Lately I find myself more and more in Scandinavia for work. Although there is a part of me that wishes I could visit Switzerland, and its cigar stores, instead – I have to admit that I enjoy working there. Once you figure out how people tick you cannot fail to appreciate the no bullshit, honest, direct but still friendly way people behave there. And from a cigar point of view, things aren’t great but not even that bad. Many hotels still offer smoking rooms and Gothenburg and Stockholm have some nice cigar stores.
A while back I was visiting one of them (Brobergs in Gothenburg) and my eyes landed on the Punch Northern Lights, the 2009 Regional Edition exclusive to the Nordic Countries… would you have resisted?
I didn’t think so.
Limited Edition cigars are one of those topics that split cigar lovers. For many they are overpriced marketing gimmick cigars, that are not worth their price or reputation. According to one story i have heard, the first RE were release because of an over-supply in substandard wrapper needed to be used for something. I have no idea if this is true. On the other hands, the collector love them and some people will hunt for all the RE released each year just to have a complete collection. And then there are the inbetweeners, who are unhappy about the price and limited availability, but still curious to see how these REs fare compared to normal lines, which is where I firmly pur myself. The Northern Lights are the first RE from Habanos I try and I am definitely looking forward to see how they fare.
Punch Northern Lights
Length: 4 3/4″
Price: Being exclusive to the Nordic market you can expect to pay a rather high price (considering taxes) for these. Having said that, Sweden is probably the country selling these cheapest – I bought a box (10) for just over 150£.
Smoking time: 70
Cigars smoked: two
Appearance and pre-smoke
Definitely one of the best looking Cubans I have laid my hands on. The colorado wrapper is oily and almost vein free and the quadruple cap is applied perfectly; I had never seen a cap with four layers before and to be honest I am not really sure it serves any functions, but well… it looks cool!
It feels nice and heavy when I pick it up, packed but not hard. The wrapper has that nice fermented aroma Cuban cigars often seem to have, but with some added sweet spice. The pre-light draw is just a little tight but far from plugged and tastes of toasted tobacco and sweet spices.
The first puffs are subtly nutty, but quickly the intensity picks up and the Northern Lights is all on very clean notes of rich toasted tobacco, nuts and sweet spices (nutmeg possibly). The finish is pleasant and has just a hint freshness, almost like mint. FOr a young cigar I am surprised by how smooth and clean this is at this point.
As they say… you shouldn’t speak too soon. The middle part of the cigar has nice peanut brittle and cedar notes but quickly shows its young age becoming tannic and rough with green notes. Not terribly surprising considering that cigars under a year of age tend to go through a so called “sick” phase, still I was hoping for more after the impressive start.
The young roughness carries over a bit, but it slowly goes back to clearer flavours of leather, spice and sweet finish. Not terribly complex maybe, but enjoyable. It does not overheat until the nub, another sign of great construction.
If Habanos could churn out cigars that smoke all as well as the Northern Lights I had, they’d give all the Cuban cigar lovers a reason to rejoice and take away an argument from all the naysayers. This is a cigar that burns well and slow – it needed just a minor correction to stop it canoing. The draw is just a little tight; I find concentrates the smoke -which here is abundant, rich and creamy- more enhancing the taste. It might even make a cigar fetishist happy as I only needed to ash the cigar twice.
According to some sources this is supposed to be a mild cigar. Maybe I am a wimp, but I definitely found this to be in the medium range.
Cuban Regional Edicion cigars are known for being usually young when released, and this is the argument -together with their price- that many bring against them. The Northern Lights at the moment certainly fit the stereotype; they are rough and green and certainly not cheap. And yet, their construction, the first third and even the end point to a cigar that can potentially be very good with time. The score for the moment is an 87 but it could easily reach 90 or more with some aging, once the tannic green notes disappear.
They are certainly pricey smokes, but before deciding if they are worth it or not I probably will need another 6-12 months, waiting for them to age a bit more. In any case I cannot say I regret buying them though I do not see myself looking around the web chasing Regional Editions to complete my collection any time soon.