For those that concern themselves with more than a given cigar’s branding, country of origin, and advertised body—the smokers that traverse through the weeds to find correlations with seed varietal, farms, and factories—Gurkha’s sudden presence on their craft-minded radar in 2019 came as quite the surprise. This is because, of the three new blends debuted last summer, two hailed from the fan-favorite Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. factory (aka TABSA) in Estelí, Nicaragua. This modest-sized facility is one of many owned by the Fernández family and their completely vertically integrated operation throughout Nicaragua and Miami. And their agricultural operation—AGANORSA—is one of the two largest growers of premium tobacco in Nicaragua, being incorporated into everything that comes out of the factory. This includes major players in the craft space such as Foundation Cigar Co., Illusione, Warped, and their own Aganorsa Leaf brand, among others.
So, when Gurkha announced the Gurkha Nicaragua Series and Gurkha Treinta (the latter commemorating the company’s 30th anniversary) as originating from TABSA and containing AGANORSA tobaccos, smokers were understandably intrigued.
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Gurkha Nicaragua Series Robusto Breakdown
- Wrapper: Corojo ’99 Clara (Nicaragua)
- Binder: Corojo ’99 (Nicaragua) | Corojo ’99 (Nicaragua)
- Filler: Corojo ’99 (Nicaragua) | Criollo ’98 (Nicaragua)
- Factory: TABSA (Nicaragua)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 5″ x 52 (Robusto)
- Price: $9.75
Despite being named ‘Nicaragua Series,’ this is far from being the company’s first Nicaraguan. It is, however, their first time working with TABSA and showcasing an AGANORSA puro blend. This includes a Corojo ’99 Clara wrapper over a double binder and fillers of both Corojo ’99 and Criollo ’98—both signature ingredients from AGANORSA. The cigars later debuted in early October, launching four sizes with prices ranging from $9.75 to $10.95.
- Robusto: 5″ x 52 | $9.75 (MSRP)
- Toro: 6″ x 54 | $9.95 (MSRP)
- Magnum: 6″ x 60 | $10.95 (MSRP)
- Belicoso: 6⅛” x 52 | $10.95 (MSRP)
I found the Nicaragua Series Robusto to have a slightly darker wrapper than the conventional habano, which seemed interesting, as the leaf is described as clara (normally referring to a lighter shade). The wrapper begins with a triple cap, showing thin veins and barely visible seams as you work your way down. The leaf has a soft and velvety feel, surrounding an unusually bumpy binder that makes an impression through the thin wrapper. But the overall construction is incredibly firm, feeling like papier-mâché from the exterior.
In terms of aroma, the Corojo leaf has a lively combination of citrus-like tang, musk, and leather. The foot shows added citrus and backing notes of petting zoo, cedar, and hay. A pre-light draw brings out an easy resistance (very good but on the loose side if anything) and mild flavors of clean cedar, nutmeg, and allspice.
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The first puff from Gurkha Nicaragua series is exactly this: white pepper and butterscotch. The ensuing experience maintains a high level of appeal, performing one of the spiciest retrohales in memory. Though you may be inclined to double puff, being that the embers are just getting started, I recommend against it. This will only anger the blend’s already furious demeanor, which is that of hot red pepper and cayenne. Typically, I retrohale around 90 percent of every draw, but the Nicaragua Series has quickly limited this to 30. When exhaling primarily through the mouth, a layer of cream envelops the palate, bringing a zesty concoction of nutty browned butter, nutmeg, and sweet cream—all spiked with a fiery underbelly that threatens to flare up at a moment’s notice.
But the ferocity is short-lived, calming to allow formerly unnoticed flavors to take the lead. Through an overall dry mouthfeel, nuts emerge, bordering on peanut shell when combined with the dry texture. But there is a sweetness that balances this nicely, forming a pleasant taste of peanut brittle. Aiding in complexity, the raw tobaccos from the cut head have a tart sensation against the tongue. In the first third, I’d peg the experience as just under medium in strength, medium in body, and medium-full in flavor. In terms of construction, the cigar burns with a wavy perimeter, building loose stacks of ash that last one inch at most. Contradicting the pre-light draw, the smoking performance is actually on the firm side; though it is well within an acceptable range.
As the cigar continues to develop, it’s clear that it isn’t in the familiar AGANORSA territory, normally characterized by graham crackers, candied nuts, and buttermilk (at least in my opinion). Instead, the profile verges on savory and woody; which, I’ll admit, is much less interesting than where the smoke began. Charred meats are met with dried woods and a sharp acidity that I’ll described as drinking orange juice after brushing your teeth (it’s not that bad, but it’s a bit jarring). Still, an underlying sweetness keeps me searching for a sudden reversion to the profile seen at the cigar’s beginning.
A woodiness that began as cedar transforms into hickory, joined by a dark and threatening black licorice. In the final third, it’s clear that there will be no more twists, slowly building in body and strength, whilst simultaneously losing its bright and lively flavor characteristics. The final segment is dark and charred, with notes of burnt toast, anise, and peppered beef jerky (like those rough hides found in convenient store trays—the ones you can gnaw on all day and never make a dent).
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
An amazing start and a lackluster finale: I’ll proceed with caution but am interested in checking out another size or two.
- I like the presentation of this cigar, showing a more subtle approach than the sometimes gaudy designs Gurkha has become known for over the years. It’s a look that sends the message to smokers that the emphasis is on the tobacco rather the marketing.
- Gurkha Nicaragua was only made available to Gurkha’s top accounts, with each retailer being able to order five boxes per size. According to Gurkha, the cigars will then be opened up to all retailers across the country at some point in 2020.
- Other notable factories Gurkha has worked with include American Caribbean Cigars S.A., PDR Cigars, and Tabacalera Las Lavas S.R.L., among others.
- Flavor: Medium
- Strength: Medium
- Body: Medium
- Red pepper
- Roasted nuts
- Dried woods
- Charred toast
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Pour-over coffee | Candied bacon | White Russian cocktail
- Purchase Recommendation: Try a couple in a few different sizes
- Fantastic first third
- Flavor gradually declines throughout last two thirds