Punch Royal Selection No.12

Punch LogoPunch is next. Punch is Cuban Cigar brand, but as with many Cuban brands, also exists outside of Cuba. You know all about families fleeing the country and selling the rights abroad, and the Cuban government seizing the Fabricas and continuing production. The “other” Punch is made in Honduras.

Punch was founded by German born Mr. Stockmann and named it after a character from a puppet show. Don’t you just love the names for Cuban Cigars? The third owner of the brand was Manuel López Fernández, and it is his name that still is mentioned on the boxes. The Cigar I’m about to review is from before 2005, a time this Cigar was released without a band. Since 2005 is does have a band, like in the picture below. In 2010 the Cigar was discontinued. There is a finite amount of excellent tobacco, and other sizes, with larger ring gauges, are more popular these days, so they use the tobacco for that. Today it has to be at least ø50, so no use making and (not) selling something that is a mere ø42…

Punch Royal Selection No.12

Punch Royal Selection No.12 (42 x 129mm, Marevas, Petit Corona, Box code unknown)

Color & Looks: Colorado with small veins. It has some small black spots and some green discoloration. Nothing major. Straight build and feels somewhat flexible. Cuts nicely.

A cru: Nice leather and wood. A deep smell with all kinds of dry leaves. After the cut, quite fresh and mild smelling.

Taste: Starts good, good draw and smoke. Unique spiciness combined with wonderful woody aroma’s with some distinct woody bitterness. Works well with mild coffee. Although overall very mild and soothing, there is a slight chemical edge to it, that stays behind in the back of my throat. After just a few cm’s it seems to be a bit stronger than the mild start. It’s still not a Bolívar, so no worries. The wrapper produces light gray ashes, the filler turns into a darker shade of gray, but also some white and pitch-black ash can be found deep in the heart of the Cigar. A bit of a mess actually. The ash is not firm since it falls off quite easily.

A big part of the taste does remind me of dry Dutch Cigars’ Sumatra tobacco. This definitely is a cigar that has been lying around for a long time. As I said above, this one works well with coffee, but it doesn’t like water as an accompaniment, turning it acidic. Going along, the creamy bit increases. This one doesn’t seem to be tightly rolled, but nevertheless stays firm all the way, even when warming up. Incredible amount of smoke. It may not be a very strong smoke, but the taste is a bit harsh and not completely inviting. I’m doing my best to smoke this slowly, not to let it get too hot. Not a lot of development and most definitely not my favorite Cigar. For me not something I would smoke by itself, it needs some kind of accompaniment. The was quite a bit left when the Cigar turned, so not something you smoke untill you burn your fingers or your lips. Dry and woody throughout and definitely after dinner.

Marevas is a great size, maybe a bit thin for todays taste, but it still is a Cigar, you still are holding something in your hand, without it being tiny like a cigarette. It is most definitely thinner than a Robusto. This would seem a good one when you don’t have a lot of time on your hand. Not so. An older Royal Selection No.12 tends to be woody and harsh. It has to be smoked slowly, because when this gets hot, it is overly woody and even gets bitter. More recent examples, lets say from 2008 and later, are more creamy and definitely milder.

Points: 76

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Bolívar Petit Belicosos Edición Limitada 2009

Bolívar LogoAhhh, finally a Bolívar. This is a first one on these pages. Bolívar isn’t a big global brand for Habanos, but it is available in a lot of markets nevertheless. Not a big brand, but it has a specific and fanatical following under seasoned Cigar smokers. Bolívar is known for heavy and strong Cigars.

This 2009 is the first of two Edición Limitadas there are. In 2014 the second and last was released, which was a Super Corona. Don’t think that this means there aren’t a lot of special releases around, because there are. A lot of Edición Regional versions were made. These are limited editions, released in specific countries or markets. In 2006 the first was released for the German market only, and since then 25 more saw the light of day.

