At this year’s IPCPR trade show and convention, Gurkha showed off the latest in its Cellar Reserve line—the Edición Especial. It’s the third year in a row the company has introduced a cigar under the name, following the original Cellar Reserve and last year’s Cellar Reserve Limitada.
From the get go, anyone that’s seen the other two release should recognize quite a few similarities. It starts with the packaging, which uses the same box and band design, although the details change slightly—the original is the lightest using a sand-colored box and white bands, the Limitada is the darkest with black boxes and bands, while the newest releases falls in the middle using a mahogany-like color for the box and a dark orange on the bands. The sizes will also look very familiar, as the four vitolas used in this year’s release are also part of the original line and three of the vitolas were used in the Limitada release last year.
As for the differences, the newest version uses an undisclosed corojo wrapper over Dominican fillers. It’s also the most expensive of the series so far, ranging from $11 to $15.60 per cigar. While last year’s Limitada claimed to use 15-year-old tobacco, this year, Gurkha says it found tobaccos that were 18-years-old, which likely would be the explanation for the slightly increased price.
Each size is limited to 1,000 boxes, which should be heading to retailers soon given the initial ship date given by the company.
- Cigar Reviewed: Gurkha Cellar Reserve Edición Especial Solara
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: Tabacalera Las Lavas S.R.L
- Wrapper: Corojo
- Binder: Dominican Republic
- Filler: Dominican Republic
- Size: 5 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 58
- Vitola: Perfecto
- MSRP: $12.20 (Boxes of 20, $244)
- Release Date: August 2014
- Number of Cigars Released: 1,000 Boxes of 20 Cigars (20,000 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
The Solara looks like a slightly more-pronounced version of the Liga Privada Único Serie Feral Flying Pig, including the bun style cap where the tail wraps around the head of the cigar. The samples I smoked displayed similar wrapper color, although the sheen ranged from lifeless to oily. I pick up a muted dry leather and barnyard aroma once the Solara is removed from cellophane, although my attention quickly shifts to a hard spot near the center of the band. It’s something I found on all three samples, usually in different places, but it was concerning each time. From the foot, there’s sweeter notes that help round out the medium-full profile, notably cocoa and graham cracker. Fortunately, the tightness of the cold draw of the Cellar Reserve Edición Especial is about what I expect from a perfecto of this size and the flavors are great—like eating a graham cracker-based vanilla ice cream sundae that had some grass clippings fall into it. Maybe not the greatest ice cream in the world, but definitely a more enjoyable cold draw than “cedar and pepper.”
As so often is the case, the cold draw’s flavors do not make it to the start of the cigar. Instead, I pick up raspberry, saw dust, earthiness, coffee bean and baker’s spice. It’s not as exciting as a sundae, but I don’ t have any complaints flavor-wise. The draw tightens a few puffs in, somewhat concerning, but on each sample it loosens back up midway through the burning of the nipple. Flavors take a pretty drastic turn with bread and bitter coffee over the saw dust, vanilla and some spices. There’s some harshness that varies from puff to puff, never drawing out the rest of the flavors of the Solara, but always present. I do appreciate the firmness of the ash, easily making it an inch-and-a-half before I decided to tap it into my ashtray.
The full-bodied profile continues in the second third with the bread really taking center stage, particularly through the nose. Not too far behind is a combination of wet earth and vegetal notes, while nuttiness is present on the tongue. I lose most of the spice from the first third, although a pepper emerges midway through providing a different contrast note. My first real complaint construction-wise comes midway through two samples when the burn requires a touch-up after becoming pretty uneven, but the draw of the Solara has gotten close to the middle of the tightness spectrum, while smoke production is average. Strength climbs to medium-full, although it stops increasing right around the middle point.
