Viaje Friends and Family Le Joueur

The Viaje Friends and Family Le Joueur is the second vitola to be released in Viaje’s ultra-limited Friends and Family line. The Viaje Friends and Family cigar is a personal blend of Viaje founder Andre Farkas.  Last March, Farkas released the first batch of Viaje Friends and Family in a Churchill size called Cadeau. in very limited quantities (i.e. a subset of Viaje authoriized retailers got a single box.  This past December, a second batch of the Churchill size was released – in similar limited fashion.  The blend was nothing short of a home run – and it represents some of the best work by Viaje to date.  The Viaje Friends and Family came in as our #4 Cigar of 2012.  Now, about a year after its release, the Friends and Family returns – this time in a robusto called Le Joueur with word of some increased production.  While this cigar is an excellent release, the big question is whether or not the Le Jouener captures the magic of the original Churchill release.

While Farkas puts a lot of mystery around his releases, perhaps there is not more mystery around a line of his cigars than the Friends and Family.  Each of the three releases have really come by surprise and retailers did not know they were getting the cigar until they were invoiced.

The name “Le Joueur” is French for “the player”.  Let’s take a closer look at the Viaje Friends and Family Le Joueur and see what this cigar brings to thet able.

Blend Profile

Now on its third batch, no information to date has been released on the Viaje Friends and Family 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.  However, by keeping the blend details under wraps, it does create a little mystery and intrigue about the cigar.    

Wrapper: Unknown
Binder: Unknown
Filler: Unknown

Vitolas Available

The addition of the Le Joueur brings the total vitals in this blend released to two.  Both sizes are a box-press shape.  Both sizes were packaged in box counts of 15.

Cadeau: 7 x 48
Le Joueur: 5 x 52 

Viaje Friends and Family Cadeau (Top), Le Joueur (Bottom)

As mentioned in the above, there appears to have been a slight increase in production.  While no production numbers have been disclosed, we have confirmation that some retailers have received two boxes of the Friends and Family Le Joueur (as mentioned above, the retailers who received the Cadeau shipments tended to only get one box)

For the record, the production cycles have been:

March 2012: Viaje Friends and Family Cadeau
December 2012: Viaje Friends and Family Cadeau
March 2013: Viaje Friends and Family Le Joueur


The Viaje Friends and Family is highlighted by its coffee bean colored wrapper in a box-press shape. The Le Joueur seemed to have a little more of a red tint that the Cadeau did. The wrapper itself is not oily. There are some visible veins and visible wrapper seams  Finally, like the Cadeau the foot of the Le Joueur is covered.

Covered foot of the Viaje Friends and Family Le Joueur

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 “Le Joueur” in cursive silver font.  There is also some additional silver design on that band as well.

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

For my cigar experience of the Friends and Family Le Joueur, I opted to go with a straight cut to remove the cap.  After the cap was clipped, it was time to move on to the pre-light draw experience. The cold draw yielded notes of coffee, caramel, and cedar.  It was very similar to the pre-light experience of the Cadeau.  Overall, I was pleased with the Le Joueur’s pre-light draw.  At this point I was ready to light up the Viaje Friends and Family Le Joueur and see what the smoking phase would deliver.

Flavor Profile

As far as actual flavors go, there were a lot of parallels between the Le Joueur and Cadeau.  I found more differences in the strength and body of the two cigars, and I’ll discuss those later on.

The start to the Friends and Family Le Joueur provided a mix of wood, coffee, caramel, and cinnamon notes.  The flavor profile soon took shape with the wood notes actually moving primary early on with the caramel, pepper, and coffee as background notes.  The pepper was also prominent on the retro-hale.

By the ten percent point, the wood notes dialed back with the caramel and coffee notes becoming primary.  The background spice transitioned from a pepper quality to more of floral spice.  I also detected some light citrus notes in the background.

Around the midway point of the Le Joueur, the coffee and caramel notes transitioned to more of a classic chocolate flavor.  This chocolate flavor took over as the primary note.  The spice and citrus remained in the background.  I also detected some cinnamon notes.  While many of these flavors sound like a dessert tray, there was still very much a underlying “tobacco quality” to this smoke 

In the last third, the spice joined the chocolate flavors.  By this time the spice had more of a classic baker’s spice on the tongue while it had pepper-like qualities on the retro-hale.  While there was some spice to the end of the Le Joueur, there was no harshness.  The resulting nub was soft, yet cool in temperature.

Burn and Draw

The burn and draw scored very well on the Viaje Friends and Family Le Joueur.  The burn line required little in the way of touch-ups to keep it burning straight.  The resulting ash was light gray with some darker speckling in it.  The ash did have some occasional flaking, but nothing major.  The burn rate and burn temperature were ideal.

Burn of the Viaje Friends and Family Le Joueur

The draw was excellent.  It was not too loose, but yet wasn’t overly resistant.  This made for an enjoyable smoke from start to finish.

Strength and Body

The strength and body is where I noticed a bigger difference with the Viaje Friends and Family Le Joueur.  Both attributes were dialed back from the Friends and Family Cadeau.  It’s possible that the blend has mellowed a bit from the original release, but since the production date hasn’t been disclosed, we don’t know.  We also don’t know if the blend has been significantly tweaked or not.

The Friends and Family is one of the more dialed back Viaje blends to begin with.  From a strength perspective, the Le Joueur starts out as mild to medium.  By the midway point it progresses to medium strength where it holds.  The flavors are also dialed back in terms of depth.  The Le Joueur starts out medium-bodied in the first half and progresses to medium to full in the second half.   The Le Joueur is a cigar that will emphasize the flavor over the strength.

As a point of reference, the original Cadeau we assessed was a full-bodied smoke with medium strength that progressed to medium to full.  The subsequent smokes of the Cadeau all fell into this category.

Final Thoughts

The fact that there have been additional releases of the Viaje Friends and Family since the first batch is a double-edged sword in my book.  On one hand, it is great that such an outstanding cigar has some more availability.  However, the additional availability takes away from the specialness of being an ultra-limited release (which I think is a nice quality).

The Friends and Family Le Joueur is an oustanding smoke for both the novice and experienced cigar smoker.  I still preferred the Cadeau as I like how it had more strength and body.  Time will tell if the Cadeau will mellow out too.  The Le Joueur is still a great cigar and definitely one you should pick up if you can get it.


Burn: Excellent
Draw: Excellent
Complexity: High  
Strength: Mild to Medium (1st 1/2), Medium (2nd Half)
Body: Medium (1st 1/2), Medium to Full (2nd Half)
Finish: Good
Assessment: Memorable
Score: 94
Source: The cigars for this assessment were purchased from Outland Cigars in Charlotte, North Carolina.