Its generally not so well known that some Cuban cigars are machine-made. Its also generally assumed that machine-made cigars are inferior to their hand-made brothers. The Cuban brand, JL Piedra bucks the trend on both counts: one of the oldest Cuban brands still in production, all its vitolas are machine-made (though some are hand bunched), and they pack quite a refined taste to be appreciated by the cultured aficianado.

Packaging isn’t one of the brand’s strong points – the Petit Cetros (smallish petit coronas sized) arrives in unboxed 25-stick bundles or in small cardboard boxes of 5. Very plain, very simple packaging with very little aesthetic value. Even the band looks like a simple, spartan print.

Unlike most other Cuban brands (with the exception of La Flor de Cano), JL Piedra cigars have a very, very heavy grassy scent. Not ammoniac or pungent in any way, but still decidedly “raw” at least as far as its scent is concerned; the tobacco-ness of this cigar is very strong without necessarily being overwhelming. The wrapper is slightly veiny with slight inconsistencies from one cigar to another, but its refreshingly oily to the touch without being overly so.

Lighting it wasn’t as easy as expected, and it took some careful effort to ensure an even burn. But once it started going, there was no problems whatsoever; this cigar didn’t require a relight throughout the 25 minutes it took to smoke. For a machine-made, i was pleasantly surprised by the white-ish ash this cigar produces; it held firm for quite some time before being tapped off. A mark of good long-filler tobacco and refined construction.

Tastewise, this cigar lacks much of the creamy-ness i’ve been used to lately, certainly much less so than the wonderful Rafael Gonzales and the exquisite Don Tomas Dominican Selection robusto. But with strong hints of spiciness that left a tingling imprint on my lips, and a grassy tobacco taste, this cigar certainly passes as a full-bodied Cuban. Not a cigar to be taken on an empty stomach, certainly a cigar to be enjoyed in the evenings with a strong cup of sweet coffee.

Verdict: This is a good cigar to enjoy at the end of a long day’s work – and since its quite short, it won’t take long for you to finish without rushing it. Strong grassy tobacco definitions with a large dose of spiciness. Perhaps, its not for everyone’s taste, but i certainly find it appealing.

Thanks to Dario of Cigarsclub.com for sending me over a sample of JL Piedra cigars of assorted vitolas.