In 2019, General Cigar Co. released the first in what would become an annual series of cigars under the company’s Punch brand inspired by Asian foods and other themes in celebration of Chinese Lunar New Year. The first cigar in the series was the Punch Egg Roll, a 4 1/2 x 50 Rothschild vitola made with a shaggy, unwrapped foot that is supposed to mimic the cabbage texture you get when biting into an actual egg roll. Appropriately enough, the Egg Roll was packaged in a 25-count container designed to look like a Chinese food take-out container.

One year later, General released the Punch Chop Suey, a 7 x 37 panatela that was packaged in a box with chopsticks attached to the top. That was followed by the Punch Kung Pow! in 2021, a 6 x 52 toro which was once again sold in containers that would look familiar to anyone taking home leftovers from a Chinese restaurant.

Earlier this year, General began shipping the newest addition to the line, although it was a bit different in one notable way. Named Punch Fu Manchu, the 6 x 50 box-pressed toro takes its inspiration not from food, but from Dr. Fu Manchu, a character in more than 20 books written by English author Sax Rohmer. Blend-wise, the cigar incorporates a Honduran habano wrapper covering an Indonesian binder as well as filler tobaccos grown in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Mexico.

 

My colleague Patrick Lagreid expanded on the origin of the character:

The Dr. Fu Manchu character is the creation of English author Sax Rohmer, with his first appearance coming in 1913 by way of the book The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu. The character would go onto appear in more than 20 books, as well as movies, television, music and comic books. He is generally described as a supervillain, evil criminal genius and mad scientist, and became recognizable for his distinctive mustache that became synonymous with his name. The character has been portrayed by several notable actors over the years, including Boris Karloff, Peter Sellers and Nicolas Cage.

The Punch Fu Manchu was rolled at STG Danlí, with production limited to 6,400 boxes of 20 cigars—for a total run of 128,000 cigars—each of which has an MSRP of $5.99. Instead of traditional boxes, the cigars are placed into packaging designed to look like a takeout-style soup container that has graphics acknowledging the Year of the Tiger.

Note: The following shows the various Punch Chinese New Year Series releases. Some of these cigars may have been released after this post was originally published. The list was last updated on April 3, 2022.

*Not pictured.

88 Overall Score

While it may be tempting to pass the Punch Fu Manchu off as nothing more than an interesting gimmick, it turns out there is quite a bit more to the story. In fact, the cigar is smooth, flavorful and nicely balanced, with a combination of flavors that include not only oak, cocoa nibs and peanuts, but also a distinct syrupy sweetness that is present on the retrohale. Sure, both the construction and the maple syrup sweetness suffer a bit in the final third, but for a cigar that retails for under $6, the combination of positive aspects has no problem outweighing any negatives, making it easy to call the Punch Fu Manchu a winner in the end.

  • Cigar Reviewed: Punch Fu Manchu
  • Country of Origin: Honduras
  • Factory: STG Danlí
  • Wrapper: Honduras (Habano)
  • Binder: Indonesia
  • Filler: Dominican Republic, Mexico & Nicaragua
  • Length: 6 Inches
  • Ring Gauge: 50
  • Vitola: Toro
  • MSRP: $5.99 (Box of 20, $119.80)
  • Release Date: February 2022
  • Number of Cigars Released: 6,400 Boxes of 20 Cigars (128,000 Total Cigars)
  • Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3

There have been times when I have found a number of different interesting visual aspects about cigars, but the Punch Fu Manchu may have them all beat. In addition to a soft box-press, the cigar has a noticeably lighter portion wrapper on the top inch or so, a metallic band and a very long tail running from the cap, under the band before ending about three quarters of the way down the cigar. The rest of the wrapper is a dark espresso brown that is relatively smooth to the touch with a bit of oil and has faint aromas of earth, nuts, leather, manure, hay. However, notes from the foot are quite bit stronger, including oak, leather, vegetal, barnyard, toast and generic sweetness. After a straight cut, the cold draw features flavors of strong peanuts, gritty earth, leather, hay, cinnamon, raisin sweetness and light pepper.

A combination of distinct anise and strong maple syrup sweetness—as well as some light black pepper—starts the Punch off, and while the maple sweetness remains a major part of the profile on the retrohale, the main flavors morph to creamy oak and powdery cocoa nibs. Additional notes of leather, earth, toast, cinnamon, popcorn and very light citrus peel flit in and out, while the finish is full of roasted espresso beans. As mentioned before, there is plenty of maple syrup sweetness on the retrohale interspersed with a small amount of white pepper, both of which seem to be getting stronger as the first third burns down. Flavor is a solid medium, while both the body and strength end the first third just over the mild mark. There is a copious amount of dense, gray smoke while the draw is excellent after a straight cut, and although the burn is far from razor sharp on all three samples, none of them need correcting with my lighter.