This Petit Belicosos is just like its bigger brother the Belicosos, just 15mm shorter. Another difference is that just like other Edicíon Limitadas the tobacco was aged for two years. As far as I know this Petit Belicoso is made in three different factories and thus boxes exist with three different codes: STA MAY 09, OMA JUL 09 and LRE AGO 09.

Bolívar Petit Belicosos EL 2009

Bolívar Petit Belicosos Edición Limitada 2009 (52 x 125mm, Petit Belicosos, Petit Pyramid, Box code unknown).

Color & Looks: Oscuro. Dark brown. No veins, quite stiff to the touch. When it warms up it becomes more flexible.

A cru: Strong leather smell. Cigarette ashes, mocha coffee and dark chocolate. Sawdust and (old) wood in general. Promising power.

Taste: Good smoke and the draw is good as well. Dark taste with hints of petrol. Stong mahogany wood. The whole is also quite on the woody side. It lacks the creaminess we know from Hoyo de Monterrey, but both brands couldn’t be further apart. This Bolívar is dry and sharp. Heavy indeed. Maximum strength dark chocolate. No stuff for beginners. This definitely isn’t one to start the smoking season with, so to speak. Strong powerful stuff, but by now I believe you get the picture. Extremely dry and woody, almost hard to smoke by itself. I wonder with what to combine this to balance the strength out a bit.

To be honest this doesn’t show a lot of development, even after six years in my humidor. Over halfway through some soapyness appears. The dryness is aided by some herbal notes like cumin and some restrained basil. These are all mere hints since the whole is wood, even more wood and some paper. I don’t know if my palate was anesthetized by this Cigar, but even given its power it doesn’t even have a long-lasting aftertaste, like I had with some Partagás from the past, which I could still taste the next day.

Well built and smokes very easily, but it does burn unevenly. It has a thick wrapper. Luckily the uneven burn is easily corrected. In the end I expected more of this. Ashes is darkest grey, black and brown. No white ashes at all. All the way through I had a craving for apple pie with lots of cinnamon, which I don’t even eat that often, so what does that mean? Will it go nicely with pie? I can tell you it went well with very strong coffee, two hammers, hammer as one.

What can I say. This is a heavy Cigar, and for me it was too much. Did I recognize the quality then? No, not really. I found it harsh, lacking development and it didn’t have a long and lasting aftertaste. Having said that, people who like these heavy Cigars do like this one very much, so I won’t argue with that. It probably is not for me. I have still a few of these lying around, so I’ll let them age more, and see what will happen. Maybe the Cigar will change or maybe I will.

Points: 77

Hoyo de Monterrey Le Hoyo du Prince

Hoyo de Monterrey LogoThe year 2015 passed, without even one Cigar review. How is that possible? Did I quit smoking? No way, but I do have to admit I never started smoking either. Cigarettes are not for me. From the start it was always about Cigars. I smoke for taste I used to say and I never smoked a lot. The place I write from, The Netherlands, is not a tropical country, and I do have to find me a spot for smoking and reviewing Cigars somewhere, since I don’t want to smoke inside the house. As long as I don’t have a place for smoking, I’ll have to wait for some nice weather, and especially time. I need to be left alone with my Cigar for as long as it takes, and that is maybe the real problem here.

Getting the Cigar part of Master Quill back on track, we’ll start with another Hoyo du Monterrey. Hoyo du Monterrey has been featured before on these pages with the Epicure No. 2 and Le Hoyo du Maire. As I said before Hoyo de Monterrey is known to be a light Cigar yet meant for the connoisseur, aren’t we all? I do like Hoyo de Monterrey, untill now they have always been full of aroma, well-built and all smoked very good. I like the blend of tobacco used for this brand. The Cigar I’m about to review is and old one. Aged for a long time. The band you see in the picture was introduced around 2005, and mine doesn’t have that, and no, it hasn’t been removed. I bought a batch of old Hoyo’s quite some years back. Today this Cigar is only released in an SLB 25 (Sliding Lid Box, containing 25 Cigars).

le Hoyo du Prince

Hoyo de Monterrey Le Hoyo du prince (40 x 130mm, Almuerzos, Corona, Box code unknown)

Color & Looks: Light brown, with small veins and very straight. Tightly packed.

