Cigar Ratings & Reviews

#NowSmoking Sensei’s Sensational Sarsaparilla by Espinosa

Reading Time: 5 minutes

#NowSmoking:  Sensei’s Sensational Sarsaparilla by Espinosa Video Cigar Review

#NowSmoking: Sensei’s Sensational Sarsaparilla

Factory: La Zona – Estelí, Nicaragua
Size: 5½” x 52 Belicoso
Strength: Medium – Full
Wrapper:  Mexican San Andrés Maduro
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan Condega and Estelí

Presented in boxes of 10

cigar advisor nowsmoking cigar review senseis sensational sarsaparilla single at famous smoke shop
The Sensei’s Sensational Sarsaparilla Cigars Back Story

Relaunched in 2021, Sensei’s Sensational Sarsaparilla (or “Sassy,” its nickname) first arrived in the fall of 2014 in collaboration between Erik Espinosa and Cigar Dojo. The cigars—named for exhibiting a distinct profile of sarsaparilla root beer—were rolled in a 5½” x 52 Belicoso format and limited to 1,000 bundles of 10. This figurado quickly became one of the most sought-after Dojo collaborations ever released, and for that initial release, Famous Smoke Shop got first dibs.

cigar advisor now smoking video cigar review sensei's sensational sarsaparilla setup 1 with cigar on box and whiskey in background
According to Sensei: “We wanted to come up with a cigar that had a unique flavor. We wanted a cigar that took the cigar smoker through a journey from start to finish. We wanted a cigar that evolves…a full-flavored cigar that would grab your attention and not let go.”

Erik Espinosa concurred by saying, “Creating a cigar that evolves as you smoke it is an art form and I think we really created something unique with the Sarsaparilla.”

cigar advisor now smoking video cigar review sensei's sensational sarsaparilla setup 2 with cigaron a coffee mug next to the box

While the cigar itself and the blend are identical to the 2014 version, this time around, the Dojo and the Espinosa teams decided to jettison the bundles and go with a more refined box presentation.


What is Sarsaparilla?

Sarsaparilla is made from the Smilax Ornata plant or other variants of plants with small, woody vines native to Mexico and Central America. Coined from the Spanish term zarzaparrilla, it is believed that the slightly bitter-tasting drink was first used by Indigenous Americans for medicinal purposes. The taste of Sarsaparilla is similar to a combination of licorice, caramel, vanilla, and wintergreen.


The Basics At-a-Glance

Construction: Very well made. The cigar is solid up and down the line, no soft spots, and seamlessly rolled. The wrapper color also has an attractive copper sheen.
Cold Draw: Draw was perfect, offering notes of licorice and dried figs.
Base flavors: Earth, citrus, black pepper, sundry spices, caramel.
Aromas: Wrapper = nutty / Foot = licorice / Smoke = burnt campfire wood.
Burn & Ash: Excellent. The cigar burns evenly revealing a firm, grey, granular ash.

cigar advisor now smoking video cigar review sensei's sensational sarsaparilla ash close-up
#nowsmoking @famoussmokeshop: Rolled in an oily, copper colored San Andrés wrapper this Belicoso smokes like a dream revealing a tart, spicy, and sweet mix of lemony citrus, black pepper, caramel, and sundry spices. Medium to full in body, a lingering pepper also enlivens the palate as well. The draw and burn are excellent and even throughout.


Sensei’s Sensational Sarsaparilla Cigar Review – Act I

cigar advisor now smoking video cigar review sensei's sensational sarsaparilla act 1
The cigar opens tart and very spicy with a black pepper finish. But at about the half-inch mark it quickly settles into very smooth and creamy smoke. I also picked up a distinctive taste that reminded me of a lemony tartness. The burn was excellent revealing a mostly firm grey ash. I could tell this Belicoso also had some very interesting flavors coming down the pike. But here in the first act, it carried more earth than anything else.


Sensei’s Sensational Sarsaparilla Cigar Review – Act II

cigar advisor now smoking video cigar review sensei's sensational sarsaparilla act 2
The cigar also has a really nice aroma, sort of like campfire wood. The body at this point remained mostly medium and extremely smooth with very little change in flavors. Once it arrived at the midsection it was still very earthy with that nice little tanginess. The cigar also continued to burn evenly and in my second sample I did notice more sweetness coming from the cigar. At the border of the final act, the flavors turned just a bit sharper.


Sensei’s Sensational Sarsaparilla Cigar Review – Act III

cigar advisor now smoking video cigar review sensei's sensational sarsaparilla act 3
This cigar is extremely consistent; still earthy, spicy, tangy, and caramel-like sweet with a medium-plus body. The smoothness is still there, and I was impressed with the clean and spicy finish. Although my second sample was sweeter, the Sensational Sarsaparilla does provide some bite, which is also characteristic of sarsaparilla.


What whiskey pairs well with the Sensei’s Sensational Sarsaparilla?

Well, you could try a sarsaparilla. How about a root beer or ginger beer? Speaking of soda, a vanilla cream soda might work? On the adult beverage side, the Sensational Sarsaparilla is tailor-made for bourbon or an old-fashioned, so take your pick. For more combinations, see our Cigar & Spirit pairing guide.


Is the Sensei’s Sensational Sarsaparilla Belicoso worth smoking?

cigar advisor now smoking video cigar review sensei's sensational sarsaparilla nub final thoughts
Like a lot of cigars created by Erik Espinosa, the Sensei Sensational Sarsaparilla is definitely one of the more unique offerings. I don’t think he was trying to make a cigar that tasted like sarsaparilla, he wanted to make a cigar that was complex, and I think he successfully achieved that. This belicoso has a number of change-ups which make it a very lively cigar, and it certainly grabbed my attention. It smokes beautifully, but the spiciness may be a little much for newer cigar smokers. So, if you’re looking for a cigar that’s a wee bit out of your usual comfort zone, Sensei’s Sensational Sarsaparilla will take you there.

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Gary Korb

Gary Korb

Executive Editor

Gary Korb has been writing and editing content for since its debut in 2008. An avid cigar smoker for over 30 years, during the past 12 years he has worked on the marketing side of the premium cigar business as a Sr. Copywriter, blogger, and cigar reviewer. A graduate of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, prior to his career in the cigar business, Gary worked in the music and video industry as a marketer and a publicist.

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