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Isabela Ltd Edition PepperHead Gordo 2021

We discuss the blends of cigars on this site quite regularly; it is a staple of both our reviews and news stories, and we’ll occasionally make mention of the willingness of certain manufacturers to disclose the details of their blends, while a growing number of others seem to be taking the tactic of not disclosing details.

I bring that because arguably the most interesting part of today’s review isn’t its decorative wrapper, but rather that it claims to use a total of 13 different tobaccos in its blend. While that may not sound all that impressive, if you’ve been around the cigar-making process and understand how much tobacco you can fit in a cigar, you may be skeptical about that claim.

The Isabela Ltd Edition PepperHead Gordo 2021 is the follow-up to a line that debuted in 2019 in a corona vitola. As the name indicates, it comes in a 6 x 60 gordo vitola, and like its predecessor it is a limited edition. Only 250 boxes of 10 cigars were produced, with the cigar having an MSRP of $10.95.

Two of those 13 tobaccos were used to create the wrapper, one of which is a Nicaraguan habano “Prieto” varietal for the main wrapper, while the lighter-colored head, foot and accents are made from an Ecuadorian desflorada Connecticut leaf. Details about the binder and filler have not been disclosed beyond that they are Nicaraguan, but the company says the cigars were aged for four years after rolling before they were ready to release.

According to Johnny Piette, founder of Isabela Cigar Co., that extended amount of aging was due to the cigar using some high-priming tobaccos that he felt merited extra time before release. He noted that his original plan called for the gordo to be released shortly after the corona, which came out in June 2019.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Isabela Ltd Edition PepperHead Gordo 2021
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Undisclosed
  • Wrapper: Nicaragua (Habano Prieto) & Ecuador (Connecticut Desflorada)
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 60
  • Vitola: Gordo
  • MSRP: $10.95 (Box of 10, $109.50)
  • Release Date: May 2021
  • Number of Cigars Released: 250 Boxes of 10 Cigars (2,500 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

There is a lot to take in from the Isabela Ltd Edition PepperHead Gordo 2021: the stripe of light tobacco the winds its way up the cigar, from its matching colored foot to its matching color head. The vibrant band shows what appears to be a South Beach scene with its vibrant colors, yet the word mark evokes thoughts of the famed Cuban Cohiba word mark. Then there is the vitola, a 6 x 60 that while common and familiar, is still a big cigar. The samples all feel like they are rolled well, firm but not hard, with no visible irregularities or other issues. The Nicaraguan habano Prieto wrapper has some small veins that barely emerge from the leaf, along with just a bit of toothiness if you’re willing to take a closer look. The foot offers a fairly sweet corn flakes aroma, with almost a bit of grilled peach sauce lightly applied, finished off by just a bit of light pepper to tingle the nostrils. There’s also a bit of licor de elite, a spirit made from Mexican heritage corn that I recently tried and has been on my mind ever since. Air moves well on the cold draw, smooth and free of obstruction, while the flavors are drier than the aroma, with an upfront taste of dry tobacco leaves, pallet wood and a bit of white pepper. In one sample, I’m also getting a flavor that has me wondering if some sweetener has been applied to the cap, or if this is just the Ecuadorian Connecticut giving off a distinct flavor.

The Isabela Ltd Edition PepperHead Gordo 2021 starts with a creamy base flavor that is enhanced by just a bit of white pepper and subtle hints at a dry wood and toast combination. It’s familiar but well done; the latter more important than the former in my book. There is also a sweet flavor that still has me wondering if the cap was sweetened or if the tobacco itself is just sweet; without confirmation of the former I will always default to the latter, but this one is close. It’s the kind of flavor that usually gets accompanied by the phrase a great morning cigar, with which I would be inclined to agree. A bit of earthiness emerges as the burn line progresses, far from what you might expect from a nearly all-Nicaraguan cigar, but one that shows the range that the country can produce. I don’t want to call the profile a bit gruffer—almost anything would be after the first inch—but there is certainly a bit more character now. Flavor in the first third is in that mild-plus to medium-minus range, mellow but not boring on the palate with an easy profile to approach and one that will give something back to the taste buds and olfactory nerves. Body is in the medium range, while strength is quite mild. Construction and combustion are both very good.

