Over the years I have really questioned whether aging a cigar is always worth the effort. I’ve made a committed attempt, but so far I haven’t found it to be uniformly successful. Obviously there are many dedicated proponents of cigar aging, but I was heartened to read that Jose “Don Pepín” Garcia is not one of them. A few years ago he was at an event and a participant asked him if aged cigars were better than freshly rolled sticks. “A ten year old cigar, you might as well smoke paper.” Garcia said that cigars are meant to be enjoyed while the oils and moisture are still present — and it makes sense as a cigar maker that he would say this. He’s blending cigars to be smoked with the qualities that the tobacco has now, not what it will have years from now.
So it is a little ironic that of all the cigars I’ve aged, this one has performed the best over time — Garcia’s Nacionales W El Mundo. I picked up a handful of these in 2006 at the Cigar King in Scottsdale, Arizona, for which the Nacionales is made. I smoked most of them then (you can see the original review here), but this one has been resting quietly in my long-term humidor ever since. The cellophane has taken on a yellowish-brown hue, but aside from that the cigar still looks perfect.
The El Mundo is a 5.5 x 52 robusto with a triple-wound pig-tail cap that makes it look like a Cabaiguan Guapo. The wrapper is a Nicaraguan Corojo 99, and if any of the oils have volatilized over the years it’s not easy to see — the leaf is supple and displays a nice sheen. The roll is solid, and the draw is as perfect as you can get. I was surprised to find that the prelight scent of the tobacco is still pungent with earth and musk.
It often takes a few minutes for an aged cigar to awaken after its long slumber in the humidor, but the Nacionales W perked up right away with a dry woody flavor and a dash of black pepper on the tongue. The flavors of this cigar suddenly came back to me — dry tannins, woody spice, and a sweet semi-floral note on the nose. The aroma is complex, exhibiting everything from cocoa to sandalwood.
At the mid-point this cigar is wonderfully expressive, and I think it probably has improved over time. The tannins have dropped off a bit but the pepper lingers on the palate. There is a bready note that I rarely notice in non-Cuban cigars. The body is in the medium range, and even after five years the nicotine kick is still considerable.
The last third of the cigar is earthy with coffee and cocoa-like overtones. The finish is lengthy and the aftertaste somewhat bitter at the very end.
After five years, the Nacionales W shows none of the evanescence that the blender fears — this is a solid smoke that is every bit as complex and enjoyable as it was on its release, if not more so. My only complaint is that I don’t have more of these on ice. With the tremendous surge in Don Pepín’s production it doesn’t seem likely that the blend is exactly the same today, though there’s always hope.
But at least the Nacionales W is still available, presumably in a formulation that is at least close to the one here. This blend is available only from Cigar King, and the El Mundo size sells for around 6 USD each. I’ll be tempted to pick up a few more the next time I swing through the Phoenix area.