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Viaje Layer Cake | halfwheel


Viaje is well-known for releasing annual editions of its cigars, several of which are centered around holidays, while others get their inspiration from a variety of sources. While some of them add sizes, by and large most have been pretty consistent in maintaining things from year to year. But then there is the Viaje Craft Series, which draws its inspiration from the craft beer industry.

I mention this because as I was writing this review of the Viaje Layer Cake, I began referring to it as the 2021 edition of the cigar, when in fact it is the first time that it has been released. What it is, though, is the 2021 edition of the Viaje Craft Series. The series debuted in May 2018 with Bales on Bales, and was followed by For the Love of the Leaf in September 2018 and Wilshire and La Jolla in November 2019.

While the cigars have different names, they do have some similarities, starting with the packaging. Each cigar has come in 10-count boxes, while the cigars feature a partial silver foil paper wrap, with the band placed on the lower third of the cigar closer to the foot, as opposed to the more traditional placement near the head. They have all been toros, though the first two measured 6 x 52, while the third and fourth upped the ring gauge to 54.

There are some differences between the blends, as while the majority are Nicaraguan puros, For the Love of the Leaf uses a Mexican San Andrés wrapper. Wilshire & La Jolla was produced by Raíces Cubanas in Honduras, while the other three were produced by Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. in Nicaragua. In a social media post, the company said that “the best bales have been painstakingly sampled and blended to ensure each release showcases the very best from each factory,” adding that the Craft Series is a “multi-factory, ongoing journey into tobacco.”

As for the Layer Cake, it is a Nicaraguan puro that uses a criollo wrapper, with all the tobacco coming from AGANORSA, and with AGANORSA’s Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. factory producing the cigar. Production numbers for this release have not been disclosed.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Viaje Layer Cake
  • Country of Origin: Nicaragua
  • Factory: Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A.
  • Wrapper: Nicaragua (Criollo)
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 54
  • Vitola: Toro Extra
  • MSRP: $11.80 (Box of 10, $118)
  • Release Date: July 2021
  • Number of Cigars Released: Undisclosed
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

I’ve mentioned cigars that come with a bit more ceremony than others, and the Viaje Layer Cake has some of its own. It starts with removing it from its cellophane and then figuring out what to do with the silver foil paper that covers the majority of the cigar’s length. The easiest answer seems to be to just slide it off, though it also takes the band with it and is a fairly snug fit. If you have a blade on you, you could cut the tape and proceed accordingly. You could also remove the band first and then proceed to do what you will with the foil. If you were really feeling frisky or in need of some comments on your social media post, you could probably even cut through the foil and try and take off some of the cap, leaving some of the foil paper in tact. I opt for the first option, though I put the band back on the cigar for the purpose of the photographs, though it is noticeably loose without the foil paper underneath. Once fully revealed, the wrapper is good-looking, generally even in color with a little bit of mottling in spots. It has some velvety softness and a wax-like finish that is its most engaging aspect. There are some noticeable veins, one of which is front and center on the first sample I smoke, but of course, was hidden under the foil paper, something I mentioned because it likely would have been the back of the cigar without the foil. In terms of firmness, there is some of the familiar softness that comes with a box-pressed cigar, though the core is firm. I find the combination between the texture of the wrapper and the density of the cigar to be one of the more unique and engaging combinations I can recall recently. The foot of the cigar has a light aroma that has me thinking of some freshly baked pastries and a very light aroma of berry compote, though when the foot of the cigar touches my nose, the tobacco’s texture has a sharpness that distracts me from the aroma for a moment. There’s not a lot of outright pepper or sweetness to the aroma, leaving it approachable and mild yet impressively rich. The flavor of the cold draw is equally mild yet still enjoyable, with a bit of very light butter on top of wheat and a common tobacco flavor. What concerns me is the airflow, as it can be a few ticks too open and has me mindful of whether or not it will affect the cigar’s performance.

While the name has me thinking of a sweet, dessert-like start, the Viaje Layer Cake starts a bit fuller, with woods and pepper the first thing to hit my palate, backed by a bit of creaminess that builds and fills in the gaps in the first inch. It’s a fairly full flavor right out of the gate, with a rich body, and one that softens as the fuller flavors mellow out and the creaminess takes over, adding a bit of white pepper and a light white bread and toast flavor coming in, though that’s almost more of a transitional note that turns into a creamy cake flavor. It’s interesting to think about such a dessert with a pepper component, though that’s more or less what I’m getting here and it works pretty well. There is some back and forth between these two flavor expressions throughout the first third, with the pendulum swinging back to a slightly toasty and woody profile after the first clump of ash is knocked off, a change that begins to dry my palate a bit. There’s still a bit of white pepper in the profile, though it’s moved mainly to the finish and provides a lingering tingle on my tongue. It’s also what I find predominantly on retrohales, backed or enveloped by varying amounts of creaminess depending on the sample. The cigar finishes this section with a bit smokier flavor, while retrohales have a brighter pepper that really tingles the nostrils. Technical performance has been very good, with the draw maybe a tick open from time to time but not concerning. Flavor is generally medium but ticks up to medium-plus at times, body stays closer to medium, while strength is just over the mild mark thus far.