While cocoa nibs remain a core flavor of the cigar during the second third, the creamy oak is replaced by a creamy peanut flavor creating a combination that continues to top the profile well after the halfway point. Secondary notes of generic wood, leather tack, gritty earth, toasted bread, cinnamon and a light floral note show up at various points. As expected, both the white pepper and maple syrup sweetness increase in strength, while a small bit of saltiness has shown up on my lips. Flavor increases to a point just over medium, but the body and strength continue to increase in tandem, hitting a point halfway between mild and medium by the end of the second third. Construction-wise, both the smoke production and draw continue along their excellent paths, but the burn on two of the three cigars becomes problematic enough to need attention from my lighter.

The final third of the Fu Manchu is a continuation of the previous third, meaning the peanut and cocoa nibs flavors easily remains the main combination in the profile, followed the by now familiar notes of oak, leather tack, earth, toast and cinnamon, as well as hay and nutmeg. Unfortunately, the white pepper and the maple syrup sweetness noticeably recede after their high points in the second third, although both notes continue to be more than strong enough to have a positive impact on the profile as a whole until the end of the cigar. Flavor ends at medium-plus, while the body hits a point just under medium and the strength ends the cigar at a solid medium. The construction was basically unchanged, including virtually perfect smoke production and draws, as well as two cigars that run into enough issues with their burn that they need corrections.

Final Notes

  • According to Ed Lahmann, senior brand manager for Punch, the lighter tobacco at the cap—which is actually additional tobacco added on top of the existing wrapper—is simply a lighter shade of the same habano wrapper that is used on the rest of the body of the cigar. In fact, the blonde cap is meant to replicate Kung Fu movies he watched as a child where the Kung Fu master was typically depicted as an old, wise man with white hair and a long braid or goatee.
  • For what it is worth, I did not notice much of a change in the profile when the burn line passed into the lighter tobacco, other than being a bit creamier overall.
  • The pigtail on this cigar is extremely interesting, in that it does not actually originate from the middle of the top of the cap—as is normally the case—but instead, it begins on the side of the cigar and runs under part of the triple cap before running under the band and continuing three-quarters of the way down the cigar. What this means is that if you pull the pigtail off of the cigar, you would bust the cap. According to Victoria Jaworski, director of digital marketing and communications at General Cigar Co., “the pigtail is not designed to be removed before smoking.”
  • Having said the above, I just snapped the pigtail off at the bottom of the band—thus leaving the cap intact—with no issues.

  • As is the case with all three of the previous releases in General’s series, there is a saying printed on the inside of each cigar’s band. However, the three I smoked included only the above specific sentence.
  • In September 2021, General released the Punch Bento Box, a sampler that contained a total of 42 cigars: 20 of the Egg Roll, 12 of the Chop Suey and 10 of the Kung Pow! The cigars for that release were not from the original production, however, as they were rolled specifically for the sampler.
  • General Cigar Co. advertises on halfwheel.
  • The cigars smoked for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
  • Final smoking time for all three samples averaged one hour and 51 minutes.
  • If you would like to purchase any of the Punch Fu Manchu, site sponsors Famous Smoke Shop, JR Cigars and STOGIES World Class Cigars all have them in stock.
88 Overall Score

While it may be tempting to pass the Punch Fu Manchu off as nothing more than an interesting gimmick, it turns out there is quite a bit more to the story. In fact, the cigar is smooth, flavorful and nicely balanced, with a combination of flavors that include not only oak, cocoa nibs and peanuts, but also a distinct syrupy sweetness that is present on the retrohale. Sure, both the construction and the maple syrup sweetness suffer a bit in the final third, but for a cigar that retails for under $6, the combination of positive aspects has no problem outweighing any negatives, making it easy to call the Punch Fu Manchu a winner in the end.

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Brooks Whittington

I have been smoking cigars for over eight years. A documentary wedding photographer by trade, I spent seven years as a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I started the cigar blog SmokingStogie in 2008 after realizing that there was a need for a cigar blog with better photographs and more in-depth information about each release. SmokingStogie quickly became one of the more influential cigar blogs on the internet, known for reviewing preproduction, prerelease, rare, extremely hard-to-find and expensive cigars. I am a co-founder of halfwheel and now serve as an editor for halfwheel.