When thinking of a classic or legendary cigar brand, one of the first that comes to mind is Punch. The brand, believe it or not, was registered in Germany in 1840, and named after a popular European puppet, Mr. Punch (of Punch and Judy fame). With a name like Punch, a reference to throwing punches just has to fit into the marketing game somewhere, right? Enter 2020 and the Punch Knuckle Buster. The fact this cigar is named after an expression for a full, no-holds-barred, throw-down basketball game says it all. According to Punch’s website, where the company personifies the Mr. Punch character with a snarky edge, “[Knuckle Buster was made] to continue the celebration of the 180th Anniversary of my incredible cigars.”

An interesting aspect of this cigar is that it was introduced as an affordable, value-oriented blend for the average smoker, as opposed to a hard-to-get limited edition; in other words, all cigar smokers will be able to find these and celebrate a milestone. Ed Lahmann, senior brand manager for Punch, says, “Punch is committed to staying true to what the brand has represented over the last six decades: a consistent, well-made, no-nonsense cigar at a price that’s fair and reasonable.” The Knuckle Buster began shipping to retailers in early March of 2020, is available in three sizes, and is rolled at General Cigar’s HATSA factory in Danlí, Honduras.

Knuckle Buster Toro Breakdown

  • Wrapper: Nicaraguan Habano
  • Binder: Nicaraguan Habano
  • Filler: Nicaragua | Honduras
  • Factory: HATSA (Honduras)
  • Production: Regular Production
  • Vitola: 6″ × 50 (Toro)
  • Price: $5.49 (MSRP)
  • Robusto: 4½” x 52 | $4.99 (Box of 25 $124.75)
  • Toro: 6″ x 50 | $5.49 (Box of 25 $137.25)
  • Gordo: 6¼” x 60 | $5.99 (Box of 25 $149.75)
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Appearance

Talk about making a statement. Knuckle Buster is packaged in a vibrant blue box, with bright, eye-catching graphics. Upon opening the box, a bold blue band with a set of brass knuckles—prominently displayed at its crest—definitely adds to the eye appeal. I’d argue that one couldn’t help but to stop and take a closer look while perusing cigars in the humidor. Looking at the cigars themselves, they are quite appealing. The wrapper boasts a nice, toothy dark brown wrapper with a rich, oily sheen. The surface is a little bumpy, with quite a few visible veins, though the seams are tight and virtually invisible. The cigars seem to be filled well, though they are a little on the spongy side, especially near the foot. All told, Knuckle Buster does not give the appearance of an economy cigar.

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Smoking Experience

The aroma from the foot is a combination of natural tobacco, barnyard, and earth, with a chocolate sweetness lingering in the background. The pre-light draw, which is just a little on the open side, shows more of the same, with a hint of pecans and a sweetness reminiscent of pie crust. Quite a complex start for a cigar in this price point.

Upon lighting, the first note that jumps to the forefront is black coffee, which pretty much overpowers everything else right at the start. The retrohale has a very pleasant pepper burn to it that adds to the power of the coffee notes. Getting about a half-inch in, the coffee tames down and the flavors detected in the pre-light begin to emerge. There is a pleasant sweetness present: cocoa powder (think chocolate milk mix), sweet cream, and pralines, balanced by that pie crust that was detected in the pre-light draw. The pepper on the retrohale has tamed down to more of a white pepper with a little bit of cinnamon detectable on the finish. The initial complexity of this cigar is a pleasant surprise. It is creating an enjoyable vibe that is really making me wish there was a college basketball playoff game to watch so I could see firsthand the namesake of this cigar while enjoying it!

Punch Knuckle Buster Toro cigar ash

As the cigar burns on, there is definitely a sweet-vs-savory battle going on with the taste buds. In the words of one of my favorite podcast hosts, “It has a very interesting mouthfeel” The sweet cream has moved to the forefront, coating the palate. Meanwhile, a deep earthiness creeps into the picture, which, combined with the coffee and praline notes, gives the cigar an almost dessert-like quality. The retrohale is smooth, with just a slight amount of pepper zing that keeps the palate awake and able to further enjoy the overall creaminess of the cigar. I am suddenly wishing I had chosen an iced coffee to go with this instead of my customary mineral water. That sure seems like it would be a good combo to me, helping to elevate the sweetness present in the blend.

Burn-wise, the Knuckle Buster has not been a bust—quite the opposite, actually. It’s a solid burn with a very thin carbon ring, having just the slightest amount of waviness to it. The draw is pretty good as well. With the sponginess detected at the beginning, there was concern that the draw would be on the loose side; as a pleasing surprise, it was not.

Coming to the end of the cigar, the complexity and flavor development seem to have already peaked. From about the mid-point on, I am not able to detect anything additional. The creaminess actually fades into the background, and the coffee and pepper push their way through, amping up the strength and causing the cigar to become a little on the harsh side, nearing the finish. The harshness isn’t completely unpleasant, but it is surprising, happening almost like someone flipped a switch. The cigar goes from sweet and savory to harsh and bitter in the matter of a few puffs. Black pepper replaces the white pepper on the retrohale at the same time, causing much more zing on the nose. At the very end of the cigar, the only prominent flavor left is black coffee.

Punch Knuckle Buster Toro review

Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?

I would keep a fiver or two of these in my humidor for when I want something flavorful, but don’t have the time to really sit and focus on the cigar. The price on these is definitely a contributing factor. It is a cigar I can grab when I want something enjoyable but might not have time to finish.

Additional Info
  • The Punch brand was first registered in 1840 by a German man named Stockmann, and was originated in Cuba for the English Market.
  • As the name insinuates, Honduran-made Punch cigars were among the first fuller-bodied brands on the market, though many would argue they are, for the most part, now considered mild-mannered blends (by today’s standards) to be enjoyed by smokers of all walks of life.
  • The cigars have been produced for the American market in Honduras since 1969.

Profile
  • Flavor: Medium
  • Strength: Medium
  • Body: Medium
Core Flavors
  • Coffee
  • Sweet cream
  • Chocolate
  • Pralines
  • White pepper
Tips
  • Smoke Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
  • Pairing Recommendation: Cold brew coffee with sweet cream | Cream soda | Chardonnay | Spiced rum
  • Purchase Recommendation: Fiver

Punch Knuckle Buster Toro cigar nub finished

Punch Knuckle Buster Toro
There was actually quite a bit to take away from my time with the Knuckle Buster. Throughout my time in the hobby, I have tended to gravitate to the smaller-batch, boutique-style / limited-edition cigars, with the occasional “large brand” thrown into the mix just so I can keep up with what is out there. I have to say, this cigar makes a great attempt to reach out of the market it was created for and nudge the die-hard base. The complexity at the beginning and developing transitions through the halfway point definitely keep me interested and not afraid to share these with hardcore hobbyists. It is leaps and bounds better in overall experience than a good number of “yard 'gars” in the same price range, and would even give a solid fight to some cigars costing a few dollars more.
Appearance86%
Burn/Construction86%
Draw86%
Flavor87%
Complexity86%
Price/Value87%
Pros
  • Price is excellent
  • Decent complexity for price range
  • Great burn
Cons
  • Falls a little flat on the finish
  • Middling intensity makes it easy to overrun with pairings
86%Buzzer Beater
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