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Cigar Review: Isabela Time-Traveller

Isabela Time-Traveller

Isabela LabelOwner Johnny Piette started his tobacco career when he met the legendary Cuban Master Vicente Ortiz in 1997 at Ortiz’s Flagler Street “fabrica” in Little Havana, Miami.  National distribution of Isabela Cigars began in 2015. “Isabela cigars are rolled by one of six pairs of level 9 + Cuban Master rollers, each with over 30 years of experience. We utilize traditional Cuban methods of artisan custom master rolling, each finished in tres capa and sealed with a sugar-based sealant.”

I received a package from Johnny Piette last week after I had just finished discussing which cigar to review next with Toar. It included a note from Johnny describing the three year journey of creating the Time-Traveller. I have never been so intrigued with a blend and the ambitious challenge to create a cigar boasting “eight distinct seamless transitions of changing flavor profiles that the Time-Traveller reveals.”

And that’s not all! No, Johnny took the medio teimpo leaf and used it as a binder. First off, medio tiempo grows on only 10% of tobacco plants above the ligero leaf. It is a very intense leaf when added to a cigar blend because of all the sunlight it gets. Medio tiempo leaf is also a small leaf by comparison to ligero. All I am seeing at this point is an impossible vision for an eight-transition cigar and a production nightmare to harvest enough medio tiempo leaf to fulfill the binder requirements. So to even make things more difficult, Johnny also put medio tiempo leaf in the filler blend! Medio tiempo was the “secret” behind the Cuban Cohiba Behike BHK. It is also the additional pop used in such successes such as Warped Cigars’ Maestro Del Tiempo 6102R and the Flor Del Valle Sky Flower.

Just as daunting of a task to create a cigar with an eight-profile breakdown, I now have the equally (well, maybe not equally) daunting task of picking out all of those nuances. So I smoked the first cigar last week, but felt I needed some clarifications from Johnny, so I asked for some insight into the Time-Traveller.

CS- Three years in the blending process, did you have any doubts about pulling off eight distinct transitions?

 

IC- While 3 years may sound cool to some, it’s almost embarrassing that it took us so long and was never intended to be that intensive.

When we set out with the idea of the “Time-Traveler”, we wanted to make a cigar that harkened back to the flavors we remembered of the different popular Cuban cigars of the 90s…the Romeo, The Cohiba , the spicy Por Larranaga, etc….that just don’t taste the same at present, partially due to the fact that they changed wrappers to a bug proof, disease resistant wrapper..etc, etc.

We also thought it would be cool if we could blend the Time-Traveller to not only take you back, but visit those different Cuban brands I just mentioned, but also the differnet regions.

Now with the 3 years in the making, I can use the analogy of Hollywood Movies. Many of the great directors have been quoted as saying they can have the biggest budget, best script, best actors, shoot the movie, and  the final product is still never guaranteed ..and takes a lot of luck as well.

So we started blending with many different tobaccos, many different primings, produced many different samples, aged them, and NONE of them had it right.

Then while working on the Isabela Guerrilla , which is the largest ring gauge we ever produced, we had to figure out how to get our unique Isabela personality as well as power into a cigar with such a large amount of filler, and we came up with the idea of aging at each of the different tobaccos at different lengths. And the result worked with the Guerrillas, and we went back to the Time-Traveler and took this idea much further, and the results were mind blowing.

 

CS- Was your original intent to create an eight transition “time traveller”, or did it happen during the long blending process?

 

IC So no, we didn’t intend for this vitola to go thru 8 distinct transitions, we knew what we wanted to do, but in this instance the results were way past what we could have ever dreamed up. We were honestly surprised and ecstatic abut the end results. I can honestly say I have never had a cigar that tastes like the Time-Traveller.

 

CS- Medio tiempo leaf grows on only 10% of tobacco plants and has been used in a rare group of cigars as a filler component. Wasn’t this a huge production challenge to create a cigar with a medio tiempo binder?

 

IC- Medio tiempo has 3 grades, depending on the height it is procured. Also, we get most of our tobaccos from smaller farms because of relationships, pricing, better quality, and smaller farms yield smaller production so large companies can’t get enough of the same tobaccos to guarantee their large production, leaving a “hole” for guys like us.

So for example, we could only made 1000 Time-Travelers, as we used aged down medio tiempo in the binder, which doesn’t require a lot of the tobacco, and  they had some aged MT that we needed to perfect the blend, just like in a scotch bonnet pepper, if you can get past the overwhelming spice, there is just an incredible flavor behind it. So with the MT, it is a step away from the spice of the ligero leaf, and with the aged MT we got, it took some of the spice off the top, revealing the most incredible flavors that were hidden behind the spice

With regards to the supposed “scarcity” of medio-tiempo, it used to be in abundance, until guys like us and Kyle at Warped, etc., started using it , and now it may be the “flavor of the month” , but again, because we have relationships and are small batch, we have maintained a good supply line for our production and needs.