A cru: Light chocolate. Leafy with some nice leather notes. Still smells young and leafy. Grassy even. Fresh mown grass. Well I didn’t expect that from this old Cigar.

Taste: For a tightly packed Cigar this still had a reasonable draw. Starts out nice and friendly, not hitting you over the head like some Bolivars. Creamy. Doesn’t produce a lot of smoke, yet tastes great. Warming and creamy and is and goes together well with my coffee. What a great smell. Even second-hand smoke smells great. Becomes slightly spicy with young wood. The leather aroma is young and fresh. A freshly made and oily saddle. Great. The wrapper turns into white ashes and inside it turns black and grey. It’s just a shame it is a bit plugged, and I have to work at it so hard. Maybe this needs to be smoked at a lower humidity. This one here, has a RH (relative humidity) of around 70%.

After 1/3 the wood becomes more serious. Sandalwood and definitely less creamy. Hints of menthol on my lips. Since this is plugged, the smoke gets channeled and flows rather fast and hot. The whole experience gets dryer and more herbal. Half way through, the creaminess surprisingly reappears keeping the whole rather tasty and keeping it relatively mild. Second hand smoke is still great with added mint. That is what ageing will do. The great taste stays untill the very end when you almost burn your lips. It doesn’t become harsh at all. After putting it down I taste some thyme in the back of my throat.

Very tasty and accessible Corona. Definitely worth trying out. I loved it, even this tightly packed one.

Points: 84

Havana Club “Selección De Maestros” (45%, Cuba)

Havana Club is the story of José Arechabala y Aldama (Don José). In 1862 the 15yo José moved from Spain to Cuba, and in 1878 he founded the La Vizcaya Rum company in Cárdenas. He changed the name of the company to his own in 1921 and left his son-in-law José Arechabala y Sainz to run the company. In 1923 José passed away and the second José was killed just a year later by kidnappers. Gabriel Malet y Rodriguez took over, but he died already in 1926 to be succeded by Don José’s nephew José Fermín Iturrioz y Llaguno (Josechu). Under Josechu, the Havana Club brand came to be in 1934. Like so many businesses the company was nationalized on the first of january 1960, and the family moved back to Spain and the US. After nationalization, the government changed the name of the distillery into Havana Club. The Cuban government started selling Havana Club Rum in 1972 in Eastern Europe. In 1977 a new factory went into production in Santa Cruz del Norte and a second factory was opened in 2007 in San José. In 1993 the Cuban government signed a deal with Pernod Ricard, where the latter would take upon itself to “sell” Havana Club to the consumer all over the world except for the US, because Bacardi already sells a brand of Rum called Havana Club (made in Puerto Rico) in the US since 1994, after buying the name and recipe from the Arechabala family. Pernod Ricard and Bacardi, both Giants in the drinks business, are fighting over the brand and its use in the US in court ever since…

Havana Club Selección De Maestros (45%, OB, Cuba)Color: Full gold, toffee.

Nose: Just like the Cubay 10yo, this is full on aroma. Again a Rum that jumps at you from the glass, so don’t pour yourself too much at once. Somewhat less creamy and soft, but sharper and seems to have a more pronounced wood nose. A treat to nose, well-balanced but again not the most complex stuff in the world. It’s probably just the Cuban style I guess. Hints of mocha, milk chocolate and hazelnuts. Wood becomes more and more dominant. Pencil shavings and fresh succulent oak, but also a sharp dry oaky smell which transgressed into a more paper and dry leafy note. So lots of oak in the nose. Raw in a good way.

