Up until recently, Cohiba had never produced a box-pressed cigar. It had never rolled one up with a Mexican San Andrés maduro wrapper on the outside either.
But all of that changed when the Cohiba Riviera was launched in the spring of 2023, when the non-Cuban division of the historic brand opted to say yes to both... simultaneously.
We don't really know what prompted the most recognizable name in premium long-filler cigar production to suddenly shift its stance on these previously unused materials and methodologies, but the change did finally occur. And by Zeus' beard did they pull out all of the stops with this one.
For like many things in life that are truly magnificent, this particular premium cigar blend has been well worth the wait, and in true Cohiba Cigars fashion, meticulously executed from foot to cap. Let's discuss in detail, shall we?
Box-pressed to the point of the extreme, the robusto vitola of the Riviera that I reviewed was just as densely packed with long-filler leaf as it was tight to the touch.
Cohiba did not skimp on ingredients with this blend, and that adds just as much to the aromatics of the cigar as it does to its physical presence. As fig and cinnamon smells mingle with port wine depth and flow forth from the foot, the lightly oiled wrapper languishes in recognizable layers of earth, cedar shavings, chocolate, and fermented funk.
Cold draws are a combination of the above and form a Mexican hot cocoa rush that is sure to cause any maduro fan to start salivating.
Appearances are all Cohiba grade, as is construction, with that royal purple band shining with chrome accents embellished with ultra-fine print "Nicaragua" typography badging within. Due to the extensive pressing, both seams and veins are only notable to the eye, as touch does not detect a single snag save for what's left around the end of that deeply fitted cap.
Potent but not overpowering, things begin with dashes of cinnamon spice and black pepper heat, before settling into a silky Mexican hot chocolate profile. There's some dank cedar woodiness here and there, but nothing unappetizing, making for a moderately sappy introductory phase.
As the tight white ash builds, along comes more cocoa, some fresher, dryer cedar shavings, and a rainforest floor flavor that likely stems from the Connecticut binder hailing from Honduras.
Along with a creamy brûlée taste and another pinch or two of cinnamon and medium-strength coffee, the first half is equal parts plush and well-paced. Retrohales do notch things up a tick or two on the strength side, but deliver more woodiness and coffee bean than anything. There's also more of that Honduran earthen funk in there somewhere, which as you shall soon see, gradually becomes more of a key player.
Dark chocolate-covered raisins and an even more balanced cigar flavor profile greet you in the second half of this premium cigar blend. Sticking with recognizable notes of earth and mixed maduro fermented flavors, every puff is a pleasure at this point.
Additionally, there's a shuffling of the guard somewhere near the tail end of the second third that causes the funk to jump out of the trunk for a hot minute of extra earthy action. That binder (which is still presumably a Connecticut Broadleaf varietal) takes this opportunity to shine by sending your senses a generous shovel-full of Honduran soil and then tops it with fermented grassy organic matter.
It's not often that a dark maduro transitions toward the lighter side of the spectrum in its final throws, but Cohiba's Riviera manages to pull it off. Dryer than before and far more tannin-like, the last section of this blend smoothly shifts your palate back into neutral with notes of vanilla and a chewy nuttiness.
For me, I found this to be a wonderful way to close out an already exceptional cigar. My only regret is that these attributes did step out on stage earlier on in the stogie show.
Ash / Burn / Smoke / Draw
Cohiba went a bit overboard with both the pressing and filling of this blend in my opinion. This extra-firm pressing is a double-sided sword, where ash and burn rates are clearly favored over draw and smoke production.
While the cigar I smoked in my review only needed one minor touch-up halfway, the first sample stick I smoked struggled to burn evenly off and on and became quite unsightly toward the center section. That stick proved to be even more of a challenge in the draw department, even with a clean cut and a gentle massage around the band line. Nothing I would call frustrating, but still bothersome and rather disappointing to discover.
Being that cigars are meant to give us a reason to relax and enjoy the moment, and not fret about uneven burns or a lack of smoke, these issues did deduct some points from the overall score for this box-pressed blend.
For years there has been murmuring within the cigar community as to whether or not Cohiba would ever release a full-blown, San Andrés maduro-wrapped cigar. Even further back than that were the heated debates over the topic of the brand releasing a box-pressed cigar at some point. Many of us were of the mindset that it was going to happen eventually. We just didn't expect it to all happen at once in a single blend.
Regardless of what we did or did not read in the tobacco leaves, it finally happened, and I think this cigar was well worth the wait.
The Riviera is a middle-weight that is just as fluid at dancing around the ring as it is at swinging for the fences when it comes time for a flurry of flavor. Punches are metered and for the most part well-timed, and prefer to hit you with subtle jabs instead of haymakers.
And while my senses were not overcome with the gamut of dark flavors detected in some of the stronger maduro cigars I have smoked in recent months, I was not left wanting. This is my kind of Cohiba, and perhaps with some barrel aging adding a dollop of additional sweetness and depth to that Connecticut binder, the Riviera might someday become a bona fide box-pressed maduro title holder.
San Andrés Maduro (Mexico)
Connecticut Broadleaf (Honduras)
Jamastran & La Entrada (Honduras)
Condega & Estelí (Nicaragua)
5" x 52 "Robusto" (box-pressed)
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