When a manufacturer you’ve never heard of contacts you to review a cigar, you never know what your in for. Sometimes you find a new favorite, other times you add a new band to your collection and move on. And then sometimes you get a surprise when you open the shipping box. I cracked open a box a few weeks ago, and thought, “Wow! Somebody send me a bunch of Cuban Cohibas!” There in a zip lock bag with a humidipack were a bunch of cigars sporting the very familiar yellow and black. But then I noticed that the white dots weren’t white dots at all, instead they were little silver stars. And that yellow looked a bit off. Nope, these weren’t Cubans at all, they’re Isabela cigars, made in Miami.
Here’s the scoop on Isabela cigars, from their website:
Handcrafted in Miami by legendary Cuban Master Vicente Ortiz, Isabela Cigars are produced in small batches for extremely limited distribution. Vicente Ortiz utilizes tobaccos from several countries, in various grades, to create the blend, flavor and personality that gives Isabela its’ unique identity. All tobaccos are aged for a minimum of one year before they are released, and the Isabelas come in four sizes and two colors, natural and medium grade.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t about to confirm the details on the “several countries” from which the tobacco comes. My emails went unanswered. It’s possible the folks at Isabela prefer to keep these details a secret in order to protect their blend. Or, just as likely, my emailed questions were eaten by an overzealous spam filter. No matter, let’s see how the cigar performs.
Size: 6 1/2 x 56
Smoking Time: 1 1/2 hours
Beverage: Water, Coffee
Price: MSRP $9.95
As I mentioned before, it’s clear that this cigar’s band looks very much like the Cuban Cohiba’s. While the appearance may grab the attention of the infrequent smoker who seeks out the popular Cuban smoke, it has the problem of looking a lot like other cigars brands that take the same approach. To illustrate the problem, I asked a friend if he had seen these in a shop he frequents. When I told him it looked a lot like a Cohiba, he said he didn’t know, there were several of those in the humidor. He didn’t know the name of a single one of them, he skips over these cigars when he browses for smokes.
Under the band, the cigar itself is a very light natural in color. The wrapper is a little on the veiny side, but the cigar is pretty consistently firm. Looking the cigars over, I found that one had a fairly large patch near the foot, and another had one hidden under its band.
I had another surprise when I went in for the cold taste. It was very, very sweet. I tried it again, and certainly, the cap had been sweetened considerably. I tested the taste of the wrapper leaf closer to the foot, just to see if the entire cigar had been somehow infused. It wasn’t. It’s possible the pectin used to finish the cap was sweetened, but more likely, the cap had been dipped in something.
The cigars fluctuated between a very even burn and then randomly became jagged throughout the smoke. The majority of the time, the cigars burned evenly and self corrected when the burn line strayed. Occasional touch ups were required, but I never had to relight. Looking back on my notes, the cigars definitely smoked faster than other torpedos I’ve reviewed.
These sticks produced their nicest ash in the first third, making it out to about an inch to an inch and a half of solid light ash, but the story changed after that first ash. I was impossible to anticipate when it might ash after the first dropped. Often before it even burned half an inch. It goes without saying, I had to grab the dust buster several times.
Still, with all the quirks, it burn wasn’t terrible. The draw was good, and the burn line was even more often than not.
It goes without saying that the flavor was very sweet.The first two cigars I smoked for this review were more sugary in their sweetness, the third was more cherry like, and the final one was considerably less sweet than the previous smokes. In general, the sweetness faded with time (probably due to sweetener coming off the cap).
I did pick up earthiness and a little bit of cinnamon in the flavor beyond the sweet in the first and second thirds. Woodiness began to appear in the second third and became the prominent flavor in the final third.
I found the least sweet cigar to be a little on the bland side. Generally chalky or earthy with the occasional minerally and grassy flavor in the finish. The finish was frequently harsh and unpleasant. I think there was something wrong with that stick, because about half way through, I started to get queasy. And these are pretty mild smokes.
To recycle a phrase, what America needs right now isn’t another $10 dollar cigar. It’s a pretty competitive market out there with a wide variety of great cigars coming in several dollars cheaper.
While I really appreciate the folks at Isabela cigars giving me the opportunity to try out their cigars, I have to say these aren’t for me. To begin with, I’m not a fan of artificially sweetened cigars. Most of the time artificial sweetening is overdone, completely overwhelming the natural flavors of the tobacco. That is the case here. And when I could taste the tobacco, I really didn’t care for what I was tasting. What really clinched it for me was that last smoke that had me looking for the Pepto. Sorry guys, this isn’t one I can recommend!
