Regular readers of this site will know that there’s few drama-filled topics in this business quite like the cigar industry’s main trade show, the PCA Convention & Trade Show.

For reasons that have been extensively chronicled here, here and here, the trade show has issues. Most of the issues center around two topics: money and attendance. To help boost the latter, in 2021 the Premium Cigar Association announced a formal program soliciting manufacturers that exhibit at the trade show to create exclusive cigars that were only offered to retailers who attend the trade show. While a number of companies had done this previously on their own—oftentimes in the form of offering select sizes only to trade show attendees—this was a bit different in that the PCA itself led the initiative.

At one point, it seemed there would be a number of companies creating exclusive cigars but that list eventually got reduced to a handful of companies. Even fewer companies actually branded the cigars using the PCA name, but one that did was Asylum, as did its sister brand, CLE.

The Asylum PCA Exclusive is a three-size line that is made entirely of Honduran tobaccos including a hybrid habano wrapper.

  • Asylum PCA Exclusive 50×5 (5 x 50) — $16 (Box of 20, $320)
  • Asylum PCA Exclusive 11/18 (6 1/4 x 52/60) — $17 (Box of 20, $340)
  • Asylum PCA Exclusive 60×6 (6 x 60) — $18 (Box of 20, $360)

Unlike cigars in the Tobacconists’ Association of America’s Exclusive Series Program, a much more established series of exclusive cigars that are sold during a different trade show and often limited releases, the Asylum release is not a limited edition. Rather, stores that purchased the cigar during the trade show can continue to purchase the cigar.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Asylum PCA Exclusive 50×5
  • Country of Origin: Honduras
  • Factory: The CLE Factory
  • Wrapper: Honduras (Habano Hybrid)
  • Binder: Honduras
  • Filler: Honduras
  • Length: 5 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 50
  • Vitola: Robusto
  • MSRP: $16 (Box of 20, $320)
  • Release Date: Dec. 22, 2021
  • Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

This is an intentionally sinister-looking cigar. There’s the blacked-out Asylum band—which has “PCA 2021” embossed on one side—as well as a large piece of black paper covering about half the cigar, and a very aggressive box press. Not only is the press one that produces more defined 90-degree angles on the sides, but it’s also done in a manner where the cigar’s shape is similar to a wafer cookie. As for the wrapper, it’s quite dark with some reds and darker spots. Once I remove the decorative paper I try to detect aromas from the wrapper but I can’t really pick up much of anything. I find what I might call some barnyard or paper smells, but they are fleeting at best. The foot has a medium-full aroma with scents of roasted nuts, earthiness, floral flavors, cocoa and, at times, some Lay’s potato chips. Cold draws are led by the floral flavors, just edging out an earthy mixture. At times I can taste peppermint and something that reminds me of grilled pork, though it’s most floral flavors and earthiness.

The Asylum PCA Exclusive 50×5 starts with a medium-full mixture of toastiness, burnt chocolate, meatiness, leather and some creaminess. That toasty profile more or less continues for the first 15 minutes before a Corn Flakes cereal-like flavor overtakes it. At some point, the toastiness begins to recede, allowing earthiness, pizza crust, a sweet creaminess and a mild pepper to emerge. The finish is led by earthiness that slightly beats out the Corn Flakes flavor, then starchy flavors, a bit of nuttiness and mild pepper. Retrohales are surprisingly sweet thanks to a citrus flavor that leads starchiness, creaminess and pasta flavors. A few seconds after the smoke leaves my nostrils the finish gets very gritty, though there’s also some of the starchiness and pasta flavors. Overall, flavor is medium-full, body is medium-full and strength is medium-plus. Two samples need touch-ups in the first third to help with smoke production and all three cigars have pretty flaky ash.

There’s an uptick in the starchy flavors which eventually present themselves as a mixture of grains and sourdough bread. The earthiness remains, now a secondary flavor, and there’s still remnants of creaminess and some tartness. One thing that’s a bit surprising is the complete lack of pepper on most of the puffs during the second third. Once the smoke leaves my mouth, I taste peppermint, earthiness, creaminess and sourdough bread—all relatively even in intensity. Retrohales have a toasty bread flavor over black pepper, some kiwi sweetness, and creaminess. The finish sees the pasta notes return as well as citrus, earthiness, a rich nuttiness and bits of both black and white pepper. Flavor is full, body is medium-full and strength is medium-plus. All three cigars need multiple touch-ups to help with smoke production.

While I manage to keep the Asylum PCA Exclusive from going out, there are some obvious signs during the final third that the touch-ups have taken effect on the flavor profile. The flavors I’m getting now are a toasty mixture of earthiness, pasta and some tartness. It’s an interesting mixture, but it’s not what I imagine the cigar would taste like without the combustion issues. The finish has earthiness, toastiness, tartness and either creaminess or saltiness depending on the puff. Retrohales are harsher than before, but underneath the harsh toastiness I can find some bubblegum sweetness. The finish has subtle herb flavors and creaminess, though like the rest of the profile to this point, it seems a bit beaten down due to the combustion. Flavor is medium-full, body is medium-full and strength is medium-plus. While I still need to make at least one touch-up on each cigar, the volume of smoke production increases quite a bit as the cigars near their ends.

Final Notes

  • There weren’t any obvious signs that would explain the combustion issue. That said, the cigars did feel light for a typical robusto.
  • Because of its unique pressing, the mouthfeel of this cigar is pretty different than most. I’m not sure it’s a polarizing feel, but it’s quite different than a normal cigar.
  • Similarly, I would have never guessed this is a 50 ring gauge cigar.
  • I am a fan of the PCA trying to get companies to have exclusive products for the trade show. I would also add, in its outreach for the 2022 PCA Convention & Trade Show, the organization has promised additional visibility for companies that produce exclusive products for the trade show. I don’t think this is going to fix the problems with the trade show, but this is certainly a step in the right direction.
  • Obviously, supply chain issues have hit new levels during the last two years, but I don’t think it’s ideal to ship a PCA exclusive cigar in late December. The trade show takes place in early July, I’d say it would be in everyone’s best interest to have the cigar shipping by the end of September.
  • For what it’s worth, CLE’s Eiroa PCA Exclusive shipped in September.
  • Of note, the boxes feature a lid that is designed to be used as an ashtray.
  • Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time was one hour and 40 minutes on average.
80 Overall Score

I’m not sure what’s preventing the Asylum PCA Exclusive 50×5 from staying lit, but that is clearly the issue with the cigar. Asylum has gone from a brand known almost exclusively for its large ring gauge offerings to a company capable of providing some of the more complex cigars from Honduras. This is not that, and it’s not close to that standard. Maybe time will improve the experience, but for now, I’d spend my money on other Asylum cigars.

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Charlie Minato

I am an editor and co-founder of halfwheel.com/Rueda Media, LLC. I previously co-founded and published TheCigarFeed, one of the two predecessors of halfwheel. I handle the editing of our written content, the majority of the technical aspects of the site and work with the rest of our staff on content management, business development and more. I’ve lived in most corners of the country and now entering my second stint in Dallas, Texas. I enjoy boxing, headphones, the Le Mans 24-hour, wearing sweatshirts year-round and gyros. echte liebe.