While I haven’t done an extensive study, my educated guess says that most of the cigars that have been designed for the Tobacconists’ Association of America Exclusive Series Program, i.e. TAA exclusives, over the years have been standalone releases. But—as you can probably tell—there usually are a few companies each year who buck the trend and release exclusive sizes of existing lines to TAA retailers.
For Gurkha’s 2021 TAA ESP release—the second time it has created a TAA exclusive—the company commissioned a 6 7/8 x 52 perfecto of its Gurkha Nicaragua Series. That line was introduced in 2019 in four sizes, made entirely of Nicaraguan tobaccos from AGANORSA and made at AGANORSA’s Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. factory.
- Gurkha Nicaragua Series Robusto (5 x 52) — October 2019 — Regular Production
- Gurkha Nicaragua Series Toro (6 x 54) — October 2019 — Regular Production
- Gurkha Nicaragua Series Magnum (6 x 60) — October 2019 — Regular Production
- Gurkha Nicaragua Series Belicoso (6 1/8 x 52) — October 2019 — Regular Production
- Gurkha Nicaragua Series TAA Exclusive 2021 (6 7/8 x 52) — October 2021 — 1,000 Boxes of 10 Cigars (10,000 Total Cigars)
As we have noted before, the TAA is a fairly small group of some of the country’s top tobacconists, about 80 retailers, as well as 40 or so manufacturers. The association gathers annually to discuss issues facing the industry and retailers, as well as to have its annual trade show, a unique event that works on a group buying format in order to secure exclusive deals for these generally high-volume merchants.
During the event, the organization holds two selling events, one known as the Dream Machine where the retailers collectively order to secure larger discounts, while the other is a more traditional trade show. Typically, around a dozen manufacturers release new exclusive cigars for the retail members of the organization under the TAA Exclusive Series Program banner. Those manufacturers agree to give a portion of the proceeds to the organization, a minimum of 50 cents per cigar.
This year, there were 13 TAA Exclusive Series Program releases, with all but the La Flor Dominicana having shipped:
- Crowned Heads
- E.P. Carrillo
- Forged Cigar Co.
- J.C. Newman
- Joya de Nicaragua
- La Flor Dominicana
- La Palina
- Rocky Patel
This year, due to COVID-19, the TAA delayed its in-person meeting until late October but a held a virtual meeting in March 2021.
- Cigar Reviewed: Gurkha Nicaragua Series TAA Exclusive 2021
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A.
- Wrapper: Nicaragua
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Length: 6 7/8 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 52
- Vitola: Perfecto
- MSRP: $13 (Box of 10, $130)
- Release Date: October 2021
- Number of Cigars Released: 1,000 Boxes of 10 Cigars (10,000 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
While I immediately remembered that this line was made at AGANORSA, I would have been 99 percent sure just by taking a look at the cigar. AGANORSA’s Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. factory rolls perfectos—or at least applies the wrapper on perfectos—differently than most and you can tell based on the cigar’s appearance. The majority of the cigar is covered in a singular piece of tobacco, but the foot uses a different piece. Oftentimes, that tobacco is just slightly different in color, though because of the brilliance of the human eye, it’s immediately detectable. I find this happening on all three of the Gurkha Nicaragua Series TAA Exclusives that I smoke, though one has much better color consistency between the body and foot than the other two cigars. While there’s a bit of a color difference in the foot, I find the cigars to be very well rolled with tight seams and otherwise pretty even in color. The aroma from the wrapper is a medium-full mixture of hickory and sweet cocoa leading leather, a mild spice blend and a smell that reminds me of a pile of leaves. The foot is medium-full in intensity and smells like graham crackers and King’s Hawaiian rolls over a faint hint of leather. There’s a more balanced, but also a more bitter profile for the cold draw, as it has rye bread, leather, oatmeal and some generic sweetness.
Once lit, the first puff brings cedar, earthiness, oak, leather, creaminess and some fruity sweetness. It’s medium-plus and each flavor is fairly subtle, making it both simultaneously easier and more challenging to pick out the individual flavors. On each cigar, I find the second and third puffs to have very tight draws—oddly not the first—though by the fourth puff it’s a lot easier to get smoke production. Flavor-wise, the profile shifts to a semi-sweet bread flavor over cedar and some earthiness. There’s a small amount of black pepper and a mild creaminess that seems to help tie everything together. The finish reminds me of a roux-like creaminess over some mild black pepper. There are still some cedar and fruity flavors, but the roux just overwhelms everything before they can get started. Retrohales have a fruity sweetness over burnt bread, a generic creaminess and a muted blueberry flavor. The finish starts with a sweet fruity flavor that reminds me of Jolly Ranchers but it quickly bitters thanks to a ramp up of earthiness. After five or six seconds, it’s pretty much all earthiness. While the retrohales are a bit livelier than the main flavor, they aren’t as strong. Flavor is medium-full on average, body is medium-full and strength is medium. Outside of ash dropping very quickly, construction is excellent.
A distinct corn flake cereal flavor takes over as the main flavor during the second third of the Gurkha Nicaragua Series TAA 2021. Secondary flavors include white pepper, creaminess and earthiness. Like before, it’s a very balanced profile with nothing seeming out of place. The finish sees the other flavors catch up to the corn flakes flavor a bit more, though it still leads, and there’s an uptick in both white pepper and some mineral flavors. Retrohales are much more bitter than before and include wet earth, white pepper, mineral sensations and cinnamon candy flavors at the back of the throat. The finish has nuttiness, paprika, burnt popcorn and building mineral flavors that get close to a metallic-like sharpness. Flavor remains medium-full, body is still medium-full though a bit lighter than before, while strength is medium. Construction remains great across all three cigars, though one needs a simple touch-up.
