Cigar Review: The Leaf by James – Rated 91

Unless you are hiding in a barn or living under a rock, you most certainly have heard of Island Jim Robinson and probably set your eyes on his acclaimed Leaf by Oscar series of cigars. You know, the ones that are wrapped in a tobacco leaf instead of being packaged in cellophane. The ones that had you exclaim the first time you saw them; “What is that?”

You can find the Leaf by Oscar in 49 states in the USA. Only Alaska has not seen them. They are also available in numerous shops throughout Europe and even the Caribbean. Building on the success, Island Jim reached out to James Brown, owner of Black Label Trading Co. and Fabrica Oveja Negra in Estelí, Nicaragua, to collaborate on a new “Leaf By” blend known as the Leaf by James. The result of the collaboration was showcased at the 2018 IPCPR.

This was not the first collaboration Island Jim did on the “Leaf by” series. He also worked with Noel Rojas from Guayacan for the Leaf by Noel and also Estaban Disla from RoMa Craft for the Leaf by Esteban. What is important to note is that all three collaborations do not use the outer leaf wrapping like the Leaf by Oscar, but they do use the tobacco based paper bands.

Leaf by James
Leaf by James

For the Leaf by James, the duo decided to go with a non-Honduran yet multi-country blend that is described as:

  • Wrapper – USA Pennsylvania Broadleaf
  • Binder – Ecuadorian Habano
  • Filler – Nicaraguan

The initial release is available in a single 6 x 50 Toro vitola packaged in both 20-count boxes and 20-count bundles. The MSRP is set at $9.95 for the bundled packaging and $10.45 for the box packaging.

The Leaf by James for this review was attained at the Leaf & Bean Strip shop in downtown Pittsburgh during my visit there in November of 2018.

Leaf & Bean Strip Coffee and Cigar Shop
Leaf & Bean Strip Coffee and Cigar Shop

Pre-Light Examination

The Leaf by James will not win a beauty contest, but looks do not always translate into flavor and looks are in the eyes of the beholder. If you are a fan of USA Pennsylvania Broadleaf then this is a beautiful cigar. This cigar is a far cry from the pristine looking Leaf by Oscar cigars with its veiny, extremely toothy, dark brown and blotchy wrapper. I give credit to James Brown for not trying to hide the looks of the wrapper. The presentation is completed with an expertly finished triple cap.

As I mentioned, the cigar is adorned with a single band that like all “Leaf by” brands is made from paper processed from tobacco cuttings using a special factory that Island Jim started in Honduras to employ the single mothers in the industry. The band declares the cigar as the “Leaf by James” using black ink.

Running the Leaf by James along the nose I detected a sweet curing barn aroma along the barrel and sweet fruit and cinnamon spice notes off the foot.

I sliced the cap with my double blade cutter and proceeded to give it some cold draw puffs that were nicely restricted with notes of butter and earth and just a sprinkle of peppery spice.

With the pre-light inspection much to my liking it was time to ignite it and take a smokey journey with Island Jim and James Brown. I used my double flame torch lighter to warm the foot as it took to the flame perfectly.


Cigar Review Notes

Leaf by James
Leaf by James
Leaf by James
Leaf by James
Leaf by James
Leaf by James
Leaf by James
Leaf by James
Leaf by James
Leaf by James
Leaf by James
Leaf by James
  • First puffs offer cinnamon spice and wafts of sweet cream aroma
  • White ash quickly develops on a medium char line but holds for a short time before falling
  • Flat and fairly centered burn cone is revealed
  • Smoke volume is medium so far
  • Mild citrus fruit joins the spice during the first third
  • Aroma evolves to more of a syrupy note
  • The medium char line is jagged but not running off
  • Spice builds a little in the second third
  • Slight off burn develops
  • Bitter Cocoa enters at the end of the second third
  • Required a mild touch up
  • Hint of toasted cracker enters in the final third wrapped with a bitter sweet spice
  • Savory notes enter in the final both in flavor and aroma
  • Medium Strength
  • Total Smoking Time was 2 hours

Overall, the Leaf by James was a tasty Pennsylvania Broadleaf cigar with evolving and balanced flavors and aromas including fruit, cinnamon spice, toasted cracker and syrupy sweetness. The cigar burned for a solid 2 hours down to the nub. There were however some burn issues, which are not uncommon from this type of wrapper, and it did require a touch up in the second third to get it to behave. Even so, I would buy a fiver to add to my rotation. Overall I rate this a 91.

Point Deductions: (-1) Jagged burn; (-1) Flat Burn Cone; (-1) Off Burn; (-1) Required Touch Up; (-1) Medium Volume of Smoke

Leaf by James
Leaf by James

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