Ninety dollars. That’s how much one of these cigars costs. There are cigars that I thoroughly enjoy that cost $90 for a box. What in the world could make a single cigar worth $90? Well, the marketing geniuses at General Cigar have this to say:
The wrapper is deeply fermented, hand selected Nicaraguan Jalapa. During the curing process, a small percentage of upper-priming leaves were set aside for deeper aging. These extraordinary leaves underwent additional fermentation lasting six months, during which time the tobacco became profoundly more elegant. Ultimately, only eight barrels of wrapper tobacco were deemed worthy of adorning Cohiba Spectre.
The blend speaks to profound aging, as each leaf has been aged between four and sixteen years. The Nicaraguan Jalapa and Esteli filler leaves underwent a special finishing in fragrant Spanish Sherry barrels to bring forth intriguing notes of wood and molasses. When paired with Brazilian Mata Fina filler leaves and a Connecticut Broadleaf binder, the experience is one of complexity and refinement.
Only 180 boxes of Cohiba Spectre have been produced, and the exquisite cigars are made by just one roller, Ms. Xirolma Céspedes and one buncher, Mr. Ruben Dario Perez Peña. Representing a combined expertise spanning nearly five decades, these artisans are renowned for their exceptional dexterity and meticulous attention to detail.
I’ll admit, the dedicated pair of rollers is pretty cool. It kind of reminds me of the Goldie series by La Palina (I hope they don’t start charging $90 a cigar). I also can’t say I’ve tried tobacco that’s been aged for that long in tercios (up to 13 years, according to Sean Williams of Cohiba). From the outlook, the cigar has me torn between skepticism and intrigue—a complicated yet exciting juxtaposition of emotions, no doubt.
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Cohiba Spectre 2019 Breakdown
- Wrapper: Nicaraguan Jalapa
- Binder: Connecticut Broadleaf
- Filler: Nicaraguan (Jalapa & Estelí) | Brazilian Mata Fina
- Factory: General Cigar Dominicana (Dominican Republic)
- Production: Limited Edition (180 boxes of 10 cigars)
- Vitola: 6″ × 49 (Toro)
- Price: $90.00 (MSRP)
I have smack-talked General’s questionable cigar labels again and again for being boring and cheaply executed, and this is only a little better than most. This is a $90 cigar, and the band is still printed on cheap paper, with a minimum degree of adornment. There’s some patterning that I assume is supposed to look like carbon fiber weave—something could’ve been a little better realized with some subtle embossing. There’s some holographic printing, similar to the Cuban-made Cohiba, that does look nice on the top and bottom of the band. I haven’t seen it in person, but the packaging for the Spectre is ridiculous. I bet they could’ve released these cigars in a regular box for a quarter of the price; of course, for some, the extravagance only adds to the celebratory/luxury-class experience. The cigar itself is wrapped in a perfectly even-hued coffee-bean brown cover that is mostly free of veins, with the exception of one large vein that protrudes up along one side. The cap is a neat double stack—nicer than most General offerings. The cigar is solid, with neither soft nor hard spots.
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Holy cow, I think this thing has a sweetened cap… A $90 cigar with a sweet cap. Now, I suppose this could be that this is from the barrel-aging process or something, but when licking my lips after putting this cigar to my mouth, there is an undoubtable sweetness. Other than the sweet cap, the cold draw presents some easily identifiable cream, with plenty of warming spices and some terrific malted milk powder. The draw is slightly too loose with a punch cut.
Nuts and maple sweetness. Coffee and cream. Rich tobacco flavor. In one sample, the sweetened cap didn’t really seem to affect the flavor, but on another there was something coming through that tasted kind of artificial. Again, it could be from the sherry barrel-aging, but there’s something peculiar for sure. There is some mild spice behind the sweetness, reminding me of a sweet coffee drink from a cup rimmed in agave and New Mexican red chile. The thing I’m really enjoying about this is how identifiable the flavors are. This cigar isn’t about hints, it’s making statements. Another notable factor is how the flavors appear differently on different places in the mouth (the tongue vs. the palate vs. the retrohale vs. the lips). In one sample, the bunch was pretty solid and the smoke time was lengthy, while this one is a bit lighter, with the smoke time progressing a little faster, as well as requiring a little quicker puffing to keep the burn stable. The first third zooms past at 28 minutes; the overall experience shows bold flavor, medium-plus strength, and a medium body.
The sweetness keeps coming on. It’s rich, caramelized, brown butter maple syrup on crispy pancakes. It’s creme brûlée. It’s honey and buttered toast. It’s a stroopwafel. It’s candy corn. The ash is flakey and falls off easily before reaching an inch in length. At the midway point, the cigar gets a little dry feeling on the palate, but still has a lot of maple sweetness. The burn is a little wavy, self-correcting on occasion, though requiring touchups just as often. I like to retrohale quite a bit, but I find myself intentionally not retrohaling because there is so much contrast to the flavors across different receptors and I don’t want to miss anything. When taking a sip of black coffee after a puff, the coffee tastes like a Starbucks Caramel Macchiato; that’s how sweet this cigar is. It’s not quite cloying, but it begs for more balance. The profile could use some earth, pepper, savory—something to complement the sweetness, to give some complexity.
Sweet wood is leading the way passing the halfway mark. I can’t get over how sweet this is. My first sample had something that was kind of irritating in the throat nearing the final third, but that isn’t happening this time. Some pepper starts making itself noticed on the tongue, but that only lasts for about five minutes. The amount of flavor that crosses the tongue is immense, but the flavors aren’t big, bold, or in your face; it’s not overpowering. Think of it like a painting—Spectre doesn’t display super intense, bright, or sharply contrasting primary colors; this is pastel watercolor with the most saturation imaginable. One minute I’m thinking this is by far the best cigar I’ve ever had from General, and then I start to wonder when it’s going to do something different, if it can do something different. Obviously, by this point, it ain’t. There’s a lot wood and the sweetness has toned down, though still managing to engulf everything in its path. I’m kind of disappointed with the many relights required. The flavor is pretty much unchanged, if it didn’t maybe dial back a notch or two. Body and strength are both pretty full at the end. The cigar burned for two hours during my first sample, but here it’s nub territory at nine minutes less.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
The day that I start lighting my cigars with flaming $100 bills, I’ll buy one of these. Until then, I’ll just consider myself lucky to have been able to try a couple. There were moments where I had to pick up my jaw from the floor because it was just so good, and then there were moments where I was kind of bored with the sweetness. I was frustrated at times with the construction and relights, and other times I marveled at the smoke production and clarity of flavors. I was not impressed with the cheap bands, and I think the box packaging is ostentatious, but I have to admit is is without equal. And then, at the end of the day, it was a $90 cigar that has a sweet cap (or maybe it was the sherry aging, I don’t know).
- Why is this cigar called Spectre? At this price point, it’s a cigar for royalty—a king wields a scepter… Maybe it’s named after the 2015 Bond film of the same name. Maybe they misspelled it.
- Flavor: Medium / Full
- Strength: Medium-plus
- Body: Medium / Full
- Maple syrup
- Vanilla custard
- Candy corn
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Black coffee | Anything not sweet
- Purchase Recommendation: It’s $90—that’s on you
- Moments of pure genius
- Packaging that is without equal, if not kind of overkill
- Good after-dinner/dessert cigar
- Too much sweetness, not enough balance