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La Rosa Especial Piquin

la-rosa-especial-625p.jpg

It’s the end of the road yet again for La Rosa Especial. The first version of this brand was produced for JR Cigars by Nestor Plasencia in the late 90s. It was billed as “the strongest cigar on Earth.” It wasn’t. They were, however, pretty good aside from a spotty build. I was mildly disappointed when the brand was discontinued after couple of years.

In 2006, Lew Rothman and Plasencia brought La Rosa back to life, this time as a more powerful blend. Again, no one was buying. These went on closeout this week. And despite never having tried the new blend, I love a closeout as much as the next guy. I scored my 20-count box of 5″ x 50 Piquins for the low, low price of $33 shipped.

It features a dry looking Honduran wrapper, Costa Rican binder and a four-nation filler blend. At first, I’m struck by the easy draw and clouds of smoke. But shortly thereafter, I realize there’s no flavor to speak of. I smack my lips on the finish, but I’m coming up empty. It is definitely peppery, particularly in the sinuses on retrohaling. There is just a hint of brown sugar and bread on the finish. In this way, it reminds me of the Don Kiki Brown Label, though the Brown Label has far more flavor.

I wait for it to open up. Approaching halfway there is still no there there. One could characterize this as strong, I suppose, but there is little to back up the peppery zip on the front. At points in the middle I think I pick up some mocha flavors. But this could be what I now call the 5 Vegas A Effect, when I get so desperate for flavor that my mind starts inventing them for me.

The burn is so-so, requiring a couple of touchups. The draw remains the best feature of the La Rosa Especial, full and easy.

Past halfway, the Piquin takes a turn toward the ashy side. There is still a semi-sweet doughy note on the finish, but mostly all I taste is smoke. It’s turning increasingly bitter as well.

If Mr. Plasencia’s Maria Mancini and CI Legends Maroon represent “Good Nestor,” the flavorless 5 Vegas Series A and this La Rosa Especial are “Bad Nestor.”

With two inches remaining, I lay this one down, thankful that I never sampled these at the original price.

CONCLUSION: I’m reluctant to be too tough on this stick since (a) it was $1.50, and (b) I didn’t give it much time to settle after coming off the UPS truck. That said, I can see why La Rosa Especial (v2.0) was an epic failure. Even if it improves with rest, it is still destined to be a yard gar. The build is fine, but it comes up way short in the flavor department. At best, it’s peppery but uneventful. At worst, it’s ashy. If you were thinking of scooping these up on closeout, think twice.

SCORE: 78

70 comments

1 Bill { 09.07.08 at 3:58 pm }

Thanks for taking one for the team! :-) Good review - sorry it was a bummer.

2 Kevin { 09.07.08 at 4:27 pm }

Hey, Bill. It was worth a shot, right? Believe it or not, I actually had high expectations, given that I enjoyed the original version of this brand. But it just wasn’t to be.

3 Lisa B. { 09.08.08 at 1:26 pm }

I had to laugh at the “5 Vegas A effect” because I can relate so well to that. As a reviewer you really try hard to identify the flavors but some times the cigar just doesn’t want to give them up. I’ll write down a flavor I thought I tasted and put a question mark by it, like did I just taste that?

4 Kevin { 09.08.08 at 6:57 pm }

Yes, the mind has a funny way of trying to buck up a bummed out palate, doesn’t it? I have a “glass half empty” kinda palate and a “glass half full” mind, perhaps?

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