Upper Cut is the newest cigar blend to fall from the Punch family tree. It is in part the result of the “Punch Election” conducted by General Cigar: they offered different prototype cigars to willing participants and tweaked the final blend based on the feedback they received.
The promotional material for this cigar focuses on the inclusion of tobacco from the volcanic island Ometepe. This island is actually two volcanoes called Concepción and Madera which rise out of Lake Nicaragua. The name comes from the Nahuatl Ome, meaning two, and tepetl, meaning island. Concepcion is the tallest of the two and is still active, whicle Madera is considered to be extinct. It is on Madera where the rich volcanic soil and tropical conditions allow for the cultivation of a unique type of tobacco.
The Plasencias have been growing cigar tobacco on Madera for years now, and Ometepe leaf can be found in cigars like Bolivar and Partagas Decadas. I don’t know if the filler tobacco in the Upper Cut is from a Plasencia farm, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it is.
One of the beautiful things about volcanic soil is that is tends to be so rich in minerals that little fertilizer is needed, and at the same time it offers excellent drainage. The soil in some parts of Ometepe is too sulfuric, but much of it is perfect for growing crops. (Throughout history people have chosen to live near active volcanoes, despite the risk. The reason is the soil, and how well it supports the crops necessary for life. Like tobacco.)
Ometepe leaf is described as sweet and earthy, and the Upper Cut certainly exhibits those traits. The filler is composed of this and other Nicaraguan tobaccos, which is held in place by a Nicaraguan binder leaf and finished off with a dark Ecuadoran Sumatra capa. Only three sizes are currently in production:
- Grand Corona – 6 x 45
- Robusto – 5 1/4 x 50
- Toro – 6 5/8 x 54
The Grand Corona in this line is a solid, well-built cigar. The wrapper is leathery in appearance with a fine sheen of oil. It’s solidly packed and draws quite well. It burns relatively slowly, needs no maintenance (despite a slightly uneven burn) and produces a righteous ash.
The Upper Cut Grand Corona opens with a sweet woody flavor which quickly reveals a pleasingly complex aroma. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first, but it’s a strange combination of sandalwood sweetness and sulfuric earthiness. Combined with a carmelized brown sugar sweetness on the palate, the taste is unusual and rather beguiling.
The cigar gradually builds in body and loses some of its subtlety at the mid-point, becoming a little more dry. The sweet wood turns more tannic, and the sugars take on a charred aspect. This is a medium bodied cigar at best, but it isn’t light on the palate.
The flavors start to wash out a bit in the last third as the grilled flavors bully the subtle ones off the block. There is some residual sweetness in the aroma though, an earthy, toasted wood scent that is still quite pleasant. Unfortunately, I found these returns diminishing an inch from the band, which was a little disappointing considering how well it started out.
I almost want to give the Upper Cut Grand Corona a split review — an A- for a great first half, and a C+ for a sputtering finale. It comes out of the gate with lots of promise, and for the most part it delivers, but the last third suffers by comparison with the first. But excellent construction gives this cigar a boost, and a reasonable retail price of $6.50 per stick makes this blend worth trying. Besides, some people like that charred flavor. If you’re one of them, and you’re in a medium-bodied frame of mind, I bet you’ll enjoy this cigar.
A special thanks to General Cigar for providing these review samples.