At the 2019 IPCPR Trade Show, J.C. Newman Cigar Company showcased a project known as Yagua which coincides with the 125th anniversary of J.C. Newman Cigar Company. What makes this cigar unique is that it is rolled without a cigar mold, but rather with the frond of a Yagua tree. The project was spearheaded by Drew Newman who became intrigued by hearing a story from the J.C. Newman PENSA factory manager Lazario Lopez on how his grandfather would use this technique to make cigars. When the Yagua was announced, J.C. Newman issued a press release describing the technique and how it inspired the line.
“At our family farm, my grandfather would take fresh tobacco leaves from the curing barns and roll cigars without any molds or presses. In an attempt to give his cigars a traditional shape, he would tie a handful of them together using pieces of the Cuban royal palm tree, known as the yagua. When he was ready to enjoy his personal cigars, he untied the bundle. He loved how every cigar had its own unique shape. I still remember the rich aroma and taste of my grandfather’s cigars. Today, I’ve recreated Yagua, rolling them exactly how my grandfather did a century ago.” – Lazario Lopez.
“After hearing Lazaro describe the beautiful Yagua cigars he remembers from his youth in Cuba, I asked Lazaro if he could make this special cigar at our factory in Nicaragua. We are calling it Yagua, after the palm leaves that give the cigars their distinct shape.” – Drew Newman.
It had been planned that J.C. Newman’s finalized Yagua product would be showcased at the 2020 PCA Trade Show. While the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the 2020 Trade Show, J.C. Newman still managed to get the Yagua released this past summer.
One note, each cigar used for the final review went through a 48 hour dry box aging period. There was a total of six dry-boxed cigars that were used as input into this assessment. We’ll touch on this more throughout the assessment.
Without further ado, let’s break down the Yagua and see what this cigar brings to the table.
Blend and Origin
The Yagua consists of a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper over Nicaraguan binder and filler. The Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper is slightly under-fermented to give the blend more boldness. Production comes from the factory managed by Lazario Lopez, the J.C. Newman PENSA facility.
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Factory: J.C. Newman Puros de Estelí Nicaragua, S.A. (PENSA)
The Yagua comes in one size – a 6 x 54 Toro. A total of 1,000 20-count boxes of the Toro have been produced.
The Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper of the Yagua had a rich roasted coffee bean color. Upon closer examination, there was mottling present on the surface of the wrapper. There was also some oil on the surface. There were some visible veins, but the dark color of the wrapper did a good job at hiding the wrapper seams. Each cigar is finished with a band with a red background with gold and antique white trim. On the center of the band is the text “YAGUA” in white font repeated five times surrounded by gold adornments.
For the Yagua, the cigars are “wet packed.” The cigars are rolled and then immediately banded (as opposed to banded after aging). Because the cigars are bound together while wet, there still is a pressing effect even though the cigars do not use a mold or press. This binding effect results in variations of the cigar shape, but in most cases, the cigar looked like an asymmetrical box-press.
The packaging of the cigar features the bound cigars with the yagua leaf surrounding it.
The cigars are packaged in a crate-like box.
We recently filmed an unboxing video that gives an in-depth perspective of the packaging.
While the shape and packaging of the Yagua somewhat unique, when it came to the pre-light draw, it was more business as usual. A straight cut was used to remove the cap of the Yagua. Once the cap was removed, it was on to the pre-light draw. The col draw was consisted of mocha (a fusion of chocolate and coffee notes), cedar, and leather notes. Overall the cigar delivered a satisfactory pre-light draw. At this point it was time to light up the Yagua and see what the smoking phase would hold in store.
One thing I will state up front. Depending on the shape, there were some variations in the overall flavor pattern of the Yagua. In general there was a core of notes that was present and the description below attempts to capture a baseline pattern as much as possible.
The Yagua opened with notes of mocha, earth, and red pepper. The mocha, which is a combination of chocolate and coffee quickly had that fusion fall apart. The coffee notes took over as a primary note. The earth and red pepper notes were joined by chocolate and some cedar notes. Toward the end of the first third, the pepper and cedar notes were the most distant on the tongue, but the red pepper was prominent on the retro-hale.
During the second third of the Yagua, the coffee notes remained primary. During this stage of the smoke there was a little more bitterness that surfaced from the coffee, but this helped contribute more to the balance of the smoke. In the background, there was still some sweetness from the chocolate and cedar notes as spice from the pepper. The background notes also had some earthy notes. The bitter component varied in intensity.
By the last third, the coffee noes remained in the forefront. There was still some varying degrees of bitterness scheduled. The red pepper and cedar was more prominent by this point. There still was some chocolate sweetness and earth scheduled. This is the way the Yagua came to a close. The resulting nub was soft to the touch and cool in temperature.
As mentioned, each Yagua cigar smoked for this review was dry-boxed for 48 hours. I found this did make for a better burn. The Yagua had a jagged burn line, but for the most part this was remedied with touch-ups. The touch-ups also helped the Yagua maintain a straight burn path. The resulting ash wasn’t overly firm and there was some occasional flakiness. The burn rate and burn temperature were ideal.
When I filmed the unboxing video, I lucked out and had a good draw, but the cigar was a little wet. The next two cigars had a substandard draw, and I made the call to dry box the cigars to move forward with the draw. The 48 hours of dry boxing did the trick. I smoked about six cigars for this review and on each of them, the draw was much better. I still prefer some resistance on the draw, but the Yagua was a touch tighter than I prefer.
Strength and Body
Overal the Yagua delivered a medium strength, medium-bodied cigar. I didn’t find a lot of variance in the intensity levels. While both strength and body land in the respective “medium” areas of the spectrum, the strength maintained an edge through the smoking experience – and the gap seemed to grow thoughout the smoking experience.
Earlier I mentioned the fact that each cigar was dry-boxed before it was used for the assessment. I also would highly recommend dissembling the bundle. Originally when I did the unboxing video, I kept the bundle intact. The cigars I smoked prior to dry-boxing came from the bundle. Pulling the cigars out of the bundle seemed to alleviate problems of the cigars being wet or having a very tight draw.
As for the cigar itself, it’s got a bit of an old-school Connecticut Broadleaf cigar. It’s got the rich coffee notes and balanced with sweetness and spice. As mentioned upfront, there will be some slight variances in the flavor pattern due to the shape variations, but the core flavors will be present. Overall the cigar scores a very respectable 89, and my gut tells me with longer-term aging outside of being packaged in the bundle is going to make this cigar even better. This is a cigar I would recommend to any cigar enthusiast. As for myself, I would definitely buy this cigar and smoke again.
Key Flavors: Coffee, Chocolate, Earth, Red Pepper, Cedar,
Burn: Very Good
Draw: Very Good
Value: Buy One
Photo/Video Credits: Cigar Coop