Excellent burn, a bright, pleasant smoke that beginners can enjoy and anyone can appreciate.
By J.V. Bolkan
Robusto 5 x 50
Natural (Conneticut) Honduran wrapper
Price: ~$6.50 (discounted heavily online)
Smoke time: 45 minutes
I picked up a pair of the Xen by Nish Patel cigars during a promotion (buy 3, get the 4th free) at my local smoke shop where I also grabbed a couple Thunder by Nimish to complete the foursome. Both brands are offshoots of the well-established Rocky Patel brand. To be honest, I was interested in the Thunder, the Xen was truly an afterthought.
I was wrong. Nish Patel (Rocky’s brother and Nimish’s cousin) has produced an excellent cigar. Both slightly longer and thinner than many robusto-sized cigars, the Xen is really an appealingly attractive cigar. The golden Conneticut wrapper is so pale as to border on the greenish. Lightly mottled in coloration, but unmarred, the triple-capped Xen has a medium firm feel and a smooth matte finish that feels lighly oiled. The cigar is aggressively box pressed into a rectangular shape.
Before touching fire, the cigar is redolent of sweet cut hay drying under a warm sun. Once you’ve grown accustomed to that pleasant scent, you can detect hints of cedar. Bringing flame to the Xen unleashed the aromas of hay and cedar even more strongly, but smoothly. Built to be a somewhat more powerful throw-back version of the Connecticut-wrapped cigar, the opening certainly delivers on the promise.
Although the opening is full of surprisingly delicious smoke and more power than you’d expect in such a light cigar, even novice smokers will not be overpowered. Quickly, as the palette adjusts to the hay-dominated smoke, the cedar notes start to rise and delicate graham cracker and faint vanilla influences assert themselves. Like many mild-to-moderate cigars, the opening was sweet, but the Xen never approached cloying.
As I smoked, knowing that this was a sibling of sorts to the Thunder I’d smoked recently, I was delighted at the almost unnatural precision of the burn. Draw was exactly as I prefer, slight resistance with moderate-to-heavy smoke and a creamy, substantial mouth feel. The pressed shape felt great in my hand and even better in my mouth.
Past the first third, the cigar stayed very consistent in taste and the sweetness held on giving a bit of caramel a turn toward the fore. I expected an increase in power and more pepper, but even past the halfway point I was very much enjoying almost the same tastes as I had during spark-up. The Patel family has decided to keep the filler blend a secret; I don’t blame them—maintaining such a sweet light smoke well into the second half of a robusto is no small feat.
The closing notes in the final third are a bit more peppery, but the sweet grass, graham, vanilla and cedar influences were still identifiable. There was a taint of char toward the end, but not enough to be offputting. Normally, I am more than ready to let most light cigars go, but I smoked the Xen until it threatened my moustache. I briefly considered pulling its twin from the humidor and smoking them back-to-back, but I refrained. The next day, I’m happy to say, I got another excellent 45 minute smoke from a cigar I initially overlooked.
The Xen comes in 4 vitolas, there’s a torpedo, a toro, the robusto reviewed here, and a short robusto. I’d certainly make room in my humidor for a handful of the robusto. It is one of the most interesting and satisfying Connecticut cigars I’ve had recently and it’s always nice to have a moderate body cigar in the selection when offering to friends. “Chewers” and active smokers will like this cigar, the box-pressed shape held up very well right to the end and there was no fuss required. This would be an excellent choice with white spirits, wines and even cocktails.
I really liked this cigar and it is hard to beat the pricing. Excellent burn, a bright, pleasant smoke that beginners can enjoy and anyone can appreciate. Tiny bit of char on the end is the only minor flaw.
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