Wrap it up, I'll take it! September 1st, 2021 Scott W. 93 Share: The Espinosa Laranja Reserva has been one of my go-to medium bodied blends since its release. Laranja is Portuguese for orange, and the name was given to the cigar because of the beautiful color of the wrapper leaf. Smooth and flavorful as the day is long, it’s a really easy cigar to enjoy at any time of day. As much as I enjoy it, I wondered what it would be like with a darker wrapper leaf. It’s almost as if Erik Espinosa read my mind, because he released the Laranja Reserva Escuro, clothed in a dark, beautiful Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper. Aside from being neatly box-pressed, the wrapper is the only change to the overall blend, fermented to the point of having the appearance of a chocolate bar. One of the questions we get asked from time to time at the store is, “Does changing the wrapper leaf really make a big difference in how a cigar tastes?” The answer is yes. The original Laranja Reserva has nice citrus, spice, and subtle leather notes. I’ve chosen the Toro size of the Espinosa Laranja Reserva Escuro to smoke for this review, cut with my favorite V-cutter instead of a double guillotine this time. Let’s see how the new wrapper has changed the profile of this blend…The flavor is at once both darker and much richer than the original Laranja Reserva. Cocoa and espresso notes are dominant, with softer notes of leather and earth on the palate, ending with a soft sweet finish. Retrohales have baking spices, cream, and soft white pepper. A great first impression, but with noticeably more body than the original. I’d put the Laranja Reserva Escuro at the higher end of medium-full in body. If you’ve never paid attention to the texture of a cigar’s smoke before, pay attention to it with this one. The texture is velvety smooth, reminding me of the kind of thick, creamy smoke I’ve enjoyed in the past from aromatic pipe tobaccos. So far, the burn and draw are impeccable, and the growing ash has the appearance of being extruded, as there are no lines or the classic “stack of dimes” rings in the ash. I’m also digging the box-press of the cigar, as I seem to have fewer draw issues with box-pressed cigars due the slight underfilling necessary to create the shape.Entering the second 3rd of the cigar, the body and strength seem to be taking a gentle tick upwards. This isn’t a mild cigar, but it isn’t sending any “Danger, Will Robinson!” messages to me like some of the full-strength cigars I like to smoke. I am starting to retrohale each draw, as I am finding sweet creamy cedar notes now that are perfectly balancing the white pepper. The sensation is hard to describe, but very pleasant. That creamy note is also creating an overall flavor profile on the palate that reminds me of taking a sip of a chocolate macchiato from my favorite coffee shop. After 45 minutes, I’ve reached the halfway point of the cigar. Performance from a technical standpoint has been very good thus far, with only one minor touchup to the burn being needed.An interesting thing I discovered while researching this cigar was that it is not manufactured at Erik Espinosa’s La Zona factory in Esteli, Nicaragua, like the rest of his premium cigar lines. This cigar is manufactured at the San Lotano factory in Ocotal, Nicaragua, owned by AJ Fernandez. Collaboration in the cigar community is something I’ve long admired, and speaks to the trust and respect shared amongst manufacturers in the industry as a whole. It’s not easy to put your baby in the hands of someone else, so when you do, you are very selective about whom you choose. Erik chose wisely, in my opinion, to have AJ and his staff to produce this blend.Heading into the final third, the cigar continues to become smoother, with the flavor notes staying the same but growing in intensity along with strength and body. Thankfully, I happen to have a cup of coffee with me, and considering I normally think about enjoying an adult beverage with my cigars, I am happy to say that a simple cup of coffee is pairing very well with this cigar. After an hour and a half, I put the nub down just before it starts to burn my lips. So, does changing the wrapper change the cigar? Again, the answer is yes! In this case, the flavor profile has become darker, richer, and more intense. I’ve got another cigar to enjoy as part of my regular rotation. Try both versions of the Espinosa Laranja Reserva and decide which you like better. As for me, when it comes to the Laranja Reserva Escuro, wrap it up, I’ll take it!