The story of celebrity restauranteur Guy Fieri has been well-documented. It was in January of 2022 when it was announced that Fieri would be teaming up with Erik Espinosa to launch Knuckle Sandwich cigars. Knuckle Sandwich Cigars are being done in partnership with Espinosa Premium Cigars, who are handling both the production and distribution of the brand. Fieri’s entry into the cigar business has been lauded as possibly the most successful brand to involve a mainstream celebrity. At the time of the launch, Knuckle Sandwich introduced two regular production cigars, Knuckle Sandwich Habano and Knuckle Sandwich Maduro. To keep the momentum going, the brand would release its first limited edition cigar, the Knuckle Sandwich Chef’s Special. The Chef’s Special was introduced at the 2022 Premium Cigar Association (PCA) Trade Show with Fieri in attendance at the Espinosa booth. From what we are hearing, there will be future Knuckle Sandwich Chef’s Special cigars down the road. For now, we turn our attention to the Knuckle Sandwich Chef’s Special 2022 edition and see what this cigar brings to the table.
In a period of less than 18 months, the Knuckle Sandwich brand has released three regular production cigars and two limited editions. These include:
Without further ado, let’s turn our attention to the Knuckle Sandwich Chef’s Special and see what this cigar brings to the table.
Blend and Origin
The Knuckle Sandwich Chef’s Special 2022 edition consists of an Ecuadorian Habano (a wrapper that is well-known to be a favorite of Espinosa Cigars’ owner Erik Espinosa) over all Nicaraguan tobaccos. Production is handled out of AJ Fernandez’s San Lotano factory in Ocotal, Nicaragua.
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Factory: San Lotano
The Knuckle Sandwich Chef’s Special 2022 edition was offered in one size – a 6 1/2 x 52 box-pressed figurado. If this shape looks familiar, it is a size seen on several AJ Fernandez cigars, most notably the Belles Artes Maduro. The cigars were presented in ten-count boxes with a total of 2,500 boxes produced.
The Ecuadorian Habano wrapper of the Knuckle Sandwich Chef’s Special 2022 edition had a medium brown color with a slight amount of reddish clay mixed in. The surface of the wrapper had a light amount of oils on it. There was also some subtle mottling and a slight toothiness to the wrapper. The surface of the wrapper had some visible veins and thin wrapper seams. The figurado is tapered to a tip on the head of the cigar. There is a more gentle taper toward the footer, which is open. The box press itself was on the sharper side – especially on the non-tapered components of the cigar.
A straight cut was used to remove the tip of the Knuckle Sandwich Chef’s Special. A slight amount of tapering was maintained after the tip was removed. From that point, it was on to the pre-light draw experience. The cold draw delivered a sweet natural tobacco note with a fruit component. All in all, the pre-light draw was satisfactory. At this point, it was time to remove the ribbon that was just above the tapered foot, toast up the Knuckle Sandwich Chef’s Special cigar and await what the smoking phase would have in store.
The Knuckle Sandwich Chef’s Special opened up with more notes of sweet natural tobacco, earth, and pepper. The natural tobacco notes moved into the forefront quicker. Like the pre-light draw, there was a similar fruit component present with the natural tobacco. The earth and pepper notes settled into the background. These background notes were joined by some baker’s spice. Meanwhile, there was an additional layer of red pepper that was present on the retro-hale.
During the second third of the Knuckle Sandwich Chef’s Special, the sweetness and fruit component of the natural tobacco diminished. The natural tobacco itself remained in the forefront. There was an increase in earth, pepper, and baker’s spice. Just past the midway point, the earth notes joined the natural tobacco in the forefront.
There wasn’t much change as the cigar experience headed into the final third. The earth and natural tobacco notes remained primary. Most of the sweetness and fruit present from the first third was gone. At the same time, the notes of pepper and baker’s spice helped round out the flavor profile. This is the way the Knuckle Sandwich Chef’s Special came to a close. The resulting nub was cool in temperature and soft to the touch.
In terms of the performance of the burn, it performed excellently. The Knuckle Sandwich Chef’s Special had a low maintenance burn that required few touch-ups to maintain a straight burn path and straight burn line. The resulting ash was firm with a silver-gray color. As for the burn rate and burn temperature, both maintained ideal levels.
The draw to the Knuckle Sandwich Chef’s Special was on the open side. If you have read my assessments, you will know I prefer a little more in the way of resistance on my draw. at the same time, this was a low-maintenance cigar to derive flavor from.
Strength and Body
The Knuckle Sandwich Chef’s Special is a cigar that was definitely on the bold side. This cigar started out with medium strength and medium to full-bodied flavors. Both the strength and body increased along the way. By the second third, the strength level moved to medium to full, and continued to gradually increase until the end. Meanwhile, the flavors progressed into the full-bodied range of the spectrum past the midway point. Throughout the smoking experience, the body maintained the edge over the strength.
BANDING AND PACKAGING NOTES
The Knuckle Sandwich Chef’s Special features the same primary band that is currently found on all of the Knuckle Sandwich Cigars. This band features a black, red, and gold foil color scheme. It features Guy Fieri’s Knuckle Sandwich skull and chef’s hat logo. The band is also emblazoned with the Espinosa name and insignia.
There is a yellow ribbon near the tapered foot that matches the yellow box this cigar came in. It helps distinguish the Knuckle Sandwich Chef’s Special from some of the regular production Knuckle Sandwich offerings.
If you are an Espinosa fan – and in particular the Habano offerings, the Knuckle Sandwich Chef’s Special 2022 Edition is going to be a very familiar profile. The spices present in the second half of this cigar are going to bring that signature “Espinosa bite” to the table. The problem is – there are a lot of Espinosa Habano cigars out there and I didn’t think the Chef’s Special was one that exceeded a lot of them in terms of overall performance. At the same time, this is a cigar that carried a $15.00 price point, so it’s more expensive than many of the others. On the flip side, the figurado size is a fun one to smoke and I’d like to see more cigars like this come out. In the end, the cigar scores nicely at 88, but with the price point, I have to say this is one that I would recommend trying a sample and seeing if it’s for you.
Key Flavors: Natural Tobacco, Fruit, Earth, Baker’s Spice, Pepper
Draw: Very Good
Strength: Medium (1st Third), Medium to Full (Remainder)
Body: Medium to Full (1st Half), Full (2nd Half)
Finish: Very Good
Value: Try a Sample
News: Espinosa Knuckle Sandwich Chef’s Special Launches at 2022 PCA Trade Show
Brand Reference: Knuckle Sandwich
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop
Originally posted on June 12, 2023 @ 7:18 pm