Lanceros! Those long thin cigars made famous by Fidel Castro with the Cohiba Lancero have been an “on again – off again” vitola. Those that truly understand cigars know that the Lancero is the one that offers the truest flavor of the wrapper.
In an article back in 2008, Cigar Aficionado asked Michael Herklots, general manager of the Davidoff shop in Columbus Circle in New York City –
“What kind of customer buys a lancero?” He responded:
“An educated one. A confident one. A lancero smoker is the same type of customer who buys a Schrader RBS Cabernet—he doesn’t need a trophy that other people recognize as great. He or she knows it’s great, and that’s enough.”
I happen to whole heartily agree with that response. I know the most popular vitola tends to be the Robusto or Toro, but then it comes to pure smoking pleasure, a properly constructed and blended Lancero will be a memorable smoking experience. Of course, if it is not constructed well, it will be a turn off.
Lanceros used to be the vitola that brand owners would blend first, and then work to get the other vitolas, to fit the flavor profile as close as possible. The Lancero is one of the most difficult to roll as there is such a small amount of leaf to work with and because of this, only the most experienced torcerdors are given the responsibility to roll them.
Don’t Smoke it Like a 6 x 60
As a consumer, you also need to understand how to smoke them. If you are a large ring gauge cigar smoker, you have to change how you puff on the Lancero. If you puff hard on it, you will learn quickly that it will not respond the same and you will not have the experience the blender and roller designed for you. Take it slow and puff gently.
Additionally, don’t be surprised if it goes out on you and requires to be re-lit, it is the nature of the vitola, although some of the best will stay lit if laid to rest for a few minutes as you may have read in the some of the top rated reviews we did this year.
The Battle is Complete
This past year I smoked 10 lanceros that were considered new to the market. New in the sense, that each was a line extension to an existing blend. I kept the selection open for the month of January as I wanted to give a fair chance to any that wanted to compete. Of the 10 lanceros. there were 4 that scored a 97 and that put me in a bit of a pickle to decide which was Numero Uno. After careful thought, and even re-smoking these top 4, I made my selection.
So here are the rankings of the top 2018 Lanceros
Rock-A-Feller Vintage Nicaragua Maduro – Rated 97
Overall, the Rock A Feller Cigars Vintage Nicaragua Maduro Lancero was better than I expected with an outstanding burn and flavors that would please the most discerning palate including notes of; pepper, vanilla beanm sweetness, cocoa, espresso, cinnamon spice, dry fruit, roasted acorn, and citrus. Complex yet balanced as the flavors shifted and morphed through the full 7 inches down to the nub.
The ash held longer than most lanceros I have smoked. I even let it rest for a few minutes and it was still lit when I picked it up, which is uncharacteristic of a lancero. If you enjoy lanceros you may want to pick up a box once you try it.
I would like to congratulate Kevin Schweitzer, the owner of Rock-A-Feller Cigars and his team at American Caribbean Tobacco S.A. in Estelí, Nicaragua who should be proud, as we all know a lancero is the hardest to roll and they did it perfectly!
Villiger La Flor De Ynclan – Rated 97
The Villiger La Flor De Ynclan lancero offered a far greater strength then the original vitolas in the line and offered a more pronounced citrus in the way of lemon and mandarin as my Stogie Press associate Mike Bruce so aptly pointed out. The flavors were consistent throughout, with pleasing nuances of cocoa, butter and salt through the journey. It burned perfectly from foot to nub and it makes me want to grab another to start the journey all over again. The only point subtraction I did was the squish in the barrel in the second half but it picks up two bonus points for the long ash and because I would buy a box of these.
Foundation Cigars Wise Man – Rated 97
The Foundation Cigars Wise Man Maduro lancero is an excellent addition to the well acclaimed line. Like its brethren in the line, the lancero is a complex, flavor filled and well balanced smoke. The only issue I had with it was the bitter note that triggered in the 3rd quarter but that was short lived. From a construction perspective, it had excellent burn quality including a perfectly formed burn cone once the ash fell.
