By J.V. Bolkan
Robusto 4.5 x 54
Ecuadorian Habano wrapper
Binder: Nicaraguan, Honduran
Filler: Nicaraguan, Honduran and Costa Rican
Price: ~$6 (discounted online at multiple places for ~$3.50 each in bundles of 5)
I love a full-bodied maduro cigar and was intrigued by a new brand, Nimish. The price sealed the deal, even without the smoke shop’s promotion (buy 3 mix and match Nimish and Xen, get one free), the cigar seemed a good value.
The Thunder Robusto is an attractive cigar, in a blunt and slightly robust way. The small, tight pigtail and dark, somewhat oily, moderately veined wrapper promised an electric smoke befitting the moniker. It is an extremely firm roll, but the pre-draw was only moderately tight. During the pre-lighting phase, the cigar gave off a spicy, slightly citrus aroma with a bit of warm forest undertones.
Sparking it up, the draw seemed tighter than I’d expected, but the flavor still surged with a deliciously complex combination of roasted coffee, anise, and some surprisingly light peppery notes. Although the smoke was somewhat sparse, I was delighted by the sweetness and richness of the flavor and interplay of the flavors. The mouth feel was excellent, creamy and full.
Unfortunately, as I was reveling in an excellent opening on the taste front, I also noticed problems with the draw and the burn, fully a third, maybe a bit more, of the cigar was seriously lagging. I tried to adjust and get the almost unburnt portion going, but it simply wouldn’t draw correctly to that “dead zone.” Between the non-stop fiddling and efforts to even out the burn, I continued to be delighted by what I could manage to draw.
The pepper and spice profile were gaining, but the sweet caramel and coffee flavors were still dancing with the light hardwood and aged leather hints as the burn (on one side) reached 1/3 of the way in. The tobacco blends are superb, but I was growing increasingly frustrated with the draw and uneven burn. The effect was a bit like being served a wonderful thick milkshake, but having to drink it through one of those tiny coffee-stirrer straws.
By the halfway point, the cigar, despite my efforts to trim and relight the dead zone, was a mess. There was un unburnt portion almost extending to the original length and the overall structure below the burn began to disintegrate. The portion of the cigar that was drawing had become softer as is normal, but the other third remained very firm. The wrapper and binder were falling apart.
Just as I was reluctantly considering giving up on the cigar, the draw increased and the burn began to spread. This left an awkward, messy, and unacceptable “peninsula” of unburnt tobacco jutting out precariously.
I was able to enjoy a few more puffs on the rapidly dissolving cigar. It truly had the taste I’d expect from a 90’s rated cigar, but as the wrapper unwound itself and flaked away, I simply couldn’t keep it together to even get to the final 1/3.
The next day, I pulled out its sibling and with both anticipation and high hopes, I sparked it up. Knowing what might be coming, I’d clipped this cigar a bit higher than normal, hoping that any structural problems leading to poor draw and burn might be avoided. Alas, my second try with the Thunder Robusto was only slightly less frustrating than the first. The burn was again horrifically uneven, although not quite as bad as the first one. However, the structure of this cigar broke down even sooner and more completely. Losing patience, despite (maybe because of) the tantalizing taste, I couldn’t be bothered to fuss with the cigar beyond about halfway through.
I’d certainly give the other two sizes—a torpedo and a toro—a try. Heck, I’d even consider giving the robusto another try, as long as it came from another box, maybe even another season. The blend is spectacular, I don’t know if it has anything to do with the Costa Rican tobaccos blended in, but it is a great tasting cigar. It would do very well paired with a complex bourbon or a scotch. A dry red wine would also work well with the complexity and sweetness of the cigar, but be careful pairing it with any alcohol because the frustration of the construction might just drive you toward drinking a bit too much!
I’m torn here. The cigar is delicious, but sadly almost impossible to enjoy because of serious construction problems that affected draw and structural integrity.
Here’s a rough breakdown of how J.V. Bolkan rates the cigars he smokes
90-100 – this range is for exceptional examples, for instance, to get a 95 in any category, a cigar would have to be the best I’ve had. A 100 would actually have to be the best I could imagine. These tend to be more expensive, but aren’t penalized unless the cost is out of line with other ultra-premium selections. These are the cigars in the place of honor in your humidor that you might think twice about before sharing.
80-89 – very nice cigars that aren’t seriously flawed but are either undistinguished in general or somewhat less than ideal in a few categories. An example of an 85 might be a cigar that burns somewhat irregularly, but has a solid taste, or one that may appeal to a smaller segment of the market, with the thought being a truly great cigar would be appreciated by almost every cigar smoker. These are the cigars that fill the bulk of your humidor. You may “love” a particular 85-rated cigar, but understand that your friends may have other tastes.
Below 80 – Something has gone wrong and these aren’t cigars that impress. Sometimes it is poor handling and you get a cigar that has been dried out (or rehumidified, which sometimes is worse). Other times it is just a substandard product—maybe the filler and binder weren’t properly rolled and it is almost impossible to draw any smoke at all. Maybe the tobacco was improperly or incompletely aged. Eventually, we all come across a cigar that seriously disappoints. If it is below 70, it really isn’t a “fine cigar” and probably shouldn’t have been rated.
Rating notes: I consider appearance and price as roughly equal components in the overall score. Both flavor and smoking experience (burn, draw, smoke, etc.) are essentially equal and more than twice as important as appearance and price