Punch Signature Robusto

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The first time I smoked a Punch cigar I was expecting a wallop that never arrived. It’s called Punch for a reason right? Yes, it is, but that’s not the reason.

Punch ultimately derives its name from the “Punch and Judy” puppet shows that were popular in England and France in the 18th and 19th centuries. The plots of the shows were always improvised, but they ran along a familiar line. Punch, an abysmally inept caretaker, is left in charge of the Baby while his wife, Judy, exits momentarily on an errand of some sort. She returns to discover Punch sitting on the poor puppet child, or she finds out that the infant has been run through the sausage machine, or some other unutterable abuse has occurred, upon which she flies into a rage. After assaulting Punch with a conveniently placed implement, a policeman appears, a fight breaks out, and slapstick ensues. Other characters occasionally appear: crocodiles, ghosts, Toby the Dog, et al., and then the show concludes with a battle between Punch and the Devil. Naturally, Punch escapes the retribution that the Dark Puppet has arrived to exact.

Charles Dickens said, “In my opinion the street Punch is one of those extravagant reliefs from the realities of life which would lose its hold upon the people if it were made moral and instructive.” So don’t go looking for a moral to this story.

The character that appears on the band of the Punch Signature cigar is Punchinello, as he is depicted in the 18th century British humor magazine, which borrowed the character from the well-known street shows.

None of which has to do with the power of a cigar. The Punch Signature might change all that.

Agustin Garcia, the blender of the Punch Signature, says that the Punch Signature was inspired by the original Punch blend, but it is clearly a much different cigar. He asks us to “think of it as a brother who has a lot of fire in him, but also respects tradition and the family name.” Truth be told, I think this brother might have been adopted.

Punch Signature was built around an Ecuadorian corojo wrapper specially cultivated for this blend. The binder is a proprietary Connecticut Habano, and the filler is Dominican and Nicaraguan, “of the same variety as the original Punch blend.” The blend is composed of both aged and younger leaf to achieve a balance between the flavor of the old and the strength of the young.

Four sizes are in production:

  • Robusto – 5 x 54
  • Rothschild – 4 1/2 x 50
  • Torpedo – 5 3/4 x 52
  • Gigante – 6 x 60

Punch Signature 2

Construction Notes

The Robusto is about as well made as one could expect — and one does expect this from General Cigar. The wrapper is a dark and oily colorado maduro. The head is nicely rounded and clips well, but the cap is a little messy. Examining the business end of the cigar I notice swirls of darker tobacco in the filler bunch.

The roll is solid, the draw is excellent, and the burn is slow. The ash is firm and yellowish gray, but a little flaky on the surface. This is easily a 90 minute smoke for me. Aside from the occasionally sloppy cap, the construction values here are above par.

Overall construction: Excellent

Tasting Notes

A burst of black pepper coats the tongue and palate in the first segment of the Signature Robusto. There is some astringency here that I associate with Nicaraguan blends, but there is also a lot of leather in the aroma. The pepper gradually subsides, making way for flavors of leather and seared meat. There is a barbecue-like quality to this cigar, a burnt fatty char similar to what you get from the Maillard reaction when searing a good steak.

The aftertaste is earthy and the pepper returns for an encore, but for the most part the flavors don’t change too much. It’s not a subtle smoke, and would probably make a good companion at the grill.

Conclusion

The Punch Signature is a cigar that truly lives up the pugilistic character that the Punch name suggests. It calls for a hearty meal beforehand and a drink that can speak truth to power for about an hour and a half running. MSRP is in the $6-7 USD range. That’s not out of line, though it has some serious competition at that price.

Punch Signature 3

Final Score: 88

Special thanks to General Cigar for providing samples of the Punch Signature Robusto for review. 

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Upper Cut by Punch

 

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.

Photo by Adrian Sampson

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

Construction Notes

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.

Tasting Notes

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.

Conclusion

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.

Final Score: 85

A special thanks to General Cigar for providing these review samples.