It wasn’t that long ago that it seemed that General Cigar Co. was trying to make its Cohiba brand accessible to more cigar smokers. In 2017, the company released the Cohiba Blue, which the company described at the time as “an approachable, everyday cigar that will bring consumers into the Cohiba franchise at an affordable price point.”

Since then, it seems like new products for the Cohiba brand have been keeping with the Cohiba’s place as the flagship brand within General’s portfolio with one of the highest-priced examples of that being its Spectre series.

Debuting in 2018, the original Spectre became known as much for its $90 MSRP as anything, though it wouldn’t be long before its packaging began garnering attention as well. It was compared to “the finest Bordeaux wine” with its tobaccos reflecting “ideal climatic conditions and a passion for tending to the tobacco at every step of the process,” according to Jhonys Diaz, vp of operations for General Cigar Dominicana, where the line is produced.

It would be the first of several cigars to push General Cigar Co.’s Cohiba brand into the ultra-premium space, which its Cuban counterpart has been in for well over a decade thanks to products like the original Cohiba Behike.

General Cigar Co. would bring the Cohiba Spectre back in 2019 with a new blend and new packaging and, after skipping a 2020 release, it released a third installment in November 2021.

  • Cohiba Spectre (7 1/4 x 54) — November 2018 — 180 Boxes of 10 Cigars (1,800 Total Cigars)*
  • Cohiba Spectre CS19 (6 x 49) — November 2019 — 180 Boxes of 10 Cigars (1,800 Total Cigars)
  • Cohiba Spectre 2021 (6 1/2 x 52) — November 2021 — 500 Boxes of 10 Cigars (5,000 Total Cigars)

*General Cigar Co. made more than the originally-announced 180 boxes though never clarified just how many more.

As for the details about 2021 version, it is a 6 1/2 x 52 toro extra, with a blend that uses an Ecuadorian habano wrapper that the company says underwent a six-month-long secondary fermentation process. Underneath that is a Connecticut broadleaf binder, while the filler uses some specially treated tobaccos. The first is Dominican piloto cubano from the 2014 crop that was aged in tercios, which are bundles of tobaccos aged in royal palm leaves. There is also tobacco from Nicaragua’s Jalapa region that was harvested in 2017 and aged in Spanish sherry barrels.

In keeping with the elaborate packaging that the line has received, 2021’s version was no different, coming in an aluminum box embossed with the Spectre word mark and with piano hinges used to attach the two wings that cover the cigars. The cigars come in thick plastic tubos, while the set comes with a pair of gloves to keep fingerprints off the box.

 

Each of the 5,000 cigars were created by the same pair that produced the previous two releases. Ruben Dario Perez Peña creates the bunch for every cigar, while Xirolma Céspedes applies the wrapper. The pair have more than 50 years of combined experience in cigar making, according to General Cigar Co.

“Cohiba Spectre continues our tradition of creating exceptional smoking experiences,” said Sean Williams, brand ambassador for Cohiba, in a press release. “Our blending expertise, passion for tobacco, and commitment to craftsmanship and creativity are on full display with Spectre. As with its predecessors, this offering is uniquely representative of our rarest tobacco. Spectre is quite simply, a cigar that can never be replicated.”

  • Cigar Reviewed: Cohiba Spectre 2021
  • Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
  • Factory: General Cigar Dominicana
  • Wrapper: Ecuador (Habano)
  • Binder: U.S.A. (Connecticut Broadleaf)
  • Filler: Dominican Republic (Piloto Cubano) & Nicaragua (Jalapa)
  • Length: 6 1/2 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 52
  • Vitola: Toro Extra
  • MSRP: $119.99 (Box of 10, $1199.90)
  • Release Date: November 2021
  • Number of Cigars Released: 500 Boxes of 10 Cigars (5,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

