|Viaje Fifty Fifty Red|
Earlier this month, I did an assessment of the Viaje Fifty Fifty Black, so I figured it was time to assess the other blend in the Fifty Fifty series – the Viaje Fifty Fifty Red. The Viaje Fifty Fifty series is intended to be somewhat of a unique cigar experience. The concept behind the Fifty Fifty is to bring two different flavor profiles together into one cigar. This is done by utilizing two separate fillers, brought together within double binders and covered by a single wrapper. There have been cigars that use a segmented wrapper such as the Joya de Nicaragua Cabinetta Serie and the La Gloria Cubana Artesanos de Tabaqueros. The Fifty Fifty series takes more of an internal approach to the segmentation as the blend differs under the wrapper. In the end, while I found the Fifty Fifty Red to be a satisfactory smoke, I think it falls a little short compared to the Fifty Fifty Black.
Viaje positions the difference in the Fifty Fifty Red to the Black is that the Red has “tamer” fillers and is intended to be a smoke that is medium in terms of body. In the end, I felt the Fifty Fifty Red had the real difference in strength as opposed to body. There also is a third version of this cigar – the Viaje White Label Project Fifty Fifty Red. That cigar is similar to the Fifty Fifty Red, but uses a different (Criollo) wrapper. I did not enjoy the White Label Project Fifty Fifty, however, I did find the base Viaje Fifty Fifty Red to be a better smoke.
Let’s take a closer look at the Viaje Fifty Fifty Red:
While this does use a Nicaraguan Corojo wrapper, the specifics of the internals of this blend are kept confidential (as is typical with Viaje blends)
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo
Binder: Nicaraguan (Double)
Filler: Nicaraguan (Two Distinct)
* This is a similar profile to the Fifty Fifty Black, but obviously some tweaking with the specifics of the blend to create the tamer smoke.
The Fifty Fifty series was introduced back in 2009. It is intended to be an annual limited production release. Like most Viaje cigars, the production totals are limited – resulting in authorized Viaje retailers receiving one to two boxes of each size.
Both the Viaje Fifty Fifty Red and Viaje Fifty Fifty Black are available in the following vitolas. These vitolas are the same as what was released in 2010. The vitolas have the same names and sizes for both Red and Black. All vitolas in the Fifty Fifty series currently feature a pig-tail cap.
No. 1: 5 5 /8 x 46
No. 2: 6 x 50
No. 3: 7 x 47
Preparation for the Cigar Experience
For this cigar experience, I opted to sample the No. 3 vitola – a vitola that is basically a Churchill. I chose the No. 3 because this was the same vitola that I sampled for my Fifty Fifty Black assessment. Despite the fact that this cigar has a pig-tail cap, I opted to still place a straight cut into the Fifty Fifty Red. This is something I typically do with all pig-tail capped cigars (many cigar enthusiasts will simply pull the pig-tail off).
When I commenced with the pre-light draw, it did not have me doing handstands. It was a very generic dry draw only featuring notes of leather. Despite the fact I didn’t enjoy the pre-light draw, I figured it was time to fire up the Fifty Fifty Red and see what this cigar would bring to the table.
With the Fifty Fifty Red, I made a real effort to see if the cigar would provide two distinct smoking experiences. Both the Fifty Fifty Black and White Label Project Red Label seemed to have more of a continuous smoking experience in both halves.
The initial flavor notes of the Fifty Fifty Red started out with some notes of chicory and mild pepper. While I still wasn’t doing handstands in the early part of the smoke, things soon started to pick up as the chicory notes slowly morphed into more of a classic cocoa taste by the end of the first third. By the middle of the second third of the smoking experience, the mild pepper notes soon morphed into more of a classic cedar spice.
In the second half, the cedar spice combined with some resurfaced black pepper notes. These spice notes would move to the forefront. There were also some nut flavors that surfaced in this part of the smoke. The nut flavors, along with some cocoa notes (still remaining from the first half) would play a secondary role. The finish to the cigar was a little rough, but not too harsh. The resulting nub was soft, yet cool.
When I smoked the Fifty Fifty Black and White Label Project Fifty Fifty Red, I really was not able to pick out two distinct smoking experiences. This Fifty Fifty Red came the closest of any of the Viaje Fifty Fifty series cigars to doing this. The first half was a combination of chicory and cocoa notes. The second half was more spicy with some nut and cocoa in the background. While I could delineate the two smoking experiences, the transition was smooth and not abrupt.
Burn and Draw
One thing I mention is that I tend to age many of my Viaje cigars 8 to 10 weeks before smoking them. This is due to the Viaje cigars being “too young” or “green”. In this case, my Fifty Fifty Red was aged for about 7 weeks. In the end, I think this avoided any “green” issues” with the Fifty Fifty Red – especially around the burn. The burn ash was salt and pepper colored. It did need multiple touch-ups, but overall the touch-ups would do the trick. I was a little disappointed my Fifty Fifty Red did not burn as straight as the Fifty Fifty Black did. The Fifty Fifty Red burned at an ideal rate and ideal temperature. There were no issues with the draw – the Fifty Fifty Red had a very good draw that made the smoking experience enjoyable.
Strength and Body
I mentioned one big difference between the Fifty Fifty Black and Fifty Fifty Red is that the Red is a “tamer” blend. For the most part, I would say this is true. The Fifty Fifty Red is not going to overwhelm you with nicotine – and comes in at a solid medium on the spectrum of strength. There was a slight up-tick in strength in the second half, but not enough to pull this to medium to full strength.
As mentioned above, Viaje positioned this as a more medium-bodied smoke when compared to the Fifty Fifty Black. In terms of the depth of the flavor notes, while they may be a slightly lower than the Fifty Fifty Black, the Fifty Fifty Red still qualifies as a medium to full-bodied cigar. Overall the strength and body seem to balance very well here.
As I mentioned above, this cigar did the best job at achieving the concept behind the Fifty Fifty cigar. The majority of folks I have talked to preferred the Viaje Fifty Fifty Red to the Viaje Fifty Fifty Black. I tend to disagree with that. I felt the extra strength combined with a better dose of cocoa gave the Viaje Fifty Fifty Black a slight advantage. I will say, I thought the Fifty Fifty Red had a little edge on complexity on the Black, but that still wasn’t enough to sway me in favor of the Red. Overall, the Fifty Fifty Red was a good smoke. I would encourage a novice or seasoned cigar enthusiast to give this blend a try. As for myself, while I would go for the Black Label over the Red Label, I probably would look for the Red Label more as a change of pace cigar.
Body: Medium to Full
Assessment: Nice to Have
Source: The cigar(s) for this assessment were purchased from Outland Cigars in Charlotte, North Carolina.