Last month, General Cigar Co. shipped a limited cigar that was not only the company’s most expensive cigar to date, but also one of the most expensive currently on the market.
While it may not be a surrpise that this cigar is part of General’s Cohiba brand, the $90 retail price did surprise quite a few people both in and out of the industry, although it turns out that the cigar has a number of features to justify the expense.
The 7 1/4 x 54 Churchill extra incorporates a blend of vintage tobaccos, including an Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper that General said was picked from upper primings of the plant and before being aged in eight sherry barrels that were sourced from Spain. However, one of the most unique additions to the filler blend was a Dominican piloto cubano leaf aged in tercios—which is a method of aging tobacco by using the leaves of a royal palm tree—since it was harvested in 1995. In addition, the filler includes a number of leaves grown in Estelí, Nicaragua from 2011-2014 that were also aged in the aforementioned sherry barrels as well as three different leaves from Honduras: Olancho San Agustin (2002), the Jamastran Valley and La Entrada (2011).
Finally, General decided to have a single buncher—Ruben Dario Perez Peña—and a single roller—Xirolma Céspedes—produce each cigar. The company says the pair has a combined nearly 50 years of experience.
“Cohiba Spectre is like the finest Bordeaux wine,” said Jhonys Diaz, vp of operations for General Cigar Dominicana, in a press release. “The tobaccos we selected are the product of ideal climatic conditions and a passion for tending to the tobacco at every step of the process. Through proprietary aging techniques, these tobaccos have developed in flavor and complexity, resulting in a smoking experience that cannot be otherwise be replicated.”
Although the Spectre was originally limited to just 180 boxes of 10, the cigars quickly sold out when it was shown off at the 2018 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, so General decided to produce an unspecified additional number.
Nsolo Consulting Group, makers of a variety of eye-catching Davidoff releases, designed the packaging.
- Cigar Reviewed: Cohiba Spectre
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: General Cigar Dominicana
- Wrapper: Ecuador (Sumatra)
- Binder: Honduras (Jamastran Valley)
- Filler: Dominican Republic (Piloto Cubano 1995), Honduras (Olancho San Agustin 2002, Jamastran Valley, La Entrada 2011) & Nicaragua (Estelí 2011-2014)
- Length: 7 1/4 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 54
- Vitola: Churchill Extra
- MSRP: $90 (Boxes of 10, $900)
- Release Date: Nov. 7, 2018
- Number of Cigars Released: n/a
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
The combination of a very attractive cinnamon brown wrapper that is fairly rough to the touch and a bit of noticeable oil makes the Cohiba Spectre quite striking visually, and that is after you take it out of the custom-made red plexiglass tube. There are a number of obvious veins present and while the main band is a bit large for my tastes, there is no denying how cool the secondary band’s hologram effect looks. Aroma from the wrapper is a combination of faint plastic, freshly roasted coffee, earth, cocoa nibs, leather and manure while the cold draw brings flavors of rich dark chocolate, grass, oak, mushrooms, leather and popcorn.
Starting out, the Cohiba Spectre features a very distinct mocha coffee that dominates the profile, followed by notes of salted peanuts, hay, creamy oak, leather and earth. There is a nice—albeit light—vanilla sweetness on the finish, but it is just strong enough to identify without really being strong enough to really affect the profile in any major way as of yet. Construction-wise, the draw is excellent with right amount of resistance after a shallow v-cut, but the burn needs to be touched up out of the gate, although it gives me no major issues after that. The smoke production is above average, and although the strength level starts out fairly low, it increases enough to come close to the medium mark by the end of the first third.
The vanilla sweetness starts to become more prevalent in the profile as the second third of the Cohiba Spectre begins, while the dominant flavor shifts a bit to more of salted peanut note, although the mocha coffee flavor is not far behind. Other notes of earth, leather, cocoa nibs, popcorn and a bit of cinnamon flit in and out, along with a small amount of spice on my tongue. The draw continues to impress and the burn is giving me no major issues, while the smoke production coming off of the foot remains fairly high. Strength-wise, the Cohiba Spectre manages to hit the medium mark by the end of the second third, but seems content to remain there for the foreseeable future.
Coming into the final third of the Cohiba Spectre, the profile is dominated by the same salted peanut flavor from the second third, but the vanilla sweetness has disappeared almost totally, which throws off the overall balance a little. There are also other flavors, including cinnamon, gritty earth, hay, creamy cedar and more of the mocha coffee, but they are all less distinct at this point. The smoke production has decreased a bit and the draw continues to give me great resistance, but the burn starts to waver enough that I am forced to touch it up, albeit close to the end of the smoke. Finally, the overall strength level increases just enough to be considered in the medium range by the time I put the nub down with a bit more than an inch left.
- On two of the three samples I smoked, the main band came off without warning during the first five minutes of me smoking the cigar. In fact, I had to tape one of the bands down in order to get photographs for the review.
- In addition to the above, each of the three samples smelled very faintly of plastic when I took them out of the tube. Thankfully, I did not detect any plastic flavor when actually smoking the cigars, but I am not sure I would store the cigars in the plastic tubes if I had a bunch of them in my humidor.
- It seems there are quite a few different companies who think the name Spectre is cool: there was apparently an entire brand using the name at one point, AJ Fernandez incorporated the moniker for a project named Spectre by AJ Fernandez and S.T. Dupont has a number of (expensive) accessories under a James Bond 007 brand as well.
- There is no doubt that the packaging is impressive when you see it in person—the combination of black leather outer box and red plexiglass lid on the actual box is a great look—but after carrying around the individual tubes the cigars are stored in for a short time, I was disappointed to note that the rubber end caps used to seal the tubes come off on their own accord quite often; in fact, one of them had fallen out in the box during the shipping process to our office, although the cigar inside was seemingly unaffected. The caps came off so often and with so little provocation I eventually just gave up and took all three of my review samples out of them.
- Charlie pointed out that he found it amusing that there is actually a Surgeon’s General warning label affixed to the outside of the display box that the main box of cigars is shipped in. This is due to an agreement between General Cigar Co.’s former owners and the Federal Trade Commission.
- As we have noted many times over years, the price of a cigar is not taken into account for any of halfwheel’s reviews.
- General Cigar Co. is a sponsor of halfwheel. That also isn’t a factory.
- The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time for all three samples averaged one hour and 41 minutes.
- If you would like to purchase any of the Cohiba Spectre, site sponsor Corona Cigar Co. has them in stock.
To answer the question on most people’s minds right off the top: as I mentioned in my review of the Muestra de Saka Unicorn, there are very few cigars that I would pay $90-$100 for, and the Cohiba Spectre is not on the list. Yes, the packaging is strikingly unique and yes, the profile of the cigar itself is extremely enjoyable, especially the salted peanut note that dominates the final two thirds. In fact, this blend has quite a few things going for it: it is exceedingly smooth, extremely well-balanced and nicely constructed. However, the one thing this blend does not have is an abundance of complexity, as the profile is fairly linear for pretty much the whole cigar. That is not necessary a bad thing—there are a number of linear blends that I enjoy quite a bit—but I I was surprised there were not more unique flavors considering the extensive description on the tobacco used in the blend detailed above. In the end, the Cohiba Spectre is a very enjoyable release with an extremely unique packaging, but all of those are not enough to justify the high price that is being charged.