If I had to name unique cigar brands from a company perspective, El Septimo seems like a strong candidate.
It’s a brand that was largely only sold in Europe until it was bought last year by the Younan Collection, a company that specializes in luxury real estate and hospitality. That in of itself would be rather unique, but the company’s approach to cigars is also pretty different. It makes cigars in Costa Rica using Costa Rican tobacco, and the prices are rather high for a brand that most readers inevitably have never heard of. Most of the company’s portfolio retails in the $40+ price range, likely putting it in the top 1 percent of average price point on a company-by-company basis.
In February 2020, the company announced a new line called the Gilgamesh Collection, which marked two notable shifts for the company. First, the cigars retail for $20, making it one of the more affordable cigars the company sells, and it’s the first time the company has produced a cigar with a 50 ring gauge.
It’s not the first time the company has made a cigar this large; in fact much of its profile is 60 ring gauge. Yet finding a company offering a dozen or more cigars and none of them being 50 ring gauge is relatively rare.
There are two cigars that are part of the Gilgamesh Collection: Sable Samash and Aqua Anu. Both are Costa Rican puros measuring 5 9/10 x 50. The Aqua Anu is darker and made of tobacco that is up to 10-years-old, while the Sable Samash uses tobacco that is up to six-years-old. The company says the Aqua Anu is medium-bodied while the Sable Samash is described as full-bodied.
The names are based on King Gilgamesh, who was believed to be the king of Sumer—the southern part of Mesopotamia, now known as Iraq—sometime between 2,800-2,500 B.C. The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the oldest surviving great works of both literature and religious texts.
- Cigar Reviewed: Gilgamesh Collection Aqua Anu
- Country of Origin: Costa Rica
- Factory: El Septimo
- Wrapper: Costa Rica
- Binder: Costa Rica
- Filler: Costa Rica
- Length: 5 9/10 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 50
- Vitola: Toro
- MSRP: $20 (Box of 10, $200)
- Release Date: March 31, 2020
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
The Gilgamesh Collection Aqua Anu appears well rolled with a dark wrapper that contrasts the light band. One thing I wasn’t expecting is the twisted foot; the last bit of wrapper is twisted tight into a small knot almost like how the caps of some cigars are made. While things are good visually, once I pick up the cigars things are a bit different as they are super spongy. These cigars aren’t packaged in cellophane and so I only get a medium amount of aroma from the wrapper, which has some oak, a strong acidity and saltiness. I can’t really pick up anything from the foot of the cigar, though it presumably should smell like the wrapper. Cold draws have a lot of grains with some granola sweetness, some brownie cocoa, acidity and a touch of grapefruit. The draw is quite tight, which seems reasonable given the foot isn’t open.
Once lit the cigar has a great start with peanuts, burnt bread, a burnt barbecue flavor and some underlying sweetness. Unfortunately, it’s pretty apparent that the cigars are overhumidified and probably underfilled. While there’s plenty of smoke pouring off the foot, getting smoke into my mouth is a struggle, forcing me to double puff and smoke quite a bit quicker than both the cigar and I would like. The main flavor in the mouth is a combination of burnt woods, Wonder Bread and some heavy cream flavors. Retrohaling produces pita bread, a distinct liquid smoke flavor and a bit of amaro. The finish has woods, sunflower seeds and anise, but everything is a bit charred. After just 15 minutes it feels like the top of my mouth has had a run-in with super spicy food as it feels quite burnt. Flavor is full, body is medium-full and strength seems to be full. The presumed overhumidification and underfilling mean I’m smoking far quicker than I’d like to, making the cigar hotter than it should be. Despite that, not every sample is immune to touch-ups to help the cigar from going out.
Before I reach the halfway mark things have taken a turn for the worse, which is particularly problematic given it wasn’t like the first third was without its own issues. My efforts to both keep the Gilgamesh Collection Aqua Anu from going out and to put smoke in my mouth are producing an overall experience that is anything but positive. Flavor-wise, it’s muted sour earthiness with some saltiness. Even though I’ve been able to keep the cigar from going completely out, the cigar tastes like it’s been relit four or five times. Retrohales are better but still quite charred with earthiness, some sourness, hay and an emerging white pepper. If I don’t retrohale, the finish is a carbon copy of the main mouth flavors with some added grain. If I do, the white pepper dominates everything which is a massive step in the right direction. Flavor is full, body is medium-full and strength remains full. The draw is open, the burn line is crooked, oftentimes parts of the cigar aren’t burning, and smoke production in the mouth is anemic. If you want to read some positive things, the ash will hold on for quite a while, but it’s crooked and in need of touch-ups.
By the time there’s one-and-a-half-inches left, things are a charred mess. The cigar tastes like something that has been completely relit a number of times—which still hasn’t happened once—meaning it is getting increasingly bitter. It’s a struggle to get much smoke in the mouth and when I do it’s not particularly pleasant, just a mixture of charred earth, other burnt flavors and some herbal flavors. For those wondering—and I’m not sure why you should be at this point—flavor is full, body is medium-full and strength seems like it’s probably still full.
- These cigars were over humidified and probably underfilled. I suspect a properly rolled and humidified cigar tastes and smokes quite a bit different. As the video above shows, I was able to smush the cigar pretty aggressively with breaking any of the filler or wrapper. The cigar bounced back into place like a memory foam mattress.
- El Septimo, like a handful of others, uses this type of branded bag. I didn’t test the bag to see what humidity level it was at, but if my past experience is any indication I suspect it produced a much higher humidity than both what is advertised and good for the cigars.
- If you are thinking to yourself that this seems like a pretty major oversight for a cigar company that is sending cigars to be reviewed, this is hardly in the top half of misdeeds. We are routinely sent cigars that are just thrown inside of a box with no bag, let alone humidification or proper packing material. My personal favorite remains the time a company packaged their cigars in a bag with no Boveda pouch, zipped up the bag and then stuck a Boveda in the box but not in the bag.
- Prior to coronavirus COVID-19 we were pretty consistent about waiting a month to review cigars after they showed up. Due to a lack of new cigars, the average rest period is probably closer to 20 days than 30 days at this point. The cigars for this review arrived on May 12 and May 22 respectively.
- I dry boxed the second and third samples and waited 72 hours before getting around to smoking the second sample. It was better, but still not great, leading me to believe this is probably a combination of issues.
- In my limited experience with other El Septimo cigars, I can think of two times I’ve smoked cigars from this brand, and they didn’t produce this type of issue.
- I’m not sure if it was the increased puff rate or the actual chemical reaction to the cigar, but while smoking each sample I had a mild headache. Within 10 minutes after I stopped smoking, it was gone. I’m not sure if this happened during the first sample because I wasn’t paying that much attention, but it certainly was the case on the other two samples.
- It would seem that for whatever reason, I’ve gotten nearly every construction issue-plagued cigar we’ve reviewed at halfwheel over the last week eight weeks. It’s not particularly fun.
- The cigars look quite a bit different than what you will see on El Septimo’s website and promotional pictures. For starters, the unique twisted foot isn’t present in any of those pictures and the band looks far more metallic than it does in person.
- Two of the cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel. One cigar used for this review was sent by El Septimo.
- Final smoking time was one hour and 25 minutes on average, a very quick smoking time due to the construction errors.
While this score is inevitably low, it probably would be lower if I wasn’t using a scoresheet that broke things down into thirds. The saving grace for the Aqua Anu was the first third. While it wasn’t great, the flavor was decent and the construction wasn’t atrocious. That cannot be said for the remaining parts of the cigar, which suffered from a combination of a number of issues, leading to an end result that is quite bad.