Review: Ortega The Wild Bunch Island Jim WaHoo (Preproduction)
As you’re likely aware, Eddie Ortega announced an ambitious project in the summer of 2012 dubbed the Wild Bunch that would see him release a new cigar every month in 2013 that would be a tribute to a person that he had met through his cigar-related journeys.
Ortega had this to say about the inspiration and direction for the Wild Bunch:
During my time in the cigar industry, I’ve come to know lots of great interesting characters in the industry. I’ve found certain characters so interesting, that I decided to create a series called “The Wild Bunch.” This series will consist of 12 characters, each of them with a unique flavor and size profile, no two will be alike.
The series debuted as promised in January 2013 with the Big Bad John Jackhammer and was followed by the Iron Mike I-Beam in February. The third release in the series is slated to be released in March and is dubbed the Island Jim WaHoo.
Here are the first three releases:
Big Bad John “Jackhammer” (6 7/8 x 60) — January 2013
Iron Mike “I-Beam” (4 7/8 x 54) — February 2013
Island Jim “WaHoo” (6 1/2 x 52) — March 2013
While most of the real-world identities of the Wild Bunch characters was kept fairly quiet, Island Jim was fairly quickly identified as Jim Robinson of Leaf & Bean in Pittsburgh, and if you scroll through Robinson’s or Ortega’s Facebook pages, you’ll see several photos that leave no doubt. This photo, posted on Eddie Ortega’s Facebook page, pretty much sums it up:
Like the first two members of the Wild Bunch, Island Jim will come in 20–count boxes that look like this:
Island Jim was also made available as part of a sampler that came out in January and featured one of each of the first three members of the Wild Bunch.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s light this stick up.
Cigar Reviewed: Ortega The Wild Bunch Island Jim WaHoo
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Factory: My Father Cigars, S.A.
Wrapper: Ecuadoran Habano
Size: 6 1/2 Inches
Ring Gauge: 52
Vitola: Toro Extra / WaHoo
MSRP: $10.50 (Boxes of 20, $210.00)
Release Date: March 2013
Number of Cigars Released: 500 Boxes of 20 (10,000 Total Cigars)
Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 2
The Ortega Wild Bunch Island Jim is a very attractive specimen with a smooth, slightly oily wrapper and a maze of small, fairly flat veins. While the cigar has a bit of give, it’s still overall firm and feels well-packed. The pre-light aroma is surprisingly light and floral but is backed by a solid amount of pepper. The cold draw is much meatier and full, with a hearty gravy note as the first thing that jumps out and is backed by a bit of cereal grain and just the faintest hit of orange. Air moves well through it if just the slightest bit governed, which is expected given the cigar’s firmness.
The initial puffs of the first third of the Ortega Wild Bunch Island Jim are medium bodied and packed with notes of dough, chalk, a bit of paper and a slightly mineral note that gives it a bit of a kick, though it falls short of being peppery or spicy. A decent amount of white smoke comes off the cigar as the burn line reveals a tight white ash that manages to hold for about an inch before finally dropping, at which time the first third of the Island Jim dials the intensity down a click and settles into a very palatable medium-bodied cigar led by an enjoyable chalk note. The smoke itself is fairly light and airy, though the flavors have a definite edge thanks to the chalk and a developing cereal grain note.
The transition to the second third of the Ortega Wild Bunch Island Jim begins with a rubbing of my eyes as there’s a slight uptick in white pepper that causes a bit or irritation. The smoke production picks up a bit in this section as well, both when puffed on and when at rest, and the chalk note seems to become a bit more intense and is now driving the flavor of the cigar. The technical performance has been solid so far with a sharp burn line and good smoke production, and while the ash remains tight, it doesn’t hold for quite as long as it did on the Iron Mike. A note of a slightly over baked pretzel steps out and adds a bit of a charred note to the equation and takes Island Jim into the final third which, at this point, seems to hold promise of finishing a bit stronger than it began.
