If you smoke cigars regularly, and have a passion for the lifestyle, then you know that time spent enjoying a premium, hand-rolled cigar can not only provide an escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life, but also cause you to become transfixed with complexities and flavor unique to the hobby. Your consciousness can become bewitched by the smoking experience, leaving you at the mercy of the cigar. This brings me to the subject for today’s review: Muestra de Saka “The Bewitched.”
Let’s start with a little backstory. For those who don’t know, Muestra de Saka is a Spanish phrase that roughly translates to Samples of Saka in English. The term muestra is often used in the context of tobacco or cigar production to refer to a sample or prototype blend that is being tested or showcased by a particular manufacturer.
The Muestra de Saka series is a line of premium cigars created by Steve Saka, owner and founder of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust. The series was launched in 2017 with the Exclusivo blend, and currently has seven official releases consisting of small-batch cigars, where each blend is custom tailored to a singular vitola. The cigars in the series are known for their exceptional quality and flavor, and have become highly sought after by cigar aficionados. Each cigar in the series is crafted with great attention to detail, and is designed to provide a unique smoking experience of the highest caliber from Dunbarton.
Muestra de Saka The Bewitched Breakdown
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
Binder: Mexican San Andrés Negro Cultivo Tonto
Filler: Nicaragua | USA
Factory: Fábrica de Tabacos Joya de Nicaragua, S.A. (Nicaragua)
Production: Limited (2,500 boxes of 7 cigars at launch)
Vitola: 6?? × 48 (Short Churchill)
Price: $19.75 (MSRP)
The Bewitched was released as part of the Muestra de Saka line in 2022, though it was originally born as a special creation for the 75th anniversary of the Owl Shop Tobacconists of Worcester, Massachusetts. Steve Saka says it best with the following:
“For those of you who know Zack (Photakis) and his shop, please know we do so with his blessing, in fact, he is the one who said this cigar was too good to not share it with our other accounts, so please thank him on my behalf. I was ecstatic that Zack blessed my crafting more because from the moment I finished this liga I was spellbound by it, so much so I decided we would call the release ‘The Bewitched’ because of how it so captivated my own palate: So intricate, so harmonious, so refined, so difficult to define, yet so difficult to ignore. Everyone I smoked made me want to smoke another.”
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Staying on theme with most of the Muestra de Saka releases, The Bewitched are packaged in simple yet classic coffin boxes and placed in an equally understated seven-count box as a completed set. I appreciate the fact that this cigar is not overdone on the banding and packaging. The same yellow cloth band that has appeared on all but the U-Boat release from 2020 is once again resting on the cigar’s foot. The understated packaging allows all focus to be placed on the tobacco—which is why we’re here, so that makes sense. Moving to the cigar itself, a waxy chocolate-colored wrapper leaf with a slight tooth sets the visual aesthetic. There are lots of little veins throughout, but they do not affect the wrap, as the seams are tight with no lifting. The box-pressed shape has a very flat press with beveled edges. A precisely executed pigtail cap adorns the top, and I smirk as it resembles a little cinnamon roll.
As I do my best impression of “the man with the cigar mustache,” I’m met with the smell of a BBQ smoker. Not a smoker that is in operation, mind you, but the aroma coming from a well-used piece of smoked-meat machinery. The note is light, but it’s definitely there, and when you combine it with the other aromas of bright cedar, barnyard, dried hay, and black pepper, I’m caught in an intoxicating (dare I say bewitching) concoction of peppered teriyaki beef jerky.
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With a clean clip of my guillotine cutter, I give the cold draw a test. It’s right where I like my cigars to be: 9/10. More notes of tangy cedar, black pepper, and a fleeting grilled meat hit my palate even before lighting. I am eager to set this stick alight and find if these aromas carry over into the smoking experience.
Smoke billows with each puff, and a slightly scorched dark-roasted coffee takes center stage, backed with a healthy dose of black pepper. I’m pleased to still find that BBQ smoke flirting with me in the background, as I feel that any more of a prominence would stomp on all other available flavors.
