Cigar Reviews

Doubleheader: Joya de Nicaragua – Cunning and Merciless, Famous Smoke Shop Exclusives

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Famous Smoke Shop announced two shop exclusives in partnership with Joya De Nicaragua in early August, the Cunning and Merciless. Produced at Nicaragua’s oldest cigar factory, Joya De Nicaragua, the Cunning and Merciless are available in four vitolas: Robusto (5 by 50), Toro (6 by 50), Churchill (7 by 50), and Magnum (6 by 60). 

Joya De Nicaragua - Cunning and Merciless

While production is made in limited quantities, they are anticipated to be regular production and remain in stock for the foreseen future. Currently, a box of Cunnings runs from $76.99 for the Rubusto to $96.95 for the Magnum. The Merciless starts a little cheaper at $67.95 for the Robusto but end a bit higher for the Magnum coming in at $109.99.

Joya De Nicaragua - Cunning and Merciless

The Cunning can be purchased directly from our good friends at Famous Smoke Shop HERE and the Merciless can be found HERE.

The Facts

Joya De Nicaragua – Cunning
Samples Provided by Famous Smoke Shop
Price: $76.99 for box of 20 | $25.99 for a 5 pack
Vitola: Robusto
Price: 5 by 50
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Shade Grown Connecticut
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Smoke Time: 1 Hour and 5 Minutes

Joya De Nicaragua – Merciless
Samples Provided by Famous Smoke Shop
Price: $67.95 for box of 20 | $24.99 for a 5 pack
Vitola: Robusto
Size: 5 by 50
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Nicaraguan
Smoke Time: 1 Hour


Cunning: The light tan, golden wrapper on this Famous Smoke Shop exclusive is consistent in color except for the head of the cigar that has some color imperfections. There are a couple medium stitch-like veins and bumps are all over the place. However, to the touch the cigar feels velvety and is evenly filled from head to foot with no soft spots to be found.The aroma from the wrapper is of light woodsy notes and sweet hay. Fuller notes are found on the foot led with a spice, rich cedar, and caramel sweetness.  An extremely shallow cut provides an easy draw that shows off thick, chewy flavors of cedar, cooking spices, and clove. A medium spice is felt on the lips.

Joya De Nicaragua - Cunning and Merciless

Merciless: The merciless is a much more rustic cigar in appearance with its milk chocolate wrapper, small and medium veins webbing down the leaf, bumps scattered from head to foot, color imperfections, and an extremely fine tooth. A nice amount of oils can be seen in the light and to the touch the cigar feels fairly oily. Off the wrapper, I find a faint pungency, barnyard, and a chocolate sweetness. The foot of the cigar has an appetizing mix of chocolate and caramel, along with black pepper. A free draw is revealed upon clipping through the neatly applied double cap. The cold draw flavors are similar to the Cunning, but are lighter on the palate and there is hardly any spice heat.

Joya De Nicaragua - Cunning and Merciless

First Third

Cunning: The Joya De Nicaragua Cunning opens with creamy notes of butter, natural sweet tobacco, pencil-shavings, and a full amount of spice. The spice is sharp through the sinuses and the heat lingers for some time. An unsweet bubble gum flavor is on the finish of the smoke. The Cunning is burning mostly even with a thick burn-line and a pleasant looking white ash is being formed.

Joya De Nicaragua - Cunning and Merciless

Merciless: The introductory profile is of rich cedar, some earthiness, and a spice heat that is tingling the back of my throat. There is a orange zest that is meshing well with the other flavors and there is no perceivable sweetness at this point. Coffee lingers on the finish of the smoke. The cigar is burning uneven but not to the point of requiring a touch-up. 

Joya De Nicaragua - Cunning and Merciless

Middle Third

Cunning: The flavors have become savory, with some added spices and saltiness. The earlier profile, especially the pencil shavings and sweet tobacco, are holding strong and the mouthfeel of the smoke remains thick and creamy. The finish of the smoke has evolved from the earlier bubble gum to gritty earth and coffee.  Out of nowhere the strength hits me but it is not overwhelming… yet.

Joya De Nicaragua - Cunning and Merciless

Merciless: A small draw is bringing forth a copious amount of smoke that is medium/full in flavor, richness, and spice. A sweet cocoa is moving into the profile, accompanying an earthyness and wet woodsy notes. There is a floral / perfume quality to the flavors and a caramel sweet creaminess is joining in. A small crack is running from the burn-line about a half an inch. It is minor and I don’t see it causing any issues. The first ash held firm to the middle of the cigar until I knocked it off to perform a touch-up. The strength has steadily picked up throughout the smoke settling in on full.

Joya De Nicaragua - Cunning and Merciless

Final Third

Cunning: Moving into the final third after 45 minutes of smoking, charred woodsy flavors begin to overshadow the rest of the flavors. The spice has calmed considerably. The buttery flavor makes a reappearance tied to some toasted bread notes. The burn is jagged but continues to move along with no issue.

*Whoops, I forgot to take a photo!

Merciless: The floral quality is gaining ground as toasted bread notes enter the profile with earthiness and maybe coffee. The caramel, while pushed back, is still hanging on. I am finding a unique garlic and saltiness. The strength has kick up a notch, not that is wasn’t expected considering the factory that it is comes from.

Joya De Nicaragua - Cunning and Merciless


Cunning: As of late, I have really enjoyed cigars with Connecticut Shade wrappers over fuller strength binder and filler tobaccos as they fit perfectly for any early  smoke, but can easily stand on their own later in the day.The Ecuadorian Shade Grown Connecticut wrapper on the Cunning complimented the spicy Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos delivering a medium bodied smoke that at times bordered full. Some strength hit me at one point but quickly subsided. No touch-ups, an even burn, firm ash, and satisfying smoke production made the Cunning an effortless smoke. Joya de Nicaragua is a company that I have held a lot of respect for and the Cunning is a testimony to their high standards even for a cigar that comes in at an affordable price.

Note: As I smoked the Cunning, I was taken back by the similarity of the profile to the Garofalo by United Cigar Group. You can see for yourself HERE.

Merciless: Compared to the Cunning, the Ecuadorian Habano wrapped Merciless is a more typical JDN cigar with its spicy profile, full flavors and strength and a fair amount of complexity that held my interest for the hour long smoke. The strength did not subside on this one, but rather steadily increased throughout the smoke leaving me satisfied and a bit woozy. The cigar required a little more attention that the Cunning with its uneven burn that resulted in a somewhat major touch-up in the second third. But other than that, I don’t have any complaints regarding performance. Famous Smoke Shop has an ever-growing list of shop exclusives working with highly reputable companies. Having smoked through the J. Fuego Vudu brand exclusives, the Carnage by Plasencia, and now the JDN Cunning and Merciless, I have yet to find a bad stick in the bunch.  If you enjoy your cigars with a spice and strength punch, without overpowering the flavors or complexity, the Merciless from Joya De Nicaragua is a great option.

Jeremy Hensley is a bean counter for a non-profit in El Paso, Texas. He is married to the most understanding wife (he still can’t figure out how she puts up with his cigar smoking hobby), and blessed with two beautiful children. When he is not acting like a kid, he enjoys everything outdoors, especially fishing with his dad in the Great Lakes. Also, he meets the criteria of being a Casa Fumando reviewer: being a hockey fan. Feel free to contact Jeremy anytime via email (jmhensley13[at]gmail[dot]com). And make sure to follow him on twitter


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