Protocol by Cubariqueno Cigar Company
The Protocol cigar was invented through the minds of Juan Cancel and Bill Ives (AKA the Cuban Assassin), two northeastern U.S. Law Enforcement Officers, out of mutual passions for cigars. It was first introduced to the cigar industry as a small batch run at its official launch at Berkeley Humidor in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey in May of last year. The national launch was made at the IPCPR trade show in New Orleans, Louisiana where Cubariqueno Cigar Company surpassed their expected plans to open 20 accounts during the show.
The name Cubariqueno is reflective of the heritages of Ives’s Cuban background and Cancel’s Puerto Rican background. Cubariqueno Cigar Company was founded by Cancel and Ives after having met one another at the Leaf Cigar Bar and Restaurant. Ives later joined Cigar Club, which Cancel had created with some fellow cigar enthusiasts. Cancel and Ives became close friends over a few years of sharing their passion of cigars and the cigar culture. At the suggestion of a common friend of Cancel and Ives, Bill Agathis, they began to put the idea together to create their own cigar. They decided to contact Erik Espinosa of La Zona Cigar Factory in Esteli, Nicaragua since Cancel had already built a strong relationship with him during his frequent visits to cigar events attended by Espinosa. Cancel and Ives were invited to visit La Zona Cigar Factory where they met master blender Hector Alfonso, Sr. After discussions were made, Alfonso, Sr. created 9 blends within a weeks time. The final blend is what Cancel and Ives regarded as the best to their specific palates. They knew what they were looking for and had finally found it. They had decided to go with 5,000 cigars to start with: 2,500 in the 6×52 Toro and 2,500 in the 5 5/8×46 Corona Gordo vitolas.
The name “Protocol” was the hardest part of creating their new cigar line. It’s an interesting and funny story how the name was chosen. Cancel and Ives spent an entire weekend at Cancel’s home thinking of different epithets to call the brand. Over that weekend they drank a bottle of Ron Zacapa XO. When the bottle was finally drained, Cancel advised that their wasn’t any more. Ives exclaimed “What do you mean there’s no more? It’s standard protocol to have Ron Zacapa XO in the house.” They looked at each other with the same thought in their heads. ‘Protocol!’
The Protocol is available in two vitolas: a 6×52 Toro and a 5 5/8×46 Corona Gordo (which this review is based on.) Also, they’ll be available in 10-count soft packs and 20-count boxes, and they will have a price tag of approximately $9.89.
What makes the Protocol cigar? Let’s take a deeper look into it. The wrapper is an Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro hiding a binder of Nicaraguan Habano tobacco, which secures the four…..that’s right…..four Nicaraguan Ligero tobacco leaves from Jalapa and Esteli.
“Quadruple Ligero sounds super strong but it is well balanced with great flavor.” – Juan Cancel
Cubariqueno Cigar Company is planning to have a new vitola introduced to the Protocol family this year at the 2016 IPCPR trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada: a traditional Cuban Lancero size of 7 1/2×38. A new cigar line they are working on comes in a Robusto 5×52 and a 7 1/2×48 Short Churchill Semi-Box Pressed called the Protocol Billyclub. Finally, another line they are looking at is the Protocol Probable Cause Semi-Box Press in a Robusto 5×52 and a 6 1/2×48 vitola, which will use a Mexican San Andreas wrapper and will be available in 10-count boxes.
“What is unique about our brand is that it’s a labor of love and passion. We are two regular guys who work hard and want to share our passion with our fellow BOTL/SOTL.” – Juan Cancel
Sliding the Protocol cigar out of the cellophane I immediately was hit with the smells of earth, sweet tobacco, leather, and some coffee which I picked up from the wrapper. The foot of the cigar gave off nuances of sweet tobacco, some hay, and fruit. The construction seemed to be put together very well with nice tight seams and not very veiny. It was fairly smooth to the touch. It doesn’t appear to be an overly oily cigar, but definitely not a dry stick either. The main band is a white on gray color outlined in black with the Protocol insignia being two letter P’s intertwined in one another; one a mixture of dark and light blue colors and the other a mixture of dark and light black colors. The black ‘P’ is standing to the left just outside of the blue ‘P.’ The top part of the ‘P’ that curves into the leg is in a triangular shape. The word “Protocol” is written in white lettering in the leg of the black ‘P.’ The name ‘Ives’ is printed to the left of the insignia while the name ‘Cancel’ is printed to the right. Where the ends of the band meet is colored in blue with the words ‘Cubariqueno Cigars’ printed in white lettering. There is a secondary band below the main band with the same white on gray hue and outlined in black. The words ‘Handmade at La Zona Esteli, Nicaragua’ are printed in black and blue lettering on this secondary band.