As was the case when the cigar transitioned between the first and second thirds, I don’t really feel the profile changing much as the final third starts, but then—after a bit of delay—it’s completely changed. The Gurkha Nicaragua Series TAA Exclusive 2021 is now led by nuttiness over creaminess, earthiness, a mild black pepper and something that reminds me of stale bottled water. The finish has an even mixture of nuttiness and earthiness over creaminess and some black pepper. Like before, it’s extremely well-balanced, though that doesn’t mean each flavor is the same intensity-wise. Retrohales are similar though the creaminess is at the forefront and I taste some added grassy notes. The finish is odd because some puffs seem pretty much the same as when the smoke is still in or just leaving my nostrils while others have a very different profile that includes nuttiness, liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce flavors, creaminess and a mild green pepper. As has been the case throughout the cigar, flavor is medium-full, body is medium-full and strength is medium. While I don’t need to make any additional touch-ups to the cigar, the smoke production is declining on two out of the three samples.
- I am 99 percent sure that the Gurkha Nicaragua Series TAA Exclusive 2021 shipped in October, though when I emailed a representative at Gurkha during that time, I received no reply confirming the shipping.
- On each sample, the ash fell off before it got to the half-inch mark. That’s not something that I deduct points for but it caught me off guard the first time. After that, I was easily able to get inch-long chunks of ash without issue. While I didn’t pay attention to it the first two times, on the third sample the ash fell just before the nipple part of the foot was burned through, almost right at that wrapper seam.
- We try to avoid having the same person review multiple vitolas in a single line before the other reviewers get a chance to review that line. I reviewed the Gurkha Nicaragua Series Toro and we haven’t reviewed another size of this line since then. I remembered midway through writing the review that I had done the original review and I went back and looked at it once all of my tasting notes were complete. The new perfecto vitola seems to be not only a tamed-down version of the profile but also a better version. That being said, there are certain flavors that appear in both reviews.
- This is a relatively unique ring gauge for this long of a double perfecto. Most manufacturers seem to make much thicker versions of these cigars, though a lot of times that is just at the thickest point thanks to a bulbous shape.
- I am a little bit surprised to see “K. Hansotia” included on the band. Last June, Gurkha said—amongst other things—that it was removing references to Kaizad Hansotia in wake of a variety of statements posted on his social media accounts that, amongst other things, mocked the Black Lives Matter movement and the murder of George Floyd. Hansotia resigned his role of chairman of Gurkha following a week of denying that he had posted those statements and accompanying backlash.
- Gurkha could say “we hadn’t ran out of the packaging yet,” but I find that a bit challenging to believe given we are well over a year removed from when the statement was made.
- While I haven’t sought out Hansotia since he posted those things on social media, I was a bit surprised that he wasn’t at the 2021 PCA Convention & Trade Show. I expected that he—like many others have done—would have taken an approach of letting things boil over for a year and then try to return to his previous roles. While he may still be in some role at Gurkha, he was not at the industry’s most prominent trade show.
- Over the last 18 months, there are some of you who have left comments suggesting that you have stopped by Gurkha or have stopped buying Gurkha until Hansotia sells; others have asked us for follow-up stories as to what’s going on with Hansotia and/or asking us to stop reviewing Gurkha cigars until Hansotia sells. My opinion is that halfwheel exists to report about what’s happening in the cigar business. Sometimes, that involves reporting on the consequences of what someone says on social media, but most days that does not. I believe that cigar reviews are there to judge the cigars themselves and not the people who blended, made or sold them. If we operated a website that declined to review cigars from people whose views we disagreed with or that we did not like, a lot of reviews—including ones from some of your favorite companies—would not be published. Quite frankly, a lot of cigars that get high scores on this site wouldn’t get reviewed. That role, judging who is worthy of being written about, is not the role we’ve defined for this website. Furthermore, I’ve never looked at a positive review as an endorsement of someone or even their cigar making skills, and I’ve certainly never approached a negative review as some sort of indictment about the person, their beliefs or their skills in the cigar industry. A review is a judgment of the three cigars the reviewer smoked, full stop.
- In addition to the 13 new TAA ESP exclusives, there were two other companies who added other cigars for TAA retailers later in the year. Tatuaje allowed TAA stores to purchase a 2021 release of The Karloff and Altadis U.S.A. offered the Montecristo Collector Series Humidor first to TAA stores before offering it to non-TAA retailers.
- Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time was two hours and 25 minutes, relatively quick for me.
While the Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A. factory makes plenty of cigars that are similar to what the Gurkha Nicaragua Series TAA 2021 offered, I haven’t smoked many of those cigars lately. The newer cigars from the factory that I’ve been reviewing have been decidedly different than this profile and I think this isn’t the type of cigars for which the factory is known. While it’s neither mild nor boring, this was very restrained. I doubt it was the actual intent, but the end result is a profile that seems like balance was prioritized over just about anything else. Sometimes that can lead to monotonous cigars, but that wasn’t the case here. There were not only three distinct chapters of the cigar, there was enough complexity within each chapter that I was never close to being bored. For reasons righteous and otherwise, Gurkha’s reputation for the cigars it sells is not as strong as other companies but that hardly means every cigar the company sells is bad. This limited size of the Gurkha Nicaragua Series is probably one of the company’s best cigars and it’s one that I think just about any company would be glad to have in its portfolio.