As a self-appointed ambassador of all things cigars, I spend a lot of time thinking about branding. And if there’s one thing that makes me nervous it’s the words “rebranding” and “new directions.” Normally well-intentioned, many “rebranding” campaigns unfortunately end up as big failures (New Coke, anyone?). So you can understand my initial hesitance around Joya Red. A classic Nicaraguan brand known for their kick-ass, powerhouse cigars was going to deliver a smooth and medium-bodied blend? I wasn’t convinced. So when the boxes landed on our docks, I did what needed to be done — snuck a box of Toros away and headed upstairs to perform a little QA.
The first impression was great. While most boxes from Joya are chunky, weighty, and very “old-school”, I like this new approach to packaging here. The red and gold band looks nice against the golden-brown Habano wrapper, and the box is sharp. Paper wrapped, each box contains 20 cigars, in two rows of ten. The next step here was easy. I picked the cigar with the shiniest cellophane, broke out the ol’ cutter and lighter, and began puffing away.
At first, this cigar is rather mellow. There’s a sweetness to it (CA calls it “brown sugar”, that’s a little too technical for me), with a crisp and clean tobacco core. It’s good, but the best was yet to come. Around an inch in flavors of roasted nuts join the mix, and as the cigar burns down it’s only picking up steam. Eventually, I was given a nice medium-bodied mixture of wood, toasty tobacco, coffee, and some hints of black pepper. In all, everything kept cool and smooth, never even inching into the full-bodied territory of some other JdN’s like Antano 1970 or Dark Corojo. But the flavors certainly kept coming. By the end of this cigar, you’re left with a super satisfying, palate-smacking wallop of delicious Nicaraguan goodness, all without breaking a sweat. I let this one burn down as far as I could go without burning my fingers, and then stashed the rest of the box in my humidor.
As you may have guessed at the beginning of this review, I wasn’t sure I’d like the “new” Joya, but I tried Red anyway. And I’m glad I did. Joya Red is a fantastic cigar that I can heartily recommend to anyone who enjoys a balanced blend. It’s smooth, complex, and subtle — a perfect contender for your new daily stick.