Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés Negro “Cultivo Tonto”
Binder: Ecuadorian Hybrid Habano
Filler: Nicaraguan, Pennsylvania Thin Ligero
Size: 7 x 52 Box Pressed Churchill
A very nice man sent me samples.
Released October 2021
Aged one year after rolling.
Boxes of 13
From Halfwheel.com (7-1-2021):
“For the last two years, Steve Saka, Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust’s founder, has been smoking a version of Sin Compromiso that is made with the best leaves amongst the tobaccos that the company selects for Sin Compromiso, Dunbarton’s flagship brand. Now, that cigar will get released as Paladin de Saka.
“Cultivo Tonto” refers to a unique growing method, inspired by how farmers in Japan grow certain fruit. Farmers remove the plant’s lower leaves so that the maximum amount of nutrients can be sent to the upper leaves. Because of this, the yields of these plants are lower and the prices for the tobacco are much higher.
“Saka told halfwheel the blend is “a touch more robust” than the regular Sin Compromiso. The cigar also receives a regular box press instead of the softer press found on Sin Compromiso. They are also aged for a year after rolling.”
Long Tall Sally. A nice-looking stick for several reasons…the oily mocha java wrapper shines like Danny DeVito’s head in SoCal sunlight. Seams are completely visible but done in a way that makes it seem like a challenged barber pole. The seams are geometric in nature and allows the eyes to fixate on a stunning wrapper devoid of lumps, bumps, and imperfections. Construction over all is gorgeous. The triple cap is nearly seamless. The wrapper is ultra-smooth except in a few places where a fine tooth feels like Granny’s chin hair. The best part? From stem to stern, the cigar has the righteous amount of give when my fingers depress the stick. Not a single hard or soft spot; evenly distributed. Nice. The cigar band is simple and classic. No skulls.
SMELL THE GLOVE:
Immediate flow of aromas snares my schnoz with notes of dark chocolate, floral notes, espresso, caramel, raisins, licorice, cedar, malt, barnyard, burnt nuts (Be careful when you light this cigar), cinnamon, and fibrous black pepper. No aroma outweighs another. The team is working together.
The cold draw presents flavors of clove, dark cocoa, espresso, caramel, popcorn, burnt nuts, raisins, malt, licorice, cinnamon, black pepper,,,wait…this is exactly the same as the aromas. Nice but unusual. You don’t normally get all the flavors in the cold draw as you get from your nose.
The draw is perfect…hence no need for my PerfecDraw draw adjustment tool. I place it carefully into its sarcophagus…along with my first wife.
It is a heavy cigar. It will be difficult in the first half to hold it between my lips while typing. What can I say? I have a weak jaw. I guess being a gigolo in my 20’s and 30’s had its comeuppance.
Immediate complexity slams into the garage wall. It takes out the ping pong table and my second wife.
A lovely sweetness arrives toot suite. It seems to derive from elements of raisins, caramel, cinnamon buns, and black licorice.
The black pepper is mild to the touch. Just enough to make sure you know its there chooglin’ down the line…a peppy kick.
If the start can drive the bus full of lemmings to the edge of the cliff for all 7”, this will be one fantastic cigar. And yes…I know you are all thinking $30!! It better make all my organs vibrate in rhythm while my colon collapses. But as this cigar is beautifully packed to the gullets, it is a slow ride which will give the cigar plenty of time to impress.
The aging is so prevalent in the taste department that my palate wants to plotz.
New flavors are shot out of a cannon at light speed. I turn the light off so I can describe them…an expensive bourbon sweetness, creaminess shows up and coats my mouth with butterscotch ice cream, there is a touch of fine homemade BBQ sauce that just darts around without ever settling into one slot of the puzzle, charred meat stands as the cigar reaches the 1” burned mark. Other flavors dot the horizon, but are so subtle at this point, that identifying them will either come later or I missed a great opportunity for my brain to go into overdrive.
Strength is a solid medium.
The char line of this box press behaves like a champ.
Not a single linear quality as improvement of its complexity, balance, and subtleties expand like nuclear fission.
I shall be honest…I fully expect a $30 cigar to blow my toupee off. So far, mission accomplished.
While most cigars’ parameters are just this wide, the Paladin is riding the wind with one arm in the air and whoopin’ and hollerin’ like Hopalong Cassidy.
I can taste the aging having a bigger impact with every puff. It is as dense as a 3” thick hunk of dark chocolate.
The cinnamon and the black pepper do a hoedown with clogs and a snappy tempo. They intertwine like a Culebra.
Strength remains at very calm and relaxing medium.
I get some fruitiness…very mild and fleeting…blueberries and rich mango. I don’t expect you to taste everything I taste as palates are as different as fingerprints. But the baseline of flavors is succinct without needing safe harbor.
Almond Roca surprises me as I think I’m beginning to hallucinate as this blend just takes off into a million directions. This will be an amazing adventure for every person that smokes one. It is the cigar of the future that has a chip inside it so it can adapt to what each smoker’s palate adores.
“Time of the Season” by The Zombies is playing. I hear that famous organ solo and the clams the keyboard player made…and apparently, he couldn’t do any better no matter how many takes they did so they took the best of the solos and said the hell with it.
The flavor profile expands like a mushroom cloud over Cleveland. My third wife lives there.
Intensity, without a barrage of confusion, is the key as this blend plays its solo without flotsam and jetsam.
