This is the third installment of reviews on Villiger cigars from Villiger Stokkebye International. VSI was founded by the two families, Villiger and Stokkebye, in 1888 and 1882 respectively. The two would come together to become well known in the European tobacco market for a range of products from machine made cigars to pipes and pipe tobacco. Recently, in the past 30 years, their products have become available in the US, and have become known for their quality and craftsmanship. Around that time, Villiger entered the handmade cigar market with the 1888 line, which is what will be reviewed in this article.
The 1888 is VSI’s entrance into handmade cigars. Until the introduction of this line in 2008, Villiger produced nothing but machine made cigars. With this line, Villiger showed a growing interest into the world of premium handmade cigars and attempted to join the ranks of Romeo y Julietta and Padron. While they aren’t as famed as the more established hand rolled makers, they have made their mark and are developing a following.
The cigar is clothed in a chocolate brown Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper with medium veining and mild to no tooth. Some of the veining is a bit prominent, but it’s neither unsightly nor unpleasant. The binder is Dominican, and the filler is a well kept secret of proprietary tobaccos. The texture is similar to crushed felt: smooth but a bit of roughness at the same time. It feels well rolled, with no soft spots, and barely any give when gently squeezed between my fingertips. It isn’t the most firmly rolled cigar I’ve held, but it’s still nice and dense. The scent can be noticed before even bringing it near the nose. It’s heavily earthy and floral, like freshly tilled soil in a rose garden, and it brings back memories of gardening with my grandmother. Overall the cigar isn’t the prettiest, but it’s very pleasing to every other sense.
Using a Xikar cutter leaves a clean cut free of debris, and my torch makes quick work of toasting and lighting the foot. I take a slow puff and am greeted with initial flavors that are sweet earth, then some hot spices that make the tongue tingle, followed by a strong dash of hardwood smoke and cashew. The finish has a haylike flavor that’s mellow, though it doesn’t quite flow with the main body of flavors. The hot peppery spice is like a mix of black and red peppers that are sharp, bold, and grab a hold of your attention. The smoky, woody, and nutty flavors add more depth, keeping it from being a one note song, and help balance out the flavor profile.
As the cigar progresses the peppery fire builds, and is especially noticeable in retrohales. A sweet baking spice seems to develop in the tail end of the flavors and mixes into the finish. The haylike note is still present in the finish, but becoming less noticeable as the other flavors take over at the end. Towards the last few inches of the cigar the peppery note settles down and the sweeter flavors come through more. The earthy and nutty notes are more noticeable, though that spice is still present. The cigar goes from medium-full bodied to mellow and mild-medium bodied, and with a smooth and gradual transition. An interesting note that I’ve noticed is how well the flavors seem to go with my coffee and light cream. The nutty note in the finish goes well with the coffee, and it becomes a very harmonious blend of flavors.
Overall I really enjoyed this cigar, and found it to be quite pleasant as an afternoon smoke. You can see where the later lines that VSI came out with got their start, and the flavor profiles share more than a few similar themes. However, while the themes are similar, like the hot peppery spice, the way they are executed differs enough that they are all worth trying to see which you like best. For something in the mid afternoon prior to a hearty meal, I would choose this cigar. For something after a meal, I would likely pick the La Capitana or La Libertad. The mellower finish in this cigar let my palate settle for the meal ahead while still being bold enough to enjoy with my afternoon activities and drinks. As with all the VSI cigars I’ve had, the quality of workmanship has been excellent, allowing for a slow smooth and cool burn that lasted well over an hour. At a price point of $6.45, it’s also an good value where you can find it, and I encourage you to try one out given the chance.
I would like to thank VSI for sending me this sampler to try out. I highly suggest that you take a look at their website and take a look at what they have to offer. Cigar lovers can enjoy Villiger Cigars, pipe lovers can enjoy Stokkebye’s pipes and pipe tobaccos, and those that are a little on the bold side might enjoy the Oliver Twist Tobacco Bites.