Anyone who knows me also knows that I like powerful cigars. I’ve smoked some sticks that purported to be full-bodied and strong, only to find that they were anything but. When a relatively new brand of cigars came out and we had decided to carry them, we held an event for our customers. Before we began, the representative for the maker wanted me to smoke one of their products, so he asked me what kind of smoke I preferred. My reply? “I like 100% ligero mixed with crushed red pepper and dipped in gasoline.” I felt that the statement properly conveyed my tastes, but when I tried the torpedo he handed me, I had all I could do to stop myself from yawning. So, am I just going to ramble on about what I like or dislike in cigars? No, but I want to talk about what makes a strong smoke exceptional.
In my opinion (and let’s be clear about this, I’m only writing from my perspective), a cigar can’t be considered strong without a hefty dose of pepper in the flavor profile. It can be sharp and stinging like freshly cracked black pepper, or it can be deep and fiery like a chili. It may even be subtle in its heat, like white pepper, but if it doesn’t dance on the tongue with some fire, it’s not strong. The peppery taste in tobacco generally comes from nicotine, so most strong cigars will be quite heady.
So, is power synonymous with full-bodied? Not necessarily. Can a cigar be fairly high in vitamin N and not be peppery? Yes. A good example of what I’m thinking of here is the outstanding Camacho Triple Maduro. This smoke is spellbinding in how deep and rich the flavors are, but I find little in the way of sharp tanginess. Don’t let the heavy body without fire fool you, though- only smoke this after a good meal and with a nice drink, because it has enough nicotine to make the room swim. The Liga Privada #9 sits in this category as well.
All that said, I don’t much care for a picante (Spanish for hot) flavored cigar without a lot of body, because (again, in my opinion) it throws the balance of the smoke out of whack. It would be like being in an elevator listening to mindless Muzak when all of a sudden they decide to play Metallica…kind of a shock to the system, whether you like the band or not. So, let me introduce you to some of my picks for powerhouse sticks that have the combination of liveliness with enough body to give you a complete experience.
The one that started the trend in the US was the Camacho Corojo, which is made of 100% corojo leaves from Honduras. This bold, new (at the time) product was the strongest premium handrolled cigar for the mass market in the US, and began a firestorm. It’s a medium-full bodied smoke with a lot of pepper. The maduro version takes the spice down a hair with a hint of sweetness and bringing the body up to full, and has been a favorite of mine since they were introduced. There were pretenders that came on its heels, but they fell flat by either being all spice and no flavor, or by being boring. That was until…
The Joya de Nicaragua Antaño 1970 came along. The date in the name refers back to when the brand came to us, and back then, they were the boldest smokes we had seen. The original JDN and a Nicaraguan cigar made by Arturo Fuente called Flor de Orlando were the predecessors of today’s firecrackers, and the Antaño took it up another notch or twelve. The later development of the Antaño Dark Corojo added more depth and body while letting the kick shine through.
In the last ten years, we’ve seen a number of cigars come out that fit this category. Many have had the hand of Don Pepin Garcia involved- Tatuaje (especially the Fausto), 601 Blue, San Cristobal, along with his own lines like the the DPG Blue and the My Father series, developed by his son. There are so many others like the Super Shots and Skull & Bones sticks from Viaje, the Oliva Serie V, the Liga Privada T-52, among many, many others,
So, if you want to try being shellshocked, grab any of these cigars, pour a nice port, Bourbon, peaty Scotch or dark rum and be sure to be sitting down, because a Miller 64 won’t do, and smoking these while standing is definitely not a good idea.