Up for review today is the newest cigar from Yamakaze, the popular Japanese whisky brand.
Just kidding! It’s a new cigar from Viaje (read on).
The Viaje “Hamaki Omakase” is a limited run cigar from a company known for limited run cigars. The company didn’t release any blend info on the cigar nor any info on where the tobaccos are from, though I’d guess by the flavor profile that it’s largely from Nicaragua. For that reason, we’ll skip the “blend specifics” section and move straight to the review.
Appearance & Construction
As mentioned above, you could be forgiven for wondering if the branding here was ripped off straight from a bottle of Yamazaki. If you compare the box art of the Hamaki Omakase with Yamazaki 18 label, you’ll notice, let’s say, significant similarities.
I’m a marketer. I get the desire to want to profit off of the Japanese whisky boom. It’s a smart business decision. But this takes things a bit far. Even down to putting “18 cigars” in a box so “18” can be displayed in the same way that the year is presented in a bottle of Yamazaki 18. The typeface as well is nearly identical. And the overall placement of the text is uncannily similar.
This is lazy branding. And, lest anyone remind me that “imitation is flattery,” I’d say that’s true in all cases except when what’s being imitated is the graphic design of a more successful company.
All that said, let’s get to the tobacco itself.
Despite my misgivings about the branding, the outer wrapper has a silky smooth texture and a visible oily sheen that really gets me excited to light up. There are some substantial veins, as well as a major crack, but after cutting and testing the draw, the binder seems fine and the air flow with it. Off of the foot of the cigar I pick up strong spice aromas mixed with damp wood and corn chips (thanks halfwheel for identifying the corn chips).
Flavor & Smoke Characteristics
On kick0ff, the Viaje Hamaki Omakase is initially spicy but immediately tones down to a very soft and creamy medium bodied smoke. The first impression on the tongue is one of slight spiciness that activates the center of the tongue, followed by very creamy notes of chocolate, oak, nougat and a tartness that I can’t quite place but which gives the smoke the kick it needs to be interesting. The cigar produces ample smoke, and though there’s some initial waviness to the burn it corrects itself quickly.
As the first third advances, some pepper creeps in on the retrohale, layered on top of the tartness from the palate. There’s also a bit more oomph on the palate, with more vegetal spice, more oak, and an creamy caramel note that is quite nice. All things told, a very good start to the cigar.
The Viaje Hamaki Omakase smokes mostly the same until well after the halfway point, which is a bit disappointing because, good as the first half was, any great cigar should have movement of flavors and strength that keeps the experience interesting. In this case though, the body and strength stay at just a touch under medium, with a core flavor profile of vegetal spice, milk chocolate, oak and that tartness which I still can’t place but would probably call a rhubarb kind of tartness. Construction-wise, the cigar continues to produce great amounts of smoke, but the burn also continues to be quite wavy and continually tempts me to touch it up.
The final third is mostly a replay of the second third, which is to say that not much changes. The spice that was fairly dominant in the first third draws back on the palate and on the retrohale, though it does ramp up a bit near the end. Otherwise, more of the same.
The Viaje Hamaki Omakase has a lot going for it when it kicks off, and really throughout most the smoke too. But where it shines in having great flavors, it doesn’t have a lot to offer in terms of complexity. It’s a bit of a one trick pony. Construction as well struggles throughout the course of the smoke, making the experience more frustrating than it would otherwise be.