People who have been reading my reviews have probably been wondering what the deal is with all the milder, sweet cigars I’ve been reviewing lately. I’m wondering that myself. It’s purely been luck of the draw. I’m not sure what’s on tap for next week, but you can bet it will be fuller bodied, and less sweet! Recommendations, and comment love in general appreciated!
Liked It: No
Buy It Again: No
Recommend It: No
Tower of Burn
Here for your viewing pleasure is my trademark Tower of Burn.
49 thoughts on “Isabela Torpedo”
hah, that band had me fooled at first. Excellent review of the cigar and it’s got impressive construction. But I’m with you Brian. Not a fan of sweetened cigars but I’ll give them credit for a nice knock off.
Oh man. A chalky tasting cigar? Wow.
I’m not much for sweetened cigars myself. I think this stick is going to keep me away from them even more than before.
Thanks for taking one for the team!! One I definitely won’t be trying, as I don’t care for sweetened cigars!
Thanks for smoking the bad ones so we don’t have to.
Hey, why let Walt and jerry have all the glory…More video reviews from Brian…What do you say folks?
I agree with A well aged cuban, it’ld be really nice to see your face once in a while. But once again Brian GREAT review.
I’ve had a couple of these myself, Isabela must be on a PR spree. The Faux-hiba branding technique is something I just can’t get down with, no matter who makes the cigar. If a cigar STARTS by saying, “look at me, I’m ‘kind of’ like a Cuban,” I have to think twice about even lighting it up.
The tobacco taste wasn’t necessarily terrible, as I recall. What flavor is present, however, is ruined by the sweet cap. Furthermore, I cannot justify this price point for what you get. Even if the cap weren’t sweet, this is a $3-4 stick at best. JMHO.
Now, where have I seen that band before. Sometimes you just have to take one for the team. Thanks for taking this one.
Thanks for all the comment love guys! You got me feeling like Jerry today!
I absolutely agree with your assessment, but I tried not to judge the cigar on the knock-off band. It’s impossible for me to recommend this cigar when you can get a Flor De Oliva which is considerably less expensive, better tasting, more subtle and vaguely similar to the flavor profile. (Heavy emphasis on “vaguely”.)
Also interesting folks (and I forgot to mention this in the review) is that they claim on their website to have gotten a 4 star rating from Smoke Magazine. I wasn’t able to find any ratings for them, and besides, doesn’t Smoke Magazine rate on a 1 to 10 scale? Anybody find a review of these cigars in Smoke magazine?
I wonder if they like Cohibas? lol
Definitely, Cigar Spy,
Branding like this can only be geared for snagging the vacation cigar smoker.
“Hey look honey, they’ve got those Cubans I bought on the beach in Mexico! I think I’ll buy a box this time!”
To give them credit, if you’re a regular smoker of Faux-hibas, you’re probably upgrading by switching to Isabelas.
Sweet cap on a $10 stick…
god help us!
Brian, you should do the El Titan connie!, oooh, or the new pepin rolled forcade… (which means you’ll have to hit Ole’ stogies this weekend…)
nice review sorry for the bad experience
Good ideas Rich,
I’m going to be very interested to see if those Forcades change at all now that Pepin’s got his hands in the mix.
Now is a great time to try those El Titan Connecitcuts again, given my recent thing for Connecticut leaf.
These things happen when you make a point to try out every new stick you come across. They can’t all be Tempuses and Serie V’s!
Thanks for the review on this one! Like everyone else I’m leary of any cigar that tries to make you think it’s something else.
However, despite your review, Isabela will be OK – their website clearly states they are one of the most sought after cigars in the world! 😉
Hey great review Brian, thanks for taking one for the team.
Keep up the great work!
When do we get more video reviews from you??
I wonder how this stick would compare to that Strawberry Philly’s Blunt that came with your birthday cake. =P
Ocean Drive Magazine gave it “Best of Miami 2008”. You can’t beat that.
