J. Grotto Reserva Lancero by Ocean State Cigars

The J. Grotto Reserva Lancero was a line extension introduced by Ocean State Cigars in 2012.  The lancero was originally intended to be a limited event only offering, but based on demand, a decision was made to make it a regular production offering in the J. Grotto Reserva line.  The Reserva line itself was the second line by Joyal’s Ocean State cigars.  We have actually been very high on what Joyal is doing with Ocean State Cigars.  In fact, in 2012 we had the company as one of our “Five Boutiques to Watch”.  Recently, we’ve had an opportunity to smoke the J. Grotto Reserva Lancero.  In my opinion, this is a great example of a blend working very well in a lancero format.  This is an excellent cigar.

Ocean State Cigars was founded by Paul Joyal.  Joyal is the owner Mr. J’s Havana Shop in West Warwick, RI.  Ocean State Cigars are available in retail shops nationwide.  His J. Grotto cigar line caught my attention last year. For his blend he is leveraging the Raices Cubanas factory in Honduras.

Without further ado, let’s get into the specifics of the J. Grotto Reserva Lancero and see what this cigar brings to the table.

Blend Profile

Ocean State Cigars are known for their Honduran blends and the J. Grotto Reserve blend is no exception.

Wrapper: Honduras Criollo ’98
Binder: Honduras Criollo ’98
Filler: Honduras & Nicaragua Ligero

Vitolas Available

The J. Grotto Reserva Lancero became the fifth blend in the J. Grotto Reserva line.  All of the cigars are rolled entubado style.  The 41 ring gauge is a little larger than what is seen on a lancero.

Lancero: 7 1/2 x 41
Gran Corona: 5 5/8 x 46
Gran Robusto: 5 x 52
Gran Toro: 6 x 52
Gordo: 6 x 60


The Criollo ’98 wrapper to the J. Grotto Reserva Lancero has a medium brown color with a hint of red.  I’d categorize the wrapper more as a silky wrapper as opposed to an oily one.  There are some visible wrapper seams, but the cigar itself did not have many visible veins.  There is a classic Cuban pig-tail on the cap. There also is a nice barnyard aroma from the cigar itself.

There are two bands on the J. Grotto Reserva.  The primary band has a red, gold, black, and white color scheme.   The band is highlighted by a large gold “J” in the center over a red background.  Over the “J”, it says “Grotto Series” in white font.  Adorning each side of the center of the band are white pillars.  There are also gold coin designs to the far left and right.

There is a secondary band just below the primary band.  This band is a black colored band with some gold trim.  On that band is the text “RESERVA” in gold cursive font.

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

While there is a pig-tail on this cap, I opted to still place a straight cut to remove the cap.  Once the cap was clipped, I moved on to the pre-light draw.  I actually found the dry draw to deliver some bold flavors – much bolder than the other vitolas I’ve smoked in this line.  I was treated to notes of leather, earth, and a floral/cedar spice.  Overall I considered the pre-light draw to be very positive.  At this point I was ready to light up my J. Grotto Reserva Lancero and see what the overall smoking experience would have in store.

Flavor Profile

The start of the J. Grotto Reserva Lancero provided a short blast of pepper to start.  The pepper can be detected on the tongue and through the nasal passages.  This gave way to some notes of earth and cedar – which quickly moved to the forefront.  When the pepper notes receded, they became more of a secondary flavor.  The pepper was still prominent on the retro-hale.  The pepper was sharp on the retro-hale and could definitely be detected throughout the smoking experience.

Around the five percent mark, some raisin sweetness emerged in the forefront – joining the earth notes.  In addition, some flavors of natural tobacco and cream also surfaced as secondary notes.  The cedar would still play a role as it would float between a primary and secondary note.

As the cigar moved through the first half, I noticed some more shifting of the flavor notes in and out of the forefront.  This included the notes of raisin, earth, and pepper.  The natural tobacco notes and cream were more constant in the background throughout the first half.

The second half of the J. Grotto Reserva Lancero saw the flavor profile become more of a combination of earth, cedar, and pepper.  The raisin notes had receded, but still were present on the after-draw.  Toward the end, much of the sweetness provided by the raisin and natural tobacco notes had receded.  The end of the cigar had more of an earthy profile with some cedar spice – and even some floral notes thrown into the mix.  The end of the cigar was flavorful and not harsh.  The resulting nub was cool in temperature, but soft to the touch.

Burn and Draw

Overall, the J. Grotto Reserva Lancero performed very well when it came to its burn and draw.  This was a reflection of a well-constructed cigar.  The burn line remained straight throughout the smoking experience requiring minimal touch-ups.  The resulting ash was mostly tight and white in color.  There were a couple of isolated cases where the ash did flake, but this didn’t have a negative impact on the smoking experience.  The burn rate and burn temperature were ideal.

The draw was excellent.  A complaint that many have are that lanceros can draw tight.  This one was ideal.  It had a touch of resistance making for an outstanding, low-maintenance draw.

Strength and Body

The J. Grotto Reserva line is probably going to be the most “full” in terms of strength and body when it comes to the Ocean State Cigars’ portfolio.  From a strength perspective, the J. Grotto Reserva Lancero starts out in the medium to full range.  By the second half, the strength had progressed to full.  The depth of the flavors follow a similar pattern.  The J. Grotto Reserva starts out medium to full-bodied and progresses to full-bodied in the second half.  Overall there is excellent balance between the strength and body attributes of the J. Grotto Reserva Lancero.

Final Thoughts

Many times I’ve commented that I really have not embraced what I term “lancero-mania”.  While I know its a popular format among hard-core cigar enthusiasts, I just have not been ready to anoint a blend the greatest thing since sliced bread just because it is a lancero.  That being said, I’ve smoked several cigars in the J. Grotto Reserva line.  I’ve found the line to be excellent and consistent.  In the case of the J.Grotto Reserva, I do think this blend really clicks in the lancero format.

I really like the word Joyal is doing with his brand with all of his cigars.  This is a cigar I’d probably steer more toward an experienced cigar enthusiast.  I’d also recommend this to someone who might not normally gravitate toward a lancero.  As for myself, I’d smoke this cigar again, and definitely keep some in my humidor.


Burn: Excellent
Draw: Excellent
Complexity: High
Strength: Medium to Full (1st Half), Full (2nd Half)
Body: Medium to Full (1st Half), Full (2nd Half)
Finish: Good
Assessment: Nice to Have
Score: 91

Source: The cigars for this assessment were supplied by Ocean State Cigars.  This request was initiated by Ocean State Cigars in order to provide feedback.  Cigar Coop is appreciative to samples provided but this plays no role in a final assessment rating and write-up.