The general course of each cigar stays the same, but there is some variance in how the different thirds start and finish. There’s generally a mellowing of the profile as the second third gets underway, leaving a subtle creamy flavor that is easy on the palate and the kind of profile that seems destined to be paired with a cup of coffee. There is still a good amount of white pepper available via retrohales, a combination that works well for me, allowing me to spice up the flavor when wanted. On the samples that are a bit fuller in flavor, it’s due to a bit of dry wood coming out throughout the start of the second third, while a bit of pepper hits the tongue on the finish. Either way, both are enjoyable, and even when the flavor merits being called mild or mellow it is by no means lacking. Flavor builds intensity with more of the wood note and a bit of earthiness, both impressively refined and clean flavors that set the stage for a bit of pepper to follow. If there is something that sticks with me as I watch the burn line pass through the midpoint of the cigar, it’s the lingering finish that it offers, not only in terms of time but also that it’s an enjoyable flavor that sits right on top of the front half of my tongue, tingling those taste buds. A bit of black pepper joins the mix as the cigar gets into its second half, giving the profile what I would describe as a more Viaje-esque profile, yet the profile is still lighter than what I think of as the brand’s typical baseline. If there’s one word that hasn’t come to mind thus far, it is spicy, and while I’m not certain it is the best word here, the cigar has the beginnings of spiciness as it gets further into this section. It fades as quickly as it arrives, but it is an interesting addition while it’s around. In its place is a more traditional mix of black and white pepper, which not only hits the tongue and nose but the eyes as well. The flavor has journeyed from mild to medium-full in this segment, body has held steadier around medium-plus, and strength is just touching the medium mark. Construction and combustion are still good, though the burn line has shown some waviness. Smoke production is particularly good, with plentiful amounts on each puff.

For a cigar named Layer Cake, I’m intrigued by the amount of woodiness I have found in the profile, particularly as it heads into the final third. It’s a refined flavor that reminds me of a dried-out oak barrel, though the flavor is richer and more developed. It also doesn’t seem to dry out the palate like I’ve found from other cigars with similar woodiness. There is still some impressive creaminess in this section, reminding me a bit of dulce de leche when it is at its thickest, or milk cake when it’s a bit lighter, though there are times where it can’t keep up with the woodiness, so suffice to say I enjoy it more when it’s there. The body of the smoke begins to thicken up in the final inch-plus, while the flavor quickly turns smoky, followed by a dry wood note and a bit of light pepper, the combination of which really tingles the front third of my tongue. It’s also a change that seems to push out the vast majority of the creaminess in whatever form it is appearing. The pepper continues building, adding intensity more than gravitas of the pepper, even though the overall profile is fuller and heavier on the palate on the whole, finishing near full in flavor, medium-full in body and medium-plus in strength. The technical aspects remain very good overall, though the burn line struggles in the final third, with two cigars becoming notably uneven, something easily corrected with a quick touchup from my lighter.

Final Notes

  • As my colleague Charlie Minato in his review of the Viaje Bales on Bales, packaging for the Viaje Craft Series seems to be inspired by Trillium Brewing Co., a popular Massachusetts-based brewery. It is rather similar to the labels used on Trillium’s cans, including the off-white label, an illustration in reference to the name, the general layout and even the font.
  • There are times in the final third where the draw feels a touch more open now, though as soon as I noted that change, I also began to wonder if the lighter body of the smoke might be making me misattribute the change.
  • The first cigar’s burn line began canoeing (or shoveling) quite rapidly, forcing me to touch up the cigar to salvage an even burn for the back half of the section, as well as for a decent picture.
  • While Viaje is known for creating some nicotine-rich cigars, the Layer Cake isn’t one of them. Only in the final inch or so does any appreciable strength come out, and none of the three samples left me feeling any kind of buzz or gut punch.
  • The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time was two hours and 10 minutes on average.
  • Site sponsor STOGIES World Class Cigars carries the Viaje Layer Cake, but currently shows it as out of stock.

89
Overall Score

While there was some variance among the samples in my experience with the Viaje Layer Cake, each consistently delivered a very enjoyable profile that certainly delivers on whatever flavor notions might come to mind from the name in addition to a short roster of refined supporting flavors. It’s by no means a dessert cigar on the whole, but it’s at its best when it delivers the creamy, slightly sweet core flavor, a flavor it dabbles in throughout its six inches while alternating it with woods, earth, and a mix of white and black pepper. As noted throughout the review, it’s a rather unique profile from what I think of from Viaje, and one that works quite well for my palate, reminding me that a very good cigar with some great portions can be made without needing to pound the palate with strength. It’s also a complement to AGANORSA Leaf, which supplied the tobacco for this cigar; the company has no shortage of acclaimed cigars that use its leaves and this belongs in that group. I wouldn’t mind a bit more consistency in the draw and a bit more consistently even burn line, but both of those are fairly small quibbles in the big picture. A very enjoyable cigar worth trying if not worthy of picking up a box, as this could be an interesting candidate for some aging and tracking of its evolution.

Patrick Lagreid

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I’m a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.



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