Protocol – Backing The Blue

“Protocol is one year old this year,” said Bill Ives, co-founder and owner of the Protocol brand.

What began as a ‘local’ limited-release cigar company has grown from 5,000 cigar runs to over 40,000.

Originally available in Robusto, Toro and Gordo sizes, the firm’s range has grown this year to include a Lancero, which is getting rave reviews.

“The Protocol Lancero is being introduced as a small-batch production depending on its success with possible increased production in the future,” said Ives.

Protocol was launched at the 2015 IPCPR in New Orleans. The company, known as Cubariqueno, was created by two police officers, Juan Cancel and Bill Ives. The cigars are produced at the La Zona factory in Esteli, Nicaragua under the supervision of Erik Espinosa.

The Lancero sports a beautiful dark and smooth Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper with a firm bunch. The foot smells of leather and cocoa. I get an easy clip and a perfect cold draw.

An easy light leads to a nice full draw with plenty of smoke. Notes of tobacco, leather and cocoa emerge along with a bit of pepper on the nose. A light sweetness from the wrapper lingers on the lips. The ash is light grey and the burn is razor straight.

Protocol Backing The Blue 2There is a slight harshness near the beginning that disappears almost immediately. The leather and cocoa notes are complemented by a Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout. Smooth nutty notes also emerge as the flavor develops.

Tobacco notes subdue into a smooth creaminess that takes the flavor to another level. The creamy cocoa notes make the flavor quite exquisite. The ash is not flaky, but taps off easily every half inch or so.

No ‘double clutching’ is needed to produce plentiful smoke from the perfect draw of this cigar. And even deep draws don’t heat up the smoke. The uncut remainder of the cap unravels, but this has no negative effects. The smoke is thick enough to allow for smoke rings.

The tobacco notes return for the final third of the cigar without affecting the creaminess of the smoke. As is the case with most Lanceros, the flavor continues to develop for a truly complex smoke. Pepper notes then return to complement the overall flavor spectrum.

At about one inch, the cigar becomes too hot to hold, but it still qualifies as a nubber. Fractions off for two touch-ups – 9.5/10.

Protocol Backing The Blue 3Also new this year is the Probable Cause line, which includes a Robusto and a Churchill. The Probable Cause is wrapped in Mexican San Andreas Maduro leaf with Nicaraguan binder and Nicaraguan filler.

“We are classifying Probable Cause as a medium-strength cigar with full flavor,” explained Cancel.

The dark oily wrapper smells like a tobacco barn, and the foot of the cigar smells of earthiness with a touch of spice. The bunch is firm but not hard. A clean clip on a medium box press gives a perfect cold draw.

The initial draw produces strong tobacco and leathery notes, much as one would expect from a Maduro. The box press is easy to hold and draw on. Plenty of rich smoke is produced with each draw.

Some pepper in the nose develops to enhance the tobacco and leather notes. So far, this is a typical Maduro profile with a perfect burn.

Paired with a Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout, the cigar retains its tobacco and leather notes with a bit of earthiness.

As with the Protocol Lancero, there is enough smoke for smoke rings from single draws. The smoke is also staying quite cool, and the burn remains perfect. The wrapper is leaving a pleasant tobacco aftertaste on the lips.

Protocol Backing The Blue 4The medium to light grey ash is very solid. Approaching the first third, the flavor profile has mellowed some to settle into a nice creaminess. There is still a pleasant peppery note in the throat and nose.

There is absolutely no harshness to the smoke approaching the halfway point. The ash is firm and the burn remains perfect. So far, this is a most pleasant cigar.

Just past the halfway point, the cigar starts to heat up a bit, indicating that I need to slow down some. The perfect draw, however, makes that difficult.

The flavor then develops a sweetness, replacing the tobacco notes and complementing the creaminess. This is becoming the ‘perfect’ Maduro cigar.

During the last third, the heat stabilizes. The flavor is still creamy, with a touch of sweetness. Only when approaching the last inch does the heat become an issue.
A solid 9.5/10 overall for this excellent Maduro cigar.

After three samples (two Lanceros and the Maduro), I can say that Protocol cigars belong in every humidor, especially of those who like medium to full Maduros and Oscuros.

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