarsaparilla root, nutmeg, acacia, anise, molasses, cinnamon, sweet birch, and honey. Soybean protein, or yucca is sometimes used to create a foamy quality, and caramel coloring is used to make the beverage brown.”

Well, I guess this narrows down the flavor profile possibilities.

After being constantly goaded by Aaron, I tried a stick last night. I picked up some of the ingredients of root beer but not a distinct root beer flavor. I sipped water to see if it would help[…it didn’t. Without thought, I got a black cherry Diet Coke out of the fridge and after my first sip and then a puff…Voila…a I got root beer. I have a brain aneurysm that comes and goes.

And some of those root beer ingredients you see above, I thought I could pick some out, but I have no idea if I was willing it to be so; instead of naturally and organically actually tasting those elements. I had smoked all day and eaten so no idea if I got the most out of the cigar.

This morning is a clean slate and I’m curious to see if a clean palate picks up the advertised flavors.
It starts with a mish mosh of indistinct flavors.

In high school, I worked at Knott’s Berry Farm. The old western style amusement park had a main street with a big old time candy shop. It had on display at least 30 or more boxes of flavored licorice that you could just stick your hand in and grab. This is where I believe I developed my immune system. But you could also buy some real sassafras root to chew on…and I did so on a regular basis because it was damn fine.

There is some complexity attaching itself to the cigar early on. Sips of water only emphasize elements of vanilla, caramel, black cherry, beef jerky, creaminess, red pepper, cinnamon, and sassafras root. Close, but not root beer.

I will see how it goes. Water does not seem to accentuate the promised root beer flavors. At the halfway point, I’m switching to black cherry Coke.

Strength is an easy going medium.
The char line is behaving itself.

Between the cinnamon and red pepper, ooh…a spicy meatball.

An interesting blend. But off the beaten track. It is not an infused cigar or a flavored cigar. But the weight lies heavily on the sweet side with that hotsy totsy spiciness.

With 1-1/2” burned, I grab a black cherry Coke. A sip…and yes, we have root beer when I puff.

And as I savor the odd cigar flavors, the blend makes a small leap into building its character with some nuances and additional complexity. The black cherry Coke takes the edge off the spiciness and allows the root beer elements to lose their bathrobes.

The sassafras root comes to the forefront and brings back memories from over 50 years ago. Pretty cool.

I wonder what the mass smoker reaction would be if Espinosa did not shine the spotlight on the root beer analogy? And just marketed it as another blend in his catalog? Maybe call it Swept Away in a Flood. Or Burned at the Stake. Or My Haitian Nurse is Plotting to Kill Me.

It is a perfectly attentive blend. Nicotine kicks in early as I notice the laptop screen dancing. Strength has moved up a notch.

Another sip of Coke and the blend really explodes with the anointed flavor profile. Crazy, huh?

Now, I’m digging the cigar.

The savory portions seem to come more from the elevated state of the tobacco used in the blend…rather than numerous beefy identities.

“Cut the Cake” by Average White Band. I was living in London in the 70’s when they first debuted on English radio. Finally, something I really got into. Scots pretending to be American musicians. OK with me.

Seemed quick.
The char line is wonky but no torch to foot required.

The blend improves with every puff. It gets heftier in the character department.

No idea if this cigar would excel with a good beer or spirits.

The root beer definitely has its influence…or at least some of the ingredients that conjure up the described nature of the design.

For $9 or $10 price tag, it is in the right neighborhood. But it is more of a novelty cigar…just short of a flavored or infused stick.

I also wonder how the blend came to be. Did Espinosa seek out a root beer blend…or was it just an accident? Nothing is divulged in the press release.

Transitions start with the spiciness…which is strong enough to mute the root beer ingredients. The flavor profile is subtle, and the peppery element covers up more than it should. I’m still digging it. It has only had a couple months humi time so maybe a few more will calm the spiciness down.

Have it on the Tower of Power station again. I was born to funkify. It’s always been a holy experience to have played with some really funky drummers from my past that just made playing bass a dream. I can solo the shit out of it. ELO and jam on the bass? Not so much.

The halfway point is upon me.

I like the novelty only because it’s done right.

And mysteriously, the red pepper and cinnamon mellow out…allowing the previously described flavors to hit the stage front and center. Constant motion. Nice transitions.

Strength is medium/full.

Creaminess, or root beer foam, goes for gold. Big fat notes.

Back in my teen years, I’d go visit my best friend in Fullerton. We’d head into downtown and hit the A&W drive in first. That big frosty mug and a pair of taquitos went down nicely.

Sips of the Coke allows the blend to shine.

I couldn’t find info on whether this is a limited edition or regular production. Some online stores are out of the blend…others say get ‘em while they’re hot. This is no help.

The cigar is worth a fiver. A good stick to share with friends to get their opinions.

