Stolen Throne has always been one of my favorite manufacturers. Lee, JR, and crew are all “cigar guys.” They’re steeped in the culture. They are active in online communities and have always been gracious with their time. The last time I had Lee Marsh, one of the founders and blender of Stolen Throne Cigars, on the podcast was way back on Episode 40. That was in October of 2020 and in the middle of a global pandemic. It was then that Lee had mentioned that Stolen Throne was planning an LE that featured a Connecticut wrapper, but wouldn’t be your father’s typical Connecticut…the Phantom Queen. The pandemic caused a huge delay in the release of the Phantom Queen. What was slated for 2021 turned into 2022. At the PCA 2022 Trade Show, Lee and company said they hoped to have the Phantom Queen out by September or October of 2022. A few months after that, the Phantom Queen released in January 2023.
Unfortunately, the problems for the Phantom Queen continued. The boxes for the Phantom Queen, a first for Stolen Throne as they usually ship in bundles, were oversized for the petit belicosos. This meant that a large number of Phantom Queens arrived damaged from Stolen Throne. Not a good look for their first mass released LE cigar. To Stolen Throne’s credit, they worked with retailers to get them replacements. This meant that this reviewer had to wait over two months for his to arrive, as the initial order to the retailer arrived with multiple boxes damaged and Stolen Throne was waiting on another shipment. Things happen, right?
VITOLA: Petit Belicoso
SIZE: 5″ x 54
FACTORY: Rojas Cigar Factory
WRAPPER: Ecuadorian Connecticut
STRENGTH: Medium – Full
The home studio/lounge
March 27 @11am
Ice Mountain spring water
HOW MANY CIGARS SMOKED:
RELEASE TYPE Limited Edition
ORIGINALLY RELEASE DATE January 2023
Typical Box Size: Boxes of 10
Production Totals: 15,000 cigars
o Petit Belicoso (5″ x 54)
The Phantom Queen sports a red and black band that features…well…a phantom queen. The artwork is amazing. If I remember correctly, Stolen Throne commissions local artists for all of their band designs. While the artwork is gorgeous, it’s printed on what feels like cheap, glossy paper. Not to mention the band appears to have been put on haphazardly.
The wrapper on all but 2 of the Phantom Queen I smoked cracked when I cut the head. V-cut or straight made little difference. I would imagine that most of the issue is derived from the shipping issues that I’ve already discussed; however, because my Phantom Queens did not come with an actual box it could be an issue of a fragile wrapper. It could also speak to a larger shipping issue at Stolen Throne, or a combination of all three. Regardless, it is not a very auspicious start for the Phantom Queen. The wrapper is smooth to the touch and has a little tooth. Veins traverse the length of the cigar, giving it character. The foot is semi-closed, with just a bit of the filler showing.
The wrapper has a spicy cedar note, that is followed by a subtle fruitiness. The semi-closed foot is just the opposite. The fruit note takes the lead while the cedar is much more subtle.
The cold draw shares some of the fruitiness found in the foot and wrapper. There is a herbaceous or floral note that comes through, too. It’s hard to tell which, but there isn’t much more to the cold draw. The draw seems a bit open, especially considering that it’s a semi-closed foot.
LIGHT & DRAW
Cut: Les Fines Lames LE PETITE cigar knife
Fire: ST Dupont Hooked
Graham cracker, spicy cedar, sweet cream, caramel and black pepper hit my palate on the initial light. The draw is perfect. Campfire lingers on my palate. The Phantom Queen starts out strong.
The smoke is creamy and unctuous. Smoke production is perfect. It coats my mouth and has a pleasant mouthfeel to it.
