That’s the case here, with the large Altadis organization teaming up with Rafael Nodal and his Aging Room brand. However, we're not quite sure why the two needed each other. Aging Room already has a coveted Cigar Aficionado Top 25 nod under its belt and a dedicated customer base, while Altadis has proven, with breakout cigars like the ROMEO by Romeo y Julieta, that they can do more than make safe, middle-of-the-road brands for gas stations and golf course humidors. Regardless, here we have yet another Romeo. Since the all-caps ROMEO line is an extension of the Romeo y Julieta brand, this is an extension of an extension.
Visually, the result of this collaboration is not quite a seamless integration of styles. With the bands on, this looks like a typically overwrought Altadis line extension, where the higher the price point, the more bling is deployed to help justify it. Almost the entire cigar is covered in a riot of gold, a sure sign you're dealing with a $10+ cigar. In this case, it's $12.25 to be exact.
However, when the bands come off, it is clear this is a product by Rafael Nodal. In fact, it is made at his factory, which is unusual. It would probably make more sense for him to blend it and Altadis to take it from there. You can read all of the details here in Cigar Aficionado's report. However, it's unclear what happens after the cigars are manufactured, Our guess is they get shipped to Altadis in bundles where they are then tarted up mercilessly by their heavy-handed packaging minions.
The draw was excellent with just the right amount of resistance. Clearly this cigar’s construction was sweated over. Yet the burn was poor and required near constant minor touch ups. Making matters worse, the ash was flaky and messy. Good thing we smoke outdoors this time of year because indoors, our cigar rooms would have needed a good cleaning afterward.
Pre-light, the cigar exhibits a sweet, moist, dried fruit character that’s very appealing. But once it gets going, it shows a heavy dose of leather that's the hallmark of Cuban seed Dominican tobacco. There's some vague sweetness and spice and a loooong but not necessarily welcome finish; that sweet leathery character clings to the palate like smoke from a bonfire follows you home on your clothes. A fresh, zesty counterpoint to all of that heaviness would have been welcome.
In the end, we feel this is the answer to a question that need not have been asked. Neither brand really wins anything of value from this collaboration, while the consumer sort of loses. That’s because, had Aging Room released this cigar on their own without a 300-pound gorilla of a distribution partner, it might have been a much more attractive proposition at around $7 or $8 a stick instead of $12.25—that’s Davidoff Nicaragua territory, mateys! You can get the more complex and balanced ROMEO by Romeo y Julieta for a lot less, and ditto for Aging Room, though we are remiss in not having formally reviewed any of their products yet.
Wasted effort? Hardly. Minus the backstory this was an enjoyable smoke if far from a home run, and who knows what results this kind of fun and innovative thinking may yield down the road. Altadis continues to explore new opportunities to keep their customers in the fold as they graduate from beginner cigars in search of more distinctive experiences. That's a good thing since Altadis products can be found a lot more widely than boutique brands. So, B minus for the cigar, A for effort.
W: Dominican Republic
B: Dominican Republic
F: Dominican Republic
Rich looking and handsome, this formidable cigar loads the palate with leather and sweetness. Tough to keep lit though, and benefits from dry boxing. Pricey.