Somewhere in an unknown location, a group of masterminds is hatching a plan so bold, so ambitious, and so daring, that only a select few know of it’s existence. Well, maybe the location isn’t exactly unknown (Nestor Plasencia’s blending room in Esteli, Nicaragua, and the select few will grow in numbers as this notice gets posted), but the plan is, none-the-less, ambitious and daring. It’s the advent of a cigar like no other.
It’s genesis came from the desire to create a cigar with unprecedented flavor and strength. Today’s smokers have become increasingly accustomed to strong cigars with a spicy character, and the marketplace seems to support this trend with each new release. Just a few short years ago, cigar companies upped the ante with “double ligero” blends (ligero being the strongest, uppermost leaves from the tobacco plant). Soon triple ligero followed and now many cigar makers offer blends that are nearly all ligero. (A 100% ligero cigar could not stay lit without the combustibility of additional lower priming leaves).
Never content to leave the bar set at any current level, the young cigar “guns”, who have inherited the business from their ancestors, are always seeking new ways to expand their cigar blend repertoires. But where could it go from here? The cigar smoking experience is already exceptionally strong, rich, and spicy. Have we hit the cigar “flavor barrier”? It would appear not. With the advent of a cigar codenamed The Punisher, members of Cigars International and the blenders at Nestor Plasencia’s blending room, have set out to create that next level of the cigar smoking experience. While on a recent trip to Mr. Plasencia’s Segovia factory, I happened upon a sample of the Punisher and was invited to give it a test run. It turned out to be a unique smoking experience, one that took me by surprise.
Unlike any other cigar I’ve smoked, the Punisher makes a big impression even before it is lit. By simply placing the cigar in my mouth, the sensation of heat quickly spread over my lips and tongue. It was apparent that this wrapper had a physical spiciness, somewhat like that of a mild chili. It was not an overwhelming burning, but rather a sensuous warming sensation. Upon lighting I was delighted to find an exceptionally smooth cigar with a lush draw and great complexity. With flavors of cinnamon, licorice, and raisons, the smoke had a chewy quality that, coupled with the physical spiciness, made for an almost culinary experience. Eventually, the physical sensation tapered off, (was I getting accustomed to it?) and seemed to meld perfectly into the flavors within the tobacco. The overall experience of smoking The Punisher was actually elevated by the addition of its spicy wrapper.
The bottom line
This was a cigar I could not put down. It was almost like eating a great meal. But this is not a cigar for everyone. If Connecticut Broadleaf is your wrapper of choice, this cigar might indeed feel punishing. But for adventurous cigar smokers, looking for a new smoking experience, this cigar is a must-try. Exactly when that opportunity will present itself is yet unknown. The Punisher is only in the early stages of development and the manufacturing details (how much tobacco to buy, how many sticks to make, etc) still need to be worked out. But when it does become available, I recommend it to anyone who enjoys full strength cigars and spicy food. Because this is a big ol’ meal of a cigar…bon appétit!
Endnote: The name Punisher was used because the intent was to make a cigar exceptionally strong. But this incarnation was so delicious that I suggest the name be changed to The Feast.
Update: The Punisher is scheduled for a March/April 2011 release. It will be sold at B&M retailers throughout the US and distribued by Meier & Dutch. There will be only one vitola, a 52×6 torpedo (tube). Price has yet to be determined.