In late 2019, the welcoming and ever-generous Eddie Sahakian Jr. of Davidoff London introduced us to two exciting releases: The Davidoff Year of the Rat Limited Edition and the Romeo Y Julieta Miravillas 8.
We left with two of each and rather than smoke them together, Paul kindly suggested that I reviewed them with my neighbour, Maxime, a budding cigar enthusiast. Since both celebrate the Chinese year of the rat, we decided to comparatively review them together side-by-side.
In this article, you will discover both the Romeo Y Julieta Maravillas 8 and the Davidoff Year Of The Rat using the following considerations:
- Davidoff Year Of The Rat Cigar Formula
- Romeo Y Julieta Maravillas 8 Cigar Formula
- Davidoff Year Of The Rat Overview
- Romeo Y Julieta Year Of The Rat Overview
- Look & Feel
- Flavours & Burn
- Ideal Pairings
- Overall Experience
You can use the links above to jump ahead or scroll down to read it all.
- Brand: Davidoff
- Range: Year Of The Rat
- Reviewed Vitolas: 6 x 52 Toro
- Filler: Nicaraguan Estelí & Condega, Dominican Pilot & San Vicente
- Binder: Nicaraguan Semilia B
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
- Factory: Tabadom, Dominican Republic
- Handmade: Yes
- Body: Full
- Estimated Smoking Time: 90 Minutes
- Pricing: $390 / 10-Cigar Box [Buy Now]
Romeo & Julieta Overview
- Brand: Romeo y Julieta
- Range: Maravillas 8
- Reviewed Vitolas: 6 x 55 Toro
- Filler: Vuelta Abajo, Pinar del Río [Cuba]
- Binder: Vuelta Abajo, Pinar del Río [Cuba]
- Wrapper: Vuelta Abajo, Pinar del Río [Cuba]
- Factory: La Corona [Havana, Cuba]
- Handmade: Yes
- Body: Medium
- Estimated Smoking Time: 85 Minutes
- Pricing: $605 / 8-Cigar Box [Buy Now]
Although Davidoff’s Chinese Lunar Calendar releases have become something of an established tradition, the Maravillas marks a new venture for Habanos SA.
Cuba’s limited edition is released in 8-count cigar boxes, which is a lucky number in China. Despite the name, the cigar is crafted as a Maravillas No.3 vitola de galera, a format used for the 2012 regional exclusive Montecristo for the Asian market.
Meanwhile, the Davidoff 2020 Year Of The Rat limited edition consists of 10,000 that have been shipped out in 10-count cigar boxes. In both cases, the cigars are presented with red lacquer and gold lettering as can be expected with the occasion.
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Year Of The Rat Look & Feel
Although both cigars sported bands with their own interpretations of the Chinese year of the rat, the cigars themselves were vastly different.
For instance, the Davidoff features a dark and smooth Ecuadorian Habano wrapper with a rich, oily sheen. Meanwhile, the Romeo Y Julieta is far paler and quintessentially Cuban in appearance.
Overall, the Davidoff was beautifully constructed, with a firm spring across its whole body, and a single vein that stretched across the second third. As for the Romeo Y Julieta, it had a few soft spots with a slightly more rustic wrapper.
In terms of aromas, we both found that the Davidoff was far more potent with rich notes of tonka and coffee beans as well as a leather aroma. Comparatively, the Romeo Y Julieta was fainter with an overt barnyard accord with hints of bay leaf and cinnamon.
Davidoff & Romeo Y Julieta Year Of The Rat Review
Usually, we smoke at least three cigars of each blend in order to obtain a full picture of the experience. However, on this occasion, Maxime and I enjoyed one of each cigar.
On the first day, Maxime had the Romeo Y Julieta while I smoked the Davidoff. The following day, we repeated the process with clean palates but I had the Romeo Y Julieta instead. Throughout the tests, we sampled each other’s cigars to get a comparative impression of their experiences.
How We Prepared The Cigars For This Review
We’ve been starting to receive increasing messages from readers who ask us how we prepare the cigars before they’re reviewed. After all, cigars stored in different conditions will yield different results. Similarly, poorly-stored cigars may experience troublesome burning issues.
Therefore, we will inform readers exactly how the cigars were prepared before they were reviewed from now on. Furthermore, we periodically revisit older reviews. When this happens, we will also detail there how the cigars were stored beforehand.
Thanks to a reverse-osmosis membrane, they offer two-way humidification, which means that they also absorb excess humidity.
