In a Canadian cigar market dominated by high-priced Cohiba’s and other marquee labels, it is nice to come across Jose L. Piedra – a nice consistent Cuban cigar for the budget-minded consumer. Before the US trade embargo, JLP’s were quite popular in the US, and since the brand’s resurrection in the mid 90’s has become one of the most popular cigars within Cuba. Available in a range of medium sizes, JLP’s are known for their pleasant aroma and strong and typically Cuban taste. Using tobacco from the fine tobacco-growing region of Vuelta Arriva (Sancti Spiritus Province), the brange keeps their price down through simple cardboard packages and cellophane-wrapped bundles, as well as being rolled by machine, instead of the much higher cost (but also higher regarded) process of rolling the cigars by hand. Specifically, the cigars are machine made short/mixed filler with wrapper applied by hand.
During a recent visit to my local cigar shop, I picked up a 5 pack of JLP Petit Cetros. With a price tag of under $5 a stick, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The first occasion I had to try out my new purchase was a cousin’s wedding; with the luxury of a few other like-minded cigar smokers present, it was a great place to try out a new cigar. Upon pulling a few sticks from the cardboard box of 5, we were immediately impressed by the balanced aroma and careful wrapping. I have heard others have problems with JLP wrappers in the past, but all 5 in the box I purchased were cleanly rolled and the tobacco evenly packed. One online reviewer states that “one bundle smokes like a cigar worth 5 times the price… the next bundle, all are tight and unsmokable and have to be thrown away.” I would say I definitely got the former, but proceed with caution if you want to give the brand a try.
The smoking experience was pleasant, and the cigar drew easily. One cigar unravelled slightly after cutting, but I’ve also had this happen with far more expensive cigars. The burn was even, and the ash was dense, often holding a solid inch and a half before falling – rather surprising given that JLP’s are now all short-fill. We did find, however, that the cigar burned a little hot. Maybe this was because others around were trying out the cigars, so we were burning them a bit fast. It is also likely due to the small ring gauge (38). As the cigar burned down the smoke became more oily without taking on any tarry overtones.
All in all this is an enjoyable smoke at a very reasonable price. This is the best cigar I’ve had under $5, but after hearing other’s stories, it seems I got a good pack. For the price, I definitely recommend giving it a shot.