The 2021 version of the Cohiba Spectre is certainly dressed like a premium cigar, and that’s before I take the box and related packaging into account. Starting with the plastic tubo, it is thicker and more substantial in the hand than most tubos and the Cohiba Spectre name is embossed on the plastic, allowing it to impart a tactile sensation. Then there is the positioning of the cigar, as it is centered right underneath those words, something that might be easy to overlook but is needed here. If you’re tuned in enough to notice it, the next thing that stands out is a firm, rubber-like substance in the cap of the tubo, something different from the typical soft foam that tends to be used in such applications. Once out of the tubo—which takes some tapping—the cigar shows that it is wearing a pair of bands trimmed in gold and with gold font that sits atop a background that looks like carbon fiber, furthering the ultra-premium aspect. The wrapper is a very evenly colored shade of brown that is darker than medium but not quite what I would call dark brown. There’s a bit of oiliness for the fingers, while veins are small but standard in size, and the seam lines are visible seemingly only because of the color of the tobacco where it has been cut, as the leaf looks quite even to my eyes. The cigar is rolled firmly with generally consistent density from head to foot. The foot of the cigar has a complex aroma that gets me thinking of lighter pastries at first, with a bit of sweetness steering the flavor and leading me to a bit of creaminess and banana peel in the first cigar. There’s also a dry nuttiness and bran, though those seem to come at the expense of the sweetness. One cigar has a thick, deeper sweetness, almost like molasses or rum, though it is tucked pretty far back in the aroma. The cold draw is on the firm side of the scale, something I initially attribute to what looks like a tightly-packed head. The flavor of the first sample has a thick, syrupy sweetness that has me do an immediate double-take, an experience I don’t get on the second sample and which I get a faint version of on the third. There’s a bit of molasses that leads me to think of some thicker rums, though the flavor here doesn’t have any booziness to it, and in some samples, the flavor is dry enough that it dashes those thoughts.

Once the Cohiba Spectre is burning, I still find a bit of the sweetness I found on the cold draw, though to quell any concerns, it does not taste like it has a sweetened tip, at least not judging by my previous experience with sweetened tip cigars. Beyond that, there is a good amount of white pepper, accents of black pepper, dry nuts, and another mouth-drying aspect that reminds me of cedar and similar woods. For all that’s going on, I find myself most drawn to the sweetness, which tastes like a distilled spirit placed in the center of a pastry, and makes me wonder if it’s being driven by the processes the filler tobaccos go through as much as anything. That sweetness begins to fade after the first clump of ash comes off, and the dryness of the profile becomes immediately apparent. The dry earth is the most prominent, with a terroir that I can’t immediately place due to its relative lightness and the quick effect it has on whatever moisture I have in my mouth. Retrohales are dominated by white pepper that really tingles the nostrils before showing a bit more of that same earthiness. By the end of the first third, the flavor has mellowed quite a bit, guided now by a bit of dusty earth, a very light pepper component, and a dry, buttermilk biscuit sensation. The draw still seems a bit firm at times, but construction and combustion are otherwise very good. After starting medium-plus, the flavor in this section is now medium-minus, body is a consistent medium, and strength is mild.

The flavor begins to build back up not long after the second third gets underway, picking up a bit of graham cracker, more white pepper and some dry woods. As it does, the word refined enters my mind as a possible descriptor for what I’m experiencing from some of the profile, as even with the mouth-drying aspects of the profile, there still seems to be something different from what I would expect from an average, off-the-shelf cigar. That said, there is still plenty of vibrance from the profile, with the third sample quite lively to my senses. Retrohales add a bit more black pepper to the mix, a change that begins being noticeable right around the midway point and continues building throughout this section. There are also a few spots where it seems like the sherry barrels are becoming more noticeable, introducing a thinner sweetness that echoes an earlier flavor, while the woodiness suggests dried, spent barrels. A bit of creaminess comes into the profile as the second third comes to a close, creating a smooth base flavor on the tongue, while the pepper seems geared towards the roof of my mouth. One sample also has an interesting and very enjoyable sweetness that reminds me of dried apricots. Combustion and construction are both very good and problem-free. The flavor is a smooth and easy medium, body is also medium, and strength is just shy of medium.

While dry earthiness has been a near-constant in the profile, there’s now a bit of funky terroir that reminds me a bit of old wine vines but without the vegetal aspect. There’s some powdery baking spices coming out as well, namely nutmeg and just a bit of cinnamon, which then leads back to sensations of dry cedar, a quick bouncing around of the flavors that ends up back at the dry earthiness. Depending on how those two things emerge and interact with each other, the start of the final third is either quite enjoyable or makes me scratch my head as to what the profile is trying to do. By the point where the burn line has passed through where the bands would be, the Cohiba Spectre 2021 kicks up its nicotine strength, suddenly hitting my system with the feeling of strong tobacco. While all cigars show this strength change, one cigar is particularly strong and has me really feeling the effects. While strength is building, the flavor still has an impressive delicateness to it, mixing cedar, pepper and a bit more of the graham cracker flavor that would be interesting to experience without the related strength. There’s also an interesting creaminess that suggests well-made marshmallows, with the building smokiness of the profile suggesting a bit of char from a campfire. Construction and combustion remain good, with only one sample requiring a relight after struggling to stay lit. Flavor finishes medium-full, body is medium-plus, and strength is medium-full.

