In 2022, Protocol Cigars would do a single-store exclusive release for Breaker Cigars known as the Protocol Hard Coal Detective. Breaker Cigars is located in Shamokin, Pennsylvania and the Hard Coal Detective ties in with the shop itself and the history of the region. Breaker Cigars is named after a coal breaker, which is a coal processing plant that breaks coal into various useful sizes and also removes impurities from the coal. Shamokin is in one of the largest coal regions in Pennsylvania and is a coal mining town. Today, we take a closer look at the Protocol Hard Coal Detective.

For a small company, Protocol Cigars has built up quite a large portfolio of cigars. At press time the company has eleven regular production blends. Over the years, the company has complemented these blends with limited, small-batch, event-only, and single-store releases.  We have counted 23 such releases over the years. Below, we list these cigars.

Without further ado, let’s turn our attention back to the Protocol Hard Coal Detective and see what this cigar brings to the table.



Blend and Origin

The Protocol Hard Coal Detective is produced at Erik Espinosa’s La Zona factory in Estelí, Nicaragua.  The recipe for the Hard Coal Detective consists of an Ecuadorian Rosado Oscuro over Nicaraguan binder and filler.

Wrapper: Ecuadorian Rosado Oscuro
Binder: Jalapa, Nicaragua
Filler: Esteli, Nicaragua
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Factory: La Zona

Vitolas Offered

The Protocol Hard Coal Detective comes in one size – a 6 x 52 Toro. The cigars are presented in ten-count bundles.


The Ecuadorian Rosado Oscuro wrapper of the Protocol Hard Coal Detective had a chocolate brown color to it. The wrapper had a slight amount of oil on it. While there were some visible veins and visible wrapper seams, the surface of the wrapper was relatively smooth.


Pre-Light Draw

Prior to lighting up the Protocol Hard Coal Detective, a straight cut was used to remove the cap. Once the cap was detached, it was on to the pre-light draw experience. The cold draw delivered a mix of creamy chocolate, citrus, and cedar. There was a decent amount of (natural) sweetness that was present on this pre-light draw. While it was a little sweeter than I prefer, I still considered this to be a satisfactory pre-light draw experience. At this point, it was time to toast up the footer of the Protocol Hard Coal Detective and move on to the smoking phase.

Tasting Notes

The Protocol Hard Coal Detective opened up with notes of natural tobacco, cream, citrus, herb, and red pepper. Early on the natural tobacco and cream notes settled into the forefront with the citrus, herb, and red pepper notes in the background. Later in the first third, the cream notes receded into the background and some earth notes surfaced in the forefront with the natural tobacco. Meanwhile, there was an additional layer of red pepper on the retro-hale.

The second third of the Protocol Hard Coal Detective saw the earth and natural tobacco notes remain the primary flavors. As the cigar reached the midway point, the natural tobacco receded into the background leaving the earth notes as the sole primary note. Meanwhile, the natural tobacco joined the citrus, herb, and red pepper. There was a slight increase in the red pepper notes. As for the cream notes, they had dissipated by the time the cigar reached the second third.

The final third saw the earth notes remain in the forefront. The pepper notes were now the most prominent of the background notes, but they had still not made their way to the forefront. Meanwhile, there still were natural tobacco, citrus, and herb notes present. This is the way the Protocol Hard Coal Detective came to a close. The resulting nub was soft to the touch and cool in temperature.


On each of the samples of the Protocol Hard Coal Detective, the burn started out with a straight burn line and a tight white ash. As the cigar progressed past the first third, it did require more frequent touch-ups to maintain a straight burn path as well as a straight burn line. The tight white ash did remain a constant throughout the smoking experience. As for the burn rate and burn temperature, both maintained ideal levels.

Protocol Hard Coal Detective-Burn


The draw to the Protocol Hard Coal Detective performed excellently. It maintained just the right amount of resistance, yet it was still a low-maintenance cigar to derive flavor from.

Strength and Body

The Protocol Hard Coal Detective opened up as a medium-strength, medium-bodied cigar. Both the strength and body increased in intensity throughout the first half. By the second half, the strength had progressed to medium to full. Both attributes had slight increases in intensity during the second half, but in the end, the cigar remained medium to full in strength and medium in body.

In terms of strength versus body, the strength maintained a slight edge throughout the smoking experience.


I’m not a huge fan of the bands on the Protocol Hard Coal Detective. On the other hand, I do like the design of the label on the front of the mazo. I would have really liked to see the badge image on the mazo somehow overlain on the band.

Protocol Hard Coal Detective Bundle


Final Thoughts

I know I have said this in a lot of Protocol reviews. When it comes to Protocol’s core regular production lines, for the most part, they are excellent offerings. However, when it comes to Protocol’s limited and single-store offerings, that’s often not the case. Unfortunately, the Protocol Hard Coal Detective isn’t impressive. I can say the cigar had an excellent draw and very good construction, but it simply didn’t deliver what I expect from a flavor standpoint. This was a cigar I really wanted to like. This cigar had a great story tied to the retailer and the history of the area, but ultimately the blend fell short.  This is a cigar I simply have to pass on.


Key Flavors:  Earth, Natural Tobacco, Cream, Citrus, Herb, Pepper
Burn:  Very Good
Draw: Excellent
Complexity: Medium
Strength: Medium (1st Half), Medium to Full (2nd Half)
Body: Medium
Finish: Very Good


Value: Not Recommended
Score: 85


News: Protocol Hard Coal Detective Announced
Price:  $9.20
Source: Protocol Cigars
Brand Reference: Protocol

Photo Credits: Cigar Coop