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8305 Six Forks Road, Ste. 203, Raleigh, NC 27615

Isabela “Sparkle” Robusto
Size: 5 x 52
Wrapper: Ecuadorean Connecticut DesFlorada
Binder: Double-aged Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan
Manufactured in Miami
Produced by Isabela Cigar Company, Miami
Retail price: $7.95 per cigar

This is a hefty, weighty-feeling cigar for a Robusto, tipping the scale at just over half an ounce. It is well-packed with fragrant leaf and evenly springy to the touch when pinched along its length. The light brown wrapper is shiny and nearly flawless, with scant veins and invisible seams. The attractive band is self-adhesive and pops off cleanly with no trouble. Before light-up, the cigar evokes an alluring scent of caramel or nougat. This thing is built like a tank, including triple cap, so I was confident enough in the construction to use my 9 mm Xicar punch cutter, which worked marvelously. The cold draw is easy, with just a light, delicious tobacco note.

Let’s get one bit of business out of the way from the start: Isabelas have sweetened caps owing to the sugar-based glue used to affix them. I have heard some people disdain any hint of sugar on a cigar because it reminds them of sweetened gas station stogies. Be not deceived! This is no flavored or infused cigar; the sugar-based cap glue is old-school stuff out of the Cuban tradition, which is actually pretty cool.

During the first half-hour, the smoke is medium-bodied and very creamy and nutty, with a mild white pepper retrohale. This cigar is exceptionally well-behaved, with a straight burn and even temperament—at once cool and luscious. I let the slate gray cylinder of ash grow until it dropped on its own 28 minutes in.

After 40 minutes, the flavors deepened, with an aftertaste that brings fond memories of French toast and bacon—and cream throughout, lots of cream, with a nice lingering finish. No unexpected transitions set in, and the smoke remains light enough on the vitamin N. The flavors are quite stable throughout; they just keep darkening in toast and maple essence as you approach an exquisite finale at 75 minutes.

Isabela Cigar Company is a Miami-based operation that has been around for 20 years, but because it limits production it has never figured large on the cigar market. Isabela rather epitomizes the low-profile “boutique” experience that in-the-know connoisseurs rave about. The company’s website is endearingly old-fashioned and clunky. No matter how many times I visit and click “remember me” on the age checker, I have to repeat the procedure every time. No matter: The online store works fine, and the cigars I ordered arrived promptly in the mail, fresh and securely packaged.

Eight vitolas were offered on the website at the time of this review, including some adventurous barber poles (one of them a 6 x 60 Gordo size I can hardly wait to try). The company plans to add still more vitolas this year. Every size and shape is subject to supply and demand. It is, after all, a small outfit, and Isabela’s six Cuban expatriate rollers can only turn out these beauties so fast. Grabbing favorites when they are in stock is just part of the game for Isabela lovers.

The Isabela “Sparkle” Robusto is a cream gusher, and in a strong field it’s hard to find a better cigar in this price range. Not too overpowering for a midday smoke, it nonetheless rates a fine selection for sharing with special friends after dinner. I’ll be ordering an ample stack of “Sparkle” Robustos and count myself privileged.

For more information, visit isabelacigarcompany.com.

For our story on Isabela, click here, and check out our review of the PepperHead

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