For those of you that don’t know…
Today is the first non-Cuban cigar that will qualify as “vintage” as per our standards and it comes from Dr. Paul Garmirian. Paul Garmirian has been around the cigar business for a while and may well be one of the most interesting cigar brands you have never heard of.
Rather than rewrite what has already been said, I will quote Charlie from his review of the Paul Garmirian Reserva Exclusiva Gran Panatela:
Where do you start when it comes to Paul Garmirian. The place to start is probably his book, The Gourmet Guide to Cigars, which was published in 1990. Later that year, he introduced his first line of cigars at Georgetown Tobacco, a tobacconist he had long been associated with, and in 1991, the TABADOM-made cigars were released nationally in six sizes. The Reserva Exclusiva line was introduced in 2001, made like the every other Paul Garmirian cigar by Henke Kelner and Eladio Diaz. The big selling point is ten-year old tobacco, something Garmirian has grown a reputation for. All PG Cigars are aged for a minimum of a year after rolling and most feature fairly aged tobaccos. What’s a bit surprising is that the price of the Reserva Exclusiva line is identical in price to Garmirian’s core line, the Gourmet Series.
If that was not interesting enough, we get to the cigar that we are reviewing today.
When Paul Garmirian officially released his first line of cigars on May 1st, 1991, dubbed simply the “PG” Line, there were six original vitolas, all of them classic Cuban sizes. They were:
- Churchill — 7 x 48
- Belicoso — 6 1/8 x 52
- No.2 (Rothschild) — 6 1/4 x 52
- Corona — 5 1/2 x 42
- Corona Grande — 6 1/2 x 46
- Lonsdale — 6 1/2 x 42
While I have never seen a cigar from that original release, I got an email in my inbox recently that announced that Jack Schwartz had received a few boxes of different sizes of cigars from PG that were rolled back in 1995 and then put into storage to await a future release. I thought it was pretty cool that a cigar manufacturer would go through the effort to not only save enough boxes, which I am sure most do to differing degrees, but to then send those cigars to a specific store to sell to customers, at MSRP. I thought the story was interesting, so I picked up a five pack to see what I thought.
Here is what the boxes of Paul Garmirian rolled in 1995 look like:
(Photo Courtesy of Jack Schwartz)
But enough of that, let’s get down to business, shall we?
- Cigar Reviewed: Paul Garmirian PG Corona Grande
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: Occidental Cigar Factory
- Wrapper: Colorado Shade Connecticut
- Binder: Dominican Republic
- Filler: Dominican Republic
- Size: 6 1/2 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 46
- Vitola: Corona Grande
- MSRP: $10.25 (Box of 25, $250.00)
- Date Released: 1995/2011
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 2
The Corona Grande is an obviously aged cigar with a light brown Colorado wrapper that has no oil present at all. There’s a slight box-press and has the perfect give when squeezed. The wrapper has some bumps on it, but is smooth as silk when you run your finger down the length. It smells wonderful: a combination of extremely sweet chocolate, cinnamon and cedar. I am really hoping at this point, before I smoke it that the Paul Garmirian tastes it as good as it smells.
It begins with just the tiniest amount of spice on the lips in the first third, along with strong flavors of sweet chocolate, coffee, leather and cinnamon. There is a slight bitterness underneath all of the flavors, but it is not that strong to begin with and is reduced to nothing by the time the first third of the Corona Grande ends, a great start for such an aged cigar.
The second third of the PG has flavors flying from all over the place. Sweet chocolate is still the dominant note, but I also tasted nuts, leather, espresso, cedar and even a bit of mint, albeit only on the retrohale. The spice is gone totally, but there is a touch of pepper here and there. Burn of the Corona Grande is perfect up to this point, but no strength at all — I put it at a strong mild by the end of the second third and that is being generous.
As for the final third, it is much the same as the second third flavor-wise, but there is quite a bit more sweetness in the profile and an added floral note that was quite distinct. The Paul Garmirian is still quite mild strength-wise ending the way it began, at a mild plus. Draw and burn are still spot on. It is easy to nub and kind of wish the Corona Grande was a bit larger by the end.
- Although the PG line of cigars was “officially” released on May 1st, 1991, the same cigars had been available since November of 1990, when they were introduced and started selling at Georgetown Tobacco in Washington DC.
- As stated above, there were only six vitolas in the original release of the “PG” line, but that has since grown to a whopping 21 sizes, including a 9×50 Monster and a 7 5/8 x 50 Double Corona.
- One very interesting fact according to the Paul Garmirian website: the 1990 release of the PG Belicoso was the first time that shape had appeared in the U.S.
- This is actually not the first time that Paul Garmirian has shipped well aged cigars to a retailer. Jack Schwartz gets surprise shipments from PG “every now and then” and the last time they received one of these shipments, it was full of boxes of Vintage PG Gourmet Series II rolled in 1999.
- I have to say, while it is really cool to smoke one of these from 1995, I would LOVE to compare it to an actual original release from 1990.
- As mentioned above, this was an obviously aged cigar. While the cellophane it came in was not overly yellow, I had to cut the cigar out of it, as it was so tight.
- The ash did not seem to want to stay on the cigar for longer than about half inch at a time. It was very well formed ash and not overly flaky, but just did not seem to want to hang on.
- I did get some bitterness throughout the smoke, but it seemed to me (after smoking two of them) that the faster I puffed, the more bitterness there was. After I slowed down a bit, the bitterness subsided for the most part.
- The mint flavor that I noticed in the retrohale was interesting, as I have actually only tasted it in one other cigar, the Tatuaje Boris. It was never as strong as in the Boris, but it was definitely noticeable and quite enjoyable.
- The burn and draw of the Paul Garmirian were perfect on both samples for the entire cigar.
- The cigar seemed a bit dry, and the Final Smoking Time of just over 1 Hour and 10 Minutes.
The Bottom Line: When I heard about these being sold, I bought some mainly out of curiosity. I think it is pretty cool that Garmirian saved these himself to release at a later point. I thought there was no way that a cigar that was fairly mild to begin with could have much left after 16 years. Well, I am happy to say I was wrong. Although it WAS quite mild, there was an impressive amount of flavor and complexity that came out of the Corona Grande and the construction was phenomenal. It would make a WONDERFUL morning cigar, and now I am wishing I had purchased a box before they sold out.
Final Score: 90