May 19, 2012

Cigar Review: Viaje Late Harvest LH 648



Viaje
When it comes to well known and popular boutique cigar companies, Viaje is most likely at the head of the pack. They really became well known in 2010 when they got major recognition from Cigar Aficionado, and since then they have not been on shelves often before being picked up. Headed by Andre Farkas, Viaje Cigars teamed up with the team of Casa Fernandez to make great cigars in the Cuban fashion. More often than not his lines are Nicaraguan puros, and emphasizes the use of Criollo and Corojo tobacco. He is most likely well known for his core Viaje Platino and Oro lines, but he has also gotten attention from his unique bands and names for his other lines. I have been smoking several of his lines when I can, and one that has really caught my attention because of concept is the Late Harvest.

The latest release of the Viaje brand is the second release to the Late Harvest line. More and more cigar manufacturers are trying to capture the wine industry qualities within the cigar industry, and Andre Farkas of Viaje is no different. What Farkas wanted to do with this line was to use the last primings of the tobacco plant. What this does is allow the top leaves to remain on the plant and continue to absorb nutrients and sunlight much longer which also produces rich tasting stronger tobacco. While this concept is not identical to the wine industry it captures that same concept and offers a strong and rich smoke. Like the initial release last year, the Late Harvest is available in two vitolas. Production was limited to 200 boxes of each vitola, and packaging of each size is 35 cigars a box. With those numbers in mind, you can tell it is limited to 14,000 cigars in all.

Holding the cigar in hand it is very smooth and slightly silky. It has some nice tooth to the wrapper, and there are some veins present throughout. Like all Viaje Cigars, it has a great triple cap, and this cigar has a nice pigtail cap. It is very firm in hand, and has a great coloring to the wrapper. It is definitely Colorado in coloring, and looking at the cigar it is darker at the foot and is slightly lighter in coloring towards the head. I would say it has this color of dark redwood that has some "burnt" coloring to it. The LH 648 is a Corona Gorda in sizing, and measures 6" with a 48 ring gauge. When I hold the foot of the cigar to my nose I get a lot of pepper and spice on the nose, but there is also some wood, leather and lemon peel.
Corojo '99 wrapper
As I light up the cigar I am immediately greeted by a flavor profile that is spicy and peppery. There are some nice notes of wood and leather present in the cigar, but that spicy pepper flavor profile is dominant. There are hints of espresso beans and lemon peel present as well on the finish, and I really like the flavor profile. I think it has a lovely flavorful profile and a solid strength level which offers a wonderful balance for a cigar to have in the later afternoon or evening. I would say the strength level of the cigar is at that medium full/full body level, and you can feel the strength in the gut. I am not getting a great burn line with this cigar, which is a pain, but I like the strength and flavor profile it has to offer.

When I get into the second third of the cigar the flavor profile becomes a little more complex from the first third, but it is still showing those core flavors from before. I am getting a lovely bit of espresso notes up front with some oak notes, but I am also getting some dark earthy flavors on the finish. There are still those pepper and spice flavors present as well in the cigar, and that lemon peel flavor has faded in this third. I am still getting a burn line that is far from perfect, but the cigar is performing much better in this third than it was in the first. The strength level has decreased some as well, and I would say it is not at a medium full level and more balanced. Overall I think the second third was an improvement over the first third, and I am liking the direction this cigar is going.

When I get into the final third it is finishing very pleasant, and continuing the great flavor profile from the second third. The flavors of earth, espresso beans, oak and lemon peel are definitely present on the forefront, and it is showing that finish of spices and pepper. It has really opened up in this third, and the finish is great. The burn line suddenly corrected itself  some in this third, and it has a slightly wavy burn line that is leaving a solid charcoal colored ash and producing tons of smoke. The strength of the cigar has increased as well in this third, and we are definitely about the medium full level now. I smoke the cigar down to the nub where it gets slightly warm, and produces tons of flavor and smoke before I put it down.

This was a pleasant cigar, but I think age will do this cigar well. I often believe that Viaje Cigars need some age to really improve, and I also think that dry-boxing them also helps. I will say that there is a nice fluctuation of flavors from line to line within the Viaje brand, and that shows with the Late Harvest. I am looking over my notes at the Late Harvest 2011, and while there is some similarity between this release and last years release, I think this years release is better initially. I know that these cigars have just moved since they were released, and with limited quantities in production these will be hard to get. I still have a couple of these in my humidor, and I am going to let them rest for about six months before smoking again. Right now I give this cigar a 90, but I think that with sometime aging these smokes can get up to a 92 or 93. If you are a Viaje fan, then you will enjoy these.
Late Harvest LH 648

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