Looking at the next generation of cigar companies, you’d be hard-pressed to find a brand with more staying power than Mi Querida from Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust. Most hobbyists are well aware of the origins, but for those less familiar, the line kicked off with Mi Querida (aka Mi Querida Blue Label) in 2016, being highly anticipated, as it was the first Broadleaf-wrapped cigar from Dunbarton owner, Steve Saka, since departing Drew Estate in 2013.
The cigar’s name translates from Spanish to mean My Dearest, though it is said to be used in Nicaraguan culture to describe one’s secret mistress. Saka borrowed the term, alluding to his love for a proper Broadleaf-wrapped maduro experience.
In the years following, Mi Querida has become a staple throughout the premium cigar market, expanding to include no less than four varieties of Broadleaf-wrapped smoking experiences. This includes the original Mi Querida (Blue), the more fiery Mi Querida Triqui Traca (Red), the diverse / well-rounded Mi Querida Black (Black), and the event-exclusive Mi Querida PataPerro (Green). Of course, there are multiple other derivatives within each line, but this is the overarching collection.
Of the four, it is the Mi Querida Black that has craft cigar hobbyists shouting from rooftops, once again singing praises for the latest in the Mi Querida saga. More specifically, it is the latest size within the line—PapaSaka—that has craft cigar communities a’buzz. The cigar is the latest in a three-year release pattern, beginning with the Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust Limited Edition “EM” Maduros in 2021, which was something of a test launch for Mi Querida Black, being released as part of JR Cigar’s 50th anniversary celebrations throughout the year. This was followed by the SakaKhan (i.e. the formal launch of the Mi Querida Black) a year later, being virtually identical to the former release, at least in terms of size and blend. This leads to the excitement for PapaSaka, which is the first size addition to the line since its inception.
Mi Querida Black PapaSaka Breakdown
Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Mexican San Andrés Negro
Filler: Dominican Republic | Honduras | Nicaragua
Factory: Nicaraguan American Cigars S.A. (Nicaragua)
Production: Small Batch
Vitola: 5?? × 48 (Corona Gorda) “PapaSaka”
Price: $15.95 (MSRP)
Each successive Mi Querida addition has expanded the line’s diversity in terms of recipe. While the first cigar was nearly all-Nicaraguan, the Triqui Traca cautiously added Dominican tobacco to the mix. But the Black busts the door wide open, swapping out the binder for a Mexican leaf and featuring a three-country filler from Nicaragua, the DR, and Honduras. In terms of stature, PapaSaka is much smaller than last year’s SakaKhan, going from 7¼” x 54 to 5?? × 48.
I’ve said it before, but I’m always a fan of the simplistic, thin band. It’s been a winning look for Mi Querida for years, and the black-on-silver variant has a mature aesthetic. With the Black cigars being more limited than the Blue/Red, the cigars feature different packaging, arriving in more manageable (considering the price point) boxes of 10 cigars.
At 5?? × 48, the cigar is a couple points thicker than your standar corona gorda—it has a great feel in the hand. As you might be able to see in the photo above, the shade is slightly darker than the SakaKhan (though this could very well be limited to my specific samples). The cigar shows tight seams and flush veins, being less toothy than I’d expected. The pigtail cap is nicely applied, and the interior construction feels like a medium-firm bunch.
On the nose, there are subtle mineral and barnyard aromas to the wrapper. This continues to the foot, with added mineral being joined by cedar and plum rind. With a cut, the PapaSaka shows a near-perfect draw, hitting notes of cedar, peppercorn, and raisin through the finish.
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PapaSaka lights up how any self-respecting maduro should—being punchy on the palate and buzzing through the nostrils; it’s enough to grab your attention from the jump. There’s a bit of a black pepper sting through the retrohale, followed by a loam-like earthiness on the palate and through the finish. There’s also the added perk of a crunchiness between the teeth. This is a peculiar trait that I find from time to time—usually on Broadleaf blends—that I find adds to the overall enjoyment with some added texture. It’s like finding that bit of Bisquick in your pancake that didn’t get fully stirred into the batter; or the overly salty-sweet chunks you look for in your kettle corn bag; or the crunchy, salt-like texture on a slice of aged Parmesan cheese.