The only way to truly enjoy this cigar is to lock yourself into your man cave…put some music on…imbibe your fave liquid and forbid any intrusions to the occasion. This is an absolutely killer blend.
The first third took a good 45 minutes. I put the song, “Pennies from Heaven” on and then immediately turn it off and listen to the Allman Bros instead.
The strength is totally controlled by a force greater than the Cosmic Muffin. Still a nice easy going medium which allows all the nuances and subtleties to shine through.
Butter Brickle. This is a first, but I don’t know any other way to explain what I taste.
My I.Q. is a hefty 83. I’m taking injections to get it to 87.
For my palate, this is a perfect blend. It checks off everything on my list.
It is by no means a flavor bomb. It is a solid blue-ribbon cigar. Flavor tidbits fly by like gnats at a picnic. But I don’t swat them away. I eat them. I didn’t say I was smart.
The slow roll of the Paladin is scrumptious. What a friggin treat. Big time, my dears.
I hear from a ton of readers every day. Most readers don’t realize that due to having a couple thousand reviews on this platform, someone is commenting on something I reviewed last year or 8 years ago. I know I have readers that are on strict cigar budgets and a $30 cigar is a big push. But other readers have the dough. And it’s nothing to spend this kind of ransom for a great cigar. As I am an old, retired man, I must be careful what I spend my money on. If I was flush like Steve Saka, I’d buy a box without thinking twice. This cigar is that good. OK. Maybe two or three boxes.
This is by far one of Steve Saka’s finest endeavors. This cigar will be loved by all sophisticates of the tobacco club. But even newbies can dig a pony as the strength is strictly controlled.
And again, I must explain. Just because I deem a cigar perfect does not mean it is the best cigar in the world. There is a host of perfect cigars being produced…just not often.
I’m now sitting in my yurt allowing the smoke to coat me like a corn dog while speaking in tongues. I’m sure that the shrooms help.
I’ve bought Casdagli cigars in the $20+ range and never thought twice because they are damn fine blends. The Paladin gives you what you pay for. Pure delight.
Normally, I don’t get Churchills. It is hard to make time for them. Plus, none I’ve smoked are anywhere as good as the Paladin. Expecting this cigar experience to last 2-1/2 hours makes it that much more fun. There is no relenting of the expertise of the blending. I cannot imagine how proud Mr. Saka must be of this cigar. It is pure gold.
Strength remains at medium. Genius. Not a single flavor element is held back or hidden. It is a 3-ring circus.
Brown sugar, cinnamon, charred steak, malt, an ever-changing whisky touch, the assorted fruitiness, a strong oakiness, café au lait, Swiss chocolate, brioche, a very mild hint of cloves, a perfectly potent black pepper, candied underwear, and a new hint of sweet apple.
I hit the halfway point at an hour and a quarter…maybe longer. I’m so immersed into the Paladin, I just stopped paying attention to the clock.
The sweet spot basically started when I lit the cigar.
I know I’m fawning. Try one and you will understand. It is bold and delicate at the same time. Flavors fan out like a tsunami. It is intense and smooth. It is balanced perfectly and still as wild as the stripper you dated when you were younger.
I can’t think of a single criticism. Perfect construction. Perfect char line. No re-lights. It is a magic carpet ride…without the In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida drum solo.
My whole being has been glazed over. I am in a blissful state…instead of Wisconsin.
This has been a good year for cigars despite the pandemic. I have started to compile my list for the year, and it is full of great cigars. I am flummoxed as to how I will choose. I have a couple blends I reviewed that were also perfect cigars for my palate.
I’ve only smoked a few cigars in the past that are as good as the Paladin. I’m not kidding…no bullshit. It is a living marvel.
The frigid weather here in Milwaukee does a number on my cigars no matter the careful management of their dormant lives. I see cracks on too many cigars. But when it is 5 degrees outside, nature takes its toll. The Paladin has no faults in this category. Not a single wayward seam or crack of its wrapper. Beautiful. I’m sitting with the windows open and my ‘nads have gone somewhere to hide.
The stunning attribute is the cigar copying the ever-expanding universe. The flavor profile widens without prejudice. It is a masterpiece.
The strength begins to move into medium/full territory. No biggie. I’m a grown man…unless you ask my wife.
Not a single flavor has retreated into hiding. It is all there to taste.
Complexity is a mysterious thing to me. But then so is the human palate. How a blend can be so intense and yet smooth and nuanced at the same time is beyond my comprehension. It takes real devotion and passion to produce a cigar like the Paladin.
I expected to nit pick this blend. OK. Maybe not an 87…but 86 for sure. I’m speaking of my I.Q., not the final cigar rating. But you knew that.
This is nearly overwhelming. If you are like most cigar smokers, you have your special collection but spend most of your time with your go-to sticks. The Paladin is a special occasion. I don’t want it to end.
I could have used half the words describing this cigar but since I smoke and review at the same time, I go on and on and on…
This cigar ruins you for the rest of the day if you are a multi-cigar smoker.
“Somebody to Love” by the Airplane is playing. In the 60’s, every guy on the planet would listen to their albums and then just stare at the liner photos of Grace Slick. Sort of like Carly Simon albums.
Where was I?
The last third excels. No prisoners taken alive.
It will be a 2-1/2 hour smoke and a very lovely one at that.
I have nothing more to add. Just a stunner by Mr. Saka.
If you have the means, get some…
Categories: CIGAR REVIEWS