As temperatures are starting to return to normal here in the desert, I have found lots more time to sit back, relax, and enjoy a few fine cigars. Among that list is this Gurkha Cellar Reserve that was sent to my by my good friend @revjava by way of Jay Rahal of Port Royal Cigars in Findlay Ohio. Big thanks to you guys!
The Gurkha Cellar Reserve is a cigar that kind of snuck in under my radar. This cigar is a vintage, with 15 year aged tobacco. The wrapper is a Criollo from 1998 bound by a Dominican Olor binder and stuffed with a 15 year old Nicaraguan Criollo filler. They are then carefully placed in 20 count wooden boxes that actually promote aging similar to oak wine barrels. They are available in 5 sizes: 4 x 58 Perfecto, 5 x 58 Double Robusto, 6 x 58 Gran Rothchild, 7 x 54 Churchill and 6 x 60 XO and will range between $6 and $13.
One neat little note is, there is a rumor that this is actually Gurkha’s attempt at a cigar that will compete with Drew Estate’s Liga Privada. Oddly enough the Perfecto is the same size, shape, and pig tailed cap as the Ferel Pig. Let’s see how it measures up.
Size: 6 x 60 - Wrapper: Criollo - Binder: Dominican Olor - Filler: Nicaraguan Criollo
The Gurkha Cellar Reserve is an absolutely beautiful cigar. This size in particular, spots a huge, thick ring gauge. This cigar is a beast and probably weighs more than I do. The wrapper is a beautiful thick, oily, calico brown with dark, and lights browns along with oranges mixed in. There are two larger veins running the length of the wide body up to the massive, round double cap. The Cellar Reserve is finished of with one of, if not the nicest band I have ever seen on a Gurkha. There is a ton of information inlayed with black, god metallic, and red ink into this ivory, matte paper band. Although the information on the band isn’t too informative, it adds a nice touch. The band reads:
“Aged 15 Years. Blended at the K. Hansotia & Co. World Headquarters. Gurkha Cellar Reserve. Restricted reserve from K. Hansotia & Co. Authentic Mark of Honor. Nicaraguan Puro. Batch No. #8582N Quantity #20/k1967 Blend Strength 97.6%. Truly balanced to please the aficionado who is search for a draw perfections, aged oak aroma will sooth the environment and gain praise. Fifteen years of aged tobacco and dedication, has given us another masterpiece. To which only the Elite Blend Master of K. Hansotia & Co. can Create. “
I’d be VERY interested to see if those numbers vary by band. As stated before, I smoked another one, only a different size, and both of the numbers on the band matched.
Anyways, the wrapper on this Gurkha Cellar Reserve has an extremely pleasant woodsy, oaky aroma to it, while the foot of the cigar is nothing more than a very faint sweet tobacco. The cap cut easy and clean using my double bladed Palio Cutter. Instantly upon reaching my lips, I could already taste and feel the pepper from the cigar. Outside of the pepper the cold draw produced a very woodsy, sweet tobacco flavor.
First Smoke: Despite all the pepper the cold draw on this Gurkha Cellar Reserve produced, there was only a slight pepper introduction once the cigar was actually lit up. The main flavors are a ton of upfront oaky goodness mixed in with some strong tobacco, sweet spice, and this incredibly tart flavor rubbing off on my lips from the wrapper of the cigar. The draw is a little loose, but that’s to be expected in such a large ring gauged cigar. The Cellar Reserve produces almost no stationary smoke, but the scent left behind is a really nice burnt wood aroma. The burnline is razor sharp and despite some waves when I first lit up, it’s burning dead even into the first third leaving behind a trail of medium grey, tightly compacted ash. The ash held on for a little over an inch before falling into my ash tray.
Halfway There: You can definitely tell there is some seriously aged tobacco in this Cellar Reserve. The cigar is starting to mellow out into the second third. The flavors have mixed up a bit. No more pepper, at all, now the dominant flavor is this incredibly smooth oak flavor with some interesting red wine and tart citrus notes, finishing with a spice and tobacco. Usually, cigars don’t mellow out this drastically until the final third, if at all, so it will be interesting to see where the cigar goes from here. The draw has actually tightened up a bit since the first third. Now it’s right where I’d like it. The retrohale is VERY sharp and it’s the only time that you can really still taste that pepper along with a lot of other spice notes. I am already starting to feel a little nicotine kick from this Gurkha, but nothing too significant.
Finish: Sadly, into the final third of this Gurkha Cellar reserve, my first instinct had proved correct. The cigar is now falling flatter and flatter producing a really charred, harsh flavor. The same thing happened with the other size I smoked, and I really hoped it was just the format. The final flavors lead in with the charred wood I mentioned, a bit of harshness, some sweet tobacco, and a little bit of oak. The burnline is still rocking solid, and I am getting a hell of a nicotine kick now. All in all this cigar took about an hour and a half to smoke.
Overview: It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Gurkha, but they do have a few cigars that I think are extraordinary, unfortunately, this wasn’t one of them. It’s not bad cigar, and in no way is it as bad as some of the other cigars in their massive line, but it really didn’t live up to what I expected it to be. Beautiful cigar, VERY aged tobacco, great character, but it just didn’t deliver. The cigar started out great and ramped up at the start of the second third, but at the end of the second third it was lights out. The cigar fell flat, became harsh, and lost it’s appeal. It had a lot of potential, but just missed the mark. I wouldn’t rule this cigar out though, I think even more age could do it some good. The Cellar Reserve is another perfect example of good intentions, and an overly powerful cigar that overlooked then entire experience as a whole. If you’re a Gurkha fan, and like strong cigars, this is probably perfect for you.
One a side note, the first cigar I smoked, I kept comparing to the Liga Privada just to see if it measured up. Needless to say, it didn’t. But that lead to something else. Once I smoked this one without comparing the two it really made me appreciate this cigar more. It’s a totally different blend.
Pairing: Ommegang Three Philosophers has always been a favorite of mine. This Belgium Quadruple style Ale can always be found stored away at my house. The beer is brewed at the Ommegang brewery in Cooperstown New York. It boasts a 9.8% ABV and has an extra sumthin’ sumthin’ added to it in the form of real cherries. This beer is composed of 98% Quad ale with 2% ale with Cherries added for that extra kick in flavor. This beer is wonderful, and pairs perfect with any cigar. The flavors start out with a very smooth malt and honey with just a slight bitter hint as well as a cherry aftertaste. This beer really helped bring this cigar up to the next level it needed to badly. I strongly suggest pairing this with a cigar of your own if you haven’t already, It’s relatively inexpensive (about $10 a bottle) and extremely easy to find year round.