WaHoo (Toro), 6.5” x 52 ring gauge / $10.15, Burns Tobacconist
So far, Eddie Ortega’s plan for 12 monthly Wild Bunch cigars in 2013 has gone off without a hitch. January saw the 60 ring gauge Big Bad John. February featured the 54 ring gauge Oscuro Iron Mike. And for March the 52 ring gauge Rosado Island Jim is featured. Funny how the ring gauges keep getting smaller...by Christmas, Eddie might be pioneering a new micro-Lancero vitola at 24 ring gauge...or maybe not. Only 500 boxes of each cigar are being made and if you look there are still plenty around of all of them...for now. Keith reviewed the Big Bad John several weeks ago and enjoyed it enough that he continues to smoke them; I have still steered clear of the 60 ring gauge because I’ve been burned so many times with lackluster flavor in larger sizes...everyone says this is different, but still.... Anyway, I had an Iron Mike last week and have another put away for a review, but I figured since the Island Jim is the current Wild Bunch cigar out there, I would feature it right now and get back to Iron Mike later. Also, when I looked at the picture on the band of this cigar, I realized that I knew Island Jim...he was at the 2012 Chattanooga Tweet-Up! Who could forget that face...and beard...and hair, cowboy hat and Hawaiian shirt? That’s Jim Robinson of Leaf and Bean Cigars in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The Island Jim features Nicaraguan filler and binder, along with an Ecuadorian Habano Rosado wrapper leaf. Ortega’s website notes its profile to be “Medium” and this review stick is my first sampling of this blend. I would also note that Matt, manager of Burns East, said “this is the best Wild Bunch so far” the night I bought this one. When I was there he had all 3 blends in stock still; if you need to “get you some,” call Burns at 423-855-5200. They’ll be happy to ship them to you.
The banding and box art for this project is pretty cool. Cartoon-like characters, but not at all amateurish in their cartoon quality. If I were to find out Jim Lee or Rob Liefeld were involved with this project, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to me. (And if you know those names, you’re probably a fan of Big Bang Theory, too.) The wrapper leaf was almost excessively oily for a Rosado. Holding up at certain angles in the light, it looked almost like the first stages of plume were starting...and that could be how Eddie is making these deadlines every month: have the cigars done waaay ahead of time and just release them when the time rolls around. Giving the leaf a good sniff, I detected a whiff of barnyardy earthiness. The foot had a richer, tilled earthiness along with cedar, natural tobacco and pepper spice. A straight cut revealed an excellent draw that had a great natural tobacco flavor, along with lesser notes of cedar and spice.
Getting the Island Jim lit was remarkably easy for a cigar with this ring gauge. Not that 52 is “large” (although it used to be), but it still usually takes a bit of doing to get one lit evenly around. This one, though, practically sprang to life on its own, delivering lots of cedar, along with aged tobacco, sweet hay and pepper spice. A very promising beginning. Well along into the first third, I was pleased to see the ash holding strong at an inch plus. The flavor was primarily “tobacco”...one of those times you have to “let a cigar be a cigar,” I guess. It was really excellent, though. A smooth, sweet tobacco flavor with copious enhancements from the cedar it was aged in, and just enough spice to...uh...spice things up.
The flavor of the Island Jim evolved a bit in the second third, taking on more cedar, a little more spice and a bit of citrus zing. Construction was fantastic. As noted before, the ash held on for an inch or more before I tapped off; besides that, he draw was flawless and I had not needed any touching up so far to keep the burn line even. So far, body was, as Ortega’s website stated, medium.
As the Island Jim started to burn down to the nub, I found myself really enjoying it. Best Wild Bunch so far? Could be. I definitely enjoyed it more than Iron Mike (but I did enjoy that one) and I suppose I’ll have to get my hands on a Big Bad John before they sell out. The Island Jim continued to have a very nice mix of natural tobacco sweetness, cedar, and citrus, although the spice tapered off a bit toward the end. It never got beyond the medium bodied range and there wasn’t a large nicotine content (I smoked it before dinner with no regrets). If you’re a fan of Eddie Ortega’s blends and are looking for something a bit lighter than normal in a Nicaraguan-heavy smoke, this might just be the ticket.