|Viaje Skull and Bones FOAB|
In 2010, when Viaje released its first of its Skull and Bones line, the Daisy Cutter, this became one of the most sought after cigars in the Viaje portfolio. Since then, there have now been five additional waves of Skull and Bones’ released for a total of six waves. Back last October, when the fifth wave of Skull and Bones was released, I made the statement, “Skull and Bones has proven to be the most popular cigar in the Viaje portfolio, but I’m wondering if it is close to running its course.”. This wasn’t a knock on the quality of the cigars being released; but that with all of the Skull and Bones’ releases, the line has lost some of that “hard to get” specialness that it had when the Daisy Cutter was released. This brings us to the Viaje Skull and Bones FOAB (Father of All Bombs). While the FOAB is really “another option” in the Skull and Bones line, it has also shows that these cigars are proving to be some very good smokes from Viaje. I rank this as one of the better Skull and Bones’ cigars I have had.
Let’s get into the particulars on the Viaje Skull and Bones FOAB. I’m going to combine “Blend Profile” and “Vitolas Available” because I think its applicable when breaking down this cigar and discussing this line.
Blend Profile/Vitolas Available
What we do know is that the Skull and Bones series has consisted of Nicaraguan puros:
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Sun Grown Criollo
There have been some blend variations among the release cycles (waves) of the Skull and Bones. We don’t know all of the particulars. What we also know is that most Skull and Bones releases have either had black and white bands or red and black bands (with the exception of the Mystery Box Press which had a black on black band).
The first and second release cycles featured the black and white bands. The third and fourth release cycles featured the red colored bands. In the fifth release cycle, the Skull and Bones Mystery goes back to a black and white band, while the Skull and Bones Mystery box-press (pictured above) uses a black on black band. What is known is the red and black bands have been positioned as stronger blends (similar to what Viaje has done with the 50/50 black/red and Oro/Platino lines).
First Release Cycle (Spring 2010): Black and White
Daisy Cutter: 4 x 54
Second Release Cycle (Fall 2010): Black and White
?: 5 x 54
Third Release Cycle (Spring 2011) Black and Red
WMD (Weapon Mass Destruction): 3 3/4 x 54
MOAB (Massive Ordinance Air Blast or Mother of all Bombs): 4 1/4 x 54 (Torpedo)
Fourth Release Cycle (Summer 2011) Black and Red
Little Boy: 4 1/4 x 52 (Double capped)
Fat Man: 4 1/4 x 56 (Double capped)
|Viaje Skull and Bones Little Boy|
Fifth Release Cycle (Fall 2011) Black and White except Mystery Box Press (Black on Black)
Mystery 4 1/2 x 54 (Short Torpedo)
Mystery Box Press 4 1/2 x 54 (Short Torpedo Box-press)
|Viaje Skull and Bones Mystery|
|Viaje Skull and Bones Mystery Boxpress|
Sixth Release Cycle (Spring 2002) -Mix
WMD (Weapon Mass Destruction) 2012: 3 3/4 x 54 (Black and Red)
MOAB (Massive Ordinance Air Blast or Mother of all Bombs) 2012: 4 1/2 x 54 (Black and White – Short Robusto)
FOAB (Father of all Bombs): 4 1/2 x 56 (Black and White – Short Robusto)
Here is where things get a little confusing with the sixth release cycle. With the first five release cycles, for the most part each release cycle was consistent with the banding. The sixth release cycle mixes things up. First up, there is a 2012 version of the WMD (that was in the third release cycle from 2011). There is also a 2012 version of the MOAB. The 2012 MOAB changes its banding to Black and White. It also changes the vitola to a Short Robusto. That particular vitola looks very much like the “?” vitola in the second release cycle.
The FOAB is similar to the 2012 MOAB. It just has a slightly larger ring gauge, and its name is a play on “MOAB”. It one of the larger cigars to be released in the series. Yes, it’s confusing, but that’s how we got to where we are. Let’s focus on the FOAB and see what it brings to the table.