The creaminess from the first third of the Isabela Ltd Edition PepperHead Gordo 2021 might not be as dominant as it was at the start of the cigar, but it now pairs with a coffee flavor to give the profile a latte-esque spin. I wanted to call it a cappuccino at first, but the relative dryness of that drink doesn’t quite match up as well. The coffee aspect nudges forward a bit more as the burn line progresses, though stops well short of the full flavor of black coffee. The dry woodiness that has been a consistent part of the profile steps toward the front of the profile as the second third comes to a close, and as it does so it sharpens up and seems to take on a slightly metallic tinge in one sample, though isn’t a consistent experience across the three. Similarly, the smoke can get a bit thicker and denser, a benefit to the experience when it happens. Construction remains very good, with just a slightly uneven burn line worthy of noting. Flavor is a vibrant medium, body is a lighter medium than it was earlier, and strength is still mild at best.

There’s a new and distinct tingling sensation emerging on the front third and tip of my tongue, a mix of white pepper and a remnant of the slight metallic taste from the end of the second third. At its best, it’s a fairly minor sensation that is largely overshadowed by the thick and chewy texture of the smoke, which has a bit more earthiness than earlier and a dense brown bread aspect. There a touch more black pepper and the cigar has definitely moved away from the morning cigar profile it had in the first third. The earth has more pepper to it, the profile is more robust, and each puff imparts a bit more of a grating aspect on the taste buds and throat. The final inch or so can’t quite get the cigar completely back on track, something seemingly attributable to the heat exacerbating the changes picked up in this section. It’s still an enjoyable overall cigar, finishing with that still vibrant medium flavor profile, a medium-minus body to the smoke, and little if any strength to be found. Construction and combustion both remain very good as well, with only my desire to even out the burn line having me thinking about using my lighter.

Final Notes

  • I’m not sure whether I like the traditional, wider striped barber pole design of the Isabela Ltd. Edition Time Traveler 2019, or this design that produces a slender stripe.
  • Of the 250 boxes produced, 10 were dubbed as a collector’s edition that came with a higher MSRP of $149. The box we purchased is one of them.
  • If you’ve ever tried to roll a cigar, and specifically apply the wrapper leaf, you know what a challenge it can be. Doing so to achieve a barber pole design only ups the stakes, and I am constantly impressed by how well the vast majority come out, even if there can be a good amount of variance from sample to sample.
  • I’m not going to debate whether or not the cap is sweetened; I don’t think it is, but I had a harder time deciding in this instance than I did with the Sobremesa Brûlée Blue, which had a lot of people on both sides of the argument.
  • I found absolutely no nicotine strength from this cigar, which is always fine by me.
  • The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time was one hour and 50 minutes on average.

Overall Score

Much like my colleague Charlie Minato noted in his review of the Isabela Ltd. Edition Time Traveler 2019, seemingly all of my exposure to the company has come via writing about them on this site. As such, I can’t speak to the company’s full portfolio, but the Isabela Ltd Edition PepperHead Gordo 2021 is a very good introduction to it. When the blend is at its most calibrated, it is very, very good, a near ideal mild-plus cigar that is complex and rich with flavor but far from a strength bomb. When it’s not there, it’s still very good save for a few flirtations with a slight metallic sensation and a finish that takes on a bit too much of the heat in the final inch. Construction is fantastic, and while it doesn’t affect the score, I have to give some appreciation for the decorative aspect. If you were can get your hands on some of these, I think you’ll be impressed by what it has to offer. But needless to say, Isabela Cigar Co. now has my attention and interest to see if the rest of the portfolio holds up to this limited edition.

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