Juan Lopez as a brand has been around for more than a hundred years — started in 1876 by Juan Lopez Diaz, its one of the few Cuban brands whose vitolas have always been handmade; not a single machine made vitola has been carried the Juan Lopez name since its inception.

The vitola selection of Juan Lopez is limited to just 6 sizes, thus making the visibility of this brand quite small to the average consumer. Its certainly overshadowed by its bigger brothers and sisters — the Montecristos, Romeo y Julietas and Cohibas. But what it lacks in visibility, this brand makes up for it with style and quality, as i was about to pleasantly find out with the Seleccion #2, a robusto.

From a ’03 box with the codes CUE NOV 03, these cigars were unbanded, coming in a slide lid box (SLB) — it would be interesting to see ’04 boxes of these cigars to see what the band actually looks like. I’ve not really had a good look at the Juan Lopez band before; from memory they are simple bands with a splash of red and what looks like a picture of a crown under the brand name printing.

In the box, they look absolutely delicious! The wrapper is a healthy natural colour with a nice sheen of oils that makes them glisten in the light. But this is where the first speed bump appeared: a close inspection of the box allowed for the discovery of a quite noticeable ammoniac scent. The cigars nearly have a year of age on them, but the ammonia has dissipated very little over this time. But i wasn’t going to let this deter me — i was going to smoke this cigar, ammonia or no.

(Image lost) Shiny, oily wrapper — perfectly even burn

Rolling the cigar in my fingers revealed excellent construction: not a single hard spot, and the heft to it was just right for a robusto. The scent test on the stick was pleasing — a nice combination of woody leather with a touch of fresh grass.

A quick snip later and this cigar was ready to meet the flame. It lit easily enough, a few deep draws got it going. It did require a few relights along the way, especially towards the end and this was probably due to a bit of dampness (i didn’t neglect the cigar at any time). But otherwise the burn was very even and the draw was excellent.

(Image lost) Maintains its composure even near the end

Tastewise, this cigar is not an easy cigar to get into. The flavours start off with an immediate burst of spiciness, a whole range of full-on flavours are delivered feet first from the get-go. It certainly doesn’t waste any time! But i can imagine this aggressive flavour profile could put off some people who prefer their cigars more “tame” in their buildup. Time and further burning doesn’t make this cigar let up: by about half-way, there were lots of dark chocolate flavours here, becoming bitter-sweet with increasing strength as the cigar burned on. Very full bodied, and certainly would represent a challenge to any aficionado who prefers milder cigars. It tapers off slightly in the last third, almost like a spent marathon runner who’s coasting in the last stretch. But overall, a very imposing cigar.

The aroma is delectably pleasing with its delivery of fresh flowers scents that absolutely perfumed up the room. Very, very special and almost, on its own, worth the price of admission.

(Image lost) I liked it, i nubbed it

Verdict: Very much my type of cigar: full-on, in-your-face, no-nonsence Cuban presence. I can imagine those who prefer milder-medium cigars may disagree. A few others with me on the night i smoked the Juan Lopez disagreed with the bitterness and full-ness it offered and gave up right at the last third. A cigar for a certain type of smoker. Worth a try, if for no other reason than to find out whether you’re that type of person. Should mellow out given time; about a year old, the ammonia has not “burned” off at all from this cigar suggesting a very strong, lasting blend that will age very well.