La Aurora "Barrel Aged by Karl Malone" Review: A Slam Dunk, Cask Strength Cigar

By this point, the ever-evolving stogie arena has seen its fair share of celebrity cigars hit the court. The same can be said for barrel-aged cigars, which started with the original Cuban Cohiba brand stuffing a little leaf into rum casks here and there. By the time companies like Perdomo were divulging the barrel-aged secret to its scrumptious blends, the cask-conditioned cigar had hit the mainstream, and has been a constant presence ever since 

Being that celebrities tend to demand only the best, it only makes sense that the time-consuming (and expensive) technique of cask-conditioning a line exclusively for said superstar would be implemented. 

Such is the case for the cigar on today's tasting menu, which is Barrel-Aged by Karl Malone

While I cannot picture Mr. Malone sweating bullets while standing over a half-stuffed barrel brimming with Broadleaf, I can see why he teamed up with our friends over at La Aurora for this collaboration. For as the longest-running cigar maker in the Dominican Republic, this company has access to some of the best, and rarest rum casks money can buy in the Caribbean.

Apparently, the barrels used for this blend were from an extraordinary E. Leon Jimenes rum that receives an extra two years of aging in retired sherry barrels. Reserved for the 110th anniversary of the La Aurora Cigar Factory, this rum is aged for a full ten years in total, with flavors of caramelized walnuts, vanilla, and spices being the predominant profiles of the spirit.

While the wrapper from Ecuador on the outside of this stogie did not see any sticky sweet barrel-aged action, the binder and long-filler leaves inside do get six months of rum cask loving. Furthermore, each leaf, including the wrapper, experiences six years of aging and/or fermentation, before being left to age for an additional three months. 

So how does this cigar stack up against the slew of barrel-aged cigars vying for your hard-earned greenbacks? Are all of those rum barrel notes noticeable, or is it just a bunch of marketing hype? What about those oak tannins, sugars, spice, and various other rum flavors described above? How about overall smoothness, and the ability to make you look like a baller, even though you can't play ball worth a shit? Well... it's complicated.

[Buy 5-Pack]

Unlit Impressions 

La Aurora "Barrel Aged by Karl Malone"

Basketball-colored and themed cigar band, complete with jersey digits, loads of trophy gold, and the name "Karl Malone" clearly stamped across the broadest part all make this cigar instantly recognizable. Is it something I would label as swanky or super original? Naw... But it sure is self-explanatory, and an easy sell as well, especially after sliding this shiny stick out of its cellophane. 

All that extra age has made the smell of the wrapper on this cigar a good bit more mellow than what I remember. It's still nicely spiced and leathery, but not nearly as sweet or spicy as it once was. Instead, the schnozz detects more of a grain-like rice note, tree nuts, and freshly cut bamboo leaves, which makes me think of a certain style of traditional Japanese onigiri rice ball.

Oh, but how that foot has stayed true to its intense self. Vanilla and milk cocoa, oak barrels, and caramel, this blend's filler comes at you loaded with sweet rum raisin smells and mixed MVP-grade aromatics. There's definitely a lot of boozy magic going on behind the scenes in this blend, and I found myself sniffing the foot of this cigar off and on for the better part of two days prior to my review. 

Now as for appearances and that barrel's build... the cigar is nice and oily-looking, with a smooth finish, no rough veins, and a very firm bunch and fill. One cigar had a large soft spot near the center that did not produce any burn issues. 

However, the rather elongated shoulder and cap of the belicoso pictured in my review were a bit unruly and terminated with a peculiar pointed cap that had been mashed sideways. Either by accident or on purpose, this was definitely not attractive, and not true to the rounded belicoso cap that distinguishes this vitola from the average figurado and pyramid. 

Initial Smoke 

La Aurora "Barrel Aged by Karl Malone"

Burn your throat if you must, but keep on puffing, because there's way more to this cigar than just charred cedar, red pepper, black pepper, star anise, and leather. Perhaps it is best to disregard the entire first five minutes of this cigar altogether if possible, for that is not what makes this cigar an MVP in my playbook.