Moving past the few first-light puffs, the thick smoke gives me a yeasty, toasted bread note that fits nicely with the continued presence of black pepper. The BBQ smoke is currently presenting itself as a musty and dusty leather and lemon zest. This makes sense, as the meaty note has become the leather, and the acidic smoke aroma is now the lemon zest. The retrohale morphs the pepper into a brighter, more stinging white pepper that is mixed with dried wildflowers and a darker hickory wood. It’s at this point I hear the sound all cigar smokers dread: “pop, crack, crack;” the wrapper splits and lifts slightly. Definitely a negative, but it isn’t unraveling, so I will continue and see how it burns. Currently, there is a slight wave to the burn line, but it’s more than acceptable for a box-pressed cigar. Flavor and body are both at a medium/full, and the strength is sitting a tick back at medium-plus.
Good news for those of you I left on the cliffhanger of a popping wrapper: it hasn’t gotten any worse, and while I did have to give it a touchup to correct the burn, I have been able to keep an acceptable smoke going. The Bewitched is extruding smoke from both head and foot between draws, and is easy to get a coating mouthful of smoke with every puff. More scorched coffee sits on my palate with slight disappointment, as I can discern a dark chocolate note trying to make its presence known, only it’s being overrun by the bitter coffee and black pepper. I am pleased that the BBQ smoker note is back in the mix, and it has brought some wet hickory wood with it. The draw is staying near perfect at a 9/10, and the flavor and body are continuing at a medium/full, with the strength still sitting at a medium-plus.
I’m now at the point where I would take the band off of the cigar had The Bewitched not been foot-banded. It’s not a knock, just a visual reference for those following along. The profile is getting a little more wood char in its character. The black pepper has been the ever-present sentinel throughout my smoking experience, and I feel like it needs a little bit of praise. Black pepper can be easily overdone in a cigar, yet with this box-pressed beauty it plays a solid secondary role, accenting when necessary and retreating into the background to let other players shine. Meanwhile, components like the roasted peanut note (that is showing up for the first time) as well as the shy BBQ smoker (that has come and gone throughout the entirety of the smoke) are now making their presence known once again. Flavor, body, and strength have not moved since the beginning.
The final puffs I take of the Muestra de Saka The Bewitched produce more of the same as what was in the back half of the cigar: charred wood, roasted nuts, and dry black pepper, which close this review out.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
The short answer is yes. The long answer is that, while I enjoyed the smoking experience, I have to say that for my personal smoking palate, I have gotten more enjoyment out some of the other releases in the Muestra series. Steve Saka is well known for being able to blend some amazing cigars that display a level of balance rarely seen in a lot of cigars on the market today. With that being said, I can’t help but feel that The Bewitched cigar may be too balanced, and comes across as a little flat in complexity. This is still a very good cigar, but as a family member who restores classic muscle cars once said, “You can polish it—just stop before the paint starts coming off.”
Muestra de Saka Releases:
Exclusivo – March 2017
Nacatamale – November 2017
Unicorn – January 2018
#NLMTHA – March 2019
Unstolen Valor – May 2020
U-Boat – September 2020
The Bewitched – June 2022
Krakatoa – (expected release 2023)
As of this writing, the Muestra de Saka The Bewitched cigar has a “97% Smokable” rating on Dojoverse, and is ranked in the top 11 percent of cigars (out of ~4,600 cigars) on the site’s leaderboard.
Flavor: Medium / Full
Body: Medium / Full
Smoke Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Pairing Recommendation: Bourbon (neat) | Dark-roast coffee | English breakfast tea
Purchase Recommendation: Grab a couple (if you can find them)
Voluminous smoke outputBalanced smoking experienceEasily distinguished flavors
Wrapper popped and lifted on one sampleBurn required two touchups on averageTransitions and complexity are soft
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