Late last year, I prepared a historical backstory as a prelude to my review on the Bombay Tobak Gaaja cigar. I wrote—
Some sixteen years ago, as California cumulus clouds drifted above the venerable county clubs of the Sonoran Desert, Mel Shah decided that it was time to exit the high-pressure, dog-eat-dog world of Information Technology. Armed with a M.B.A. in Marketing from North Maharashtra University, Shah opened the upscale Fame Wine and Cigar Lounge in downtown Palm Springs in 2001. Initially, the store’s humidor was stocked with several dozen boxes of cigars which he had purchased from JR Cigars in North Carolina.
Over the course of the next decade, Mel began to establish relationships with tobacco dealers and growers throughout Central America. As his knowledge about the industry increased, Shah gradually developed a vision for a line of boutique, super-premium cigars. After being rejected by over twenty manufacturing facilities, Mel finally found a small company in San José, Costa Rica that would roll cigars to his demanding specifications while utilizing his carefully-selected and specially-fermented selection of tobaccos. In 2014, Shah launched Bombay Tobak. Within a short time, his meticulously-crafted MBombay vitolas were embraced by both smoking enthusiasts and the press.
After smoking the Bombay Tobak Gaaja, I awarded it a 94% “RESPLENDENT” rating. However, the final score reflected a one-point deduction due to the fragile nature of its very thin and easily damaged Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper.
At the beginning of this year, Mel Shah announced the addition of a maduro-wrapped version of the Gaaja and appropriately named it the Gaaja Maduro. The company stated—
For Gaaja Maduro blend, we have used Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper. This wrapper has played a very important factor in increasing the flavor and the body to the cigar. Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper has definitely added more complexity into the mix. Rest of the composition of the Gaaja cigar has not been changed, being said, the proportions have been adjusted to make the cigar taste more “complete”.
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Gaaja Maduro Breakdown
- Wrapper: Brazilian Mata Fina
- Binder: Ecuadorian HVA Mejorada Seco
- Filler: Dominican HVA Mejorado Ligero | Dominican Criollo 98 Viso | Ecuadorian Criollo 98 Viso | Peruvian Hybrid Habano Seco | Paraguayan Hybrid Habano 2000 Viso
- Factory: Tabacos de Costa Rica (Costa Rica)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 6½” × 54 “Torpedo”
- Price: $15.50 (MSRP)
The Gaaja Maduro is the first line extension to Bombay Tobak’s Gaaja brand. This new line of cigars is offered in two sizes—a toro (6” x 54, $15.50 MSRP), and a torpedo (6½” x 54, $15.50 MSRP). Individually wrapped in cellophane, the vitolas are shipped in convenient ten-count cedar boxes with a hinged lid.
Like its older brother, the Gaaja Maduro is constructed with five filler tobaccos, including rarely-used leaves from Paraguay and Peru. Additionally, all three divisions of the tobacco plant are represented in the cigar—ligero (strong flavor – top leaves) from the Dominican Republic; viso (medium flavor – middle leaves) from Ecuador, Paraguay, and the Dominican Republic; and seco (mild flavor – bottom leaves) from Peru. The cigar’s Ecuadorian HVA Mejorada binder is ensconced with a Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper instead of the delicate Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper used in the original Gaaja release.
The Gaaja Maduro Torpedo is a highfalutin looking cigar, with a perfectly applied torpedo cap of average length and a hefty ring gauge. It cuts a swarthy figure when held between the fingers or resting at the edge of an ashtray. The original Gaaja was described in the company’s literature as being box-pressed, but it was actually an unusual blend of both a box-press and a Spanish-press shape—the bottom of the cigar was ruler-flat, while the sides and the top of the cigar were slightly rounded. The cigar was rolled in this manner to maximize combustion qualities, which was claimed to produce more flavor and a fuller draw. In the case of the Gaaja Maduro Torpedo, the cigar’s cross section reflects a fairly tight box press. The torpedo’s Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper is quite smooth—with tight seams, a few veins, and almost imperceptible tooth. Its color is a mixture of milk chocolate, sandy brown, and topaz, with a few contrasting splotches of cordovan scattered across the face. There is also a light amount of oiliness on the wrapper.