 

CS- What sizes will the Isabella Time-Traveller be available in?

 

IC The Time Traveler is blend specific to the format and size. It will always be one and only sized (6 1/4 x 42).

We are readying for release the “Shape-Shifter”, which shares similar innards, but different wrapper leaves etc.,  kind of like a sister to the TT vitola.

We also have in aging the Isabela “Stardust”, which is a 51/2 x 42  corona, with, again, some similarities in tobaccos and different aging principles, as well as another one in aging, the Isabela “Mash-Up”, which is a 5 x 52 format, but none of these have release dates as of yet.

APPEARANCE

The Time-Traveller is a solid cigar with some noticeable veins, a complete Ecudaorian Connecticut Deflorada wrapper and an overlaid, barber-pole style chocolate brown Nicaraguan Habano secondary wrapper. As always with Isabela Cigars, a traditional tres capa finish is used. Overall, a very nice looking cigar, an oily gloss, and the standard Isabela colorful band.
Time-Traveller Appearance

Pre-light draw is rich and earthy with a lot of natural tobacco and leather flavors. A hint of sweetness from the sugar in the glue–which goes back to the traditional Cuban style that Isabela is know for–but extremely toned down on this one.

FIRST LIGHT

Time-Traveller First LightI expect a huge pepper blast from the medio tiempo leaf, but instead am met with an almost mild, yet flavorful, blend of pepper, malt, a slight bitterness, a touch of sugar sweetness, and a little grassy finish. Just a 1/4 in and the pepper is building. Draw is spot on.

CRUISE CONTROL BURN

There really is a distinct transition at the 1/2 inch to one inch mark to a deeper, richer, thicker smokey mouth feel and a deepening of flavors. The sugar is already gone and is replaced by a raisin sweetness along with creaminess and a nutty hint. Burn line an inch in is as a razor sharp as any I can remember. Past the inch mark, chocolate, caramel and malt have come into play, while the nuttiness is still hitting the tongue. Retro-hale is a mild pepper with a bit of citrus. It is really tough to keep up with this cigar and still make note of the flavors.
Time-Traveller Cruise Control

As I pause to define the flavors and take an additional couple of puffs, the Time-Traveller has already moved on to new eras. I just can’t keep up with it!

At two inches, the chocolate rush is over and mellowed into cocoa, cinnamon, a bit more pepper, and almonds. Three inches in and there is a noticeable building of the  pepper and cinnamon spiciness. There is a floral note floating back on the finish. I am just trying in vain to keep up with the transitions.

The ash is different too. I notice shape and color changes as the cigar is smoked, signifying blend changes, I assume.
Time-Traveller Ash

At the halfway point the malty taste I so enjoy has taken point while almonds, char, and a lingering finish of pepper balance out the current profile. What’s next? I am relighting because I just paused too long to figure it out!

FINAL THIRD

Time-Traveller Final ThirdIn the forefront is the malty flavor, some char, a bit more black pepper, followed by a floral finish that lingers and coats the tongue. The smoke continues to produce nice white plumes. Raisin just popped back up along with a cinnamon-like bite. Retro is very pleasant with light pepper and honey.

CONSTRUCTION/STRENGTH

All samples demonstrate excellent construction, draw, and a razor sharp burn line (2 out of 3 smoked). I would expect nothing less from level 9 Cuban Master rollers. Strength migrates around during transitions from a medium to medium-plus, but overall is a medium strength, full flavored experience.

NOTABLE FLAVORS

  • Malt
  • Cinnamon
  • Black Pepper
  • Floral
  • Honey
  • Citrus
  • Almond Nuttiness
  • Caramel
  • Char

CONCLUSION

By far, this is the most difficult review I have ever attempted. Maybe Johnny got into my head with the eight Cuban-era transitions, but it just makes me want to smoke more Time-Travellers to see what I will find the next time. Overall, I believe Johnny succeeded with a unique, mellow, full-flavored cigar.
Time-Traveller Conclusion

The Time-Traveller is complex and hard to keep up with in such a good way. I did not track the flavor transitions during the review process, but waited until I completed the review to count them: eight!

No one should smoke just one Time-Traveller since part of the enjoyment is picking up new flavor nuances each time the cigar is smoked. Don’t miss out on this one, and do not just get one!

Isabella Cigar Company

Cigars Smoked for review:  3

Cigar Smoke Rate: 93

Size:   6 x 42

Strength: Medium with Full Flavor

Wrapper:  Sourced small farm Ecuadorian Connecticut Desflorada and aged Nicaraguan Dark Habano
Binder:      Nicaraguan aged small farm Medio Tiempo Leaf
Filler:         Nicaraguan aged small farm & Nicaraguan Medio Tiempo Leaf
Country of Origin:   Nicaragua

Availability:   Online as part of the Isabela March Madness Sampler Luxury Box & Shipping to Select Retailers this Week.

MSRP: $8.95

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