Not seen for over half a decade, the return of La Colmena Black Honey by Warped Cigars created a bit of a stir when it was announced last year.
The last time anyone got to enjoy this cigar fresh out of the aging room, it was 2017, and people went ape-shit over the hybrid blend. Taking the rich Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper from the El Oso side of the Warped portfolio, and tucking the dual binder construction and long-filler blends from the company's Cuban-inspired line of La Colmena cigars, Black Honey was heralded as a masterful melding of two sensational cigars.
Returning for a limited run, and made exclusively available to Warped retailers, this latest reprisal offers the same attributes as the previous two installments, which means a mini Belicoso vitola, and the same tobacco bill.
Having been sent one of these cigars to smoke and review, I set to the simple task of seeing whether or not this blend has been worth the wait, and what it offers those of us who missed out on the first two installments.
If this baby Belicoso vitola sounds familiar, it's probably because Warped has favored this shape in the past. Most recently, there was the equally hybridized Sky Moon, which came rolled in an even smaller ring-gauge, but with a half-inch longer barrel than what is seen here.
Like the Sky Moon (and every other blend I have smoked from this boutique cigar brand), Black Honey is stylishly banded and firmly bunched and rolled. The signature La Colmena "honeycomb" design sits atop an army fatigue green and golden honey outlined band, with the zero mention of the words "black" or "honey" to be found.
Deeply triple-capped, with both oil and tooth to spare, the oscuro wrapper on this stick sits snug atop. Veins are lengthy and textured, and the same can be said for seam gaps. A stray scrap of tobacco glued haphazardly to one side of the shoulder is the only major visual miscue to be seen.
Smell that wrapper, and you'll discover why Warped Cigars founder and master blender, Kyle Gellis, named this exclusive blend Black Honey. It truly does smell honey-like, but in a tangy, orange blossom varietal format, backed by subtly dark maduro notes of clay and cocoa. The foot smells less honey-forward and favors baking spice, almonds, and graham cracker over all else.
Cold pulls are a medium amount of toasted oak and black pepper and are not nearly as sweet as expected. Touches of baking spice can be detected, as well as barley malts and a sea spray taste, but it is all rather muffled.
Strong peppercorn and leather-like layers greet your torch's arrival, and after a few puffs, switch to a dark barley tea graininess. Retrohale with caution, for there is more spicy intensity at this moment than at any other point in the cigar.
Settling into a smoother, yet definitely drier stride, the first third starts off an a tannin-loaded oak touch, which in the stick I smoked remained present for the rest of the session. There's a trickle of that honey to be detected, but it's more of a taste and aromatic than a sweetness, giving room for the earth habano oscuro wrapper to do its thing.
This forms a darker, black patent malt and oatmeal taste, with these brewer grains giving depth to the cigar without adding too much body. A faint whiff of campfire smoke and fermented funk forms here that makes me think of the tastes I get from certain toned-down Connecticut Broadleaf binders.
It is not until you get well into the central section of this blend that things get interesting. Sorghum honey and hardier tannin tastes fill in as a primary flavor, and the chewiness of the smoke intensifies. Aromatics become more prominent and maduro-accentuated, and the aftertaste of those malty notes reaches further toward the back of the palate.
Final third tasting notes are the most prolific and pleasant. Producing a combination of flavors that is closest compared to whole grain toast with mixed nut butter and honey on top. This is the moment when the honey-like sweetness decides to shine and makes for a most appetizing closure to the primary portions of the cigar.
Anyone willing to venture past the honeycomb cigar band will surely find more dark malts and toasted oakiness than anything else. This is followed by more maduro funkiness, which to some may be unpleasant. While I may not be overly fond of super funky flavors in a cigar, I found these parting puffs to be balanced enough to justify pushing the ash as far down the shoulder as I dared.
Ash / Burn / Smoke / Draw
One touch-up in the second third, some stray flakes on occasion, and a random ash drop at the end of the first third were the only construction complaints. There were some uneven burn lines in the first half, but the blend righted itself just prior to depositing that tightly formed ash onto my vest.
Smoke production and the draw itself were acceptable all the way up until the final third, at which point it became ideal, making for a far more flavorful experience. The cigar also burned extremely cool and did not soften much in construction as it combusted.
My first take on this blend is favorable. It's a very nice-looking little belicoso, and for the most part, I did not have many issues with it in regard to performance and the aromatics and flavors it formed along the way.
Although it may not be as intricate in detail or texture as the band found wrapped around say the Sky Moon or the Futuro 109 from Warped Cigars, the way that two-tone band sits atop the Ecuadorian Oscuro wrapper really makes the whole package pop in my opinion. Extra appeal points were added for wrapper sheen and aroma, as well as the way in which the stick sat in the hand.
Flavor delivery and the muted amount of smoke prior to the final third were definitely the biggest drawbacks for me. Transitions were smooth and notably different, but the build-up seemed to take a little too long, and I would have liked to have seen some of those honey notes far sooner.
La Colmena Black Honey is a mighty fine smoke and worth sampling if darker oscuro notes in an oaky, nutty, slightly dry medium cigar profile are your shtick. You just might find yourself waiting a while for it all to arrive, just like the cigar itself.
Warped Cigars "La Colmena Black Honey"
Habano Oscuro (Ecuador)
Dominican Republic & Nicaragua
El Titan de Bronze (USA)
5" x 48 "Belicoso"