In the spring of 2019, Punch shocked the cigar scene with a limited cigar known as Punch Egg Roll, deviating from the brand’s classic heritage with an off-the-wall concept based around Chinese-American takeout. Indeed, both bands and boxes were styled after Chinese culture, including folded paper boxes that closely mimicked the iconic oyster pail boxes of Chinese takeout. Add to this the fast food-inspired price point of $3.99 per cigar and it becomes clear why Punch seemed to have an instant hit on their hands.

Capitalizing on the success of the Egg Roll, Punch announced the Chop Suey in late January of 2020, bringing with it a similar look and feel, though swapping the blend, size, and featured Chinese dish.

We had a lot of fun with Punch Egg Roll last year so we decided to come out with a similar release for 2020. With its panatela size, this cigar delivers a great smoking experience in a format that really lets the tobaccos shine through. And with an SRP of less than $6 per cigar, Chop Suey hits that post-holiday sweet spot for cigar lovers.Ed Lahmann, senior brand manager of Punch

Punch Chop Suey box

Chop Suey Breakdown

  • Wrapper: Ecuadoran Sumatra
  • Binder: Nicaragua
  • Filler: Nicaragua | Dominican Republic
  • Factory: General Cigar Dominicana (Dominican Republic)
  • Production: Limited Edition (3,650 boxes of 25 cigars)
  • Vitola: 7″ × 37 (Panatela)
  • Price: $5.49 (MSRP)

Punch Chop Suey launched in mid-February, being offered in a singular 7″ × 37 panatela format that takes on the long and slender resemblance of chopsticks. Unlike the 2019 release, Chop Suey was rolled at the General Cigar Dominicana facility in the Dominican Republic (as opposed to the Honduran-based HATSA factory used for the Egg Roll). Chop Suey dons an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper over binder/fillers of Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, including a full inch of wrapper-less tobacco at the cigar’s foot.

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Appearance

Since the semi-boom of craft-minded cigars in the late 2000s, it’s not exactly unusual to find Asian influence tied into a cigar’s concept. It is, however, a bit surprising coming from one of the leading Cuban-founded heritage brands, which are often known for their mindfulness of traditional cigar customs. That being said, Punch (of the non-Cuban variety) has made it a point in recent years to play up the brand’s Punch and Judy beginnings, with the Mr. Punch character providing a snarky edge to the brand; so it’s not completely shocking to see them take on playful concepts such as this.

The cigar itself has a saturated red hue across the wrapper, further brought out by a vibrant band to match. The cigar is long, slender, bumpy, and twisted, reminding me of something you’d pull from a packet of Backwoods Cigars or Kentucky Cheroots. Warped from head to toe, the panatela shows ripples across its reddish wrapper, accompanied by an assortment of medium-thick veins and the subtle presence of oils. This leads to a double cap at the head, which, when cut, is sweet enough on the lips to have me wondering whether or not the sensation is artificial. The wrapper emits primarily musky notes, with some chocolate in the background. The foot adds notes of barnyard and hickory. The pre-light draw is on the firm side, having an umami sensation on the tongue and flavors of hickory and molasses.

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Smoking Experience

With an inch of shagged foot (much longer than you’ll typically find for the style), you’re presented with only binder and fillers at ignition. Probably but not certainly influenced by the cigar’s theme, I’m hit with a distinct flavor of dry ramen noodles at the cigar’s start. It’s quite savory, continuing the umami sensation found in the pre-light experience, as well as backing flavors of raw peppercorn and hickory through the finish.

The smoking draw is similarly firm (compared to the pre-light), though it’s more manageable than I expected, bringing only medium-light wisps of smoke on each draw. This is cause for added puffing, leading to easily heated smoke, which is compounded by the cigar’s thin ring gauge. The result is off-notes of gasoline or even jet fuel, like being in the passenger cabin when your plane is preparing to taxi. This is somewhat short-lived, largely dissipating at the introduction of the cigar’s Sumatra wrapper. In addition to dramatically changing the appearance of the cigar’s shedded ash (see photo below), the wrapper transition seems to round out the overall eperience, adding an appreciated raisin sweetness, as well as nutmeg, chestnuts, and a nougat-like creaminess through the finish.

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Through a medium-plus body and medium strength/flavor, clove seems to become one of the more dominant flavor components. This is accompanied by a nostril-pinching turmeric spice, unsalted popcorn, and a subtle sweetness of Fruit Gushers fruit snacks (which seemingly evolved from the raisin flavor).

Chop Suey’s final third gives into the cumulating pressures of a firm draw, frequent puffing, and sparse tobaccos contained within its filler. It is primarily dry and charry, with toasted bread and smoked woods leading the profile. Black licorice and cherry occasionally find their way into the fold, adding moments of interest in a segment that’s otherwise irredeemable.

Punch Chop Suey review

Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?

Honestly, I don’t think it’s in the cards. However, considering the cigar’s refreshingly affordable price point, it’s not a smoke I’m going to actively dissuade others from trying. But I will suggest you try before you buy, at least in terms of the box purchase (however fun it may seem to add it to your smoking room display).

Additional Info
  • This year’s release ties into the 2020 Year of the Rat from the Chinese zodiac, with a rat design incorporated into the box packaging.
  • As with the Punch Egg Roll, there is one of five fortunes (à la the Chinese fortune cookie) printed on the back of each band. The cigar photographed for review reads, “Avoid people who take cigar fortunes too seriously.” The fortunes are intended to come by way of the sarcastic personality of Mr. Punch.
  • This cigar differed from the bold, Honduran-minded experiences Punch has long been known for. I’d say it was perhaps closest in profile to the Punch Rare Corojo, though with much less depth and complexity.

Profile
  • Flavor: Medium
  • Strength: Medium
  • Body: Medium
Core Flavors
  • Ramen
  • Umami
  • Raisins
  • Hickory
Tips
  • Smoke Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • Pairing Recommendation: Saké | Orion Premium Draft Beer | Dark rum
  • Purchase Recommendation: One cigar (what’s five bucks these days, anyway?)

Click images below for full resolution

Images without Cigar Dojo watermark provided by General Cigar Co.
Punch Chop Suey
Punch Chop Suey is quick to stand out, with a fun concept and presentation further boosted by an approachable price point rarely seen in the realm of limited-edition cigar releases. But the cigar's connoisseur-conscious size seemingly works against the performance from the outset. This includes a warped outward shape, a firm draw, a tendency to overheat (perhaps due to both the draw and a sparse filler bunch), sometimes-harsh flavors, and a low level of depth/complexity. It's the kind of cigar that elicits near-constant puffs, both in order to draw out enough smoke and to find a missing flavor ingredient that, unfortunately, never emerges.
Appearance82%
Burn/Construction90%
Draw85%
Flavor82%
Complexity72%
Price/Value88%
Pros
  • Fun concept
  • Approachable price point
  • Occasional fruit snack sweetness
Cons
  • Occasional gasoline character
  • Quickly heats from required over-puffing
  • Dry, charred smoking texture though final third
83%Hot & Sour
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