The 2023 PCA Trade Show gave us a lot to look forward to, and one of those cigars was the Y Panda by Luciano Cigars. I was lucky enough to steal the one that was given to Tim and smoke it at the show. Honestly, it was one of the better samples that I tried at the show. Maybe a better way of saying that is that it was one of the few that really grabbed my attention. I was already looking forward to visiting the Luciano Cigars booth after chatting with Luciano on the podcast, but after I heard Linxu’s story at the trade show, I was even more intrigued.
Sure, the Y Panda was blended by Luciano Meirelles and Linxu “Panda” Yan, but that’s not all of it. Linxu left China at the age of 16 and came to America. He worked at a cigar shop in Tennessee and through his passion for cigars and the leaf, eventually found himself in Esteli, Nicaragua learning the trade from Luciano. The blend that they came up with uses a Corojo ’98 Colorado wrapper and dual binder of Brazilian Arapiraca and Ecuadorian Sumatra, over Nicaraguan filler.
SIZE: 6″ x 52
FACTORY: Luciano Tabacos S.A.
WRAPPER: Corojo ’98 Colorado
BINDER: Double binder with Brazilian Arapiraca and Ecuadorian Sumatra
STRENGTH: Medium – Medium+
Oxford Cigar Company
October 1 @10:am
Ice Mountain bottled water
70° & 70% RH
HOW MANY CIGARS SMOKED:
RELEASE TYPE Regular Release
ORIGINALLY RELEASE DATE August 2023
Typical Box Size: Boxes of 20
Production Totals: Unknown
o Toro (6″ x 52)
o Sublime (6-1/2″ x 54)
o Robusto (5″ x 50)
o Corona Gordo (5-5/8″ x 46)
I really love the band on the Y Panda. It’s a striking black and white with gold in the center. The name of the brand is prominently written at the top while there are Chinese characters at the bottom. Thankfully, one of our reviewers has a Master’s Degree in Chinese translation. “The two symbols are the name Lin Xu, full name Linxu Yan or ‘panda yan.'” While she couldn’t quite translate the gold in the middle, she did say that it appears to be done in a “handwriting style” that is more difficult to read.
The Corojo ’98 Colorado wrapper is the color of milk chocolate, smooth to the touch, and could be described in one word as “gorgeous.” Their are several veins that crisscross the length of the cigar. One cigar had a water spot, but it just adds to the character of the cigar. The cap appears to be expertly applied.
The Y Panda wrapper has the intoxicating aroma of cedar, freshly mowed lawn, and sweet tobacco. The foot has an equally intoxicating earthiness, that borders on barnyard, and sourdough.
The cold draw reveals notes of powdered hot chocolate with marshmallows, nuts, and a rich fruity note that I can’t quite place. As for the draw itself…it’s the perfect amount of resistance.
The initial light has notes of baking spices, cashews, and salted caramel. Black pepper on the retrohale. A note of wood holds it all up. Cinammon lingers on my palate. There is a nice sweetness that shines through without overpowering the other notes.
The smoke is rich, creamy, and oh-so-satisfying. I would use the descriptor of “chewy.” It’s not a giving off a lot of smoke while at rest, but each draw produces a good amount of smoke.
>> Caramel, Wood, Black Pepper
After the initial light, notes of caramel, nuts, chocolate and baking spices remain. There’s a hint of sweetened cereal that lingers on the palate. Black pepper on the retrohale. The wood note remains, too, though it is not as prevalent as it was on the initial light. The burn line almost razor sharp and the ash is grey with black streaks. It is compact and beautiful. A note of raisin sweetness comes through. Caramel begins to dominate the chocolate note. The baking spices are divine and compliment the sweeter notes of the Y Panda. It has settled into a medium profile. A hint of star anise is hides under the other spices, as the wood note begins to make a comeback.
>> Earth, Baking Spices, Sweet Cream
The caramel note morphs into a a woody, earthy note. The sweetness remains but the baking spices seem to have been turned down a few notches. The retrohale still has some big notes of baking spices. The ash is still compact, but the burn line is a little wonky. The sweetness that once dominated has been replaced by notes of cereal, sweet cream, and wood. The powdered chocolate from the cold draw comes through. There are moments when the sweetness comes back…like it’s playing hide and seek. The burn line becomes wavy in one of the cigars smoked for this review, but the other two were razor sharp throughout. A note of avocado oil shines through, adding a richness to the middle third.
>> Avocado Oil, Dark Berry, Black Pepper
Caramel, bread, and an almost dark berry fruitiness begin the final third of the Y Panda. Black pepper returns to rule the retrohale. Avocado oil remains, as does the earthy notes of the middle third; however, they play in the background. The burn line has evened itself out. This final third seems even more rich and decadent than the initial third. Earthy, spicy, sweet, and woody. The final third of the Y Panda is playing the greatest hits of the first two thirds. The dark berry flavor plays well against the woody notes. Caramel and chocolate flow in and out of while the baking spices hold it all together. The smoothness remains as avocado oil continues to add depth. The ash is still compact and beautiful.
RATING & FINAL THOUGHTS
The Y Panda does a good job of melding complex flavors together and keeping the smoker engaged. There was always nuance and not one or two flavors dominating the experience. None of the flavors seemed out of place and each third was well defined. The Y Panda is the textbook definition of a well balanced cigar. The blend is simply delightful.
It is time to nitpick. While two of the three cigars smoked for this review burned flawlessly, one of them burned less than perfect. That’s not to say that it burned badly, but the Y Panda in question did burn a bit wonky in the middle third. While it self-corrected and no touch-ups were required, it was wonky enough to make a note of it.
0.80 / 0.80 … Craft & Aesthetic
0.50 / 0.50 … Pre-Light Characteristics
0.50 / 0.50 … Lighting Process
7.10 / 7.70 … Smoking Experience
0.50 / 0.50 … Personal Enjoyment
COMPLIMENTS & CRITIQUES
Y PANDA? BECAUSE IT’S GREAT.
The Y Panda is one of only a handful of cigars that was released this year that sticks out in this reviewer’s mind. The Y Panda is not stingy with the flavors without being off-putting or full bodied. This medium to to medium full cigar packs a lot of flavors into it without sacrificing nuance. It is one of the most well-balanced cigar blends in recent memory. The construction is on point, save for one of the three that burned wonky in the middle third. While I really enjoyed the sample I smoked at the trade show, it’s always kind of “hit and miss” with them due to the amount of cigars smoked during the day. So, I was pleasantly surprised to have the Y Panda be an absolute banger. On top of just how good the cigar is, Linxu’s story and passion for the cigar industry are just the cherries on top.