|Viaje Friends and Family|
There are two things come to mind with Viaje Cigars: 1) micro-batch releases; 2) blends guarded with secrecy. In the case of the Viaje Friends and Family Cigar, these things couldn’t be more true. The Viaje Friends and Family cigar was a personal blend of Viaje founder Andre Farkas. Farkas made a decision to make these available for sale. With the Friends and Family, this was truly a limited release. On average, when Viaje releases cigars, they usually ship about 150 to 300 boxes/bundles at a time. This usually results in one to two boxes per authorized Viaje retailer. In the case of the Friends and Family, this was only made available to a small subset of Viaje authorized retailers. While no official numbers are known on the release, most of the retailers who did receive the Friends and Family still only got one box – thus the name “Friends and Family” truly fits. As a result, this has become a very sought after cigar from Viaje enthusiasts. The big question on everyone’s mind is – “how good is this cigar?” Without a doubt, from a flavor standpoint, this is Viaje’s best release.
Let’s get into the particulars of this cigar and see what this cigar brings to the table. For this assessment, this is based on a single smoke. I will be smoking another one of these in the near future to see how additional age treated this particular blend.
One reason why “blends guarded with secrecy” comes to mind is because Viaje does not talk too much about the tobaccos that use. They do talk about the origins of the tobacco, but most of the time the specifics about the tobacco leaves are not disclosed. Sometimes they do provide information about the wrapper, but for the most part, they keep the information about the remaining tobaccos close to the vest. With the Viaje Friends and Family, there has been virtually nothing that has been public on this blend. Viaje Cigars typically are either Nicaraguan puros or have a high percentage of Nicaraguan tobacco. While it is safe to assume this is the case with the Friends and Family, the truth is we just don’t know.
I’ve been on the record many times on this web-site stating that while it is frustrating sometimes not being able to disclose details of the blend, by keeping the blend details under wraps, it does create a little mystery and intrigue about the cigar.
The Viaje Friends and Family is only available in one size – a 7 x 48 box-press Churchill. The Friends and Family are packaged 15 cigars to a box.
|Packaging of the Viaje Friends and Family|
The Viaje Friends and Family is highlighted by its coffee bean colored wrapper in a box-press shape. There are some dark spots on the wrapper. It wrapper itself is not oily. While it appears to be smooth, from close inspection it is slightly bumpy. The wrapper also has some visible wrapper seams. Finally, the foot of the Friends and Family is covered.
|Viaje Friends and Family Covered Foot|
There are two bands on the Friends and Family. Each band has a white background. The main band features the text “Viaje” in large silver font. Below that text is the text “Friends in Family” in smaller silver font. There is some additional silver design on the band. The secondary band is on the footer and has the text “Cadeau” in cursive silver font. There is also some additional silver design on that band as well.
The word “Cadeau” on the footer also fits with the theme of this cigar as it translates from French to mean “present or gift”. This is what Farkas originally intended this cigar to be.
Preparation for the Cigar Experience
For this experience with the Viaje Friends and Family, I placed a delicate straight cut into the cap of the cigar. When I started the pre-light draw, I was treated to notes of caramel and coffee with a hint of cedar in the background. Overall, I was pleased with the dry draw notes of the Friends and Family. At this point, I was ready to toast the foot of this cigar and see what the flavor profile would deliver.
There are two general statements I can make about the flavor of the Viaje Friends and Family: 1) The flavor profile is complex; 2) The cigar is loaded with flavor. On the initial draws of the Friends and Family, I was treated to a mix of black pepper, caramel, and coffee to start with. The pepper was a little stronger on the early puffs of the cigar. I also detected pepper through the nostrils early on. These flavor notes formed an interesting fusion early on.
Around five percent, an orange citrus sweetness emerged and wasted no time in moving to the forefront. By the ten percent mark, I detected some cinnamon notes with the coffee, caramel, and pepper in the background. Around the 15 percent mark, the coffee notes morphed into a classic chocolate flavor. The chocolate notes soon emerged out of the background and by the 20 percent mark, they moved into the forefront. At the same time, the orange notes diminished to the background. By the end of the first third, the flavor profile had taken form – chocolate as a primary note and subtle notes of caramel, pepper, cinnamon, and orange in the background.
In the second third, the orange and pepper had a boost. I still had the chocolate notes being in the forefront, but the orange and pepper flavors closed the gap. By the last third, the orange notes moved back into the background. Meanwhile, the spice notes had taken on more of a baker’s spice flavor. It was in the last third where the chocolate, baker’s spice, and cinnamon notes were pretty much the ones in control. These flavors held on until the finish. The finish was very smooth and the nub was near perfect – cool in temperature and firm to the touch.
Burn and Draw
The one issue is with the Viaje Friends and Family was the burn. Early on in the cigar experience, the burn was a fight to keep straight early on. It required many touch-ups. While I mentioned I’ve smoked one cigar for this assessment, I’ve seen others have a similar problem. By about the midway point, the burn issues seemed to settle down and in the second half, the keeping the burn straight was low maintenance. The burn temperature and burn rate were ideal. Despite, the burn issues early on, I didn’t see this create any issues as far as the flavor profile went.
As for the draw, this was excellent. This made the Friends and Family a very easy cigar to puff on.
Strength and Body
With many Viaje cigars being on the heavy side in terms of nicotine strength, the Viaje Friends and Family dials it back a bit. For the majority of the smoke, I assessed the Friends and Family to be a classic medium strength smoke. Toward the end, I felt the strength picked up a little bit and was able to just edge its way into medium to full. As for the flavors, the notes had plenty of depth. This easily placed the Friends and Family as a full-bodied smoke. The strength complemented the full-bodied notes nicely – not overpowering the rich flavors.
After finishing the Viaje Friends and Family, I asked myself if this could be a cigar of the year candidate? The burn issues up-front did lose this cigar a few points, but it scored well in just about every other area. One reason why I am curious to smoke this again in a few months is to see if the burn issues resolve itself. Some might say this cigar is too limited of a release to be a cigar of the year – and certainly that also is a valid argument, however a great cigar is a great cigar. In my opinion, Friends and Family has become the premier cigar released by Andre Farkas. If you have an opportunity to get one of these cigars, by all means do so. These cigars are priced around $16.00 per cigar and are worth every penny. It is definitely a special occasion cigar that would probably be most appreciated by an experienced cigar enthusiast, but novice enthusiasts will also enjoy this cigar. This is one cigar I’ll want to get more of.
Burn: Good (Fair in first half, Excellent in second half)
Strength: Medium (Medium to Full toward end)
Source: The cigar for this assessment was purchased from Outland Cigars in Charlotte, North Carolina.