In 2001, Graycliff announced that it would be teaming up with former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka to release a limited edition cigar suited to his tastes. Dubbed the Mike Ditka Championship Line, it has an embossed band that is an exact replica of the Chicago Bears Super Bowl XX Championship Ring (1986) in printed form, obviously.
Behold the original press release:
With Ditka’s coaching and intensity long gone from the sidelines of Soldier Field (but not the hearts of Chicago natives), it looks like cigar fanatics may now be leading the commentary on the fiery football figure and cigar lover. Only this time it won’t be Ditka and da Bears, but Ditka and da Gars.
The former Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints coach has teamed with Graycliff Cigar Co. of the Bahamas to create and distribute a brand of cigars called the Mike Ditka Championship Line. The cigars, which are being rolled by Cuban cigar master Avalino Lara, are expected to reach cigar shops on October 1.
The brand will be small, with no more than about 50,000 rolled in a year. The cigars will also be sold at Mike Ditka’s, Ditka’s restaurant in Chicago.
There were three different vitolas of the original Ditka Championship Series cigars at launch.
- PG — (5 1/4 x 50) — Robusto
- Pirate — (6 x 52) — Pyramid
- President — (7 x 48) — Churchill
However, there are apparently a few different versions of this same type release or at least, a few different cigars with Mike Ditka’s name attached to them. For example, at this link, you can see what appears to be a cigar with a similar band, although looking at each closely, they are not even close, see differences in Final Notes. They are also different sizes and come in glass tubes. These are the cigars that Ditka had made after his contract with Graycliff ran its course.
Then there are the cigars that are sold at Ditka’s restaurant, Iron Mike’s in Chicago. The bands of these cigars, which you can see here have a caricature of Ditka on the band, come in different sizes and are obviously not even close to the original release in looks as well as in tobacco.
- Cigar Reviewed: Mike Ditka Championship Series President
- Country of Origin: Bahamas
- Factory: Graycliff Cigar Factory
- Wrapper: Indonesia
- Binder: Indonesia
- Filler: Brazil, Honduras & Nicaragua
- Length: 7 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 46
- Vitola: Churchill
- MSRP: $7 (Boxes of 25, $175)
- Release Date: October 2001
- Number of Cigars Released: 50,000 Total Cigars
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 1
In this vitola, the Mike Ditka Championship Series is seemingly perfectly constructed with a milk chocolate brown wrapper that is smooth to the touch and has no veins or bumps. The President seems a bit light for its size when held, but feels great when squeezed. Aroma from the wrapper smells faintly of cedar, spice and something tart, almost like pickles.
The first third starts off with flavors of bitter earth, cedar and dark coffee with just a tiny amount of spice on the lips. For the first 10 or so puffs, the bitterness is actually quite strong, but then gradually fades into the background, replaced by stronger amounts of the flavors above. The strength of the Graycliff-made cigar is negligible at this point and the burn and draw are fine.
The second third has less bitterness, although it is still very noticeable in the background, and the profile turns a bit more creamy. Flavors of the Championship Series are still much the same, although there is a more leathery note that comes and goes as well. Strength is still nonexistent and does not seem to be getting any stronger.
The final third continues the downward trend of the Mike Ditka, just mushy, bitter and pretty much crappy. It’s still not strong at all, I would call it a mild plus by the end of the Churchill. Honestly, a pretty poor way to end a cigar.
- There were rumors when this cigar was released that the Graycliff Mike Ditka Championship Series cigar was just a rebanded Professionale (Blue Label), although there has never been confirmation of that. For those wondering, the blend descriptions are the same.
- As mentioned above, there have been multiple versions of a Mike Ditka Championship cigar and while I have not smoked any of the other models, everything I have heard and read indicates that any blend other than the Graycliff blend is inferior, which is really not saying much.
- The band on these cigars are a sight to behold. Extremely eye-catching and over the top ostentatious.One of the most unique bands and really, one of the most unique ideas for a band I have seen in all my years of smoking.
- Interestingly, the Ditka Championship Cigars on Pacific-Cigar.com’s website have what look to be almost the exact same band design, despite the fact that they are most definitely not blended by Graycliff. It is quite easy to tell them apart, as besides the fact that the background of the “ring” color is purple and there is a secondary band on the rerelease, the original cigars have the word “Graycliff” printed on one side of the band and “100% Hand Made in the Bahamas” printed on the other.
- Mike Ditka is not the only football personality that has a cigar made for them. Christian Adolph “Sonny” Jurgensen has a line for sale at Old Virginia Tobacco Company. Other professional to have cigars include baseball legend Luis Tiant (El Tiante) and Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman (WB Cigars).
- This was a surprisingly dry profile and I drank quite a bit of water while smoking it, a lot more then I expected to.
- The draw was fine, but I had to touch up the burn a few times during the smoke.
- The final smoking time was one hour and 45 minutes.
Time has not been good to this cigar and while there is one Graycliff blend does very well with age, this blend falls far short of that distinction. After smoking this, I honestly got exactly what I expected from a 10-year-old Graycliff cigar: boring, mild, bitter mush. There was some creaminess in the second and final Thirds, but it did not even come close to saving this cigar and the bitterness was always present. The band is cool, but that is really the only reason to have this cigar and not a very good one at that. If you ever see any for sale, make sure your money runs the other way.