The 25th anniversary of South Florida retail chain Smoke Inn was in 2021. As he had done with the 15th and 20th anniversaries, Smoke Inn proprietor Abe Dababneh would commission a commemorative cigar as a part of the Smoke Inn MicroBlend series. With this particular cigar, Dababneh decided the cigar would pay tribute to his father and mentor, Raji Dababneh. The manufacturer commissioned to produce this cigar would be Drew Estate. Dubbed Herrera Esteli Miami – The Raji, it would become the 17th installment of the Smoke Inn MicroBlend Series. For this release, Master Blender Willy Herrera would produce the cigar in Miami at El Titan de Bronze. This is the factory where Drew Estate produces the regular production of Herrera Esteli Miami. The difference is that this would be an entirely different cigar. Today, we take a closer look at Herrera Esteli – The Raji.
The Smoke Inn Microblend Series concept involves Smoke Inn teaming up with some leading brands and manufacturers in the cigar industry to produce a small batch limited run exclusive to its shops. The series was launched late in 2010 to commemorate when Smoke Inn celebrated 15 years in business. It was originally planned to be a four-cigar series, but since then has remained a series of ongoing shop exclusives. For completeness, we list all of the MicroBlend releases:
Padron 1964 Anniversary SI 15 (Maduro and Natural)
My Father El Hijo
Arturo Fuente Solaris
Room 101 Big Delicious
Quesada Oktoberfest Dunkel
601 La Bomba Bunker Buster by Espinosa Cigars
The Pope of Greenwich Village by Drew Estate
Smoke Inn 20th Anniversary by Davidoff
Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust Red Meat Loves Club
MoyaRuiz Hand Gripper
601 La Bomba Bunker Buster FUBAR by Espinosa Cigars
Tatuaje Anarchy Kaos
Anonymous by AJ Fernandez
Herrera Estelí – The Raji by Drew Estate
Cage the Dawg by Espinosa Cigars
Without further ado, let’s break down Herrera Esteli – The Raji and see what this cigar brings to the table.
Blend and Origin
As mentioned above, the Raji is a completely different blend than the original Herrera Esteli Miami. The Raji features a San Andres Maduro wrapper over a Nicaraguan binder and a combination of Nicaraguan and Dominican tobacco. The Raji is the first Smoke Inn MicroBlend to be produced in the United States.
Wrapper: San Andres Mexican
Filler: Nicaraguan, Dominican
Country of Origin: United States
Factory: El Titan de Bronze
The Herrera Estelí Miami Raji is offered in one size – a 6 x 50 Toro. The cigars are presented in ten-count boxes. There was a total of 1,500 boxes produced – an enormous amount for any single store exclusive.
The San Andres wrapper of the Herrera Esteli Miami Raji had a medium-roast coffee bean-colored wrapper. There wasn’t much in the way of oil on the surface of the wrapper. The wrapper had some bumpiness on the surface that reflected some of the ruggedness associated with San Andres tobacco. There also were some visible veins and some visible seams on the wrapper’s surface.
A straight cut was used to remove the cap of the Herrera Esteli Miami Raji. Once the cap was removed, it was on to the pre-light draw experience. The pre-light draw was somewhat unique – delivering a mix of chocolate malt and a slight wood note. Overall this was a satisfactory pre-light draw. At this point, it was time to remove the footer band around the Raji, toast up the footer, and move on to the smoking experience.
The Raji opened up with notes of coffee bean, cream, natural tobacco, and cedar. It didn’t take long for the coffee bean notes to move into the forefront. As the cream, natural tobacco, and cedar settled in the background, these notes were also joined by some red pepper notes. The red pepper also was present on the retro-hale.
During the second third of the Raji, the coffee bean notes remained grounded in the forefront for most of this segment. This segment saw the earth, natural tobacco, and red pepper increase in intensity. Toward the midway point the earth and natural tobacco joined the coffee bean notes. While the cream notes subsided, they were replaced by hints of cocoa.
As the final third started, the natural tobacco and earth notes took over as the primary notes. As for the secondary notes, the red pepper was the most prominent. There still were notes of coffee and cedar present. The cocoa notes that surfaced during the second third were not much of a factor. This is the way the Raji came to a close. The resulting nub was soft to the touch and cool in temperature.
The Raji was a cigar that did require touch-ups along the way. While the touch-ups helped maintained a straight burn path and a relatively straight burn line, there were more touch-ups required than I preferred. The resulting ash wasn’t overly firm, but it wasn’t loose or flaky. This was an ash that had a silver-gray color. Both the burn rate and burn temperature maintained ideal levels.
The draw of the Raji had a touch of resistance to it. As I have said many times in my assessments this is something that I like when it comes to a draw. At the same time, this was a low-maintenance cigar to derive flavor from.
Strength and Body
Overall the Raji delivered a medium-strength, medium-bodied smoking experience from start to finish. Throughout the smoking experience, there wasn’t much in the way of variance of the intensity levels in the strength and body. Both the strength and body balanced each other nicely with neither attribute overshadowing the other.
BANDING AND PACKAGING NOTES
The primary and secondary bands of the Herrera Esteli Miami Raji are the same as the ones found on the core line Herrera Esteli Miami. The one difference is a footer band denoting the Raji name and that it is a Smoke Inn Anniversary.
Of the Herrera Esteli line, the black and gold colors of the Herrera Esteli Miami have always been my favorite. Since both the core Herrera Esteli Miami and Herrera Esteli Miami Raji are both made at El Titan de Bronze, I like that they share the same bands. I also liked the added touch of the footer band of the Raji.
Overall, the Herrera Esteli Miami Raji delivered a solid experience. I would definitely categorize the best part of the smoking experience as the first third. The first third delivered some of what I would categorize as “wow” factor in terms of flavor. The remaining two-thirds are more what I would call average. In the end, there still was enough going on with this cigar for me to recommend this cigar to any cigar enthusiast. As for myself, it’s also a cigar I can see myself buying and smoking again.
Key Flavors: Coffee Bean, Earth, Natural Tobacco, Cedar, Cocoa, Pepper
Burn: Very Good
Finish: Very Good
Value: Buy One
News: Drew Estate to Release Exclusive Limited-Edition Cigar for Smoke Inn’s 25th Anniversary
Source: Smoke Inn
Brand Reference: Drew Estate
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop
Originally posted on March 12, 2023 @ 11:19 am