I finally put the straight cutter to the triple cap and cut the edge off. That resulted in some loose tobacco falling. Also, it caused one side of the triple cap to crack. No other damage is noticeable. I’m still looking forward to putting the flame to this cigar and see what it’s all about. The dry draw is bringing notes of pepper-spice, chocolate, and hay.
Upon toasting and lighting the Cubariqueno Cigar Company’s Protocol, it is starting off with flavors of hay, leather, and a little chocolate. I had to work a little bit with the cracked cap to get a good draw on it, which turned out to be a nice smooth draw and doesn’t call for a lot of effort. About an inch in, the burn line is just about even with a gray ash growing. The smoke coming off the burning foot has a burnt wood scent to it. Burning through the first third, the hay is the leading flavor with the leather coming in close behind it. The chocolate is barely noticeable in the profile. The retro-hale brought a little burn to the nostrils with some wood notes. As the cigar burns closer to the end of this first point, the hay and leather seem to be going back and forth with one another as the leading flavor. The gray ash is still holding on to the foot, but beginning to lean to one side. The burn line is a little jagged, but mostly even. The end of the first third is approximately 25 minutes.
The beginning of the second portion of this smoke has the ash still leaning to one side, but just a little bit more that initially. It finally fell just into the start of this section. The chocolate has left the profile, being replaced by a slight floral note in the background. The retro-hale is still bringing that wood scent to the nostrils. There are no leftover tastes on the lips. The cigar puts off some smoke, but not a lot. There is still a nice draw from the stick with nice flavors coming out of it. So far, this stick has been well balanced in body, strength, and flavor. It is full-bodied with a strong medium to full flavor. At about the halfway point, the second ash is still hanging in there with a nice gray tone to it. The hay and leather are still leading the flavor profile with the slight floral notes still lingering in the back of the palate. You would think having four ligero leaves in the filler that this would be a very strong cigar, but it balances out very well. The burn line is still mostly even as the cigar burns through the second half of the middle piece of the stick. The second ash fell due to my peeling off the secondary band as the burn line started to scorch the edge of the band. I was wondering how long it would last on its own. The second third has come to an end with a burn time of 35 minutes.
The start of the final third has the hay and leather still battling it out for that lead flavor. The floral notes are still slightly in the game. The retro-hale still has a slight burn through the nostrils. Not an overbearing burn though with those notes of wood still playing its part. The flavors linger on the palate long after each puff, but dies down quickly. The third ash is growing once again as it hangs on to the foot. It still has a nice gray hue to it with one side darker than the other. I’ve already peeled off the main band so there shouldn’t be any more of my interruptions with the ash. The burn line is still slightly jagged, but mostly even as it has been throughout the smoke so far. As the cigar burns down closer to the final puffs, the ash is still holding on strongly to the foot. The flavors are still hay and leather in the forefront with the floral notes in the background. The final ash fell just before those final few puffs were made. The final section of the smoking experience had a burn time of 25 minutes.
The Cubariqueno Cigar Company’s Protocol was a really tasty cigar to smoke. The flavors and body were well balanced with the strength of the ligero leaves throughout. It was mostly a well constructed cigar with a great burn. There were no touch-ups to the burn line needed during this experience. The beautiful gray ash held nice and strong on the foot. The only issue was the cracked cap at the beginning, which did not present a large problem. This cigar being my last out of a 5-pack was the only one to present this issue. The tasty hay, leather, chocolate, and floral flavors were lasting on the palette as I smoked through this stick. I thoroughly enjoyed smoking this cigar and I would definitely smoke it again. I give the Cubariqueno Cigar Company’s Protocol cigar a score of 91. The small crack in the cap was overlooked in the scoring of this cigar. This was due to the fact that this was the only imperfection out of the 5 pack I received. Overall, this cigar was excellent. I would recommend this cigar to those that have not yet experienced the “Power of the Protocol.” You can purchase this cigar at Berkeleyhumidor.com where you can also purchase some Protocol swag. Till next time, my friends.