I love the fact that you review cigars that one really has never heard of. It was you that turned me onto PD’s cigars. Keep up the good work and maybe I will seek this one out to see if we are in sync (lol)
I can’t believe you smoked it that far down. The last “infused” or sweetened cigar I has was the Tabak Especial by Dre Estate. I took 10 puffs, pitched it, and grabbed a 601 Green. 🙂
Thanks for the review… Someone has to smoke all those cigars so we can find the diamonds in the ruff!
I am always impressed when companies are brave enough to send out their cigars for review.
I am never impressed when a company isn’t brave enough to come out with their own brand/marketing.
Thanks guys! Look at all the comment love!
I can’t believe you remember that! LOL I don’t think I’ll ever smoke that thing, I keep it on my desk because it makes me laugh. Talk about a total miscommunication with the cake people!
That reminds me, I really need to visit their facilities. They are in my area!
The Isabela review doesnt make sense-from the pics of the cigar burning I would have to say that whoever rolled that cigar knew what they were doing-the construction and burn look impeccable !! I have smoked the Isabela cigars and have found they are a true treat when I can find them-mayhap you should try my favorite size-the esplendido-it very well may be one of the best I have smoked…and I have smoked many-I think you should revisit/sample another size !!
After reading this review I went and checked out the Isabela Cigar Company website and contacted them by email to see if I couldn’t obtain a few to try out. I received a response the next day from Johnny who said my sampler of Isabela’s were in the mail.
I was impressed by their responsiveness and appreciate them sending some cigars for me to try out. We shall see how I like ’em….
The guy that makes the Isabelas blended for Castro and has been rollin longer than most of us have been alive-too bad we have to fry and bake a guys lifework-I love those Isabelas and his panatelas- it almost seems like you reviewed a completely different cigar than the miami-factory cigars we all love !!
I find this cigar to be very pleasant tasting .Close ones eyes & one would think one is smoking a Cohiba -only with a sweet wrapper .Not to sweet .It burns evenly .After selling these cigars for many years .I have found many customers comming back for more ,They are priced reasonably .Taste great .My opinion is that they are well worthy of anyone who likes a great cigar moderately priced .I say it’s a must for anyones collection in ones humidor .
Used to love the Isabela torpedo-if its the same Isabela Im thinking of ?? The label looks similar. The Isabelas I enjoyed were phenomenal- lots of depth and character, and cool good construction …Never had a bad Isabela from Miami !!
Thanks for the all the comment love guys.
It goes without saying that tastes differ from one cigar smoker to the next. I for one, am not a fan of any artificial sweetening in a cigar. The best sort of sweetness is that which comes from the tobacco leaf itself.
Yes, the burn did start off nicely, but like I said in the review, it got weak and crumbly after that first ash. (Which is why there are no long ashes after the first one.) In my estimation of a cigar, the construction contributes a relatively small amount when weighed against the flavor. Meaning, a pour burning, but tasty cigar could potentially get the thumbs up. And vice versa.
I have smoked the robusto size, and I haven’t noticed a significant difference between it and the torpedo. Though it probably is a slightly better stick than the torpedo in all areas. (Burn, flavor and price). However, I still don’t see myself nubbing it or buying more in the future.
Then buy them for me and I will smoke em-there hard to get my hands on round here,makes me love them Isabelas even more-absence makes the heart grow………….!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Brian, I did not see on the log ash any sign of canoeing, looks like a perfect ash which most strive for.The local guy says that they are rolled by a bunch of old cuban guys who use the old method of rolling with a sugar seal on the tip.Maybe we are so used to the cigars now that we cant appreciate the delicate methods employed by such pre-castro cuban rollers. I myself really enjoy the Isabela cigars and appreciate the history and the art involved in making the Isabela cigars. While I respect individual opinions,I never like to see an opinion slam a product of such integrity.
I don’t see where you get the idea of slamming. Are you sure you read the review? On the whole I was very respectful.
I review cigars, the finished product. I am unable (and unwilling) to review the process by which the cigars are made, or the people who make them. In short, the finished product didn’t cut the mustard, and I called it how I see it. To do otherwise would be to have zero credibility. If you extrapolate this verdict into some sort of insult to the company, the owner(s) and/or rollers, you, sir, are reading far, far too much into this review.
Where is the integrity in blatantly copying the design of a well-known Cuban cigar brand?
At what point did he slam this cigar?
brian said “really didn’t care for what I was tasting”
sounds fair to me.
Brian – I have to say that I’m disappointed at your level of professionalism when replying to Mr. Cogen’s comment. The Stogie Review strives to be professional and courteous at all times. Your response was neither. You are the weakest link…good bye.
