By now, the idea of seeing old cigar brands return to the market should not be a new one; with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulation of cigars at least partially underway, many companies have dug into their archives to look for heritage brands that would meet the FDA’s guidelines for being on the market without needing pre-approval, as well as possibly be able to be grandfathered into the regulation era.
In the case of Gurkha, the company went all the way back to a line that debuted in 1999, the Havana Legend.
The line has received an update to its packaging as part of its re-release but the blend remains largely the same, using an Ecuadorian habano wrapper, a Dominican olor binder and Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers. It is made at American Caribbean Cigars Trading Company S.A. in Estelí, Nicaragua, and is offered in four vitolas.
- Gurkha Havana Legend Robusto Corto (4 1/2 x 48) — $5 (Boxes of 20, $100)
- Gurkha Havana Legend Robusto (5 x 54) — $5.50 (Boxes of 20, $110)
- Gurkha Havana Legend Toro (6 x 50) — $6 (Boxes of 20, $120)
- Gurkha Havana Legend XO (6 x 60) — $9 (Boxes of 20, $180)
- Cigar Reviewed: Gurkha Havana Legend Toro (2017)
- Country of Origin: Nicaragaua
- Factory: American Caribbean Cigars S.A.
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
- Binder: Dominican Republic
- Filler: Dominican Republic & Nicaragua
- Length: 6 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 50
- Vitola: Toro Extra
- MSRP: $6 (Boxes of 20, $120)
- Release Date: December 2017
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
On the first sample I smoked, I find myself perplexed by some dark spots I notice on the wrapper even before I slide the cigar out of its cellophane, and when I do I discover they are small bits of tobacco that somehow landed on a handful of spots all the way up to the head. They brush off easily and the wrapper looks good otherwise, with the well-tanned wrapper leaf showing just a few small veins, even coloring, clean seams and a dry, matte finish. There’s a bit of consistent give to the cigar but it’s far from being soft, while the caps are applied well. The foot of the Gurkha Havana Legend smells like I just stuck my nose into a fresh box of corn flakes as it is rich with neutral cereal grains and shows no pepper or sweetness. There’s a bit of buttered bread in one sample, but the cereal is remarkably consistent. The cold draw is good as far as airflow though errs to the loose side, while it’s a bit creamier as far as flavor, but equally as loaded with cereal notes. In particular, it’s reminiscent of a handful of Cheerios but with a slightly smoky finish.
The cereal notes turn to bread and toast in the first puffs of the Gurkha Havana Legend Toro, with the flavor thick, warm and just a bit peppery on the palate with more present through the nose. Just a bit turns into quite peppery in the first half inch, and with the profile a bit on the thin side as it hits the palate, the mix of white and black pepper stands out even more vibrantly on a retrohale. By the one-inch mar, the cigar has solidified its first flavor profile, becoming incredibly dry on the palate with an abundance of wheat and cereal for the palate, while the mix of white and black pepper remains aimed squarely at the nostrils and does little on the tongue. When forgoing the retrohales, a bit of creaminess begins to emerge as the first clump of ash drops, and while it’s far from sweet or dominant, it finally gets a chance to show through without having to compete with the pepper. The intensity of the flavor picks up heading into the second third while the profile stays on course, with the burn, smoke production and draw all quite good. Only the ash garners a complaint, as it doesn’t hold on well and tends to break off quite easily.
The start of the second third carries on with the flavor much the same as in the first third, dominated by cereal notes and highlighted by pepper, though shortly into this section it changes into a thick and chewy cake donut with a bit of sugary sweetness through the nose. It’s still a bit below medium in body and strength, and while it’s not incredibly complex, the flavor is engaging though does seem to beg for a beverage to keep the mouth from drying out. There’s also a bit of orange peel sweetness appearing in the aroma, and when it hits just right, it is enchanting. Given its size, the band needs to come off as the burn line approaches the midway point. While the dry cereal note continues, I another taste of sweetness from the cigar by way of a white sugar glaze that puts the idea of Frosted Flakes into my mind. I’m also getting a bit of powdered coffee creamer in the profile as well, not as good as genuine creaminess but it does add some complexity. By the time the Gurkha Havana Legend Toro is ready to begin its final third, the dryness of the profile has subsided a bit, the intensity of the grains has mellowed, and I’m beginning to get a bit of orange zest sweetness in the aroma, giving the cigar a new and distinct offering.
The texture of the smoke from the Gurkha Havana Legend is the next aspect to change, picking up a bit more of a cotton candy profile on the tongue while remaining abundant in quantity. Retrohales continue to be quite peppery, something that is appreciated but not quite as necessary as the tastebuds get a very enjoyable flavor that isn’t in need of it. A peanut flavor enters the equation with the home stretch approaching, though the cigar seems to have slowed its combustion rate quite a bit and the burn line progresses much more slowly than it did in the first third. The aroma also develops a good bit of creaminess—liquid, not powdered—and a whiff of it while it rests is nothing short of delightful. There’s a bit of roughness beginning to emerge with about two inches left, manifesting as some back of the throat irritation, which is disappointing in this otherwise enjoyable cigar. A slower smoking rate keeps that in check a bit, while plumes of thick smoke billow off the cigar in its final inch and a resurgence of pepper in the retrohales and resting aroma.
- In May 2017, Gurkha announced plans to acquire the American Caribbean Cigars factory where this was made, only to pull out of the agreement in January 2018.
- The back of the band features Gurkha’s website address; not the most engaging use of that space but certainly better than nothing.
- Coincidentally, removing the band from each of the three samples resulted in some minor wrapper damage, and all in the same spot: right where the www in said webpage address was printed.
- You can find the Gurkha Havana Legend in a 2017 sampler pack that the company released, with also includes a Master Select, Heritage Maduro, Cellar Reserve 15 Year – 10th Anniversary, Cask Blend and Cellar Reserve 12 Year.
- There’s a sneaky bit of nicotine strength from the cigar; it’s not overpowering, but if you’re sensitive to nicotine, it might catch you off guard.
- Gurkha also offers a line called the East India Classic Havana Blend, so be sure you’re getting the right cigar if you want to pick this up.
- Just like it brought back the Havana Legend from 1999, Gurkha also revived The Master Select, which debuted in 2001. That line began shipping in Oct0ber 2017.
- Gurkha advertises on halfwheel.
- The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time was two hours and 10 minutes on average.
- Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar, Cigars.com and JR Cigar carry the Gurkha Havana Legend.
This relaunched Gurkha Havana Legend might not be the most complex cigar you'll smoke, but it does offer a surprising amount of high points, particularly via the aroma and when the cigar picks up the all too fleeting moments of sweetness. While it's fairly linear on the flavor side, it does mix in a few zigs and zags to keep it from being monotonous, and at the end of the day, it checks almost all of the boxes I look for in a cigar. For $6, you could do a lot worse than the Gurkha Havana Legend, and even for a good bit more as well. If you're locked into the Gurkha stereotype, it might be hard to sell you on this blend's merits, but if you aren't stuck on that hangup, you should find yourself quite pleased by this blend.