I imagine you’d find yourself hard-pressed to think of a more overnight success than Boutique Blends. Since their inception roughly four years ago, the Miami based company has skyrocketed to being one of the hottest names in the boutique scene. Their two core lines, Aging Room and SWAG, have both received near endless praise from publications and enthusiasts alike. Nearly all of the core Aging Room lines – M356, F55 Quattro, and the Aging Room Maduro, have scored a 90 or higher from Cigar Aficionado. Moreover, the F55 Quattro took home the number two spot on Cigar Aficionado’s top 25 for 2013.
At the IPCPR trade show earlier this year Boutique Blends announced several new additions to their portfolio. Additions under the Aging Room banner consist of the Bin No. 1, as well as the successor to last years M21 ffortisimo, the M20 ffortisimo. The SWAG brand also saw a new addition in the form of the SWAG Black. Among the new releases from Boutique Blends is the one in which we will be discussing today: La Boheme.
Fans of romantic-era classical will immediately recognize the name La Boheme as the same name of Giacomo Puccini’s prolific opera from 1895. As it happens, La Boheme happens to be one of Boutique Blends’ president, Rafael Nodal’s favorite pieces.
The cigar itself uses an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper over a Dominican binder and Dominican fillers. La Boheme is being made at Tabacalera Palma under the eye of Jochi Blanco, and is considered a regular production release, albeit in smaller quantities than the rest of Boutique Blend’s portfolio.
La Boheme is available in 5 sizes: 3 1/2 x 46 Mimi, 5 1/8 x 52 Pittore, 5 3/4 x 54 Poeta, 6 1/4 x 60 Musico. All sizes come in twenty-four count boxes, with exception of the Mimi which comes in boxes of forty-eight.
- Cigar : La Boheme
- Company : Boutique Blends
- Factory : Tabacalera Palma
- Size : 5 3/4 x 54 Poeta
- Wrapper : Ecuadorian Habano
- Binder : Dominican
- Filler : Dominican
- MSRP : $11.95
- Production : Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked for Review : Too Many to Count
Appearance and Pre-light Aroma:
The La Boheme is lined from top to bottom with a thick layer of tooth. The wrapper leaf has a rustic appearance overall. It’s a fairly unexciting shade of brown at first glance, but a bit more attention shows an exceptional bit of depth. Giving it the pinch test, you’ll find a firm feel with just the right amount of give.
The first few whiffs are sharper than expected with a predominantly floral barnyard smell. The only real way of describing the scent is funky. Real funky. Fortunately, I’ve found that a funky smell usually translates to great flavor. Why this is I can not explain. Towards the back of the nose a particularly sharp note hits, though it is unidentifiable as of yet.
First impressions are immediately pleasing. The La Boheme fires up effortlessly, and it hits the palate well-poised. While some cigars will be a bit unruly for the first few puffs, the La Boheme starts off in top form. The profile is reasonably creamy with a dry mouthfeel. Several wood notes are prominent early on, primarily cedar and oak. Floral earth sits right in the core of the profile alongside hearty mixture of nuts. While still fairly undefined, a general meat flavor begins to develop as an undertone as the cigar progresses. Also worth noting, there is a definitive twang going on. As a whole, the La Boheme sits at steady medium plus. One of the more defining characteristics in this stage is the way in the which the smoke rolls over the palate impeccably smooth before transitioning to a subtle but sharp spice in the finish. Through the nose, the smoke is thick with just a pinch of black pepper.
Several changes jump out in the second third of the La Boheme. Black pepper becomes much more pronounced on the front end, and a creamy peanut butter flavor on the back end. The pepper leaves a subtle, but pleasurable tingle on the tip of the tongue. A citrus note has developed in the core of the profile, which serves as an equalizer to other competing flavors. A soft undertone of minerals runs across the palate from the inhale to the finish. The body continues to come across as fairly dry but creamy. That ‘twang’ mentioned in the first third has become exceedingly pronounced, and might even be described as a bit musky. The profile has grown more rich, and lingers significantly longer for a stronger finish overall. The best descriptor of the La Boheme’s flavor profile would be dense. Through the nose, the smoke passes through smooth but quite potent. A splash of musky cedar and pepper are easily discernible.
The foundation of the La Boheme’s flavor profile has taken on a thick, meaty flavor. A much smokier flavor at its core, particularly through the finish. Minerals have also risen from an undertone to a core note. The musky twang from earlier on has diminished significantly. While it’s still a factor, it’s role as a dominant note has been replaced a dry beef flavor. Consistent to earlier on is the body of the La Boheme: creamy and dry. The finish in the final third lasts for an exceedingly long time, though I wouldn’t voice this as a complaint by any means. At this stage the profile is exceedingly bold, with a strong leather texture, particularly through the nose.
Burn and Construction:
I’ve smoked a countless number of La Boheme in all the available sizes and have had virtually zero construction issues. They are rolled consistently and have the same relative feel and draw across the board. La Boheme sits right in the sweet spot between neither under-filled nor packed too tight.
There isn’t anything terribly remarkable in regards to the combustion process. I found that you the La Boheme will burn more or less without fuss so long as you keep an adequate smoking pace. It does have a tendency to want to go out of the quicker side of the spectrum, but I imagine that this will ultimately be a non-factor for most as isn’t an issue so long as you’re smoking the cigar how you should be.
Last fall, we hosted an in-store event with Aging Room that was attended by Rafael Alejandro, the son of Boutique Blends owner, Rafael Nodal. Rafael Alejandro and myself had a brief discussion on the M21 ffortisimo, in which he noted that almost all of the companies offerings where in the sub-ten dollar price-point, and that the company had initially had apprehension about how an offering north of that mark would do for them. It’s safe to assume that results were positive, given that both La Boheme and the Aging Room Bin No. 1 both clock in at over $10.00 MSRP. Personally? Smoke any one of their cigars that is north of the $10.00 mark and you’ll quickly find that the palates behind blending these products are more than capable of creating products worthy of the price-point. Simply put, they are truly in a higher category of balance, sophistication, and quality.
Overall, I really, really like the La Boheme. Far more than I was expecting, and I was expecting quite a lot. If compelled to describe the La Boheme in a word, tasty would be the first to come to mind. From puff to puff, you are delightfully hit with a wall of flavor that is both enjoyable at face value, and incredibly sophisticated should you choose to sit and digest its true character. Most importantly – La Boheme is different. It doesn’t taste like simply a higher priced M356 or F55 Quattro. For me, this makes the important point that Boutique Blends still have creative juice in the tank, and furthermore serves as a demonstration in versatility.
As mentioned in the first paragraph, the men behind Boutique Blends have been on a fantastic run to. Based on my experience with the La Boheme and their other new blends, I’d wager to say that Boutique Blends shows no sign of losing momentum.
Burn : 8/10
Construction : 8/10
Flavor : 9/10
Complexity : 9/10
Balance : 9/10
Overall Enthusiasm : 9/10