Baka Bantu

In March of this year, images of RoMa Craft’s Cameroon-based project were first posted on the social media channels of Skip Martin, co-owner of RoMa Craft Tobac. The cigar had previously been hinted at, but was now shown off with the Baka name and band. For many companies, such teasing for a new brand may have subdued reactions, but RoMa Craft’s careful, calculated approach (at least in regards to the company’s core portfolio) brought on a frenzy of excitement from craft enthusiasts. It had been four drawn-out years since RoMa Craft had launched a true, core-line offering available to American consumers, resulting in an unmatched level of anticipation for the 2019 release year.

Baka falls under the early-man theme seen throughout the majority of RoMa Craft’s core lineup, now including the CroMagnon (and CroMagnon Aquitaine), Neanderthal, and Baka. These are sometimes considered three of four original human species: Cro-Magnon, Denisovan, Neanderthal, and Baka. The latter are hunter-gatherers, formerly called Pygmies, located in the Central African rain forest—specifically, Cameroon. This ties into the concept of the Baka cigar, which offers a different blending style and profile from RoMa Craft, with the cigar’s signature ingredient being a select African Cameroon wrapper.

RoMa Craft Baka cigars IPCPR 2019

RoMa Craft Baka cigars IPCPR 2019

Baka Bantu Breakdown

  • Wrapper: African Cameroon
  • Binder: N/A
  • Filler: N/A
  • Factory: Fabrica de Tabacos Nica Sueño S.A. (Nicaragua)
  • Production: Small Batch (1,000 boxes per size for 2019)
  • Vitola: 4″ × 52 “Bantu” (Petit Robusto)
  • Price: $9.95 (MSRP)

The Baka blend is built around an especially dark selection of African Cameroon leaf. This follows RoMa Craft’s blending strategy, where high-grade tobaccos—often too scarce to be utilized by larger manufacturers—are made possible due to the company’s small-batch production. In the case of Baka, this derivative tobacco was acquired from Oliva Cigar Co., selecting bales of Cameroon that are deemed too dark to be featured on the company’s Oliva Serie G line.

Similar negotiations were used for the interior tobaccos, including a high-grade Jamastran (Honduras) leaf and an especially floral Condega (Nicaragua) tobacco. At this time, the cigar’s binder/filler recipe has not been revealed, but the aforementioned leaves are included.

Baka will eventually be offered in the same seven formats as the CroMagnon series. Currently, RoMa Craft only had enough material to debut the brand in two formats for 2019: Pygmy and Bantu. The first shipment of Baka launched in mid-October, with an estimated 1,000 boxes available per size (roughly 54,000 cigars).

  • Pygmy: 4″ x 46 | $9.25
  • Bantu: 4″ x 52 | $9.95
  • Ota Benga: 4½” x 60 | $10.60
  • Poki: 5″ x 50 | $10.45
  • Acephalous: 5″ x 56 | $11.50
  • Jengi: 5¾” x 46 | $11.40
  • Hunter Gatherer: 6″ x 54 | $12.70

Appearance

Baka is instantly recognizable as a RoMa offering, as the company has one of the most consistent branding styles in the industry, featuring tweaked versions of their primary band style on every line outside of the Intemperance series. This includes a thin matte band secured over a larger white band. But where former releases display the cigar’s name solely through embossing (being the same color as the primary band), Baka is more on par with the Wunder|Lust brand, showing the text in a more legible white font.

The cigar is quite small, feeling even thinner than the advertised 52 ring gauge. Its wrapper is slightly toothy, having an assortment of fine webbed veins that contrast the overall leaf shade with a darker hue. The Cameroon leaf is lighter than nearly all RoMa Craft cigars (save for the Intemperance EC XVIII), having undertones of orange and brick red. It’s clearly a well-constructed cigar, having a triple cap and well-placed seams. With a squeeze, it seems less packed (medium to medium-plus bunch) than I am used to with RoMa cigars.

The aroma coming off the wrapper is faint, with subtle notes of musk and peanuts. The foot shows cedar and chocolate chip cookies, and the pre-light draw has flavors of cedar and barnyard hay.

Click images below for full resolution

Smoking Experience

Baka lights up with a virtually perfect draw, accompanied by an unusually high smoke output. Red pepper spice is the driving force, having a dry texture and a sharp, stinging sensation through the retrohale. This holds true for the first three minutes, eventually settling into a more complete profile, with balancing elements of salt and a candy-like sweetness in the background and through the finish. Further development brings a sweet and perfume-like floral note, as well as a nutty combination that is built from hazelnut and peanut.

