ROMEO by Romeo y Julieta Aging Room Small Batch F25
So, you guys should all be familiar with Jeff by now. He’s our honorary Casas Fumando writer, and he kicked out tons of great reviews. If he keeps this up we are going to force him to join us full time. Until then, enjoy his newest “Guest” review.
The ROMEO by Romeo y Julieta Aging Room Small Batch F25 was recently released by Altadis USA, and it represents a departure from the way RyJ has done things up to this point. The cigar was blended by Boutique Blends’ Rafael Nodal under the Aging Room moniker and rolled at Jochy Blanco’s Tabacalera Palma in the Dominican Republic entirely from Habano tobaccos grown in the DR’s Cibao valley. As far as I can tell, this is a joint venture with Boutique Blends being the actual manufacturer, and RyJ the “contractor” and distributor, and would appear to be intended to draw in the sector of the market that leans toward the higher end and boutique cigars.
Rafael Nodal related to Cigar Aficionado that “It is unbelievable that I can work with one of the biggest brands in the word. When I created the blend for this cigar, I really had to consider the history of the Romeo y Julieta brand and appeal to its classic elements by making it as refined as possible.” In the same article, Javier Estades, general manager of premium cigar for Altadis USA said, “I’m very excited about the Romeo by Romeo y Julieta Aging Room project and the collaboration with Rafael and our respective teams. It’s a great opportunity for Romeo to continue to offer new and innovative offerings to the market.”
The ROMEO by RyJ Aging Room comes in three sizes: Copla 5×48; Capriccio 6×54; and Cantaor (Belicoso) 6×52. The prices run between $11.50 and $12.50 each and the cigars are available only through brick and mortar stores, although as always, they can be had through B&M stores that also maintain an online presence (they just can’t advertise prices online, so you would have to contact them directly for price and availability).
I was only vaguely aware of the existence of this cigar when I happened to come upon a giveaway by our friends at Florida cigar shop Cuenca Cigars (and makers of the terrific Cuenca 5 Anniversary – see Jeremy’s review of it here) and to my surprise, won a few of them along with a couple of ROMEO Añejos after forgetting that I had even entered. So a big “thank you!” to Cuenca Cigars, and especially Ana Cuenca, for making this review possible.
Wrapper: Havano Dominican Republic Cibao valley
Binder: Havano Dominican Republic Cibao valley
Filler: Havano Dominican Republic Cibao valley
Size: Cantaor 6×52 Belicoso
Smoking time: One hour, forty-five minutes
Pairing: Lagunitas Sucks (ABV 8%)
The ROMEO by Rome y Julieta Aging Room Small Batch F25 Cantaor has probably the longest damned name I’ve ever had to type out, and will henceforth be referred to here as ROMEO Aging Room F25. The cigar comes with a rather impressive presentation – a large brown and shiny gold band with the word ROMEO embossed into the main gold portion (which I just know will be nearly impossible for me to photograph with my limited equipment) and a small brown footband. In between, the barrel of the cigar is covered in white paper with a portrayal of an Old World map in gold and “Small Batch F25” in brown. As flashy as it looks however, it’s all a bit – or a lot – busy and hard to read, and like many others, I feel that the trend of covering up the wrapper almost entirely is a bit of a turn-off as it doesn’t allow purchasers to see exactly what they are getting. We’ll just have to trust RyJ’s reputation for quality on this one…
The foot band comes off easily, but the paper sleeve is a pain as it’s partially tucked under the primary band, so it takes a bit of maneuvering to get it off. Once I do get it off, I can see that the ROMEO Aging Room F25 comes draped in a thick, oily, reddish-brown wrapper with darker mottling. There are a few smallish veins leading to a sharply pointed cap, and the stick is for the most part firmly rolled with a few softer spots and a soft, somewhat underpacked foot. The scent off of the wrapper is very faint sour tobacco, while the foot shows some cedar and cocoa powder. An easy clip of the cap reveals a snug draw that produces some sweet cedar and hay and leaves a definite saltiness on the lips.
The ROMEO Aging Room F25 starts out in a mild manner with tangy cedar, sweet spices, and bright earthy tobacco. The salt plays on the lips as a seasoning of sorts, and the retrohale features smooth cedar with a citrus-y edge and the slightest hint of pepper. The burn has started out pretty wacky, so we’ll see how that goes. An inch in, the flavors have deepened and the F25 has moved into the lower end of medium. The cedar has turned to more of an oak, and the citrus from retrohale has spread to the palate along with coffee notes. The saltiness has thankfully stepped back, although it is still there as a complementary element. Near the 1-1/2” mark, the burn has completely evened itself out, as the somewhat flaky tan tinged gray ash taps off.
By the beginning of the middle third of the ROMEO Aging Room F25, the burn has again gone off by a good half-inch on one side, but I’m not going to worry about it, and in fact, almost as soon as I write that, it has self-corrected. The cigar has settled into a comfortable medium body as the flavors continue to develop greater depth and intermingle nicely. The sweet spice and coffee notes have become more prominent, but haven’t overtaken the wood, citrus, and musty/musky tobacco, and the saltiness has pretty much disappeared. While just a hint of pepper persists, the F25 remains an enjoyably smooth experience.
Into the last portion of the ROMEO Aging Room F25, I finally had to give a re-light when I thought I’d sneak in a little dinner prep and spent a little too long on it. After a quick re-light and purge, the cigar continues to provide an enjoyable experience, moving to a medium-plus body while nicotine is not very noticeable at all. A small amount of char has added itself to the wood, the coffee has become more of a semi-sweet cocoa, and the pepper has popped up a little more. The other flavors have remained consistent, but not at all boring, smoking cool to the end.
I can’t say that I’m very conversant on the traditional lines that Romeo y Julieta puts out, as I find them to be not so much to my taste and a little bland. The ROMEO by Romeo y Julieta Aging Room Small Batch F25 Cantaor, however, was a much different animal with a well put together mixture of flavors, and I especially liked the way the citrus in it played with the other elements. It’s a tasty medium bodied cigar that can be smoked throughout the day, and although it did not show a lot in terms of transitions, what it did have was nicely displayed with enough complexity to keep me involved. The price, though, is what may be a point of hesitation for some, myself included, as I would prefer to see it a dollar or two lower, but that would be something potential smokers will have to decide for themselves. With the previous stick that I smoked not having the soft spots I encountered in this one, and the Copla robusto sitting in my humidor seeming to be firmly rolled throughout, I believe that I can safely say that the construction is solid and that had it not been for the rather quickly burning foot, it would have been a longer smoke by a good five minutes. The collaboration between RyJ and Boutique Blends turns out to be a fortuitous one, and it’s a cigar that I certainly would like to pick up a few more of to have around.
Once again, thank you to the great folks at Cuenca Cigars!
With the citrus and medium body being prominent factors in the ROMEO by RyJ Aging Room Small Batch F25, I went with the Lagunitas Sucks, an American Strong Ale with an ABV of 8%. The Lagunitas Sucks features great sweet orange-y citrus and honeyed maltiness which matches beautifully with not only citrus element of the F25, but the other flavors as well, and it finishes crisp yet somehow not really dry, keeping the cigar on track. I was originally going to pair the cigar with the Anchor Porter, which would also have been a great match, but I wound up postponing this review to give the cigar a little more humidor time, and did the Anchor with the Punch Sucker Punch I reviewed a couple of weeks ago. Hey, serendipity is a great thing and so was this pairing. This cigar would also go well with a Belgian ale, and a nice cup of coffee or sweetened tea would also be a terrific foil for it.