Romeo y Julieta – Viejo
The Changing Nature of the Cigar Bar
In my last entry, I wrote about a few cigar bars that I had the opportunity to visit recently. For those of you who regularly read my reviews, you know that I do a fair amount of traveling, almost exclusively in the United States these days. On these trips, I will often hit a cigar bar in the city I’m visiting (it beats the hell out of sitting in my hotel room watching old reruns on TV while playing solitaire). Not too many years back I was almost assured that the cigar bar venue would be the same, independent of the city I was in. I could walk into an establishment and be greeted with a lot of cigar smoke produced by a modest crowd of mostly older gentleman, surrounded by leather and dark wood, sipping scotch and bourbon while conversing about politics and business. Now, this was not a bad thing; in fact, that type of venue is quite appealing at times.
However, there is a reshaping of the cigar bar. The stereotypical version depicted above is just one of the themes you will find today. You have the trendy martini lounge theme; the hardwood-floored, loud rock ‘n’ roll, “dive bar” theme; and the cool café theme, complete with live music from a guy playing a six string guitar and patrons who are primarily a late-night, 20 to 30-something crowd. The list continues.
What’s driving the trend? My research is strictly anecdotal with no real scientific merit. I would answer, at least in part, that the underlying reason is all of the anti-smoking legislation that has become so popular in so many cities and suburbs. Often, when smoking ban laws are written, they spare the tobacconists and cigar bars, as they are typically small business owners who rely on smoking and smokers to survive. It’s the right thing to do, and even the anti-smoking zealots cannot complain (they shouldn’t be near either one of these types of establishments if they don’t like smoke). However, the bans leave many smokers -- a fairly diverse set of both young and old -- with few legal choices. Thus, a trend is born. Smokers, who may have never considered going to cigar bars, let alone smoking cigars, begin going, because they can legally smoke their cigarettes there. With this growing, diverse crowd, cigar bar owners, who may have never considered hiring someone to play live 2008-vintage pop music, do it to cater to this newfound customer and revenue stream.
Not surprisingly, a number of newer cigar bars have sprung up, hoping to capitalize on the trend. All in all, it’s somewhat of a win-win situation. The smokers can congregate in a place, smoke, and feel welcome, while the non-smokers can go to all the places that are now free of smoke (and can find something else to proactively target for change).Of course, when I consider going to a cigar bar that I have never experienced, I “case” the joint first, to ensure the theme fits me or at least fits the mood I’m in.
All in all, the change is nice, so let’s get smokin’!
Romeo y Julieta – Viejo
Size: "E" (Epicure) - (6 inches long, 54 Ring Gauge)
Price: $6.50 to 7.50 range
Romeo y Julieta (RyJ) continues to be one of the older and respected brand names in cigars. This brand is one of the many that cigar giant Altadis markets, along with other names like Macanudo and H. Upmann. I have a particular fondness for RyJ as they were the first full box of cigars that I ever purchased, and the brand, the Reserva Real line, is still the cigar that I most often recommend to a newer cigar smoker. The Viejo is RyJ’s latest blend and I could not wait to try them. The Spanish name, Viejo, means “old” in English, which typically signifies well-aged tobacco in the cigar trade.
- Wrapper: Mexico
- Binder: Honduras
- Filler: Honduras, Nicaragua
I was committed to trying and reviewing a few of the newer cigars on the market, so after picking up 10 of these, I had to quickly get a couple smoked. I hit the outdoor hammock on a scorching day and tried to convince myself that this was probably the typical environment experienced for decades by many Cubans when they fire up a cigar.
Look and feel
The dark (maduro) cigars continue to be popular with the cigar smoking public, and the Viejo is a fitting entry into this class. The cigar has a nice dark, oily sheen. The construction appears to be fine and it had a hefty feel. Somewhat unique, it was box pressed (i.e., squared) in the Cuban tradition. Of the many Romeo y Julietas that I have enjoyed over the years, this was the first box-pressed line that I recall. I was too lazy to formally research it, but it is definitely not the norm.
Aroma and Taste
The pre-smoke aroma is pleasant and I set the flame to it. I smoked two of the Viejos over a three-day period, mainly due to the first being partially plugged. I could not get a decent draw out of the first third of the cigar. I tried massaging it in an effort to loosen it up without any luck. Due to the lack of smoke being consumed, it was difficult to get a full tasting. What a disappointment! The second cigar was much better, smoked on Father’s Day. However, the early portion of this cigar also had some draw problems, but not nearly as bad as the first one. The smoke was tasty, highlighted by the woody and nutty flavor that I have come to appreciate from an RyJ cigar, with some hints of sweetness. The Viejo was smooth, and richer in flavor than the Reserva Real line probably due to its maduro wrapper, but I viewed this as a positive feature. The cigar never became overpowering in its strength or its taste, also a welcome feature. The burn was consistent.
RATING: 8.8 (on a scale of 1 to 10) – Good flavor, uniform burn, but even after the more successful experience with the second cigar, the early draw problems took away from the overall enjoyment. I don’t want to work so hard or experience frustration when having a smoke – it’s counter to the reasons many of us enjoy a cigar, the relaxing nature of the experience.I plan on resting the remaining Viejos in my humidor for at least a few weeks before trying another, as I suspect that the cigars may have been a little bit over-humidified at purchase, thus causing the draw issue. This cigar has the potential to get to a 90+ rating, but it needs to prove some consistency in the future.
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