RoMa Craft Baka Bantu cigar smoking

RoMa Craft Baka Bantu cigar smoking

The overall impression throughout the first third is complex and quite different from anything offered from RoMa Craft to date. The smoke has a dry texture, primarily hitting the tongue on the front sides (salt) and mid-region (bitter). And while the draw has my ideal level of resistance (a tick firmer than dead medium), the burn has proven wavy enough to require the occasional touchup. The ash is flakey and white, clinging on in chunks slightly shy of an inch. Overall, the experience is medium in flavor, medium-light in strength, and medium in body.

A syrupy cinnamon sweetness is the most interesting aspect of the cigar in the halfway range. The nuttiness seems to have transformed into something reminiscent of Frangelico liqueur, with nutmeg and a touch of vanilla helping to add complexity. The red pepper spice jumps in and out of the profile from start to finish; this is joined by other spices in the realm of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice—combining to have a distinct pumpkin spice character. Nearing the final third, some samples exhibited a banana-like vegetation. The dryness of the smoke texture becomes more apparent as the burn line edges closer to the end. The final moments merge the red pepper and cinnamon elements, assembling a concoction that reminded me of Hot Tamales candy.

RoMa Craft Baka Bantu review

RoMa Craft Baka Bantu review

Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?

I would, although I’ll be much more eager to secure the larger sizes of the Baka blend. Having smoked pre-release versions of these larger sizes, I must say that the experience varies quite a bit (the profile being much more Cubanesque, in my experience). And, considering the price range is only a three-dollar difference, I think that the value metric will increase significantly as well.

Additional Info

  • Skip Martin has intimated that there is no ligero tobacco in the blend, which is reaffirmed by the cigar’s unlit foot appearance.
  • The cigar has been described as having been under development for roughly five years, beginning as a collaboration of sorts with Jack Toraño. As such, early iterations of the project were geared as an homage to the famed Toraño 1916 Cameroon cigar. These plans were later dropped, changing the selection of Cameroon and removing the Honduran binder and Colombian tobacco from the filler. Adding to the intrigue, Jack Toraño has since joined Espinosa Premium Cigars, where the company recently collaborated with General Cigar Co. (Jack’s former employer) on the Cameroon-wrapped Warzone.
  • RoMa Craft uses a different selection of Cameroon on the CroMagnon and Aquitaine blends (binder).
  • Baka features the same seven sizes as the CroMagnon series in hopes of FDA compliance.
  • Cameroon tobacco does not ferment in pilones, reaching full maturity following curing (similar to Connecticut Shade).
  • Baka sizes have names relating to the Cameroon region and history, with Bantu being the indigenous ethnic groups in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • The cigar’s name has humorously been linked to and confused with (Steve) Saka, owner of Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust.

  • Flavor: Medium
  • Strength: Medium-light
  • Body: Medium
  • Red pepper
  • Candy sweetness
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Smoke Time: 40 minutes
  • Pairing Recommendation: Old Forester Rye | Pumpkin pie | Topo Chico sparkling mineral water | Light-roast pour-over coffee
  • Purchase Recommendation: 5-pack

RoMa Craft Baka Bantu cigar nub finished

RoMa Craft Baka Bantu cigar nub finished

Baka Bantu

Baka is not your average RoMa Craft cigar, and I appreciate that the company is reaching outside their comfort zone. While they could’ve simply grabbed a RoMa-style blend from the playbook and wrapped it in Cameroon, the cigar feels as if every leaf’s purpose is to highlight the Cameroon wrapper. This translates to lower levels of body and strength, bringing a delicate and nuanced, spicy-sweet flavor profile. This is not your casual, everyday-smoking cigar; this is the cigar you smoke while taking notes and pondering the metaphysical. Hyperbole aside, I do feel that Baka requires the smoker’s attention—be it in the construction department or flavor deciphering. In terms of the Bantu’s profile, there were times when it felt like the cigar was one small ingredient shy of fulfillment, eliciting multiple puffs in search of striking a more harmonic chord. Short robustos are not typically the best representation of a given cigar line’s essence, so I find it interesting that the first two sizes available hover in this range. Only having tried pre-release versions of larger sizes, I think that a second look will provide improved results in the year to come.

Appearance90%

Burn/Construction84%

Draw95%

Flavor86%

Complexity89%

Price/Value86%

Pros

  • Large smoke output
  • Nuanced flavor and complexity
  • Near-perfect draw

Cons

  • Multiple touchups
  • Flakey ash
  • Flavor profile can feel incomplete at times, resulting in frequent puffs in hopes to absorb full range of flavors


88%Bigger = Better?