Juan Lopez (2013) by Altadis USA

At the 2013 IPCPR Trade Show, Altadis USA announced the return of its Juan Lopez line of cigars.  The Juan Lopez line was made famous in Cuba.  About ten years ago, Atladis USA acquired the U.S. naming rights.  While they launched a line under that name, it was eventually discontinued a few years ago.  This time the Juan Lopez returns with an all new blend and new sizes.  The Juan Lopez line has now begun to surface at retailers nationwide.  Recently, I’ve had an opportunity to smoke the new 2013 version of the Juan Lopez.  I found this to be an excellent cigar, and one that can satisfy a wide range of cigar enthusiasts.

The Juan Lopez name comes from Juan Lopez Diaz – who established a factory in Havana, Cuba which led to the establishment of the Juan Lopez brand in 1876.  After Lopez died in the early 1900s, the brand was purchased by the Cosme del Peso y Cia cigar company.  It was under this ownership where Juan Lopez became one of the biggest selling brands in Cuba.  Once Fidel Castro came to power, Cosme del Peso y Cia was nationalized by the Cuban government under Cubatobacco.  After tha, the Juan Lopez brand went into decline and today is only made in three sizes.  Meanwhile, as with many other Cuban brands, Altadis acquired the trademark rights to Juan Lopez.  They would market a non-Cuban version that was made out of Nicaragua before discontinuing it.

With the return of the Juan Lopez to Altadis’ portfolio, let’s take a closer look at this cigar and see what it brings to the table.

Blend Profile

The original Juan Lopez was a Nicaraguan puro made in Nicaragua.   On the 6/1/13 Cigar Dave Show, Altadis USA Vice President Janelle Rosenfeld hinted that the company was going to be making  some new Nicaraguan blends.  Given that the first (non Cuban) Juan Lopez came out Nicaragua, it seems as though a decision was made to resurrect this brand with one of these new blends.

Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan

Vitolas Available

The first Juan Lopez by Altadis was a box-pressed line of cigars available in five vitolas.  The resurrected Juan Lopez is a rounded vitola.  It has been released in three sizes that focus around the larger ring gauges.  

The Selección No. 1 and Selección No. 2 share vitola names with its Cuban “cousins”, however these are completely different sizes for the Altadis USA release.  The cigars in this line are packaged 16 per box.

Selección No. 1: 5 x 54 (SRP $5.50)
Selección No. 2: 6 x 54 (SRP $5.75)
Selección No. 3: 6 x 60 (SRP $6.00)

Appearance

For this cigar experience, I smoked the Juan Lopez Selección No. 2.  The Nicaraguan Habano wrapper to the Juan Lopez has a milk chocolate color with a reddish clay component.  The surface of the wrapper has some oil on it.  There are some visible veins and visible wrapper seams.

The band to the Juan Lopez is similar to the first Altadis Juan Lopez cigar.  It has a blue, gold, and red color scheme.  There is a mostly gold colored shield in the middle sitting on a blue circular background.   Below the shield is the text “JUAN LOPEZ” in white font sitting on a blue ribbon.  To the left of the shield is the text “HAND MADE” in white font on a red background.  To the right of the shield is the text “FLOR DE JUAN LOPEZ” in white font on a red background.  There is also gold medallions toward the top of the band – and gold trim around the whole band.

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

For my smoke of the Juan Lopez, I went with my usual choice of a straight cut to kick things off.  After successfully removing the cap, I moved on to the pre-light draw.  The dry draw provided a nice mix of flavors – including chocolate, cedar spice, and wood.  Overall, I considered this to be an excellent flavor profile for the pre-light draw.  At this point, I was ready to light up my Juan Lopez and see what the overall smoking experience would have in store.

Flavor Profile

The start to the Juan Lopez yield some notes of earth, wood, pepper spice, and chocolate.  In the early stages of the smoke, the chocolate notes moved to the forefront – slightly ahead of the word, spice, and earth notes.  At the same time, I could also detect the pepper through the retro-hale – which would pretty much be a constant throughout the smoking experience.

Later in the first third, the earth and wood notes moved into the forefront.  Meanwhile the chocolate and pepper notes receded slightly into the background.  These flavors all had some nice synergy to them and helped make a balanced flavor pattern.

By the second half, the pepper notes would join the earth notes in the forefront.  The wood notes also receded.  While the chocolate notes were in the background, they still provided a nice sweetness to the overall flavor experience.  The last third of the cigar pretty much was a mix of cocoa, pepper, and earth.  The close to the Juan Lopez was flavorful and didn’t have any harshness.  The resulting nub was cool in temperature and firm to the touch.

Burn and Draw

Overall the Juan Lopez performed very well when it came to the attributes of burn and draw.  The burn line remained on the straight side.  There were a couple of points where it did require some touch-ups.  The line itself did not burn jagged.  The ash was a salt and pepper color and remained firm throughout the smoke.  The burn rate and burn temperature were ideal.

Burn of the Juan Lopez (2013) Seleccion No. 2

The draw was outstanding to the Juan Lopez.  This cigar fits a description to what I often call a “low maintenance cigar to puff on”.  I didn’t find this cigar to draw too tight or too loose.

Strength and Body

One reason why this cigar could appeal to a lot of people is because it is not going to overpower you with nicotine.  I assessed the Juan Lopez as being a medium strength cigar from start to finish.  Meanwhile from a flavor standpoint, I also had this cigar as being medium-bodied.  With this particular blend and flavor profile, I found the medium-bodied flavors worked extremely well. Overall, I found the strength and body had some terrific balance – with neither attribute overshadowing the other.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes you can’t judge a book by its cover.  Originally, I was skeptical about Altadis bringing back this line.  However, this proved to be a very enjoyable cigar.  It had great flavor, excellent construction, and wonderful balance.  Perhaps the most impressive thing is the price point for this line.  The SRP for this line is between $5.50 and $6.00 – depending on the size. While I don’t factor price into the final assessment rating and score, I do mention this for reference purposes. This is definitely worth getting a five pack of, or maybe even consider a box-split.

Summary

Burn: Excellent
Draw: Excellent
Complexity: Medium
Strength: Medium
Body: Medium
Finish: Excellent
Assessment: Nice to Have
Score: 91

Source: The cigars for this assessment were purchased from Union Cigar Company in Monroe, NC.  Additional cigars were also provided by Altadis USA.  The request was initiated by Altadis USA to myself (Cigar Coop) to provide feedback.  Cigar Coop is appreciative for the samples, but in no way does this influence this write-up.