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Before the Punch marca was decimated some years back there were at least 4 excellent Corona Gordas under the brand at one time, possibly five. But now, Punch Punch is the last remaining CG, which makes it a classic. I always preferred the ones that came in SLBs, specifically the SS2 and the RS11, but Punch Punch was never far behind. I've been reading about the revival of this vitola for a couple of years, so I've collected a few specimens for sampling dating from 2013-2016 in a few trades. The one I pulled today had a distinct square press, and felt very stiff throughout, I was worried it might be a tent peg, but draw was only a little tight. The slightly reddish wrapper was a toss between pale colorado and somewhere between milk and dark chocolate. One thing is certain, this is a well rolled and very pretty cigar, nearly flawless wrapper, smooth even seams, minor veins, it almost glows. For pairing I poured a dram of Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, a beautiful 12-year old reddish single malt with a port finish, a truly excellent scotch. Over the years I have found a good scotch makes a perfect pairing with Punch CGs of the past, it seems to bring out nuances in the flavor and heightens the intensity of the cigar. First few draws after lighting confirmed the roll was excellent, and there were no restrictions. First impressions of taste were a solid toasted tobacco core, somewhat pure, refined and unvarnished. The aroma that filled the air was a pleasant woody tobacco aroma. Body was medium throughout the first third. As the first third expired there was no notable transition to the second. Body, flavor and aroma remained consistent, delivering rich, premium tobacco qualities throughout, with a thick creamy mouth feel. Although pleasant enough, I was expecting more depth, more variety to the flavor profile, and I kept thinking it would evolve and transition. But so far it has been pure premium tobacco throughout. The burn is nearly flawless, wavering a tad now and then, but pretty much self correcting. I may have touched it up once. The second third came and went, and the final third continued in the same footsteps as the first two. Solid tobacco was omnipresent, with little variety or change in the flavor. There was a minor trace of baked bread in the smoke trail I inhaled through my nostrils as I dragged, and body amped up a tad but was still medium in strength. Beyond that the profile remained constant. I did sense I was getting a nicotine buzz, and felt a little light-headed as the final third came to close, which made me think I'd better get a little something to eat to calm my stomach. I did my best to nub the Punch, and laid the carcass to rest with little more than an inch of tobacco left. Overall, I was not very impressed with this classic. Punch was a staple in my smoking rotation for over a decade, and I grew accustomed to the immense complexity and rich flavors that were the hallmark of the Super Selection and Royal Selection vitolas. This one, albeit just 2 years aged, was too one-dimensional. It seemed to have pedigree quality tobacco, but it just never developed beyond the basic tobacco core, there were no nuances or transitions of note, it just simply smoked like a cigarette - perfectly consistent and perfectly boring. I won't write these off on just one specimen, I'll give it another go in the near future. But if this is indicative of the new Punch profile, then I'll gladly move on to Montecristo which has been stellar for me in the past 2 years. Shame. I rate this specimen a 7 out of 10 on my personal scale, not a terrible cigar, not a cigar I would go too much out of my way to find.
I've decided to post my 2016 Xmas Sampler Review in the Review Section for future reference purposes. It was originally posted in February this year in the 'Daily Smoke' thread... Cigars I've smoked lately... The 2016 Xmas Sampler (dedicated to our dear friend @Hurltim) Did you happen to pick up El Pres' 2016 Xmas Sampler? These cigars represent Rob's most consistent quality cigars for 2016. I smoked through these fine cigars during my January vacation time, on my own, watching sport, watching movies and sometimes in the fine company of some other dear fellow cigar enthusiasts. I promised Hurltim I'll review these when done, but as February is a busy month in Australian work life culture (as a result of everyone returning from leave en masse!), I've finally been able to find some time to share my findings! Firstly, below are the 13 cigars included... They are, from left to right, Diplomaticos Bushido, Diplomatico No.2, Bolivar Coronas Gigantes, Partagas Lusitanias, Montecristo No.1, Fonseca No.1, H.Upmann Magnum 56 LE 2015, Ramon Allones Club Allones LE 2015, Punch Punch, Bolivar Belicosos Finos, San Cristobal de La Habana La Fuerza, Hoyo de Monterrey Le Hoyo du Prince and Cohiba Robustos. My review will follow in chronological order... 1. Ramon Allones Club Allones LE 2015 (SOM Dic 15) I decided to start off with the 'powerhouses', the most full-bodied of the lot. I smoked this and the BBF watching the Boxing Day Cricket Test, which is traditionally Australia's most watched and attended event of the sporting summer. The Australian cricket captain, Steve Smith and leading bowler, Mitchell Starc were hitting runs aplenty on this day of the test, and it was exciting to watch Australia comeback to bowl Pakistan out and win the game. This cigar was so strong, much stronger than other RACA I've had. It had the traditional stewed profile that I enjoy in Ramon Allones, but the nicotine buzz of this wore me out by the late afternoon. 