>> Wood, Salted Caramel, Coffee, Berry
The crack in the wrapper tears. So far, it shouldn’t cause an issue. Wood, caramel, salt, coffee, and baking spices begin the first third of the Phantom Queen. Black pepper on the retrohale. The burn is even, but less than razor sharp. The ash is gray with a few black streaks through it, and is compact. Quite beautiful. A coffee note breaks through. Another crack appears in the wrapper. I am annoyed. A hint of berry comes through, distracting me from my annoyance. This Queen is not your typical Connecticut. It is bold without being too overpowering. Full flavored and medium bodied. Salted caramel, coffee, berry, and black pepper. The woody note is there but it comes and goes, vacillating from being the dominant flavor to hiding in the background complexities. The flavors are rich but are cut with a subtle fruity sweetness. The ash remains together even after depositing it in the tray.
>> Marshmallow, Salted Peanuts, White Pepper
The middle third begins with notes of sweet cream, baking spices, coffee, and white pepper on the retrohale. It’s all held up by burnt wood and toasted marshmallow sweetness. The middle third also sees the second crack in the wrapper grow larger, and the development of a third crack. This seems to be a theme with the Queen. Disappointed doesn’t begin to cover how I feel. But more on thar later. The more pressing issue is how to take the haphazardly applied band off without doing more damage. Salted peanuts begin to come through as the cramel note returns. As the burn line reaches the crack, it becomes uneven and bit wavy. The ash, for its part, is still compact and gorgeous. The sweetness that was just an undertone has come front and center. It’s followed by notes of salted peanuts, earth, and burnt wood. Baking spices weave in and out. As soon as the band came off, I could hear the wrapper split more. This happened on three of the cigars smoked for this review. Ridiculous.
>> Fruit & Cream, Charred Wood, Sweetened Coffee
The final third begins with fruit, cream, salt, burnt wood, a fair amount of earth and two giant cracks in the wrapper. Oh, and black pepper on the retrohale. The final third has a bit more umami than the previous two thirds. It also has to giant cracks that get worse with each draw. The ash, which was compact through the first two thirds, has become a flake making machine. Depositing ash on my clothes and furniture. The burn line is all over the place. The smoke production has really ramped up, too. It’s almost too much. What an absolute mess of a cigar. Baking spice, earth, sweetened coffee, and burnt wood lead the charge. If it weren’t for how goddamn good this cigar tastes, I would have put it down by now. Espresso, charred wood, black pepper, and salt end the Queen’s reign.
RATING & FINAL THOUGHTS
Sweet, salty, fruity earthy. That sums up the Phantom Queen. The Queen’s flavors all take turns on the throne, but are fairly consistent throughout. While the flavors are great, they’re all the same. While complex and even nuanced at times, the Phantom Queen suffers from too many similar flavors.
Yeah. The Phantom Queen started out with so much promise. But as with many monarchs throughout history, it ended in disaster. Before anyone says, “yOuR hUmIdOr,” just know that I smoke at least 2 cigars out of there daily and I have never had issues like this.
0.30 / 0.80 … Craft & Aesthetic
0.35 / 0.50 … Pre-Light Characteristics
0.50 / 0.50 … Lighting Process
4.30 / 7.70 … Smoking Experience
0.10 / 0.50 … Personal Enjoyment
COMPLIMENTS & CRITIQUES
THE QUEEN IS DEAD. LONG LIVE THE KING.
This might be the worst score I’ve ever given a cigar. The question I had to ask myself was “was it really that bad?” The answer, unfortunately, was a resounding “YES!” Knowing how Stolen Throne “fixed” the boxes being too big for the Phantom Queen makes it that much worse…especially from “cigar guys.” They didn’t put strips of bubble wrap at the foot and heads of the cigars in the box; instead, they laid foam paper over the top. That had no helpful impact on damage during shipping. “The proof is in the eating of the pudding,” as the saying goes.
The majority of the cigars that I smoked for this review had wrapper issues: cracking, flaking, and one just blew apart on me. It’s disappointing on a couple of levels. First, I expect better from an LE. The box should be impeccable, collector worthy, and a showpiece after the cigars are long gone. The Phantom Queen box did none of this. Second, when a cigar tastes as good as the Phantom Queen does it’s infuriating to have construction issues of this magnitude. Maybe Stolen Throne should stick to bundles? I don’t know what the answer is…but I know these issues killed the Phantom Queen.