Earlier this year, Tabacalera S.A. announced a new offering under its VegaFina brand known as the VegaFina 1998. The cigar pays homage to the year that the VegaFina brand was launched. VegaFina is a brand also sold by the U.S. arm of Tabacalera S.A., Altadis U.S.A. Over the years, VegaFina has been a brand that has had traction in the European market. When it comes to the U.S. market, while VegaFina is not an unknown, it hasn’t quite had the level of commercial success in the U.S. When it comes to the VegaFina 1998 offering, it is one that is being sold in Europe and not in the U.S. Today, we take a closer look at the VegaFina 1998 VF 52 (a Robusto offering).
With the VegaFina brand now having two decades in operation, Tabacalera S.A. has been paying homage to the occasion. In 2018, the brand released the limited edition, VegaFina Gran Reserva 20 Aniversario. In addition, this is the second major release by VegaFina in 2019. Earlier this year, the brand released the limited edition VegaFina Gran Reserva 2019.
For this cigar assessment, it was based on a single smoke of the VF 52 size of the VegaFina 1998. Without further ado, let’s break down this cigar and see what it brings to the table.
Blend and Origin
The VegaFina 1998 is a five country multinational blend produced at the Tabacalera de Garcia factory located in the La Romana in the Dominican Republic. The cigar is positioned as having tobaccos that have been aged a minimum of three years.
Binder: Java Indonesia
Filler: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Colombia
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Factory: Tabacalera de Garcia
VegaFina 1998 is offered in three sizes – each presented in ten-count boxes.
VF 50: 50 x 115mm (50 x 4 1/2)
VF 52: 52 x 135mm (5 3/10 x 52)
VF 54: 54 x 155mm (6 1/10 x 54)
The Ecuadorian wrapper of the VegaFina 1998 VF 52 was on the darker side. It also had a slight dark Colorado tint to it. The wrapper had a light sheen of oil on the surface. There were some thin visible veins and thin visible wrapper seams. The surface of this wrapper was slightly bumpy.
There are two bands on the VegaFina 1998. The primary band to the VegaFina 1998 had a thicker stock than most other VegaFina bands (something done with the packaging to give it a boost). The band has an antique white color to it. The center of the band has two concentric black rings with the initials “VF” in large red font. To the left and right of the circles are the text “VEGAFINA”. The remainder of the band has charcoal gray adornments and a silver trim.
The secondary band is thin (in both height and stock) with a black background and white pinstripes. On the band is the text “1998” in white font.
A straight cut was used to remove the cap of the VegaFina 1998 VF 52. Once the cap was removed it was on to the pre-light draw phase. The dry draw delivered notes of earth, cedar, natural tobacco, and fruit sweetness. This wasn’t the most exciting pre-light draw, but since the pre-light draw is not scored, there is no loss of points here. At this point, it was time to toast the foot of the VegaFina 1998 VF 52 and move on to the smoking phase.
The VegaFina 1998 VF 52 picked up where the pre-light draw left off with notes of earth, cedar, natural tobacco, and fruit sweetness. Early on there was no dominant note on the tongue, but there was an additional layer of cedar and pepper on the retro-hale. Toward the latter part of the first third, the natural tobacco, cedar, and fruit notes emerged as the primary notes. The earth receded into the background and was joined by a slight mount of pepper on the tongue.
During the second third of the VegaFina 1998 VF 52, the cedar, natural tobacco, and fruit sweetness alternated in intensity. Deeper into this stage of the smoke, the fruit sweetness played less of a role and started a transition to a background note. The natural tobacco at times had more in the way of bitterness than it did in the first place. In the distant background, the earth and pepper were still present.
The last stage of the cigar didn’t have much of a change as the natural tobacco and cedar remained in the forefront. The fruit, earth, and pepper remained in the background. This is the way the VegaFina VF 52 cigar experience came to a close. The resulting nub was firm to the touch and cool in temperature.
While there was a slight amount of jaggedness on the burn line, the VegaFina 1998 VF 52 maintained a straight burn path from start to finish. The resulting ash was firm with a light-gray color to it. This was an ash that was on the firmer side. Both the burn rate and burn temperature were ideal.
The draw to the VegaFina 1998 VF 52 performed very well. This was a cigar that had a touch of resistance on the draw – which is something that I consider to be ideal.
Strength and Body
The VegaFina 1998 VF 52 started out as a mild to medium cigar in terms of strength. Just before the midway point, the cigar progressed to the medium range of the spectrum where it remained for the duration of the cigar experience. As for the body, it started out in the medium range. There was a nominal increase in the intensity of the body, but there was not enough of an increase to move out of the medium range.
In terms of strength versus body, the body had the edge in the first half. In the second half, the gap closed and by the end of the cigar, the strength and body were pretty much in equilibrium.
Over the years, VegaFina has been a brand that has delivered excellent cigars at a very competitive price point. In the case of the VegaFina 1998, while it still keeps to a value price, this simply was not as good a cigar as I have had from this brand. I found the flavor profile unbalanced – namely more bitterness and cedar notes than I prefer. While it had excellent construction, you can score a cigar on construction alone and in the end performance is going to be the differentiating factor. At a price point under $6.00, this is a cigar I would recommend trying a sample first and seeing if the flavor profile meshes. As for myself, I’m going to explore some of the other sizes.
Key Flavors: Natural Tobacco, Cedar, Fruit, Earth, Pepper
Strength: Mild to Medium (1st Half), Medium (2nd Half)
Finish: Very Good
Value: Try a Sample
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop, except where noted.