RoMa Craft Tobac Neanderthal HN (Pre-Release)

The Neanderthal is set to become the latest regular production line for RoMa Craft Tobac. This is a line that has long been awaited for by RoMa Craft Tobac fans. Word of the Neanderthal project first surfaced back in 2013. The line is intended to be a powerhouse in terms of strength, yet deliver a very flavorful smoke. It was at the 2014 IPCPR Trade Show where unbanded samples of the cigar were at the RoMa Craft Tobac booth for the first time, however plans for release were pushed into 2015. At press time we are now on the eve of this cigar making its debut. Today I take a look at a pre-release of the RoMa Craft Neanderthal in its regular production frontmark, the Neanderthal HN. I discovered a cigar that not only lived up to its billing, but could become a game-changer to what we see in the industry.

RoMa Craft Tobac co-founder Skip Martin discussed details of this cigar on the 4/18/14 edition of Stogie Geeks. As Martin was becoming more experienced with the blending process, he discovered that increasing the strength of the blend through adding ligero is something that really did work. At the same time, Martin learned that different tobaccos have different nicotine levels. He was introduced to a Pennsylvania Double Ligero leaf known as Green River Valley Sucker One (GR-S1). This is a regrowth leaf from Pennsylvania broadleaf that has a natural higher nicotine level (between 9% to 13% – significant higher than the 5% – 6% found in Esteli, Ligero). Using this leaf allowed Martin to increase the blend’s strength. Various filler tobaccos were then added to balance out the flavor and aroma.

The cigars for this assessment come from the 2014 IPCPR Trade Show and are pre-release. They have been aging in a Cigar Coop / Stogie Geeks humidor for almost ten months. Part of the rationale for this was to time the assessment close to the actual release date, but part of it was to see if this cigar kept its power with some aging. As with all pre-releases, we will default to our pre-release format to share our thoughts and perspectives. Later this year, we will revisit this cigar and provide an assessment rating and numerical score.

Blend Profile

The Neanderthal is made at the Nica Sueño, a factory co-owner by Martin and Esteban Disla. The factory was our Cigar Coop Factory of the Year for single / small operation. In addition to the Pennsylvania leaf, the blend features a four country multi-national blend. It also features a San Andres Maduro wrapper from Mexico, the first time a RoMa Craft Tobac branded cigar is using this leaf.

Wrapper: Mexican San Andres Maduro
Binder: U.S. Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro
Filler: U.S. Pennsylvania Double Ligero (GR-S1), Nicaraguan (Conega, Jalapa, Pueblo Nuevo, Esteli), Dominican Republic (Olor)
Country or Origin: Nicaragua (Nica Sueno)

Vitolas Available

There are two vitolas that will be launched. The HN is the regular production cigar and is in a very unique figuardo shape that we will describe later. HN stands for “Homo Neanderthalensis” which is the scientific name for Neanderthal man. It is being packaged in 50 count boxes.

A second size called SGP is being released as a shop exclusive to Riverside Cigar Lounge in Indiana and Serious Cigars in Houston, Texas. It will also be available as an event cigar. SGP stands for “Shallow Gene Pool” which is a trait Neanderthal man is said to have.

HN: 5 x 52/58 (Figuardo – National Release)
SGP: 4 1/2 x 52 (Shop Exclusive / Event)

Appearance

The San Andres Wrapper of the Neanderthal HN had a coffee bean color with a slight colorado tint to it. The wrapper itself was smooth with a thin coat of oil. There were some visible veins, but most of the wrapper seams were thin.

When Martin was on the 4/18/14 edition of Stogie Geeks, he described the Neanderthal (HN) as a “a very complicated cigar to make – a complicated size, a complicated shape.” This is one of the most unique figuardos I have ever seen. The cigar features a completely flat cap. The cigar gradually widens from the cap. It reaches its widest point about 1/2″ from the footer. The footer slightly tapers toward the footer.