In this case, both cigars were stored in a small, airtight Boveda acrylic humidor for a period of one month. This allowed them sufficient time to acclimate to the desired humidity level of 69% RH so they could be tested at the same level.
Some Cuban cigar smokers may argue that 65% would be better for the Romeo y Julieta. Normally, we would agree for long-term storage. However, on this occasion and given the short acclimation period, we decided to opt for 69% so both cigars were in the same conditions.
To learn more about Boveda and its benefits, head to our dedicated guide, which covers it all in detail!
After a decisive cut, both cigars promise a pleasant draw that offers just the right amount of resistance. Again, the Romeo Y Julieta was a little less revealing of its notes. Nevertheless, it did hint at some dried earth, a touch of thyme, and a whiff of cinnamon.
While the Davidoff gave a note of cinnamon too, it was far deeper and more intoxicating. Furthermore, it was rich in chocolate with an additional spicy note of nutmeg.
1st Third Smoking Experience
Occasionally, a cigar will treat me with a veritable Madeleine de Proust. Referencing Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, the expression refers to when an odour or a taste nostalgically evokes an old memory.
In fact, I had a similar experience when reviewing the Macanudo Gold Label, which reminded me of my grandmother’s cooking.
On this occasion, it was the same place but a different grandparent. Indeed, it was taken to my grandfather’s study that overlooked a fig tree where he would paint canvas after canvas on his easel. Next to it was always a stack of liquorice root and he would occasionally chew one when not smoking his pipe.
After putting this evocative image aside, I picked out some alluringly aromatic and gourmand notes. At this stage, the blend’s Dominican leaves of Piloto and San Vicente are at their most prevalent.
Despite Davidoff’s official statement, I didn’t find much fig in the first third, though. However, I did experience something closer to rich liquorice.
Additionally, I could detect some sassafras, which is mostly known as the main ingredient in root beer. Finally, there was a hint of smoked beech in the retrohale, which is the wood often used for smoking salmon.
Meanwhile, the Romeo Y Julieta offers a much lighter and aromatic experience. Dominated by overt roasted chestnuts, it also offers fresh thyme with a bittersweet citrus note of grapefruit.
2nd Third Smoking Experience
By the first third, the cigars both begin to reveal their heart and true identities, which couldn’t be more different. The Romeo Y Julieta Maravillas continues on its theme of citrus and aromatic bouquet.
At this point, there’s an intriguing note of lychee, which is nicely contrasted by lime zest. Additionally, the retrohale offers maple leaf, which isn’t quite syrupy but is certainly succulent.
Contrarily, the Davidoff is beginning to reveal the Nicaraguan aspect of its blend with the Estelí and Condega taking the forefront. Overall, the experience can be compared the fragrant aroma of polished antique oak furniture. Similarly, a touch of musky labdanum and bitter grapefruit tingled the senses of the retrohale.
Final Third Smoking Experience
Breaking into the final third, it seems that the Davidoff has opted for consistency rather than evolving flavours for this particular blend. Overall, the flavours haven’t quite evolved to offer something new but have instead mellowed with a peppery composition.
Indeed, the oak is still present. However, it’s more reminiscent of charred oak rather than the antique furniture from the previous third. Similarly, the labdanum is still very much there but with greater presence. Nevertheless, there is a greater gourmand element with an additional of dark – almost raw – chocolate.
Conversely, the Romeo Y Julieta has softened into its final third. While it has also mellowed, it’s gone in an entirely different direction. Instead of revealing its thick and opulent foundations, it’s fragrant and playful.
Overt cedar wood performs well as a background while a soft and almost vanilla sweet note of marzipan toy with the palate. This is then extended with a continuation of its aromatic character with a hint of bay leaf in the retrohale.
Although the Davidoff outlived the Romeo Y Julieta by a few minutes, both burned at a relatively similar speed. However, the Romeo Y Julieta’s draw loosened greatly by the end of the first third, which Maxime found somewhat distracting. Meanwhile, the Davidoff’s draw was perfect throughout as we’ve come to expect.
Similarly, the Davidoff maintained a consistently straight yet thick burn line. On the other hand, the Romeo Y Julieta was somewhat wavy and merited a few touch-ups along the way.
Nevertheless, the Romeo Y Julieta offered an excellent ash backbone despite its flakiness and held well. Although the Davidoff would have likely outlived it, I clumsily knocked it off all over my new chessboard when trying to take a picture.