Heading into the final third, a trend noticed in the first two Wild Bunch cigars continues as the flavors really open up and it becomes clear that the Island Jim is going to finish with a much more complex profile than it has shown up to this point. The chalk note has added more raw notes of soil and clay that really hits the front of the tongue with vigor. A fairly dry wood note is the late-comer to the flavor party, showing up in the last two inches to add another layer of complexity to the flavor offerings that seem to be growing as fast as the cigar is approaching its eventual demise. The heat of the final inch and a half turns things sour and rather than try and smoke Island Jim down to the cap, it becomes apparent that the best course of action is to let it go out.
- If you go back to the announcement for the Dirty Dozen/Wild Bunch that we posted in July 2012, you’ll see that March’s release was originally slated to be named Wild Bill “Widow Maker.” That name was shifted to the August release on an early version of the Wild Bunch poster, but as always, things are subject to change.
- While smoking the first cigar I seemed to notice that I tend to smoke milder cigars a bit faster than more full-bodied ones. Maybe this isn’t a revelation to you, but it was a bit to me as I’m a notoriously slow smoker.
- Having smoked the first three cigars in the Wild Bunch series, the Island Jim ‘WaHoo’ vitola ranks as my favorite, simply from a size/shape perspective.
- The bands for these samples were printed on a laser printer, and the regular production bands will be of better quality.
- As you might recall, the Wild Bunch was originally slated to be called the Dirty Dozen, but was changed after a discussion between Ortega and Jonathan Drew, whose Drew Estate had been using the word dirty for some time.
- The band for Island Jim used a very different font from what was used for Big Bad John and Iron Mike. It was also the only one to use both upper and lower case letters as the previous two were in all caps.
- When he sent these out, Eddie Ortega said that the final version of Iron Mike as well as Big Bad John and Island Jim was still subject to some blend tweaks. He sent out a number of samples in mid-October to get feedback on, which may in turn alter the cigar that ends up on store shelves.
- Ortega was debating how much he’s going to disclose about the binder and the filler for this and all the Wild Bunch cigars, mainly due to their limited nature. While it hasn’t generally been available, it’s listed in the store on the Ortega Cigars website.
- As mentioned earlier, you could pick up a sampler pack of the first three cigars in The Wild Bunch at select retailers for an MSRP of $31.25.
- Production for the first three members of the Wild Bunch is being capped at 10,000 total cigars – 500 boxes of 20. Ortega said that may increase down the road, but it won’t likely ever go over 1,000 boxes for any one release.
- On Friday, January 18, Ortega posted to his Facebook page that “Heads up to everyone who got in on the WB series! I’ve started getting calls to see about getting a few more boxes, WE HAVE NONE LEFT! And have no plans for more, that’s the way it’s supposed to be…don’t want anyone stuck with a bunch of limited product they cant sell. -thanks to all who are participating…..”
- Ortega has released a poster of The Wild Bunch, with the first three characters pre-printed and then stickers made for subsequent releases. There is also rumor of Wild Bunch caps and t-shirts.
- You can purchase artwork by Neal Wollenberg that features the first three characters in the Wild Bunch series. You can also find more of Wollenberg’s work at that same site.
- In December 2013, when all the cigars have been released, Ortega says he will issue a final release of the completed set, either a 12–cigar set with one of each character, or a 24–cigar set with two of each.
- The complete list of retailers carrying the Ortega Wild Bunch can be found here, and includes site sponsors Cigar King (800–669–7167) and Atlantic Cigar (800–887–7877). Be sure to tell them halfwheel sent you.
- The cigars for this review were provided by Eddie Ortega.
- Final smoking time is about one hour and 45 minutes.
The Bottom Line: I wasn’t sure what to think about the Wild Bunch project when I first heard about it, but having smoked the first three, Eddie Ortega has made me a believer. Whereas Big Bad John and Iron Mike tended to be somewhat similar, Island Jim shows a different direction for Ortega’s Wild Bunch as it stands much more in the medium-bodied portion of the spectrum and does it fairly well. It’s the most approachable of the three in my opinion thanks to a bit lighter smoke and flavor, which never really steps past medium bodied until the absolute end, and makes for a versatile set of flavors that could be enjoyed any time of the day. If you have the chance to try Island Jim or any of the first three members of the Wild Bunch, do so.
Final Score: 88