The 2014 IPCPR Samples were unbanded. The banding for this cigar will be similar to what is found on CroMagnon and Aquitaine (Photo Below).

RoMa Craft Tobac Neanderthal HN
(Photo Credit: Skip Martin, Facebook)

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

Prior to my smoking experience, I went with a straight cut to remove the cap of the Neanderthal HN. I placed a thin cut to remove the ultra-flat cap (while I advise always using a high quality cutter, I would definitely make it a point with this cigar so it results in a clean cut). Once the cap was removed, I proceeded with the pre-light draw. The dry draw produced notes of rich coffee and cedar. There was also a sharp pepper spice that developed as I continued the dry draw. Overall I considered this to be an excellent pre-light draw. At this point I was ready to light up the RoMa Craft Tobac Neanderthal HN and see what the smoking experience would have in store.

Flavor Profile

The rich coffee notes continue right out of the gate. In the background, there were some notes of earth and red pepper. The red pepper was quite potent on the retro-hale.

During the first half, dark chocolate notes emerged in the forefront. I found the dark chocolate notes were prominent on the draw with more of a traditional coffee note on the after-draw. The red pepper notes were still very much present on the retro-hale and remained a secondary note on the tongue.

As the Neanderhal HN moved into the second half, the dark chocolate notes still remained primary. The red pepper on the tongue now increased. This might sound cliché, but “Mexican Hot Chocolate” did come to mind at this point. In the background, I detected some coffee and baker’s spice notes.

By the last third, the coffee notes returned to the forefront and were joined by the red pepper notes. The dark chocolate and baker’s spice notes were secondary. This is the way the flavor profile remained until the end. There was no harshness and the resulting nub was cool in temperature and firm to the touch.

Burn and Draw

From a burn standpoint, I did find the Neanderthal HN did require multiple touch-ups along the way. While the cigar was not in danger of tunneling or canoeing, it did require more touch-ups than I prefer. The resulting ash was charcoal gray. I did find the ash to be slightly loose. The burn rate and burn temperature were ideal.

Burn of the RoMa Craft Neanderthal HN

For what I would consider an artesian vitola, the RoMa Craft Tobac Neanderthal HN performed outstanding when it came to draw. I found a slight resistance on the draw – which is something I like. This made this cigar an ideal cigar to puff on.

Strength and Body

Ten months in the humidor and the Neanderthal HN remained an absolute powerhouse. This is a full strength cigar out of the gate and remains full for the duration of the experience. When you add the power of the retro-hale, one can argue this cigar is full+. With this attribute, Martin succeeded with his plan to create a strong cigar.

As for the body, the flavors are quite robust. These are definitely full-bodied notes that are present from start to finish. There definitely was no shortage of flavor here, so Martin and RoMa Craft have succeeded to also make this a very flavorful cigar.

In terms of strength versus body, while the Neanderthal HN is a full strength, full-bodied cigar, I still gave the strength a slight edge here.

Final Thoughts

Even after ten months of aging, the fact that the RoMa Craft Tobac Neanderthal HN still delivered a full strength, full-bodied and very flavorful smoke is the reason why I referred to this as a game changer. I’ve seen some manufacturers use Pennsylvania Ligero to gain some additional strength with the blend, but not nearly to the extent RoMa Craft Tobac has done with the Neanderthal. There is no sacrifice of flavor and in fact, I found the flavors quite balanced. This is a smoke for en experienced cigar enthusiast. This is not for the beginner, and it’s not for someone who can’t handle a strong cigar. Overall this was an outstanding smoke and really enjoyed this cigar. I look forward to revisiting this cigar when it hits the shelves.

Summary

Burn: Good
Draw: Excellent
Complexity: Medium
Strength: Full
Body: Full
Finish: Excellent

References

News: RoMa Craft Neanderthal
Price: $12.00
Source: Cigars Provided by Manufacturer
Stogie Geeks Episode: Episode 92
Stogie Feed: n/a