Tony Bellatto from La Barba Cigars has been rather quiet over the past couple of years. He was not represented at the 2017 IPCPR and the last new cigar was the La Barba “One and Only” introduced at the 2016 IPCPR in the Caldwell Cigars booth. That has all changed as Bellatto has come back on the scene this year with the introduction of the La Barba Primitivo line and had his own booth at the show; although the Primitivo was also on display at the Caldwell booth since Bellatto and Caldwell have a joint distribution company. The Primitivo line is now the third “core” line for La Barba Cigars.
The name Primitivo comes from Bellotto’s time in the wine industry and it is a grape that grows primarily in Italy’s Puglia region. It is very similar to the Zinfandel grape grown in California and like the Zinfandel grape, it is a clone of an ancient Croatian grape called Crljenak Kaštelanski.
In the press release for the La Barba Primitivo, Tony Bellotto stated:
“I was trained professionally in wine and spirits, I wanted to bring that to the table here more than I had with anything before. The goal is to keep challenging ourselves, and keep pushing to offer our customers new and different things.”
New and different is a bit of an understatement with this spectacular cigar. The blend is a rich multi-country assortment of select leaf:
- Wrapper – Mexican San Andrés maduro
- Binder – Indonesian
- Filler – Dominican, Nicaraguan and Pennsylvania
The La Barba Primitivo is available in four vitolas and comes packaged in 25-count boxes:
- Corona (5 3/4 x 46) MSRP $8.60
- Robusto (5 x 50) MSRP $9.60
- Toro (6 x 54) MSRP $10.60
- Gordo (6 x 60) MSRP $11.60
Like the other core lines in the La Barba portfolio, the Primitivo is quality hand-made at Tabacalera William Ventura in the Dominican Republic.
The blend alone will make your mouth water with anticipation and that is exactly what happened with me as I proceeded to give it a closer examination. For this review I sampled the La Barba Primitivo Corona which I received at the IPCPR for the purpose of reviewing on Stogie press.
The La Barba Primitivo corona is just simply gorgeous in presentation. It has an extremely toothy and oily dark brown wrapper with just a few veins and nicely marbled. It is well capped and solid in the hand with no soft spots detected.
There are two bands that adorn the Primitivo using a bright orange and gold motif. The primary band has the same design as previous La Barba cigars, with the logo (barber straight razor) centered in the middle and the words La Barba printed on the side. The secondary band is placed directly below and declares this as the “Primitivo” blend. I will say the color choice on the dark cigar makes it all pop on a shelf and would draw a wandering eye directly to the box.
Running the La Barba Primitivo across the nose I picked up a pungent (in a nice well fermented tobacco way) aroma off both the foot and barrel. It had a slight sweetness to the scent. I am getting more intrigued to light this up, but first I wanted to taste the unlit cigar.
After slicing the cap with my double blade cutter the cold draw was absolutely perfect in restriction and graced the palate with rich earthy notes and a growing peppery spice as I rolled it about and continued to savor it.
I could have gone on and just cold puffed this for another thirty minutes but I decided it was time to ignite it and hopefully enjoy the journey. I used a cedar spill to fire it up, gently warming the foot to a bright orange glow and taking in the first puffs of flavor.
Cigar Review Notes
- First few puffs filled the palate with white pepper and spice
- There was a decent nasal burn on the retro-hale
- It instantly had a full volume of smoke
- The wrapper quickly oozed oils and even had a slight sticky feel an inch above the crisp burn line where a solid white ash evolves
- Baking spice enters as the pepper receded
- Pleasant yet complex aroma (floral, fruit, spice) filled the air in the lounge
- Cocoa powder joined the early well balanced profile
- Aroma settles in with predominantly floral aroma
- Ash drops after a bit more than an inch revealing a text book burn cone and crisp even line
- The smoke is eloquently smooth
- Sweetness and cinnamon enter with a pleasant cedar back note
- The smoke coming off the foot is blue in color representative of the oils in the wrapper
- Notes evolve well as anise and butter enters
- As it moves close to the secondary band, there is a touch of grape that makes this cigar mouth quenching
- Aroma moves to a cedar
- Spice builds as it approaches the midway point but not overpowering the other notes
- A nuance of nut entices the tongue yet it has a very clean finish on the palate
- A curled stream of blue smoke rises from the oily wrapper
- Things continue to evolve as a vanilla note enters near the end of the second third
- The journey finishes with fruit and a diminished spice in the final third
- Medium in strength
- Total Smoking Time was an amazing 1 hour and 40 minutes
Overall, the La Barba Primitivo was a spectacular cigar and a welcome back to the party for Tony Bellotto. We missed you last year and what a way to come back. Besides the fact that this cigar is a 1 hour and 40 minute slow burning corona, it was filled with complexity of core and nuanced flavor and aromas from foot to nub. The burn and ash were precisely what I try to bring attention to in my reviews and the strength hit the bulls eye just north of medium so that it could be enjoyed by most any cigar lover. If you are an experienced smoker, this is one you would want to add to your rotations and I would certainly buy a box to enjoy some and let the others age. I would be very interested in trying the other vitolas in the line to see how they stand up to the corona.
Point Deductions: ZERO
Bonus Points: (+1) Buy a Box; (+1) Extreme Oiling
I would like to say I would add one more point for the burn line, but I have to reserve that for multiple samples to truly determine if it is consistent from cigar to cigar. So this could be a 99 but for now it we are sticking with a 98.