Debonaire First Degree

The Debonaire First Degree is the sixth frontmark to be added to Debonaire Cigars’ core line.  Back in January, Debonaire co-founder Phil Zanghi broke news on Episode 79 of Stogie Geeks announcing the the First Degree would add a petite salomon into this line of cigars.  The idea here is that the First Degree would provide a way to introduce cigar enthusiasts to the Debonaire line – which is an ultra premium line of cigars.  First Degree would also serve a purpose providing cigar enthusiasts with a cigar at an affordable price point that can be smoked in a shorter period of time.  The Debonaire First Degree has just recently been shipped.  Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to smoke this new cigar.  The First Degree provides another outstanding cigar experience in the Debonaire line and does a great job at accomplishing its mission.

If you are not familiar with Debonaire Cigars, the company was founded by Philip Zanghi and Daniel Sinclair. Many people may remember Zanghi from his days with Indian Tabac – the company that eventually became Rocky Patel Premium Cigars. After a hiatus away from premium cigars, Zanghi returned to the handmade premium cigar business and launched Debonaire Cigars. Zanghi resides in the Dominican Republic allowing him to be close to the tobacco process from seed through shipping. Zanghi and his team take a very hands-on approach to the production process. Zanghi and his team take a very hands-on approach to the production process.

The name “First Degree” is a masonic term meaning entry point.  As Zanghi told Cigar Coop and Stogie Geeks, it serves a purpose of introducing people to his premium line of cigars.  After smoking the First Degree, a next logical step is to smoke the Debonaire Sagita.  Sagita means “arrow” and this leads the way to the other vitolas such as the Solomones, Toro, Robusto, and Belicoso.

Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the Debonaire First Degree and see what this cigar brings to the table.

Blend Profile

The Debonaire core line consists of tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.  For the line, Zanghi and his team have tapped into the resources of Leo Reyes – one of the leading growers based in the Dominican Republic.  The cigars are also made in the Dominican Republic.

Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano
Binder: Dominican
Filler: Dominican, Nicaraguan

Vitolas Available

In terms of how the vitolas are constructed, the Debonaire line is bunched using accordion fold as opposed to entubado (tube) style.  Zanghi emphasizes leaf placement in terms of being able to achieve the right flavor profile.

The First Degree is now the shortest vitola of the Debonaire line measuring 4 x 44.

First Degree: 4 x 44 (Petite Salomon)
Sagita: 5 1/2 x 38 (Petite Lancero)
Toro: 6  x 50
Robusto: 5 1/4 x 50
Belicoso: 6 x 54
Solomones: 7 3/4 x 58


The First Degree’s Nicaraguan Habano wrapper shares the light to medium brown color that is prevalent across the Debonaire line. The surface of the wrapper had a light amount of oil on it. The wrapper also had some visible veins and well hidden wrapper seams. The cigar has a rounded cap and the salomon itself tapers up to its widest point about 4/5 of the way to the footer. There is a nipple-shaped footer with that is open and the end.

The First Degree has a smaller and slightly modified version of the Debonaire band seen on other vitolas of the line. This is due to the small size of the cigar. The band features the brand’s gold, brown, black, and white colored band that is common to the line. There is a gold stagecoach that sits on a brown background. Above the stagecoach is a black oval with the text “ULTRA PREMIUM” in white font. Below the stagecoach is the text “DEBONAIRE” in large white font. In small black font below the Debonaire name is the text “DOMINICAN REPUBLIC” in small black font. The remainder of the band has black and gold adornments. It is the the lower part of the banding with the text “ULTRA PREMIUM” that is missing from the First Degree.

The rear of the band (as with all Debonaire cigars) has the date of production of the cigar.  This was March 2014.

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

As I normally do, I went with my usual choice of a straight cut to start things off.  Once the cap was clipped, I moved on to the pre-light draw phase.  The dry draw was reminiscent of some of the other Debonaire vitolas I got that hard candy sweetness with some light spice.  Overall this was an excellent pre-light draw experience.  At this point I was ready to light up the First Degree.  As I typically do with a salomon, I lit the salamon point completely and awaited what the cigar experience would have in store.

Flavor Profile

The start to the Debonaire First Degree delivered notes of pepper and some of the “hard candy” sweetness I got on the pre-light draw.  I also detected some of the signature “au jus” notes that the Debonaire blend delivers in the background.  I wouldn’t say the “au jus” was prevalent as on some of the other vitolas, but it was enough to get a “taste of” Debonaire.  Meanwhile the retro-hale delivered some notes of pepper with a light sweetness.

As the First Degree burned completely past the salomon tip and reached the widest part of the salomon, the sweetness became more of a classic natural tobacco.  This natural tobacco flavor was also now a primary flavor.  The pepper was secondary and the au jus flavor was a tertiary (subtle) note.  This flavor pattern held for the lion’s share of the smoking experience.

By the last third, the pepper notes joined the natural tobacco in the forefront. The au jus notes were now dissipated.  These flavors held right until the final puffs.  The resulting nub was outstanding – firm to the touch and cool in temperature.

Burn and Draw

The Debonaire line has a solid reputation for outstanding construction and the First Degree is no exception.  I’m always skeptical about the way salomons burn and draw – even small ones. However, the First Degree did not have any problems and delivered a stellar performance.  The burn line remained relatively straight from start to finish – only requiring occasional touch-ups.  The resulting ash was a salt and pepper color.  The ash remained tight and firm throughout the smoking experience.  The burn rate and burn temperature were ideal.

Burn of the Debonaire First Degree

The draw to the First Degree was excellent as well.  It was not too tight and not too loose.  There was some ample smoke production from this cigar.  This was an enjoyable smoke to puff on.

Strength and Body

From a strength perspective, the First Degree is not going to be a nicotine bomb.  The strength level fell into the medium range for most of the smoking experience.  Toward the very end I did see a slight up-tick in the strength, resulting in the First Degree crossing into the medium to full strength category.  As for the flavors, I got some nice depth to them.  The weight of the flavors can definitely be felt on the pallet – particularly through the retro-hale.  I assessed the Debonaire First Degree to be medium to full-bodied.  In the latter stages, I did pick up some full-bodied notes.  Overall, I found the First Degree to emphasize flavor over strength.

Final Thoughts

Overall I felt the First Degree accomplished its goals of providing a shorter duration smoke and introducing someone to the Debonaire line. It also is going to be more affordable (around $6.00). The other Debonaire vitolas that I smoked had one advantage in that they were rolled in 2012 (from looking at the rear of the band) and had more time to be subject to aging. The First Degree is ready to smoke out of the box and did not exhibit any youngness. With the same amount of age, the First Degree will develop further and will raise the bar even higher. I found the Debonaire First Degree to be a cigar I would give to either a novice or experienced cigar enthusiast. As for myself, this is definitely a cigar I would smoke again – particularly when I want that shorter duration smoke. It’s definitely worth a box split.


Burn: Excellent
Draw: Excellent
Complexity: Medium
Strength: Medium (Medium to Full at end)
Body: Medium to Full (Full at end)
Finish: Excellent
Assessment: 3.5 – Box Split
Score: 91


News: Debonaire Cigars Shows Off Debonaire First Degree
Price: ~$6.00
Source: Gifted
Stogie Geeks Podcast: Stogie Geeks Episode 95
Stogie Feed: Debonaire First Degree

(*) Disclaimer:  Debonaire Cigars is a sponsor of Cigar Coop / Stogie Geeks. The cigars for this review were still purchased.  For a list of retailers to purchase Debonaire, click here.