Okay okay…seriously…I don’t see a slam either. Lets remember that we’re reviewing the cigar not the people who distribute or the good folks who roll them. I’m sure they are all nice folks but we have to call em like we see em.
Its great to see a difference in opinion as long as its kept honest and accurate. Saying Brian slammed this cigar is neither.
I never say anything about what people like to smoke, but you must be a little damn crazy. Me nor anyone I know of has ever HEARD of Isabela cigars before now. Also, do you have factual evidence that they sweetened the tip of the cigars in Cuba? I can’t, nor have I EVER run across a Cuban cigar that had this done or ever heard of it. I watched an interview of Don Alejandro Robaina roll a cigar on HIS LAP while talking to the interviewer, then smoked it at the end. No sugar cap. He’s Pre-Castro.
Whoot!!!!!!! Congrats Brian. Is this your first contentious review? I thought those were reserved for Jerry? Finally some opinions show up in the comments. I liken this to a Drew Estate Java discussion. You love them or hate them. Not much middle of the road types. And of course, the discussions tend to be somewhat volatile because of that.
I’d have to say, the cigars look great from the pictures. The ash seemed good but when it’s dropping at the half inch, that is a little annoying. Especially since the first drop was at an inch and a half. If it dropped at half inch all the way through at least I’d adjust to keep it off my clothes.
So, while Brian might not like the taste, I bet those that like Drew Estates might think it’s a “bangin” cigar.
That’s my two cents and in the immortal words of Jerry, “Long ashes”
whew ! Controversy ! Conversation ! Thats the true beauty and strength of this site and its reviewers ! Mr.H-while I still feel that the review was a bit contentious, i in no way shape or form disrespect its process. As far as mount chuck is concerned-I have heard that their may be a vice-versa as far as the similarities in logos between the Cuban cohiba and Isabela, and lets not forget whhat N.Y. taxi has to say about it, as well as General Cigar stealing or attempting to steal the whole ball of wax !!Kudos to the site ,its readers, and its reviewers, we all view the site to listen,learn ,give and change our opinions !!
rifleman-research the pre-castro and castro rolling method in Cuba-it is not a “sweetened tip” per se, but sugar-base used to finish and seal the cap on the cigars !
pre-castro, cuban-ripoff, whatever it is, whatever you want to call it, if it got crumbly after the first ash then it got crumbly after the first goddamn ash.
don’t try to sit back, look at some pictures, and then proceed to tell the reviewer that he must have blacked out, was temporarily possessed, and wrote a bunch of inaccurate information regarding his experience.
as to whether or not sweet capped cigars are “old school” or “authentic”, answer me this…are Cuban cigars TODAY being made with sweetened caps? no, because they realized over time that most MEN that smoke cigars do not care for a sweetened cap on a cigar, thus the cigar making process evolved and that was phased out over time.
now pretty much only the ladies smoke those sweeties, but please do continue to enjoy them 🙂
Bill-caps are not “sweetened” they use a sugar-base to glue,leaving a slight hint of sweetness.But tell me more about those sweet ladies Bill !!
i understand what you’re talking about, but my point was that they just don’t do that any longer for the most part. it’s not really desirable to most cigar smokers.
as for the sweet ladies, they are all around in both areas i work (vegas and the san fran bay area), i recommend you visit both. hell i might even share a stogie and buy you a drink or three =)
bill-I ordered some Isabelas-when I get them I would like to send you some..and I willtake you up on those drinks..and the ladies too !!
Thanks for taking one for the team Brian…
do you think if the embargo were lifted, that Cohiba would sue them??
nah-i think NY taxi gonna sue Cohiba !!
seriously, though, the guy that makes the Isabela is the one who came up w the cohiba cuba logo and blend…………………mebbe they will all sue eachother !!
This is the best cigar out there .Miami’s best hit on the baord lately .Love the mild sweetness .Tastes like a Cuban totatlly without the major expense .Want a good cigar this is the one
Heck yes they are damn good
I had one today .Yes us girls like a good cigar .I liked it + I kissed a girl and liked it to .Those are from Hawaii
Dickey Shaw & Chatty Kathie,
I would hope you enjoy the product, as it seems you must represent them. Both comments list Isabella Cigars as your website and both originate from the same IP address.
Thanks for your input,
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