The JR Alternative: Yikes

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Recently Jesse was kind enough to give me a few cigars, which I was happy to accept.  Two of them were JR Cigar branded sticks, I believe part of their JR Alternative line.  This particular line of cigars is intended to provide low-cost similar-tasting alternatives to high-end cigars.  In fact, Jesse bragged to me, "I got sixty of them for forty bucks!"  When I did the math later I realized that he only spent $1.33 on those two cigars, I still felt like perhaps he was getting ripped off.

So anyhow, yesterday I was about to go for a walk, and felt like smoking a cigar on my stroll.  I put on my best three-piece brown town suit, fitted a brown bowler hat upon my head, and popped open the humidor.  Not knowing what was in store for me, I pulled out one of these JR Alternatives and lit it up.  Wait, let's rewind a bit and talk about what this thing looked like.  It had a pale wrapper, perhaps a Connecticut leaf, that was splotchy and veiny.  There were some dark lines here and there that made it look as if the leaf had been creased and then pressed out again, and the texture was rather rough and dry.  Small imperfections littered the cigar: holes, knobs, scrapes, and so forth.  Plus, the cigar felt rather lumpy.  There were a few places beneath the wrapper where it seemed to rather cave in.  The unlit stick smelled quite strongly of compost and wet grass, which isn't always bad, but in this case didn't seem very appetizing.

I wouldn't give up, however.  I lit it up, and was immediately rewarded with a smell not unlike burning cardboard.  As it smoked, it did burn rather evenly, though I have no idea how.  When the mold-grey ash was tapped off, it revealed an uneven roll with some unattractive hollow spots.

The flavor overall was not enjoyable, either.  Overwhelmingly spicy at first, with the sort of acidic feel that works its way all the way down your throat and up the backs of your nostrils.  I was not enjoying that.  There was also an element of sourness that I didn't enjoy much.  Overall it was a chore to smoke this cigar, and I put it out just about at the halfway point, hoping for it to improve.

In closing, while I'm very grateful that Jesse gave me some cigars, I'm fairly certain his tastebuds (and mine) would be better off spending sixty bucks on forty cigars than vice versa.  I'm going to give this cigar one star, because it did light on fire, and that's pretty much the first thing you can ask for in a rolled up lump of tobacco.  Sorry, Jesse!


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Erik, Erik!

I should mention that those are JR seconds, which may explain the construction (in fairness, the firsts are frankly not usually too much better). Your review does indeed articulate the "experience" of smoking them, and I might mention that you can still give away the other one as a bribe.

On the other hand, I'm a bit suprised that you reviewed those, which I defend primarily on virtue of their low cost, rather than the Hoyo de Tradicion I also gave you. You'll get no argument from me if you agree that it's vastly tastier and prettier than the JRs.

While your point about spending a little more to get something better is well-taken, at that price point I maintain that they aren't too bad. I readily cede that it's indeed a matter of lower standards, but feel that it's also a matter of expectation. These are clearly "value" smokes.

To put it into perspective, if you got a bottle of wine for $2.00 and your reaction was "well, this tastes like cheap wine", I wouldn't disagree, but I might point out that it would be better to compare it with other bottles of wine available at that price, and not something like a nice Spring Mountain cabernet. Try smoking a drugstore cigar, and you'll see what I mean.

I wouldn't really describe myself as bragging about their cost, so much as pointing it out as a key feature. If I failed to set your expectations (you left out my admonishment that I didn't really think they were exactly great in any universal sense), my apologies.

Finally, I have to chide you for snubbing free cigars! ;-P

Keep up the good work on the site!

_Jesse Williamson ;-};

Note: Another value-priced cigar line, Rosa Cuba, is medium filler but in my estimation tastier than those. Still not nearly as tasty and certainly not as nicely-made as a good premium cigar, but probably one I'd recommend if long filler were not a requirement. On the other hand, you might well wish to stop taking my advice. ;)

Jesse, my friend, I never got any impression from you that this cigar was going to be anything to write home about, but I feel that it's my duty as a reviewer of cigars to sometimes write about a poor experience in order to provide perspective. Some cheap wine can be surprisingly good, and some cheap cigars can, as well. There wouldn't be any way for our readers to tell if we're just making it all up if we never reviewed a bad cigar!

As for the Hoyo de Tradicion, I promise I'll be reviewing that one rather soon, and I'm really looking forward to it.

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