2. Bolivar Belicosos Finos (TOR May 16) So, by the time lit this in the early afternoon I was somewhat feeling a little drowsy, on account of the strong Ramon Allones Club Allones LE I had earlier and the warm weather of this particular Sydney afternoon. I thing I enjoy about BBF's are when they have an element of cream to them, alas, no such luck here. It had typical flavours associated with this vitola such as earthiness, leather, sour dough spine dipped in coffee and dark chocolate. Still, I hold hope for the next BBF I smoke! 3. H.Upmann Magnum 56 LE 2015 (MEG Mar 16) This is the special cigar I decided to have on New Year's Day this year. I made a Brandy Alexander for myself and my wife, and together with my standard long black espresso coffee, this cigar was one of the highlights of my summer! What can I say in regards to accolades about the H.Upmann Magnum 56? Smoke aplenty, mild chocolate (like all limited editions, eh?), toasted tobacco, licorice and so beautifully refined. Yes, I wish it wasn't 56 ring gauge, but I used my Credo 3-in-1 punch cutter again on this and 'sipped' it from the back. 95 minutes of pure joy and yes, I gladly nubbed it...look below! 4. Hoyo de Monterrey Le Hoyo du Prince (TOR Jun 16) When I smoked this on the 3rd of January, little did I know that I would be saying goodbye to a dear friend. Why, oh why did I not get more boxes? Oh well, I'll live with what I have and I'll try to get some more this year, if I can. Still, I'm in disbelief in regards to this fine cigar being deleted in 2017. Rob mentioned in his tasting notes the following,..cream, cedar, bitter cooking chocolate and black coffee. This description is about spot on for me. My recommendation for all Le Hoyo line HdM, is to age them. If you enjoy them young, try to smoke through half a box, and rest what's left for a minimum 5 years. That combination of cream and cedar, when aged, is just so ineffable. Some of you will know what I mean. 5. Punch Punch (ALO Mar 16) Did you get yourself a 50 cab of these recently? Well, I certainly hope you did. The Punch Punch will be around in 2018, but only in 25 dress boxes, there's something nostalgic about this in 50 cabs that this cigar deserves. Again, I very much enjoyed this, cream, leather, spice...just Punch at its finest, and how surprised was I on account of its youthfulness? I wish there were two of these in the sampler! 6. Diplomaticos No.2 (TOS Mar 16) This was the very best of all the cigars I smoked from the Xmas Sampler. Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Sourdough...just 100 minutes of sweet joy that I hope Habanos S.A can replicate for this cigar for sometime. If you've put this away, or are smoking through some TOS 15/16 Diplomaticos No.2 currently, you are truly fortunate! 7. San Cristobal de La Habana La Fuerza (TOS Mar 16) Cocoa, coffee, molasses and sweetbread...this is quintessential San Cristobal de La Habana. This is a marca I absolutely adore because I'm a sweet tooth. This cigar was very, very good and I was well-satisfied, but it goes to show how good the Punch Punch and Diplomaticos No.2 were on this day for me to rate those vitolas higher. 8. Cohiba Robustos (ETP Jun 16) This, and the next two cigars, I enjoyed in the company of some fine Sydney Friends of Habanos members at a get together at my house. Again, it was a warm Sunday summer's day, but this Robusto was still distinctively Cohiba, with that combination of grass/hay, honey, citrus and cream we all know and love. 9. Fonseca No.1 (UME Mar 15) Apparently this cigar has been deleted a few years ago, but it just seems to go into production now and then ever since the announcement. Wood, floral notes, soft marshmallow and very, very mild. This is suitable for a change of pace. Construction on this was outstanding! 10. Montecristo No.1 (BUM Abr 15) How good is it to have this Lonsdale cigar smoking this well? This was the third cigar of our get together and I think I saved the best for last! Montecristo cocoa, cream and leather in a 1 and 3/4 hours smoke. I don't think I have these often enough! 11. Diplomaticos Bushido (TOS Oct 15) This is an incredibly special Asia Pacifico Regional Edition release. You know this from the very fact that the cigar is tapered at the head, a Numero 109, a vitola saved for the very best cigars. And, this is one of those cigars so deserving of that praise. I saved this for a get together with Trevor and Alex to discuss Cuban Cigar Website on a mid-week day in January. Unfortunately, the day was extremely hot, over 100°F (38°C). Still, I savoured that Diplomaticos sourdough and cinnamon goodness, and the fine, fine company! 12. Partagas Lusitanias (OBM Jun 16) I can't remember the last time I had a double corona, but after having this, I made sure to pick up a box from a 24:24 sale soon after. I found this like a milder Partagas Shorts...mild, smooth spice, coffee and sourdough. It went for 2 hours and 5 minutes and after I finished it I wanted to light one up immediately thereafter! 13. Bolivar Coronas Gigantes (PUR Mar 16) I smoked this watching 'La La Land' with my wife and boy did this cigar send me there. Oh what a pity it's being deleted, and even though Bolivar is not favourite marca on account of the earthiness in its profile, still, I can appreciate the spice, coffee and toasted tobacco spine. How apt I should end the Sampler series on this cigar. Farewell BCG...you will be long remembered!