The Skull and Bones FOAB has a coffee-bean colored wrapper. It definitely looks lighter than previous Skull and Bones releases. The wrapper does have some dark(er) spots on it. It also appears to be less oily than many of the other previous releases. The wrapper itself is bumpy and has some visible veins to it.
|Viaje Skull and Bones Mystery (Top) and Viaje Skull and Bones FOAB (bottom) – note the lighter wrapper on the FOAB|
The banding of the FOAB is consistent with the Black and White banding on the Skull and Bones series. The top band is highlighted by a white skull and cross bones in the middle on a black background. Going around the circumference of that band are a row of white cross bones at the top and a row of white cross bones on the bottom. The are two white pinstripes in between the rows of cross bones. Below that band is a second band where it says “Skull and Bones” in white gothic font on a black background.
Preparation for the Cigar Experience
For my Skull and Bones FOAB, I went with a straight cut into the cap and immediately commenced with a pre-light draw. The dry draw notes treated me to flavors of cherry and coffee with a tiny hint of pepper also present. The cherry notes gave this pre-light draw more sweetness than I had seen on previous incarnations of the Skull and Bones. At this point, I was ready to toast the foot of the FOAB and see what the cigar experience would bring to the table.
I’ve never found the Skull and Bones series to be overly complex, and the FOAB is going to fit into this type of profile. The initial draw of the FOAB provided a blast of black pepper. This pepper was not only detected on the tongue, but also on the nostrils. As the pepper subsided, notes of coffee and cherry sweetness began to emerge. With the coffee/cherry notes in the forefront, and the pepper notes playing a background role, this was the flavor profile that held for much of the first half.
In the second half, the coffee notes transitioned to more of a classic chocolate flavor. The chocolate and cherry notes continued in the forefront, but around the 60 percent mark, the pepper spice began to pick up. The chocolate notes moved to the background and it was the cherry and pepper in control until the finish of the cigar. I felt that consistent with the pre-light draw, the FOAB provided more sweetness than many of the other Skull and Bones releases.
The finish to the cigar was spicy, but not harsh. The finish still had some chocolate notes present. The resulting nub was slightly warm and firm to the touch. The FOAB also was consistent with 2012 Viajes being ready to smoke out of the box. It appears the days of aging Viaje Cigars 8 to 10 weeks after purchase are disappearing.
Burn and Draw
The burn of the FOAB did require multiple touch-ups. It needed more touch-ups than I would prefer, but the touch-ups still did the trick to keep the FOAB burning straight. The burn rate and burn temperature were ideal throughout the smoking experience (although as I mentioned, it was slightly warm on the finish). The draw was excellent. It provided a little resistance, but I find a that to be a good thing with a draw as it prevents over-puffing the cigar.
Strength and Body
In terms of these attributes, here is where I think the Skull and Bones FOAB shined. The FOAB seemed to have less strength than any of the other Skull and Bones’ cigars I have sampled. This cigar started out as medium to full. It did progress to full strength by the last third, but still seemed to be dialed back a bit from a nicotine profile. The body to this cigar was full-bodied from start to finish – with nice depth within the flavor notes. The best part about this particular release of the Skull and Bones was in the balance. This is the first one where the strength didn’t overshadow the flavors here. This was a big surprise, and it is something that worked very well with this blend.
More sweetness, slightly dialed back strength, and better balance is going to be the story with the Skull and Bones FOAB. A little more complexity and a little better burn would have scored this cigar even better. I still found this to be one of the more enjoyable smokes in the Skull and Bones series. I still would like to see Skull and Bones go to a single batch per year, but I get the feeling the multiple releases per year are going to stick around for a while. This cigar still is strong enough where I would not recommend this for a novice enthusiast, but seasoned full strength, full-bodied smokers will like this. I look forward to smoking this one again.
Strength: Medium to Full (Start) – Full (last third)
Assessment: Nice to Have
Source: The cigars for this assessment were purchased from Outland Cigars in Charlotte, North Carolina.