Hiram & Solomon Traveling Man – Rated 97
The Hiram & Solomon Traveling Man Lancero was one of those memorable cigars that will keep your palate intrigued with complex flavors and aromas from foot to nub. The burn was pristine and construction excellent. The only point deduction I gave this was the tannic dryness that seemed to grow especially in the second half. This is worth buying a box, especially if you like lanceros. I feel this will age nicely so smoke them slow and enjoy them, knowing that a portion of all sales goes to various charities.
Southern Draw Jacobs Ladder – Rated 96
The Southern Draw Jacobs Ladder lancero was a fine example of a lancero. The burn was excellent from foot to nub and never needed to be touched up but it did need to be re-lit once. The flavors were pretty close to the other vitolas in the line with an added citrus component in the middle and a bit more chocolate. I did not pick up the mint that I found in the larger vitolas. I feel this is priced right and purchasing a jar helps a worthy charity (Cigars for Warriors).
Jeremy Jack JJ14 – Rated 94
The Jeremy Jack JJ14 Lancero was even better in my view, than the Corona Gorda. I felt the flavors were more balanced with a core of natural sweetness. The burn was sharp and did not require any re-lights. The was a bit more squish in the barrel as it burned and the ash did fall often after the initial ash dropped. This is a lighter smoke and a bit less complex than the previous five in the battle.
Protocol Themis – Rated 93
The jury found the medium strength Protocol Themis Lancero to be a fine lancero specimen. The flavors were closely aligned with its larger siblings in the line and it even delivered the tasty mint note I love in a cigar. It produced a full volume of mouth watering smoke all the way to the nub. It did however have a wavy burn and a more pointed burn cone.
Gran Habano Corojo No. 5 Maduro – Rated 93
The Gran Habano Corojo No. 5 Maduro lancero put on quite a performance with a complex array of flavor notes that kept me interested from foot to nub. The strength on this creeps up on you and finishes at a solid full in the final quarter. From a construction perspective it never went out, never got squishy, and did not require a re-light but it did have a slight off burn in the second quarter and a flat burn cone after each ash drop.
Drew Estate Liga Privada Unica Serie L40 – Rated 91
The Liga Privada Unica Serie L40 was part of the Liga Privada 10th Anniversary Collection. It was a pleasant smoke that offered notes of spice and earth, joined with nuances of chocolate and fruit. It had a full volume of smoke from foot to nub and a pleasant sweet aroma. The body and strength were slow to develop but ended up at a medium to full in the final quarter. The solid white ash held for a good inch or more before falling. There was however a squishiness in the barrel in the 3rd quarter and a noticeable tunnel hole deep into the 3rd quarter.
Providencia Cigars Maduro – Pre-release
I have to give a special mention to the team from Providencia Cigars. Late spring of 2018, they sent me some pre-release samples of a new lancero. I did not rate this as the rating system was not in place yet, but I would say the Providencia Maduro Lancero is one that will be thoroughly enjoyed by those lanceros lovers out there. Sadly, when they launched it, there was a naming issue and they had to pull it off the market. They expect it to enter the market this year. I was told the samples I had were still young, but even so, the burn was spectacular for any vitola and absolutely stupendous for a lancero. The flavors were balanced and enticing from the foot to the nub. This is one that would certainly have rated very high and I highly recommend checking this one out when it hits the shelves this year.
Congratulations to All
I would like to say congratulations to all those that competed in the inaugural Stogie Press Battle of the Lanceros. The lancero is a vitola I truly love and would like to see more on the shelves. We will do it again in 2019. If you are a brand owner and want to be considered in the 2019 Battle of the Lanceros, shoot me a message or talk to me at this years IPCPR in Las Vegas. Until then, Stay Smokey and let’s rock 2019.