The creation of Adetola “Aric” Wimberly-Bey, Black Star Line Cigars launched in 2019, quickly gaining a following within craft cigar circles. In addition to the company’s charismatic team, Black Star Line’s appeal likely stems from their strategic manufacturing partners, which began at the Cuban-centric El Titán de Bronze factory of Miami and later extended to the beloved Aganorsa Leaf factory of Estelí.
Among the most unique offerings from Black Star Line is the Lalibela. The cigar is themed around a town of the same name, located in the Amhara Region of Ethiopia. Lalibela is something of a tourist site, being home to eleven rock-carved monolithic churches, as King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela attempted to recreate Jerusalem’s religious sites during the 12th and early 13th centuries. This includes two groups of churches to symbolize both earthly Jerusalem and heavenly Jerusalem, as well as a trench representing the River Jordan and even a replica of the Ark of the Covenant.
The latter is contained within the best-known and last-built of the eleven churches in the Lalibela area: the Church of Saint George. Carved downwards into volcanic rock, the church has been referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” and the structure’s shape and symbolism are seen throughout the Lalibela cigar’s packaging.
Black Star Line Lalibela Toro Breakdown
Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés
Factory: Aganorsa Leaf (Nicaragua)
Production: Regular Production
Vitola: 6? × 52 (Toro)
Price: $11.25 (MSRP)
Lalibela represents Black Star Line’s fullest-bodied/strength blend in their lineup, being rolled in two formats out of the Aganorsa Leaf factory in Nicaragua. The blend is kept nondescript, making use of a San Andrés maduro wrapper over all-Nicaraguan binder/fillers.
Toro: 6? x 52 | $11.25
Gordo: 6? x 60 | $11.75
Lalibela boasts the colors of the Ethiopian flag throughout its boxes and bands. The former is a simplistic painted wood box in primarily green. The latter is more in line with the cigar’s theme, including thick Ethiopian stripes in the background and the cross-shaped design of the Church of Saint George as the logo.
The cigars are outfitted with accouterments of both a covered foot and pigtail cap. This cap has a nice look to it, being taller than usual and squared off on the sides, giving me the impression of a fez hat. The cigar boasts a triple-cap construction underneath the hat, leading to a toothy, sandpaper-like feel across the wrapper. The leaf is dark and oily, complete with medium veins and visible, slightly loose seams. Additionally, the construction feels quite sturdy, allowing no low-hanging critiques from the outset.
The wrapper gives off the smell of rain and a hint of raspberry in the background. The pre-light draw is slightly firm, having a gritty, muddy profile of earth, barnyard, and Oreo Blizzard.
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An intense pepper blast kicks off the toro—being enough to have you coughing if you’re caught off guard. The smoke settles to reveal barnyard on the palate and a touch of vanilla sweetness in the background. It’s punchy, no doubt, leaving a zinging sensation across the palate like 9V battery. I find myself actively focusing on pulling back, as a full retrohale is much too fiery. As someone who typically retrohales 70 to 90 percent of every puff, I’ve restrained myself to the 40 to 50 percent range as the Lalibela redlines out of the gate.
The hair-singeing retro gradually pulls back throughout the cigar’s first inch, where it eventually finds its groove at a fiery-but-approachable level. This allows for added focus on the cigar’s profile as a whole, which comes across like over-proofed bourbon that could use a drop or two of water to let it open up. Big muddy flavors abound, starting with earth and black pepper and finishing with butterscotch concentrate and vanilla sweetness. And while the toro opened up with a medium-full strength and full (albeit chaotic) flavor, it seems to find its bearings by the inch-and-a-half to two-inch zone, now offering a more balanced approach that pushes well into full on all metrics.
Adding to the cigar’s fullness is a billowing smoke output, as pulled through a slightly snug draw (close to the sweet spot, if ever so slightly firm). It seemed to require double puffs here and there at the start, but has opened up to a more comfortable spot in the meat of the toro. Closing in on the midway mark, the retrohale is noticeably less aggressive, now weighing heavier on the palate. The smoke envelops the senses with big, bold, spicy qualities, with a syrupy sweetness (spiced cola syrup) reining it all back in through the finish. Large draws bring pepper, earth, and mineral, while smaller puffs show warm salted caramel, Oreo, and vanilla.
The smokiness of the San Andrés wrapper is more evident in the latter portion of the cigar, with campfire and a nostalgic grandpa’s garage vibe—which I always liken to an amalgamation of old wood, sawdust, oil, and baseball mitt leather. The smoke becomes less sweet as the cigar winds down, hitting drier notes of baking cocoa, black licorice (with perhaps a few other root-like flavors in the mix), and bitter French press coffee.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
I sure would. This cigar is about as full as it gets, tipping the scales on flavor, strength, and body. With the trend seeming to continue towards fuller in each of these respects for at least the past three decades, I tend to find more cigars than not listed as full-bodied, whether or not it’s actually the case. The Lalibela is legitimately a full-bodied / full-strength smoke—and one that has the flavor to do the style justice. I like to have a dependable selection for every region of the strength/body spectrum on hand, and this is one that actually fits the bill for the biggest, baddest, boldest—not compromising on flavor, as so many in the genre tend to do.
The Lalibela can be found at a few online retailers, though the best price seems to be on Black Star Line’s own virtual store.
The cigar originally debuted in 2021, though it was redesigned—in conjunction with Cigar Dojo—earlier this year.
The original band displayed a photo of the actual Church of Saint George site complete with Black Star Line’s logo superimposed on the structure, as well as a copper overlay of “LALIBELA,” which was admittedly hard to discern.
The two bands can be seen below:
As seen in the photo, the first cigars were noticeably darker than the current release; though this is likely only due to color sorting of the wrapper.
Cigar Dojo also reworked the brand’s War Witch line, including War Witch and Dark War Witch.
The Church of Saint George was spatially documented in 2005 with laser scanning, and can be viewed here.
I’m not sure if the newly banded version of Lalibela is of a different batch than the original, but I did find it smoked cleaner and with more vibrant flavor than the samples I had from the original release.
Lalibela currently ranks as 616 out of 4.1k cigars on Dojoverse with a 99% rating.
Smoke Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes
Pairing Recommendation: Barrel-proof bourbon | Root beer | Peated Scotch | Black coffee | Manhattan cocktail
Purchase Recommendation: Box (to start)
Full in every sense of the termIntensity is restrained by concentrated, syrupy flavorDiffering profiles with large/small puff patterns
Retrohale is a bit too fiery at startTwo to three touchups on averageSome inconsistencies between old and new samples
Originally posted on October 5, 2022 @ 7:17 am