Vanilla, caramel, wintergreen, black cherry, licorice root, sarsaparilla root, nutmeg, anise, molasses, cinnamon, and honey are all in the mix.

Normally, I would tell you the blend is shy on savory components, but we are dealing with a novelty blend. Although, some strong savory notes would be welcome…for balance.

Some bitterness appears. I remember that chewing too long on that sassafras root caused the same reaction.
A sip of water and the bitterness is an enabler of the bitterness.
A sip of black cherry Coke and the bitterness disappears.

A fun cigar.
The nicotine is soaring.
The cigar is not full tilt, but the potent medium/full strength is a handful.

Advancement of the complexity has reached its zenith and maintains an even keel that seems comfortable.

Creaminess trumps the other flavors and battles to the death with the mild bitterness.

The denouement remains in stasis.
Never got a sweet spot. A missing element that would have enhanced the experience.
I have 1-1/2” to go but the blend has reached its mic drop. The bitterness won’t relent.
I’m calling it quits. More humidor time is suggested.


And now for something completely different:

I had my own TV show back in 1983 in L.A. OK. It was on Public Access. But it was a well-produced show. My partner was a hot shot radio DJ named Marshall Thomas. We came up with the idea of getting some rock veterans on and interview them within a 30-minute framework.

Our first show was a disaster. We had 3 guests. Two of the original members of the band, “The Larks.” They had a hit in 1964 with “The Jerk.”

It went on to be a big dance step in the 60’s. One that almost popped some of the discs from the backs of the Greatest Generation parents who wanted to look cool in front of their children.

The Larks had a new song they wanted to promote. It was on some obscure label. The successful days of The Larks were way behind them. Although they did go on to do those big Oldies but Goodies concerts.

The second guest was Richard Berry who wrote “Louie, Louie,” made famous by The Kingsmen in 1963. What we didn’t know was that Berry suffered from narcolepsy and constantly fell asleep during the interview. I yelled CUT more times than a moil doing a double shift.

We had a simple, but cool, set. We bought sheets of maple veneered plywood and attached lots of 45 singles to them. We had a small riser with chairs. It was a nice comfy setting.

Here is what still cracks me up today. Both The Larks and Berry lip synced songs. The Larks were first.
Marshall said, “So fellas, would you like to set the song up for us?”
Clearly confused, the two men got up out of their seats and started to move the furniture.

I came out from the booth and explained that Marshall wanted them to explain the song and how it came about, not move furniture.

Then it was Richard Berry’s turn and he lip synced to his original version of “Louis, Louis.” He was barely awake during the song.

Our second show was classier. We had Darlene Love (The Blossoms and wife of Danny Glover in the “Lethal Weapon” movies) and Hall of Fame drummer, Hal Blaine.

Darlene was in the mega hit girl group, “The Blossoms” during the 1960s. Hal has a resume that is, to this day, unbelievable and later, 1981-1984, became my friend and mentor.

In 1971, Ed Sullivan had a show completely dedicated to Nancy Sinatra. It was taped at her Las Vegas casino show. Big band behind her. Hal was on drums. The Blossoms sang back up.

In order to view the show in 1971, Hal went out and bought a $2500 video player (Nearly $17K in 2021 dollars). It was a Sony reel to reel video. It also came with a heavy black and white monitor.

Since, the show was on a reel, we had to transfer it to ¾” video cassette. Hal was separated from his wife at the time and living on his yacht in Marina Del Rey, CA. He got the video equipment out of storage and brought it to his boat. I then went to the boat to pick it up. Of course, the damn boat seemed like a mile from the parking lot.

And this shit weighed a ton. I felt like my arms stretched a foot carrying it to my car.

The transfer was made at a Hollywood studio.

I was done with it, so I took the equipment back to his boat and Hal said, “Phil. Would you please do me a favor and hold on to it? There is no room on my boat.”
I shivered. “OK Hal.” And I dragged it back to my car. To this day, I still have a pristine Sony reel to reel video player and recorder.

The show went well, and Darlene and Hal were lively guests. We showed clips from the Nancy Sinatra show a couple of times.

Hal and I bonded and, like I said, became my mentor for a couple of years doing me favors I would have never expected. If you want to check out his discography, go to It will stun you. He even played on some Beatles tracks. And Ringo’s original kit was an exact duplicate of Hal’s.

We did a few more shows and then we just got busy doing other things. But I still have the shows on VHS and haven’t watched them in years. Someday, I will transfer them to DVD and not ruin my back by doing so.


2 replies

  1. Cherry coke, huh? That’s the secret key to unlock the sarsaparilla flavor? I’m going to go try it. Good review!

  2. Hey Aaron,
    Yeah baby…it worked for me.
    But I do remind everyone the cigar only had a couple months humi time and it shows great promise if left alone to hibernate for a few months.
    Once again, I thank you my liege…

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