K. Hansotia and his Gurkha cigar line have done very well over the years by producing high quality cigars that are frequently veiled in mystique and hyperbole. Elaborate bands and boxes that border on the baroque are standard for Gurkha, not to mention the extreme “super premium” cigars infused with rare cognacs that have been advertised for $750 to over a thousand dollars per cigar. While producing some nice cigars, Mr. Hansotia evidently likes to put on a show as well.
But the fog that surrounds this line tends to obscure the simple facts, like who makes this cigar, and what is in the blend? The first Ancient Warriors I encountered were nothing like the ones I smoked for this review; in fact they weren’t even close to being the same — they were Brazilian puros with red bands and ribbons in a giant 7.5 x 50 size exclusive to Cigars International. (I was planning to review that cigar, but couldn’t get through more than half of it without wanting to shoot myself out of boredom. George at the Stogie Guys fared a little better.) So when I first saw the “regular” Ancient Warriors with the yellow and black labels in a local cigar shop, I was of course confused. That seems to be the nature of the Gurkha line.
In 2005, when the Ancient Warrior was introduced, a press release announced its composition:
- Wrapper: Brazil
- Binder: Costa Rica
- Filler: Dominican Republic; Honduras
The information now available on their website (and confirmed by cigarcyclopedia.com) is that the binder is in fact Dominican. To muddy the water further, some retailer sites advertise a Nicaraguan binder. At some point the only thing you can do is throw up your hands and say, Who cares?
So, in that spirit, I clipped this attractive 5 x 56 zeppelin perfecto and put its foot to the fire.
My prelight impression of this cigar was mostly favorable: it smells like well aged and fermented maduro leaf. The roll is solid and even, and the wrapper is invitingly oily. It has a few prominent veins that give it a rustic appearance. The only real flaw here is that the wrapper bleeds a bit. Time to get out my Michael Jackson smoking glove.
Lighting this cigar was easy, and unlike some perfectos I’ve torched recently I didn’t have to play with the burn too much. The first flavor to make an entrance here is the theme to which this cigar returns over and over again: bittersweet chocolate. This is a really nice wrapper — in addition to the chocolate element, there’s a harmonious aroma that slowly turns from musk to wood.
It’s easy on the palate, starting with touches of sweetness on the tips and edges of the tongue and gradually developing a more earthy flavor. The smoke is smooth, medium-bodied, and easy going. The finish is moderate in length and the aftertaste is mildly bittersweet.
At the mid-way point the aroma becomes woodier, but it maintains its basically chocolate profile. Toward the end (for me a bit beyond the 2/3 point) it begins to heat up considerably, and it starts to lose its Bitter/Sweet balance. Finally it falters and falls away from chocolate into an overly tart bitterness.
Overall, the Ancient Warrior is a tasty smoke that offers a lot of flavor while remaining relatively tame. it’s similar to the Carlos Toraño Signature series, with a little less emphasis on the coffee flavors that the Signature offers.
The Ancient Warrior was reportedly designed to be a “more affordable” cigar, but when it comes to the Gurkha outfit it’s hard to tell if that’s the truth, or merely advertising. In any case, these are reasonably priced at around $100 for a box of 20 or $5 to $6 per stick.
The perfectos are a little hard to find right now, but our friends at Fumée World have the 60 ring gauge “El Duke” in stock right now for 5 bucks. And they’re offering a special deal for readers of Keepers of the Flame:
Enter the coupon code “keepersoftheflame” at checkout and get a FREE 1/2 pound bag of Black Dog Coffee!
A perfect companion to this cigar. Of course, the free coffee deal applies to any order from Fumée World, but for the first ten users only. Heather and Ralph run a great shop with the most personal and friendly customer service I’ve run across, so give them a call at 1-877-FUMEE-01 if you have any questions.