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Cigar Review: Aging Room Small Batch M356ii Rondo

10 Sep 2018

The original version of this cigar, the M356, helped put Boutique Blends’ Aging Room on the map when it received rave reviews and stellar ratings.

But the company’s approach of seeking out fine tobaccos regardless of the amount available and rolling cigars until the inventory is exhausted would have meant the end of the line—literally. Popularity, however, led to innovation, and the company worked to replicate the initial blend as closely as possible.

To avoid any misconception, though, they added “ii” to the designation so buyers would know it was not identical to the original. (The original version was rated No. 16 on Cigar Aficionado’s 2011 Top 25, while the new edition came in at No. 14 on the 2016 list.)

The M356ii is available in six sizes, ranging from a big Major (6.5 x 60) to the small Paco (4.5 x 48). It features a Habano wrapper and Dominican binder and filler. Prices range from about $8.25 to about $10.50.

I’ve been smoking through a box of the robustos, called Rondo (5 x 50), in keeping with company co-founder Rafael Nodal’s fondness for using musical nomenclature. For me, two things stand out from the original line.

One is the burn. I experienced some burn issues when I was smoking the M356 Mezzo back in 2012. Nothing horrendous, just enough to mildly mar the experience. With the M356ii, every one I’ve smoked so far has had a near-perfect burn: straight and slow.

Other performance characteristics, including smoke production, draw and holding the ash, have also been first-rate.

The second difference, for me, in the two cigar lines is that the M356ii doesn’t have quite the spice I found in the original. While it is a most tasty cigar, it simply doesn’t reach the level of what I said back then was “akin to lighting up a spice rack … exotic tastes that light briefly on your tongue.”

Not that there is no spice, certainly. It’s simply not as pronounced. I did find other flavors I remember from the original, such as sweet caramel, a little coffee, and hardwood.

I applaud Boutique Blends for being upfront in its labeling to indicate that the cigar has changed, if only a bit. Those adjustments have enabled an excellent cigar to stay on the market and to be enjoyed by more smokers.

Whether you’re one of those who loved the original or someone who never had the opportunity to smoke it, I urge you to give the M356ii a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

I rate it four stogies out of five.

[To read more cigar reviews, please click here.]

–George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

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