Taste: Yup oak again, but only for a short while. The sweet constituents are quick to take over. Sugar water, and creamy toffee. Quite warming and good length. This has some serious staying power for a Cuban Rum, which is supposed to be light. Quite creamy and some caramel, in a way I like my Havana Cigars. Compared tot the Cubay 10yo, this has 5% more ABV and it shows. Good length and good delivery. Fruity black tea. Overall this isn’t a very complex Rum, but it does have something of a bite and again is very drinkable and loveable. Wood. The pencil shavings from the nose stays behind for the aftertaste.

Definitely in the same style as the Cubay 10yo, but for me it even has more simplicity, which in this case is not necessarily a bad thing. Remember the Cubay has something I liked and couldn’t put my finger on? Well I still haven’t found out what it is, but this Havana Club I like as well. Overall quite nice and drinkable. I love the slightly higher ABV. On the other hand, it’s also a bit raw, good raw, and lacks a bit of complexity and development, which in this case I don’t mind. A bit young, and definitely a lot of fresh oak, but for me this one surpasses the Cubay 10yo in balance. Nice and tasty stuff but maybe a wee bit too expensive.

Points: 83

Cubay 10yo “Reserva Especial” (40%, Cuba)

Ron Cubay was founded in 1964 in Santo Domingo, which is some 25o km’s to the east of Havana. The Cubay rum is produced in the Cuba Ron distillery, which also produces… yes you’ve guessed it: Havana Club. Cigar lovers will already recognize the marketing plan similar to that of Cohiba, and later, the Trinidad brand. The Ron Cubay brand was intended for domestic consumption only. But soon after taking a course in marketing and dare I say it: capitalism (I’m just kidding), it became apparent it was time to export the next Cuban brand, so the Ron Cubay was first exported only five years ago, in 2010. I just don’t know if the Cubay brand was shrouded in the same kind of mystery as Cohiba and especially Trinidad (as Fidel’s private brand).

The full range of Ron Cubay consists of five variants of which only three are exported. The 3yo “Carta Blanca” (a White Rum), the 7yo “Anejo” and the 10yo “Reserva Especial”. They found the 4yo “Carta Dorada” and the 5yo Anejo Suave” a bit obsolete and settled for the 3yo, the 7yo and 10yo. Ron Cubay is produced with Cuban molasses from sugar cane. In Cuba it is illegal to use imported molasses for making Cuban Rum. Cubay is distilled with a column still. The 10yo I’m about to taste is fully matured in American white oak casks of different sizes and levels of char.

Cubay 10yo Reserva EspecialColor: Orange gold, toffee.

Nose: Aromatic and sweet, creamy and buttery. This flies out of my glass. Citrussy and fresh. Hints of oranges and fermented apple-juice. Light black tea with a splash of lemon. Vanilla latex paint. All of this is mixed with quite some wood, but in no way is the wood overpowering. Its soft and soothing, sometimes meaty and only gives a spicy backbone. Mixed in with the wood, some aged Calvados and honeyed sugar-water. So the apply part is growing. Altogether fruity and if you want it, there is some florality as well. Great balance. A lovely nose.

Taste: Fruity and very appetizing. Toffee and hard coffee candy. Some wood upfront, but even less than in the nose. Quite warming, and when the first sip goes down a more dry woody residue stays behind in my mouth. Woody and licorice. Again not overpowering. The start of the body is the best part for me, quite some vanilla combined with a tasty fruitiness. The development into the finish is eventful. Something is happening. The finish has medium length, with a hint of walnut bitterness, and has a tendency to fall apart a bit into the wood spice and an acidic fruity part. This is much less pronounced than in the Abuelo 12yo, where the acidic fruity part bothered me a bit. Sugar water again, and after a while it’s gone. The aftertaste shows this has been in wood for 10 years. I would say the bitterness is slightly hoppy now. More pronounced and velvety and less fatty than the initial walnut bitterness.

Nice stuff and dangerously drinkable. Especially in the taste not overly complex, but just tasty. Although this has quite some aromatics it has the strength of the scent of a flower, so I’m not sure if you should use this as a mixer. I know for sure it will do well as a nipper. I can’t put my finger on it yet, but I really like it. Recommended.

