About a month ago, right after LeBron James delivered the Cleveland Cavaliers their first title in the franchise’s 46-year history, pictures and video began to surface of the NBA Finals MVP with a cigar. Since it wasn’t easy to discern the band, I recall seeing some speculation on social media about what cigar LeBron had chosen to celebrate. Several people seemed quite certain it was a Hoyo.
The cigar brand was later correctly identified as Y.O. by Yaxel Ortiz. I think it’s safe to say this choice caught many people by surprise. Even many of those who are regular smokers and enthusiastic readers and followers of the world of cigars had never heard of the brand. How it got on LeBron’s radar—or how the cigar in question made its way to him—is not known.
An employee of Cousin’s Cigar, a five-location tobacconist in the Cleveland area, sent me a handful of Yaxel Ortiz Y.O. Toros, along with information about the brand. Yaxel Ortiz, for instance, has been working with tobacco for a quarter century and has been making cigars in the U.S. for years. Recently, he opened his own factory in Estelí called The Best Cigars S.A. It is there his first Nicaraguan-made cigar is crafted.
Y.O. has been on the market for about nine months and is available at about 30 stores across 9 states. Its recipe includes an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. Four sizes are available, each of which is affordably priced: Robusto (5 x 50, $5.20), Torpedo (6.5 x 52, $6.50), Churchill (7 x 50, $6.50), and Toro (6 x 52, $5.90).
Beneath the glossy band of black and gold that was the subject of much speculation and head-scratching is a silky, oily, slightly reddish wrapper with thin veins and moderate tooth. The several Toros I smoked for this review all had a few lumps here and there, along with a spongy feel. At the foot, the sweet pre-light notes are reminiscent of mocha and caramel.
On the palate, after an even light is established, medium- to full-bodied flavors of black pepper, coffee, and dark chocolate waste no time introducing themselves. The texture is thick and leathery, and there is a little cayenne heat on the finish. After a quarter inch, the intensity fades a bit, a retreat that paves the way for some creaminess and sweetness to enter the equation.
The midway point is lighter on spice and flatter in character with oak, creamy nougat, and bread. Now decidedly medium-bodied, the texture is less leathery and chalkier. The finale witnesses a reprise of some of the initial intensity.
Despite the cigar’s sponginess—which, in my experience, can often portend construction issues—the Toro exhibits excellent combustion properties. Each of my samples had a straight burn, solid ash, smooth draw, and above-average smoke production.
One would think LeBron wouldn’t need to concern himself with cost, especially when selecting a celebratory smoke for one of the greatest accomplishments in his storied career. You and I, on the other hand, are likely in a different boat. So the price points across the Y.O. range are certainly welcome and highly appreciated. As far as the Toro is concerned, it won’t knock your socks off with flavor or complexity. But it will deliver a consistently enjoyable experience that’s worthy of a solid rating of three stogies out of five.
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photo credit: Stogie Guys