As the pre-light intimated, the draw is quite good, being ever so slightly firm and bringing in a medium-full amount of smoke on each draw. The cigar is essentially full-flavored from ignition, with strength moving from medium to medium-full rather quickly. While punchy and peppery, the cigar maintains the level of balance you might expect from one of Dunbarton’s Muestra de Saka blends, with the nostril-stinging spice seeming to peak by the half-inch mark. Along with the aforementioned crunch, the smoke is quite viscous in texture, providing a prickling sensation across the tongue as it settles through the finish. This seems to be where a good amount of the complexity lies, having both plum jam and semi-sweet chocolate (similar to a Tootsie Roll) through various portions of the finish. This is foreshadowing for a sweet spot in the experience (perhaps literally and figuratively), noticeably ticking up in flavor intensity and adding a chocolate-cinnamon concoction to the mix. At the tail end of the first third, the cigar is full in flavor, medium-full in strength, and full in body.
There’s a subtle sweetness from the cut tobacco against the tongue, and the smoke itself triggers the back sides, tip, and center of the palate. Fruity pour-over coffee adds to the blast of flavor intensity on each draw, lingering with a mineral-forward earth on the finish. As the smoke progresses, the spice picks up once again in the retro. It’s not dark or root-like, instead operating in the realm of mineral/loam/black pepper and Cinnamon Bears candy. There’s a thick cream texture/flavor through the finish, though it’s not as sweet as the initial taste on each draw. Surprisingly (for me, at least), it’s not as chocolatey as I anticipated; it’s there, no doubt, but certainly not in commanding fashion. As the spice continues its return, black pepper becomes more sharp through the nostrils. This is accompanied by a dull buzz on the palate—I liken it to licking a 9-volt battery (you know you’ve done it).
The experience can still be summed up as full yet balanced, with the midpoint showing some back-and-forth flavor changeups. It seems to bob and weave in terms of sweetness, spice, and more balanced earthy moments. The Cinnamon Bears are now closer to Hot Tamales candy, being joined by a little Mexican mole for balance. Anise is the first sign of the profile darkening, eventually being joined by root-like bitterness and a sharper tingle across the tongue. The smoke creeps its way down the back of the throat as the intensity reaches full across the board. The smoke is syrupy in texture, with chocolate mint being the final dessert-like component (as well as some vanilla through the finish) before earth/root bitterness take the lead. The finish is a bit darker, having anise, menthol, and earth into the finale.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
I’ll admit, I’ve smoked more of these cigars than probably any other new release this year. It’s balanced; it’s flavorful; it’s complex; ticking just about any box you’re likely to have on your maduro-focused checklist. Yeah, I’ll be smoking many more of these…
Each new size in the Mi Querida Black line feature nicknames that owner/founder, Steve Saka, has held throughout his life. This includes SakaKhan and PapaSaka for the first two sizes.
I found there to be quite a noticeable difference in terms of flavor and intensity between SakaKhan and PapaSaka. While I am a fan of both, I found the PapaSaka to be dramatically more enjoyable. Again, this isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the SakaKhan (it was awarded Cigar Dojo’s No. 5 Limited Cigar of the Year for 2022, after all), but I just find myself taken aback by the level of flavor, balance, texture, and lingering complexity that PapaSaka seems to have over the SakaKhan.
While the cigars are listed as “Limited Production” on the box, Steve has noted that they are more along the lines of small-batch production at this point, being in the realm of 50,000 cigars per year and growing.
With primarily positive notes listed in the review, I should note a couple of criticisms, as small as they may be. After smoking quite a few of these, I’ve had a few duds, with some samples seeming to lack the punchy “it factor” that the majority offer. These cigars were typically accompanied by touch-ups at roughly every third throughout the experience. Additionally, these cigars had a darker, more bitter finale that lacked the balance of the majority that I’ve smoked.
For whatever reason, this cigar took a bit longer than usual to grow on me. I liked the first one or two that I smoked, but the cigar continued to grow on me with nearly every experience. These are typically my favorite cigars, requiring a bit of a journey to fully appreciate.
In my opinion, this is the closest smoking experience from Saka to that of his beloved Liga Privada Único Serie blends, coming across like a better Liga Privada Único Serie Dirty Rat.
The Mi Querida Black currently ranks 114/5,000 cigars on the Dojoverse leaderboard (the top two percent of cigars), having a “99% Smokable” rating and 712 total checkins.
Fruity pour-over coffee
Smoke Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Pairing Recommendation: Old fashioned cocktail | Root beer | Pour-over coffee | Manhattan cocktail
Purchase Recommendation: Multiple boxes
Mi Querida Black PapaSaka
Sweet Spot Spectrum
Punchy-yet-balanced flavor onslaughtOne of the best “sweet spots” you’re likely to come acrossGreat smoke texture, complete with crunchiness between teeth
Some samples needed a few touch-upsSome samples heated a bit through the finish, giving more-than-ideal bitterness
Originally posted on October 20, 2023 @ 5:18 am