1st Half   

La Aurora "Barrel Aged by Karl Malone"

By the time the first third heats up, things inside start to cool down. Both the burn temp of the cone and the heat of the smoke hitting your senses begin to show signs of a dark fig fruit flavor, along with dried oak by the chord. Leather-like, meaty, and not as sweet as expected at first, this creates a clean-burning, somewhat unassuming medium-strength start.

There really isn't that much of a change until you get near the midline on this blend, where it gradually moves into a more chewy sort of smoke and develops some darker walnut notes along with a little brown sugar sweetness. All piled atop the tasting notes mentioned in the previous paragraph. For my palate, this translated to a smoky barbecue sauce cigar flavor profile, but without all of the tangy tartness or herbal spice notes found in certain sauces. 

2nd Half    

La Aurora "Barrel Aged by Karl Malone"

All of those sweet and spicy dark fruit and BBQ sauce tastes, oak tannins, and licks of leather look ripe for the taking at this point. And man do they develop some depth and meaty flavors by the flagon!

It's not mind-melting, but you cannot ignore the sticky, spicy, slightly salted center of this cigar. Cinnamon accentuated baking spices, black pepper, damp earth, and chewy vanilla bean notes take hold and gradually turn things toward the barrel bit of this blend with each passing pull. Although both Churchill vitolas I smoked prior to this belicoso brought forth dribbles of rum in earlier stages, this figurado version prefers to hand you the whole damn bottle at once after bogarting it for the first hour or more.

Drunk-ass raisins, rich, hearty grains, heaps of turbinado, and a ton of tannins take you on a twisted journey toward the final third and beyond. Strength, body, and flavor set to "hurricane mode," there's no ignoring the fact that there is still some rum cask to be detected in this blend. And dammit if it isn't delicious...

Parting Puffs    

La Aurora "Barrel Aged by Karl Malone"

Charred but in a spent bourbon barrel sort of way, the last of this blend is a bold, chewy, and distinctly black pepper sort of curtain call. These characteristics may not be for everyone, so approach this part of the cigar with caution and a fresh refill on whatever you may be sipping.

Ash / Burn / Smoke / Draw

La Aurora "Barrel Aged by Karl Malone"

Superb in shape (at least at first), and damn difficult to remove at times, the ash on this belicoso was a brick of a thing for much of its life. Too bad that it liked to flake everywhere and burn unevenly at times, producing a dirty brown color here and there, and a single touch-up in the first third. In comparison, both Churchill vitolas burnt a bit better, but still required touch-ups at times and did not hold as long of an ash. 

And while the first fifteen minutes of my review cigar were a tad tight in regard to smoke production and pull, things gradually loosened up, and the draw became balanced. The feel of the smoke as it curled around was nearly full for much of the cigar and very good, and beyond the bit of heat felt at first things smoldered at a low burn rate.

Final Thoughts  

La Aurora "Barrel Aged by Karl Malone"

When it comes to cask-conditioned cigars, I find that the boozy end of Barrel Aged by Karl Malone tends to have mellowed out a tad too much. It's still a really tasty cigar and one worth recommending, but only for those who favor strong oak tannin tastes over distilled sugar cane flavors.

This is why I suggest that if you purchase this blend, set that sucker afire at your earliest convenience. As it sits, this blend is right at the tail end of a sweet spot, and as a routine dark rum drinker, I expect to find something with a bit more booze and vanilla in a product that advertises itself as rum cask aged.

Personal preference set aside, I also can see plenty of people losing their shit (and half of their paycheck) over this cigar, because it is still rather delicious without these stronger flavors I pine for as a routine rum junkieThe blend is so much smoother, balanced, and more complex than what the first third will have you believe too, making this one of those sticks that just gets better as it goes. 

So spark that good leaf up and don't let it languish any longer. This is one of those blends that sits on the cusp of being as smooth and flavorful as it gets... and losing the last of its rum cask reserves forever.  

La Aurora "Barrel Aged by Karl Malone"


Flavor, Aroma & Transitions

Depth & Complexity

Construction, Burn & Physical Appeal

Backstory & Branding

Overall Balance & Repeatability

Stogie Specs


La Aurora "Barrel Aged by Karl Malone"




Ecuador (barrel-aged)


Peru, Dominican Republic & Nicaragua (all barrel-aged)


Dominican Republic


6¼ " x 52 "Belicoso"



Pairing Drink




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