Review: Viaje Friends and Family
Last week, Viaje began shipping the long-awaited WLP Winter Classic and Super Shot 10. In addition, numerous retailers indicated that they were being sent a single box of Viaje Friends and Family. Even now, nearly a week after we broke the story and retailers began receiving boxes, there is almost nothing known about the latest Viaje.
Charlie explained the background of Friends and Family last week:
At IPCPR 2011, select individuals were handed a special blend from Andre Farkas, Viaje Friends and Family. The cigar has never publicly been shown off and nearly nothing is known about it, but a few retailers have indicated that they will be receiving a single box of Friends and Family in their upcoming shipment alongside WLP Winter Classic and Super Shot 10.
While the blend is still unknown, a hesitant Andre Farkas explained in Las Vegas that it was like his Cohiba. A reference to the famed Cuban brand that was originally created as a personal blend for Fidel Castro that was given to friends and diplomats before becoming a commercially available blend in 1984.
This is the second time that Farkas has created a personal blend for private consumption. The Viaje War Hammer was created for the consumption of the Viaje Office, although Farkas has given them out at least one event.
Currently, there has been zero indication that the War Hammer will be released for sale, which wasn’t always the case with Friends and Family.
While Viaje normally releases cigars in 20 or 25 count boxes, Friends and Family is packed in boxes of 15 cigars. The size is a 7 x 48 box-pressed Churchill, which is consistent with what was at IPCPR 2011.
Here is what the Viaje Friends and Family boxes look like:
But enough of that, let’s get down to business, shall we?
- Cigar Reviewed: Viaje Friends and Family
- Country of Origin: n/a
- Factory: n/a
- Wrapper: n/a
- Binder: n/a
- Filler: n/a
- Size: 7 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 48
- Vitola: Churchill (Box-Pressed)
- MSRP: $15.33 (Boxes of 15, $230.00)
- Date Released: February 23, 2012
- Number of Cigars Released: n/a
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 1
The Viaje Friends and Family is a great looking cigar, with a noticeable box press, and covered foot. It features two different bands with silver type on white background. The one near the cap reads, Viaje Friends and Family and the foot band says, Cadeau. The wrapper is a wonderful mocha chocolate brown, smooth to the touch and smells strongly of barnyard, hay, coffee and sweet chocolate. It has the perfect amount of give when squeezed, but seems quite heavy in the hand for the size.
The first third of the Viaje Friends and Family opens with a dark and gritty profile. It has strong flavors of espresso, dark chocolate, leather, earth and the perfect amount of spice on the tongue. There is some black pepper on the retrohale that comes and goes, but there is also a wonderful caramel-like sweetness underneath the other flavors that is really quite wonderful. Construction, draw and burn are perfect so far with the ash holding on for more than an inch before letting go. Strength is medium at best, but does seem to be picking up.
Moving into the second third of the Friends and Family and the spice that I am getting on my tongue really picks up. The flavors change up a bit with a dark and sweetish chocolate nougat note becoming dominant, but the earth, espresso and leather are still very much present. Construction, burn and draw remain amazing and there is quite a bit of smoke coming from the cigar which is a nice change. The only odd thing about the construction is the burn rate, which seems a bit slow. Strength is right at the border of full, but not quite there yet.
Coming into the final third of the Viaje, and the spice dies down a bit, although it’s still very noticeable, and the dominant flavor shifts again. This time the Friends and Family becomes more of a fruity sweetness that I could not place, although if pressed, I would probably say plum. The earthiness is still present, but diminished compared to the first two thirds, but the espresso and leather notes are a bit stronger. Strength of the Viaje does not increase from the level of the second third and the construction remains amazing until the end.
- When asked for comment about details regarding Friends and Family, Viaje wouldn’t confirm anything, including the factory. For the record, over the past few years Viaje has been made exclusively at Raíces Cubanas in Honduras and with few exceptions, generally makes Nicaraguan puros.
- Viaje has a reputation for sometimes shipping cigars that are a bit wet, i.e. cigars that seem to have a bit too much humidity and as such aren’t ready to smoke until after a bit of time in the humidor. Over the past year or so, there’s been enough release that have warranted this. However, the samples I have of the Friends and Family do not seem wet to me at all.
- This is not the first time a cigar manufacturer has produced a cigar for retail distribution specifically for friends. In fact, for the past two years, Arturo Fuente has sent out boxes of his Don Carlos 75th (in 2010) and Don Carlos 76th (in 2011) to select retailers with Fuente Accounts. The major difference between the Fuente release and this Viaje release (other than the different cigars, of course) is that the Fuentes were free of charge to the retailers they were sent to, while the Viajes were not.
- As mentioned above, the Friends and Family cigars were sent at the same time as two other new Viaje releases, the WLP Winter Classic and the Super Shot 10.
- The box for the Viaje Friends and Family is fairly unique. It is a vertical slide top box that opens up from the top on the vertical side, as opposed to most slide top boxes where the box lays flat, and the horizontal side slides open. See photos of the box below to remedy the confusion.
- I believe this is the most expensive Viaje of all time.
- The construction, draw and burn were all nothing short of phenomenal for the entire smoke, which just added to the enjoyment.
- This is the second time (that we know of) that Farkas has created a personal blend for private consumption. The Viaje War Hammer was created for the consumption of the Viaje office, although Farkas has given them out during at least one event.
- Some retailers have decided to sell these, others have decided to give them away to top customers. Surely a few are keeping them for personal enjoyment.
- Both the box and the band on the foot include the word Cadeau, which translates into gift in French.
- The Friends and Family seemed packed to the gills with tobacco (although definitely not overfilled) and seemed to take quite a long time to burn.
- Usually we try to tell you, the faithful reader, where you can purchase a specific cigar we review, but with the Viaje Friends and Family, I am not sure that the retailers who receive them will even sell them. Honestly, your best bet is to call up some of the major Viaje retailers in your area that you have relationships with and ask, and you might get lucky.
- The final smoking time was exactly 1 hour and 45 minutes to finish.
The Bottom Line: Everything about this release seemed to click with me. I love the vitola (although I do wish it was a Lonsdale instead of a Churchill), the box press, the dark, earthy and gritty profile, and the sweetness that is prevalent throughout the smoke which makes the whole profile that much more complex. In addition, construction was amazing with absolutely no issues at all for the entire smoke. While the strength hovered around the full mark, it never pushed over, giving it just enough kick to enjoy without feeling like you were hit with a sledgehammer after finishing it. The main problem with this release is the same with most of Viaje’s releases, only magnified. It seems likely that at most, each Viaje account got a box, which means there’s a little over 1,500 cigars released. Yet unlike a normal Viaje limited edition, it seems like some retailers are never going to even offer these for sale. Having said that, the Viaje Friends and Family is an all around great cigar, easily one of Viaje’s best, and I feel lucky to have tried it and I wish I had more.
Final Score: 92