Cu-Avana Intenso Punisher – PVNISHER
I hope you all had a great, and safe new years. I was in bed by 10pm. The wife and I both came down with crazy illnesses. Probably for the better, it gets crazy out there! I actually lost a long time friend this New Years in Austin. She was one of three women followed into their homes and attacked, but didn’t make it. My heart goes out to her and her family. Just another reminder, love everyone you meet, treat them as if this day is their last. Anyhow, this week’s review is Cu-Avana’s Intenso Pvnisher, or Punshier, whatever.
The Good Stuff: Unlike the original Cu-Avana Intenso which was originally created by the master blender Manuel Quesada, The Punisher is actually re-blended, and hyped up by another familiar face, Nestor Plasencia. It wasn’t that Quesada did a bad job, in fact the blend was widely popular. Some people were just craving a stronger, more robust cigar hence the re-blend. These cigars come only in torpedo-tubo format. You can buy them in boxes of 13 for about $100 or about $14 a single.
Size: 6-52 – Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano – Binder/Filler: Nicaraguan Ligero
Prelight: The Cu-Avana Intenso Punisher is a deadly looking cigar, from the branding down to the actually cigar itself. The cigar looks as if it has had better days. The wrapper is this crazy looking, extremely dark, baker’s chocolate brown color with a few lighter areas that seem to line the 2 or 3 larger veins the run the length of the cigar. The wrapper itself is tough as hell adding the cigars weight and firmness. This thing feels like it’s made from cement. The cap of the cigar is this strange torpedo cap. I call it strange cause it is actually tilted a bit on top (probably not on purpose) which makes it look kid of like the top of a garden gnome’s hat. The Punisher comes loaded in an all black metal tubo with simply the word “PVNISHER” painted on it. The first band on this cigar bears the same branding only with an extra “-MMXI-” added to it. The secondary foot band is identical to the gold, black, white and red foot band that you find on the standard Cu-Avana Intensos.
The wrapper gives off an almost motor oil aroma mixed in with some crazy harsh tobacco. I can already tell that I’m in for a doozy. The foot of the cigar is insanely peppery and because of that it’s pretty hard to pick anything else out of there. The cap cut clean using my double bladed Palio cutter. Before even trying to pull a cold draw off this cigar, I put it to my lips and tongue to moisten the cap. Holy hell!!! It was like sucking on a habanero. Seriously. It made my tongue burn for about 2 minutes and even made me second guess my beer selection swapping it with milk instead. Braving the pepper I went in for the cold draw. It was nearly as peppery and spicy as I was expecting, instead I was greeting with a nice, even draw filled with nice cedar, tobacco, and only a hint of spice.
First Smoke: The foot band on this Cu-Avana Intenso Punisher slid off with ease. Lighting up the cigar was a cake walk as well. As soon as the cigar hit my lips again they almost burned off from the immense amount of pepper this thing packs. One interesting note is, the pepper isn’t necessarily coming form the filler or binder, its transferring from the wrapped cap straight to my lips. It’s like they coat the cap with jalapeno or something. Not very nice. Outside of the pepper I am picking up some nice spice, dark chocolate, earthy flavors and even some cinnamon. I just really wish the pepper wasn’t overpowering the hell out of the rest of the flavors as they are actually pretty enjoyable. The draw on this pepper machine is awesome kicking out huge clouds of thick white smoke with every puff. The Punisher also gives off a good amount of tobacco/cedar scented stationary smoke. The burnline is razor sharp and dead even leaving behind a beautifully compacted trail of white and light grey ash.
Halfway There: Halfway through this Cu-Avana Intenso Punisher and my lips are screaming for mercy. The pepper in this beast just will not give in. I live literally a stone throw from Mexico and this cigar beats the hell out of some of the spiciest of foods I’ve tasted. No joke. The main flavor is of course that pepper, although the underlying flavors are finally starting to show their colors with a very nice cedar, spice, cinnamon and chocolate. The retrohale on this cigar is awesome too boasting almost pure bittersweet chocolate which proves once again that the cap on this cigar is the pepper culprit. In the nicotine category, surprisingly, I’m not feeling anything at all at this point. I may just still be in shock by all the pepper setting my lips on fire to notice though.
Finish: At this point I am very pleased to say that the pepper has really subdued and I am left with the original flavor profile intended for this cigar. First of all, there is a TON of sweetness in this cigar that I wasn’t able to pick up until now. Sucks too cause it is very tasty! Matched with that is a whole ton of cedar, some strong tobacco, cinnamon, and even some clove. Needless to say what lies under the pepper is actually an amazing flavor combination. I am only feeling a slight nicotine kick, if any at all. I can’t tell if it was the beer or the cigar, but I really anticipated having trouble standing once this experience was done. That just wasn’t the case. It took me about an hour and a half to smoke this bad boy down to the nub with no harshness, and actually a very smooth experience within the final inch.
Overview: I really can’t wait till the next time I eat some spicy chili and get to say “I’ve smoked cigars spicier than this!”. Maybe they named it the “Punisher” cause you give it to your friends to punish them for being jerks (Thanks, Lupe). But in all seriousness, the Cu-Avana Intenso Punisher is no freaken joke, and not for the faint of heart. I really, truly think all the pepper ruined the experience for me. I like bolder cigars, but when you just tack on a bunch of crap to make you cigar feel bold it’s a total turn off. Especially considering just how wonderful the flavors hidden underneath all the pepper are. If you are considering buying one of these cigars, I would urge you to pass and consider the standard Cu-Avana Intenso while saving yourself some coin, unless you are looking for a crazy pepper and overall unique experience. I strongly urge any novice smoker to stay as far away from this cigar as you can. Unless you eat jalapenos on a regular basis.
One interesting note is on Cigar.com they actually state the following: “Don’t expect sweetness from this powerhouse and we highly recommend you enjoy this one on a full stomach.” Although I agree with the full stomach portion, I highly disagree with the lack of sweetness. In the final third the cigar was full of sweet tobacco, and it wasn’t just a hint, there was a ton. Just something I found interesting.
Interesting tidbit #2: It looks like my detective skills were spot-on when I stated that the pepper might actually be a pepper or chili coating. Our friends over at Cigar Inspector actually confirmed it.
Pairing: No surprise here pairing yet another cigar with a fine Belgian brew. Delirium Noel, part of the Delirium series (Delirium Tremmens and Delirium Nocturne) from the Brouwerij Huyghe in Belgium, is a 10% ABV winter seasonal Belgian dark strong ale and one of my favorite holiday treats. I will stalk my local spirit stores until I find these on the shelves every year as they fly right off the shelves. The beer pour a nice amber and copper red with some thick head. The taste profile pumps out some very nice citrus, zest, and almost vegetable flavors before finishing off with a smooth malty aftertaste. This beer REALLY helped tone down the Punisher. I wouldn’t recommend anything too strong with this cigar as the cigar is already strong enough, but something with some really nice balancing flavors. A Trippel, while very light, would pair great with this cigar. Hell even some heavily creamed coffee and dare I say milk?!