Every time I’m at some kind of function or party that my wife drags me to, amidst other pleasantries someone always seems to ask the obligatory question of what I do for a living. Once in a while, the questioner is a genuine cigar guy, or a genuine cigar guy’s wife. The rest of the time, their reactions to my reply invariably fall into one of 3 categories:
1) “Wow I didn’t know people smoke cigars anymore. Weren’t they popular 10 years ago and then disappeared?”
2) Disgust, ranging from mockery to scorn. As if I just clubbed two baby seals right then and there.
3) Fella who consumes a cigar once-a-year saying he loves cigars. Usually accompanied by Restless Mouth Syndrome affliction: “Got any Cubans? I smoke cigars all the time. My favorites are Mackonoodle and Caheebos. Have any samples? How about that Monica Lewinsky, eh? Har har har.”
I’ve always thought of Romeo y Julieta as brand you generally stock in your humidor to have handy for the Restless Mouth Syndrome type of fella - highly recognizable brand name, mild in body and, depending on which blend, a reasonable price to boot. But recently a few solid additions to the Romeo lineup have elevated this brand in the minds of cigar nuts, notably Reserve Maduro, Real, and my favorite, Romeo Viejo. Why Viejo? For the most part, Romeo blends tend to be pretty mild. Viejo offers a solid flavor profile with some meat on its bones.
Now, I'm barely fluent in English, but with my little bit of Spanish lingo, Viejo means old. A fitting name, since the tobaccos are extensively aged. But it was also back to the brand’s Cuban roots with the old school packaging: simple but elegant cabinet-style, slide-top wooden boxes and traditional gold rectangle Romeo y Julieta bands of yore.
Cello off and in the hand, this baby is positively drool-inducing. It’s seriously box-pressed with crisp corners and adorned with a lovely, deep, dark candy-bar looking maduro wrapper. This lovely leaf hails from the lush San Andreas Valley of Mexico. Moist with plenty of sweetness on the tongue, I’m mclovin’ the pre-light. Inch one is relatively uneventful but the burn is spot-on and the draw impeccable. The smoke is relatively thin but it releases enjoyably copious quantities with each puff. The initial taste I would characterize as heavy spice through the nose but only a touch on the tongue – the spice quickly mellows into a smooth, cool smoke. The body remains medium and the flavor pleasant yet subtle. Notes of smoked wood and the subdued spicy-sweetness remain noticeable. As the cigar burns down, I keep waiting for a big finale – for the cigar to burst with richness – but ultimately was let down on that front.
In sum: RyJ Viejo burns as straight as an arrow, smokes cool and slow, and is smooth with good flavor. Downside, it’s a touch one-dimensional. My expectations were perhaps too high based on its appearance and promise. But a straightforward, unchanging flavor profile is often just what the doctor ordered. In fact this is an ideal golf cigar – richness but not too heady, nice thick wrapper, burns true, with flavor that’s consistent throughout. So if you're looking for a well-made, smooth maduro for 5 to 6 bucks – Viejo is your huckleberry.