Anyone who knows me will probably be nodding and thinking that’s classic me…!
In both cases, the cigars offered a refreshingly cool smoke throughout the experience without any issues whatsoever.
Ideal Pairings With A Year Of The Rat
Needless to say, both cigars offered very different experiences and so won’t necessarily pair well with the same thing. For review purposes, we mostly stuck to mineral water.
Nevertheless, I snuck in a wee dram of Big Peat Islay Scotch, which my stepdaughter had given me for Christmas. Surprisingly, both cigars went very well with this blended expression. Still, we were very careful to not let it influence the experience.
Given its rich and opulent flavours, the Davidoff is best served alongside similar snacks or beverages. If you’re looking to pair it with a meal, grilled meat would be great. For instance, pan-seared prime rib would be ideal! Alternatively, I would be tempted by South African Biltong jerky, which I really enjoy on occasion.
Alternatively, the Romeo Y Julieta is best enjoyed with some and playful sweets or appetisers. Hazelnuts would be a great choice given its first third. Otherwise, toffee or milk chocolate would extend the final thirds softness.
In terms of drinks, the Davidoff works well with a deeply peated single malt with a high level of PPM. You could also consider a coffee such as an espresso. Conversely, its first third would suggest that root beer would make for a wonderful pairing.
Finally, the Romeo Y Julieta would be better suited to rum rather than whisky. A floral rum like Havana Club 7 Años would be perfect but you could also opt for a Dominican Brugal. If you still have an affinity for Scotch, a lighthearted Highland malt might be a better choice than something with too much character.
Although we didn’t get to closely inspect the boxes, Eddie had them proudly displayed at Davidoff of London and they were certainly beautifully conceived.
While the Romeo y Julieta was more reminiscent of a Behike box, Davidoff’s presentation was closer to the Winston Churchill The Traveller. In both cases, they were beautifully made with lavish red and gold colours in reference to the occasion and China’s culture.
Likewise, both had their brands’ main bands with second bands to mark the year of the rat. Romeo Y Julieta had its second band on the foot while the Davidoff was further up the body.
I personally preferred the modern geometric design conceived by Davidoff, which was more attractive and engaging. Additionally, you could enjoy it for longer as it wasn’t attached to the foot.
In terms of pricing, both are very prestigious and exclusive cigars to say the least! Even through websites that offer discounts like Montefortuna, the Romeo y Julieta Maravillas is at least $604 for a box of 8!
Meanwhile, the Davidoff comes in at somewhat cheaper at $390 for a box of 10. Admittedly, it feels somewhat odd to regard Davidoff as the cheaper option when comparing two cigars!
When Should You Smoke A Year Of The Rat?
There’s no denying that these are special cigars. Indeed, not only are they offered in extremely limited quantities but they’re also quite pricey. Therefore, I’d suggest that these are blends worth holding on to and saving for special occasions.
Aside from the review, our excuse was that it was Maxime’s birthday the following day. Nevertheless, we were still unreasonably “pigging out” as he would often say.
Still, these are both exceptional cigars that deserve to be savoured and respected for special occasions. Whether it’s for celebrating the New Year (Chinese or otherwise), they’re excellent celebratory cigars!
While some may argue that reviewing these two vastly different cigars against one another is unfair, it certainly made for an interesting experiment. Indeed, both are very characteristic of their homelands and reflect their reputations and cultures well.
For instance, the Cuban Romeo Y Julieta was a playful cigar that regularly changed in character to reveal something new. As for the Dominican Davidoff, it was rich but consistent all the way through, which is what the Henke Kelner prides himself in offering.
In terms of construction, there’s no denying that Davidoff is the superior cigar. However, when it comes to flavour, this is largely a question of palate and preferences. While I can appreciate both, I can’t say for sure.
That said, Maxime was pretty decisive in preferring the Davidoff. Yet, this could be because I’m such a bad influence.
If you’re looking for a celebratory cigar, these are both good options. As you can clearly see, they offer completely different experiences that might be better suited to different palates or preferences.
Also, if you couldn’t decide between the two, hopefully this detailed review helped sway you one way or another.
In closing, we would once again like to thank Eddie Sahakian Jr. for his kindness and I’d like to personally thank Paul for allowing me to review these in his absence.
"Consistent and lavish. Although the Romeo Y Julieta Maravillas will offer greater evolution in each third, the Davidoff Year Of The Rat provides you with a consistently rich experience throughout."
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