The Gaaja Maduro is encased with a traditional band containing an embossed oval logo in blue, gold, red, and seafoam. At an arm’s-length distance, the logo resembles an Art Nouveau interpretation of an elephant’s face (The Gaaja name derives from the Sanskrit word meaning “elephant”). To the left of the logo, “Bombay Tobak” is printed in cursive typeface while on the right “GAAJA” is printed in block capitals. Firmly packed from the foot to the cap, the wrapper aroma is a delicate combination of cocoa, dried fruits, leather, and natural tobacco, while the open foot smells of cedar, damp soil, and manure.
After the cap of the torpedo is removed with a double guillotine cut—to ensure the maximum amount of taste from the wrapper, binder, and filler—the initial cold draw is just a bit firm. Flavors of oak, pepper, and toffee immediately touch the palate, while a delicate tingle of pepper and spice spreads across the lower lip.
After toasting and lighting the cigar with a soft double-flame lighter, the first few draws produce creamy notes of drip-brewed coffee, hardwoods, leather, mocha, and peanut shells. As the torpedo settles into the burn, the Brazilian Mata Fina wrapper begins to contribute its general characteristics to the mix—a fair amount of overall sweetness along with an unusual earthy aroma. This combination quickly culminates in a mouthwatering flavor profile that attractively coats the entire tongue and the roof of the mouth while producing a lingering finish. The draw of the Gaaja Maduro is open with just a touch of desirable resistance, generating a prodigious amount of smoke output. Additional aromas and flavors of cinnamon, flowers, and herbs mingle together with the primary notes, while cedar, saddleback, and white pepper are dominant on the very smooth retrohale. As with most complex cigars, retrohaling is an essential component of the smoking experience for Gaaja Maduro.
As the torpedo enters into its second third, it begins to display the following general characteristics—medium-to-full in body, medium-to-full in strength, and nearly full in flavor. The aromas and flavors present in the first third of the cigar continue to develop, while the initial drip-brewed coffee note shifts toward a triple espresso dressed with a Belgian rock sugar cube and a dollop of velvet foam. An ethereal and sublime note of oats with a candy-like sweetness appears at irregular intervals, redolent of an early-morning spoonful of Lucky Charms. Finespun flavors of almond, salted butter, dried herbs, graham cracker, and assorted spices flirt in and out of the mix, adding to the overall complexity of the cigar.
Room aroma is bold, lush, and rich—finely-aged tobacco with a touch of bonbon sweetness. The burn line is razor sharp, holding nearly two inches of silver ash with streaks of gunmetal gray between the tightly-compressed stacks. On the delicious retrohale, the cedar and white pepper notes are enhanced with touches of black peppercorns and dried cinnamon stick.
As it burns through its final third, the high complexity experienced in the first two-thirds of the smoking experience begins to diminish, leaving primary notes of velvety, dark chocolate, dried bramble, pepper, and ristretto espresso. The draw remains very open, requiring only single puffs to produce bountiful amounts of ceiling-clinging smoke. A chewy, meaty, and salty note begins to flirt in and out of the flavor profile as the torpedo enters the end of its life; like a lightly-charred veal chop seasoned with Himalayan sea salt. The cigar is smoked all the way down to the nub.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
The answer to that question is, “Absolutely.” The Gaaja Maduro Torpedo is a fine example of a fairly complex maduro-wrapped cigar. And if you have the budget and the time, I suggest that you experiment with smoking the original Gaaja and the Gaaja Maduro simultaneously. By doing so, you would receive a master class in how a simple change in a cigar’s wrapper can produce a distinctly different smoking experience. I personally prefer smoking the original—with its Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper—with espresso in the morning and the Gaaja Maduro in the evening, after a large meal at my favorite steak joint. The only real downside to the torpedo is that it is a relatively quick smoke for the premium price point.
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: bourbon, espresso, dark beer, port, rock and rye cocktail
- Purchase Recommendation: full box
- Outstanding Construction
- Delicious Flavors
- Price Point
- Fairly Quick Smoke Time