If you live in the British Isles like me and someone mentions Gurkhas, there are good chances you are not thinking about cigars: you might be thinking about the fierce Nepalese soldiers, but even more probably about Joanna Lumley and her fight for the Gurkha’s rights in the UK. Still, if you are interested in cigars the name should sound familiar, if only as the brand that made one of the most expensive cigars, if not THE most expensive cigar ever, going for a whooping 1150$ a pop.
That cigar was the original Black Dragon, released in 2006 as a very limited edition: just 5 hand-carved camel bone boxes of 100 cigars were produced. In 2007 Gurkha released a new more accessible version but after that things become a bit more confusing. The original cigar had the classic Gurkha warrior band as you can see here. The suddenly sometime in 2009 the band changed to show a dragon as you can see above. The band seem not to be the only thing that changed. In its pdf catalogue (caution, huge file) the make up is given as Cameroon wrapper, Dominican binder and Nicaraguan filler – but the online catalogue states the Wrapper is now Connecticut broadleaf with Cameroon binder and Dominican filler… so possibly the one I am smoking tonight should be called the Gurkha Black Dragon Robusto v3.0.
This was my first Gurkha cigar and I was quite curious to have a go. I have heard so many bad opinions on Gurkha cigars that I really wanted to know if they are so bad. I suspect a lot of the hate this brand gets comes from the pricing of of its wares and for the very large focus it puts on marketing and packaging, possibly more than on its cigars. Still, I am a strong believer in the fact that you have to try before you judge and the worst that can happen would be smoking a bad stick.
Gurkha Black Dragon Robusto
Length: 4 1/4″
Price: 7-8$ for a single and boxes of 40 go anywhere between 170 to 280$
Wrapper: Connecticut Brodaleaf Maduro (according to some sources from Ecuador)
Filler: Dominican Republic
Smoking time: 45-50
Body: Starts mild/medium and grows to become medium
Cigars smoked: one
Appearance and pre-smoke
This stubby Robusto is very firm, almost hard except a largish soft spot near the foot and has a dark, almost obscuro Connecticut broadleaf maduro wrapper with a bit of oily sheen and a couple of prominent veins (as you can see n the pic. Both the cap and the seam of the wrapper look a little rustic, but overall I like the looks. I am not sure I could say the same about the band; my 7-year old, who loves karate, found the Dragon incredibly cool. For me it looks a bit cheesy, more something out of a comic book than something I would put on a cigar band.
The wrapper has a rich leather and spice smell and the pre-light draw has some maduro notes (cocoa, a touch of dried fruit).
Having smoked only one of the Gurkha Black Dragon, I cannot exclude I was a bit unlucky, but construction in this cigar had a few minor glitches. The draw is a bit tight throughout, and I have to puff 2-3 times to get a good amount of the rich smoke this produces. Similarly, while the white ash is nice, solid and tight, the burn immediately goes wavey hitting th soft spot I mentioned above. Once corrected, it stays straight for an inch and then again goes a bit all over the place.
The start is pretty much standard maduro notes: cocoa, a slight dried fruit (raisins?) and some sweet spice, only the flavours are pretty diluted and lack intensity. Going on there is more nutty notes and the spice picks up together with an occasional green/floral hint. Possibly the Connecticut binder playing its part here. A bit more powerful than at the start but nothing really striking, intensity-wise
Going towards the middle the taste is pretty much the same as noted before, but it goes progressively sweeter, until at about the halfway point it goes really (sugar candy) sweet and the only other tastes I can recognize are a very weak woodyness and a bit of soft spice. I don’t mind a bit of sweetness in a cigar, but this is cloying.
The last part of the cigar is by far the one I enjoyed more and seemed more balanced. The sweetness is still there, but now it has stronger nutty and floral notes to go with it, the spice picks up and the maduro notes return on the finish. it all works well together, complexity wise. Taste-intensity wise, we’re still middle of the road.
I smoked this Gurkha not expecting much; as I mentioned before, if you have been even a bit around the cigars form you know how many people passionately attack this brand. What I found is a decent cigar, with a couple of issues (burn, weak flavour) but also some good points (nice appearance, smooth to smoke and quite complex) which scores 83 points. Personally, I found the sweetness too much and that is probably the biggest factor which would keep me from getting more of these. Still if you like sweet mellow flavours that aren’t too bold, this might be a nice choice. The other major issue I have with the cigar, but possibly with the whole Gurkha brand, is pricing; for 8$ there is a lot more out there I’d rather be smoking… think if it still costed 1150$ a pop!