I was not expecting the Solara to mellow, but all three samples showed a much different side of the Edición Especial. Cotton candy emerges on one sample for a few puffs, something I would have never expected at any point prior. The coffee note from the first third has transformed into burnt coffee, beyond your average cup of Starbucks, and it’s joined by leather, lemon and toast. It’s a far less intense flavor profile in the mouth, but with an inch or so left, the retrohale becomes oddly punishing. As the final inch burns down smoke production fades, forcing me to baby the Solara, and an indifferent sourness adds itself to the profile. Eventually, I put it down and try to make sense of the 90 or so minutes it takes to smoke each cigar.
- The cigar is scheduled to be released in “mid-August” as far as I can tell, it has not arrived at stores yet.
- Credit where credit is due—in my opinion—no brand has reshaped its reputation at brick and mortar retailers over the last few years like Gurkha. While there are still a fair amount of exclusives to online retailers, Gurkha is selling at a fair percentage of brick and mortars. It’s a transformation that does not get realized much, let alone recognized. While it does not apply to this site and reviews like this, at the end of the day, most retailers will tell you there are two types of cigars—those that sell and those that do not.
- I take very little off the top of the cigar when cutting, but even so, an unevenly aligned and slightly high placement of the band meant that the band would regularly touch my bottom lip. Did it affect flavor? No. Is it annoying? Absolutely.
- Obviously in a regular environment I would remove the band, however, given the need for the photographs, one sample had to have the band throughout the cigar, while the others were promptly removed.
- Overall, construction is fair. The torch was reached for about twice per cigar after the initial light and the draw worked itself out relatively quickly.
- I like Gurkha’s vitola naming scheme, in that it’s chosen unique names for specific sizes and uses them across the new lines. For example, the company consistently refers to its 6 x 60 size as the XO. More manufacturers could do this for the sake of retailers, consumers and cigar bloggers alike.
- This cigar made you work to find the flavors and outside of the cold draw, I never felt there was much depth to how they get arranged. I think that’s hard to get across in reviews like this, which oftentimes turn into a listing of flavors inch-by-inch. I’m not sure time will help, although the final third was by far the most enjoyable, so perhaps there should be hope.
- Gurkha makes a lot of claims regarding tobacco sourcing and other things. While we don’t have any evidence that contradicts any of these claims, the idea that there is tobacco from the height of the cigar boom (1996) is enough to draw skepticism. If the narrative was “we’ve been storing this tobacco for 18 years,” like say Fuente, things would be a lot easier to believe.
- There’s also the issue of what tobaccos are in fact 18-years-old. In a press release Kaizad Hansotia, founder of Gurkha, said, “I partnered with our blenders to search for the rarest tobaccos we could find and stumbled upon this 18-year old Corojo wrapper and blend.” That runs contrary to how the blend was described to us at halfwheel, Cigar Insider and Cigar-Coop at the IPCPR 2014 trade show and convention, where the company was touting the filler as 18-years-old.
- That same press release indicates the company is already working on next year’s release.
- Strength peaks at medium-full, although it starts at a medium level and ends at something slightly below it.
- Cigars for this review were given to halfwheel at the 2014 IPCPR convention and trade show.
- Final smoking time is one hour and 30 minutes.
While the debate about the tobacco can continue, it has no effect on scoring or recommending the Cellar Reserve Edicion Especial. It’s a mixed bag, one that at times I enjoy quite a bit, but a few puffs later I struggle to feel great about. It’s by no means the greatest Gurkha I’ve smoked, not even close. With a few small fixes to construction, this cigar would be easy to recommend over the rest of the Cellar Reserve lines, but for now—it’s a toss-up. If someone puts one of each in front of me and tells me to pick one, I’d probably take a shot at the Edición Especial and hope for better construction and more depth, but if it’s guaranteed to repeat this experience, I might take the original line. There’s no question that the Cellar Reserve Edición Especial, like too many of the cigars entering the market, benefits from the fact we don’t factor price into scores, but even absent the higher price, it’s not a cigar I would recommend buying given these samples. Simply put, there’s too many minor issues and not enough consistent periods of enjoyment.