Points: 82

Matusalem Gran Reserva Solera 15 (40%, Dominican Republic)

Matusalem was founded in 1872 in Cuba by the Spanish Brothers Benjamin and Eduardo Camp. They especially went to cuba to distill Rum. Being Spanish they knew about the Solera-system often used to make Sherry and Brandy, so they incorporated that into the way they wanted to make Rum. In 1912 Benjamin returned to Spain but Eduardo stayed behind to run the company by himself, or did he? The Camp brothers had a partner in Evaristo Alvarez, so it was with him that Eduardo continued the Company. Funny enough in the end Eduardo’s son Claudio Alvarez LeFebre, married Evaristo’s daughter, making it a real family business! Their son Claudio Alvarez Soriano was the next in line to take over the business.

Matusalem Gran Reserva 15 SoleraIn 1959 the Cuban Revolution took place and the family moved their business to the U.S. of A. and the cuban’s turned the facility the family had to leave behind into the production facility of Ron Santiago. As with many families, when a lot of offspring shows up in a business where most of them don’t belong and are in it only for financial gain, they run it into the ground. The great-grandson of Eduardo, Claudio Alvarez Salazar took over the business in 1995 after a settlement with the rest of the family and moved the production to the Dominican Republic.

Color: Dark gold.

Nose: Light and lightly sugary sweet. Floral notes and lightly fruity too. Hint of perfumy wood, jasmine and some vanilla. Acidic red currants and some sugar. Tiny hint of toasted wood.

Taste: Light, very light, with a floral and woody touch. Passes quickly through the mouth in which the woody bitterness and a burnt note are the most obvious. Very thin in texture and actually in taste too. Not all is working well together in the taste here. Short and not the best of finishes.

It’s Obvious the Alvarez family is proud, not of their Spanish heritage, but of their Cuban one. So for a rum that is made in the Dominican Republic, the label states quite proudly that the Rum is from Cuban origin, and for me fits right in into the Cuban style but isn’t the best expression from that style.

Points: 75

Los Statos de Luxe Delirios

Los Statos de Luxe LogoLos Statos de Luxe, as you might have guessed from the name, was one of the cheaper brands coming from Cuba. Not a lot is known about the brand. Founded around 1940, and was totally discontinued around 2005. From 1980 on, the brand was no longer hand-made and all the models were machine-made and had a ring size of 40. Three of the five produced models were 140mm long, and the other two were 123 mm long, which makes our Delirios their smallest cigar. Delirios were only sold in a cardboard packaging containing 10 cigars.

This is a  Cuban Delirios by Los Statos de Luxe (40 x 123mm, Standard Mano, Petit Corona, Box Code Unknown).

Los Statos de Luxe Delirios

Color & Looks: Colorado, mocha brown. Looks smooth but the wrapper is very thin and cracks easily. No veins. The Cigar is very light and is very loosely packed. Mediocre build, but it doesn’t look bad and keeps it together.

A cru: Light and grassy. Typical light cigar with hints of leather.

Taste: Initial taste is light and pleasant. Tasteful and easy-going. An excellent everyday smoke and dirt cheap to boot. Actually a shame it isn’t available anymore. It used to be quite unremarkable, but with some extended time in the humidor it picked up really well. Tasty! Ash is light grey and almost white. Due to the loose build, the cigar burns extremely fast, and just after two cm’s an added note of gasoline enters the fold. as do some other chemicals. Ash falls off quickly. Fennel and grassy and wine-cellar notes. Good puffs of smoke and tastes rather well with a mild coffee.

The second half is less interesting than the first half, but there is enough quality in the whole to begin with. The second half is a bit harsher, stronger and lacks complexity. More wood and dirt now, but also leather and ammonia, altogether more chemical toward the end. To sum up, a pleasant Cigar with some chemical off-notes. A good start of my Cigar smoking season I would say…

Points: 78