Final Notes

  • Occasionally I will comment on the bands on cigars, and in particular how hard they are to remove. In this case, it was the exact opposite. They were well attached but about as easy to remove as a Post-It Note. This helps ensure that the removal process won’t cause any damage to the cigars, which I’d hope would be the case given these ultra-premium cigars.
  • On that note, I would be quite happy if every cigar manufacturer called up General Cigar Co. and figured out what they did to adhere these bands. I’d love to see execution be the industry standard.
  • I found it interesting that the back of the primary band has a diamond-shaped text box that reads “aged in tercios bales.” I’d be intrigued to know if that gets noticed by most smokers, let alone if they know what it means or inspires them to do a quick search as to why it merits being on the band.
  • One more note on the bands: General Cigar Co. used the gold packaging for the samples of the Cohiba Spectre 2019, while the retail version wore a silver version.
  • The packaging of the Cohiba Spectre 2021 finished tied for first place on our 2021 Packaging Awards, alongside the Davidoff Limited Edition 2022 Year of the Tiger.
  • All three of the Cohiba Spectre releases have either tied for or finished first outright in our packaging awards, which recognizes the work of the marketing and design teams that create packaging. The 2018 list is here, while the 2019 list is here.
  • As for 2020, the Cohiba Royale won that year’s award, making for an impressive four-year run for General Cigar Co.
  • One of my issues with packaging is that even when it is superlative, I still want to find a use for it once it has served its initial purpose, and that is something I struggle with, in this case. I don’t even know if the tubos are recyclable as they aren’t stamped as such. I’m sure someone might have a creative reuse for these; if you want the three tubos from this review, contact me ASAP and I’ll figure out how to get them to you.
  • And then there are the boxes. I’m not sure what I would do with any of them had I purchased them, and to me, that is an issue.
  • Editor’s Note: Another other issue with the box is that it’s not all that functional with the cigars inside of it. The box is likely too large to fit into some smaller cabinet humidors and that’s before you take into account whether or not you want to have this much of a humidor taken up by a box that only stores 10 cigars. Unless you have lots of space in a large cabinet humidor or a walk-in humidor, it’s almost guaranteed that you won’t be using the box to help store the cigars. — CM.
  • About those boxes, they weighed in at 22 pounds, 15 ounces
  • Packaging like this, while beautiful and impressive, reminds me of a sign I saw out front of a retailer in Seattle many years ago that has stuck with me: waste is a design flaw.
  • As I noted above, it takes some tapping to get the cigar out of its tube, something I have mixed feelings about. I like the fact that it’s a snug fit and keeps the bands centered with the text on the tube, as well as probably reduces the risk of damage, yet it also feels like it should slide out easier. I’d be interested to know if some kind of ribbon could be attached between the foot of the cigar—in its cellophane, of course—and the cap, so that when it is removed, it helps pull the cigar out of the tube.
  • While this cigar is certainly expensive, it was not the most expensive Cohiba to come from General Cigar Co. in 2021; that title belongs to the Cohiba C8, which was created, which was created for the U.S. duty-free market and priced at $2,499.99 for 10-cigars, though each set comes with a cutter and lighter from S.T.Dupont.
  • There was definitely some white sugar consumed after smoking the Cohiba Spectre 2021 in an attempt to neutralize the effects of the nicotine.
  • General Cigar Co. advertises on halfwheel.
  • The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time was two hours and 20 minutes on average.
88 Overall Score

Let's put the price aspect of the Cohiba Spectre 2021 to the side for a moment; this cigar is very good but not without its flaws. The first half of the cigar is incredibly mouth-drying, which I've never found to be overly enjoyable; the final third can be hit-and-miss; and the strength that the cigar can offer seems out of place. But then there are the good points, the highlights of which seem to trace back to the sherry barrels used for some of the filler, as well as the extra fermentation that the wrapper undergoes. The sweetness that the cigar offers is distinctive and quite refined, much like a fine spirit. When it's not drying out the mouth, the earthiness is enjoyable for my palate, and the pepper aspect of the profile is about as developed and refined as I can recall. Construction and combustion are also very good, all but completely problem-free except for some combustion in the final third of one sample. Put all that together, and you have a distinctive and memorable cigar that I enjoyed smoking and would gladly smoke again. Whether or not that sounds appealing enough to you to pay the premium for, that's an opinion about the Cohiba Spectre 2021 that you'll have to make for yourself.

Patrick Lagreid

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.