Back in 2014, James Brown and Black Label Trading Company released the first iteration of Morphine. While Black Label Trading Company has always focused on a small batch model, Morphine would be the company’s first limited edition release. Since then a lot has changed. In 2015, Brown moved into his own factory, Fabrica Oveja Negra. A year later he joined up with Scott Zucca’s Boutiques Unified to handle his distribution, and then in 2017 he made a move into a larger facility for Fabrica Oveja Negra. During the past five years, Brown has grown his own brands, and his factory is now sought out by many. One thing that has been constant is that each year there has been an annual Morphine release. At the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show, Brown would showcase the 2018 iteration of Morphine – and commemorate five years of the line. Today we take a look at the 2018 iteration of the Morphine release in the lancero size.
Over the years, Morphine has been released with different blends. The original Morphine that was released in 2014 utilized a double wrapper consisting of a San Andres Maduro and Ecuadorian Maduro wrapper. In 2016 the double wrapper concept was put on hold. However for 2018 Brown decided to bring back the double wrapper concept for one of the marcas of the line, the Morphine 2018 Lancero. This time the two dark wrappers were arranged in a barber-pole style. While a dark on dark barber-pole might not be the easiest thing to see, the intent was to leverage the two wrappers for flavor.
In addition to the Morphine 2018 Lancero, there were two other marcas released, with a Corona and a Short Robusto Box-Press. The Corona and Short Robusto do not use the double wrapper as they only use a single San Andres Maduro wrapper.
Without further ado, let’s break down the Black Label Trading Company Morphine 2018 Lancero and see what this cigar brings to the table.
Blend and Origin
All three sizes in the Black Label Trading Company Morphine 2018 line utilize a Nicaraguan Habano binder and Nicaraguan fillers. All three marcas use the San Andres Maduro, but the Lancero also incorporates an Ecuadorian Maduro in a barber-pole format.
Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés Maduro/Ecuadorian Maduro (Barber Pole for Lancero Only)
Binder: Nicaraguan Habano
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Factory: Fabrica Oveja Negra
Each of the three sizes with the Black Label Trading Company are presented in different size boxes. Like the blends, there have been variations in the sizes offered with each Morphine release. A lancero size has been a constant throughout the five years of Morphine. Originally the lancero was released as a classic 7 x 38 size, but in 2016 it was moved to a slightly larger, slightly thicker 7 1/4 x 42 size.
Corona: 5 1/2 x 42 (Presented in 18-count boxes)
Short Robusto Box Press: 4 1/2 x 50 (Presented in 20-count boxes)
Lancero: 7 1/4 x 42 (Presented in 12-count boxes)
Examining the surface of the Black Label Trading Company Morphine 2018 Lancero, it is not going to be easy to make out the differences in the two wrappers. They both are chocolate-brown with some subtle darker mottling. One of the wrappers has a little more red mixed in. When you look at the wrappers side by side, you can see one has a rougher texture.
The surface of the wrapper has a light coat of oil on it. I found this surface to have a slight amount of bumpiness. There also were some visible veins. The cigar is finished with a covered footer and a thick tail on the cap giving it the near look of a chocolate chip.
There are two bands on the Morphine. The primary band has a black background with white font. At the center of the band is a white skull sitting over a butterfly-like design with a white crown over it. At the top is the text “BLACK LABEL” and on the lower part is the text “TRADING CO.” On the lower left of the logo is the text “Hand Made” in cursive font. On the lower right is the text “Est 2013″ in cursive font.
The secondary band rests around the footer. This also has a black background with white font. The text “Morphine” is in a cursive font. There are white pinstripes going across the top and bottom.
Instead of pulling off the tail, I opted to place a straight cut into the Morphine 2018 Lancero to remove both the cap and the tail. It was then on to the pre-light draw. The dry draw of the Morphine 2018 Lancero delivered a mix of chocolate and earth. While it wasn’t the most exciting complex pre-light draw, there still was enough going on here to whet my appetite.
The Black Label Trading Company Morphine 2018 started out with notes of chocolate, black pepper, earth, and licorice. Early on the chocolate notes moved into the forefront with the earth, licorice, and black pepper settling in the background. Throughout the first third, the earth and licorice notes were closer to the forefront than the black pepper. Meanwhile, the black pepper remained more prominent on the retro-hale.
Throughout the first half of the Morphine 2018 Lancero, I found the chocolate notes developed more in the way of richness. By the midway point, the earth and licorice notes had increased enough in intensity to join the chocolate as primary notes. By the later part of the second third, the earth notes increased enough to displace the chocolate and licorice as the primary note.
By the end of the second third, the chocolate and licorice notes had diminished greatly. The pepper notes increased during the last third, but didn’t quite reach the forefront. There was more in the way of earth and spice toward the end of the Morphine 2018 Lancero, but there were still minimal touches of sweetness from the chocolate and licorice. This is the way the Morphine 2018 came to a close. The resulting nub was slightly soft to the touch and cool in temperature.
When it came to the performance of the burn of the Black Label Trading Company Morphine 2018 Lancero, it scored very nicely. This was a cigar that had little problem maintaining a straight burn path and keeping a straight burn line. The resulting ash was tight and firm with a light gray color to it. Meanwhile the Morphine 2018 Lancero maintained an ideal burn temperature and ideal burn rate.
The Morphine 2018 Lancero was as good is it gets. It had a pleasing touch of resistance to it. At the same time, this was a low maintenance cigar to derive flavor from. This cigar earns our highest rating for a draw falling into the “exceptional” category.
Strength and Body
The Morphine 2018 opened up with medium strength and medium body. As the cigar experienced progressed, both the strength and body increased in intensity. The body increased at a more rapid rate. By the midway point the Morphine 2018 had moved into medium to full-bodied territory. The strength level took longer to move into medium to full, but did so by the final third. While there still was an increase in both attributes right until the end, the cigar experience closed out medium to full with both attributes.
In terms of strength versus body, the body had a slight edge from start to finish.
A lot is made about cigar enthusiasts saying the lancero is the best size. I don’t agree with that as I think it depends on the blend. In the case of 38 ring gauge lanceros, I find that sometimes there is either “too much wrapper” or “not enough filler” in the wrapper to filler ratio. When a lancero is moved into the 42 range, I find this balances things out better. My guess is that this is why the Morphine 2018 Lancero works so well – plus it has the added bonus of pulling flavors from two different wrappers. To me this is one of the best releases of the Morphine to date. It’s a cigar I’d recommend to a more experienced cigar enthusiast, but it’s not one I’d discourage a novice from trying. As for myself, this is a cigar I’d smoke again – and it’s worth purchasing a box.
Key Flavors: Chocolate, Earth, Licorice, Black Pepper
Strength: Medium (1st 2/3), Medium to Full (Remainder)
Body: Medium (1st Half), Medium to Full (Remainder)
Finish: Very Good
Value: Box Worthy Consideration
News: Spotlight on Black Label Trading Company, Black Works Studio, and Emilio at the 2018 IPCPR
Source: Black Label Trading Company
Brand Reference: Black Label Trading Company
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop