H.Upmann Half Corona

(Size: 3 1/2″ x 44  —  Time: 40mins)

The H.Upmann Half Corona is a cigar I have been smoking fairly regularly over the last couple of years. It was a much anticipated new vitola from Habanos SA in 2011 – arguably developed as a response to the increasingly stringent smoking laws in many countries around the world.  These have led to a need for flavourful, quality, cigars which could be enjoyed in a short timeframe, thereby avoiding frostbite. It has been well marketed, and I particularly like the stylish tins of five which are occasionally available.  Unfortunately the availability of the tins is largely dependent upon whether the Cubans have been able to get their hands on any metal… I do appear to have set up a suitable opportunity to reflect on the geo-politics of the region, but that’s probably best saved for another day.

H Upmann Half Corona

I should say upfront that I am a fan of this cigar, and have refined my tasting notes (from 2012) based on my experience smoking a couple of boxes of these during the intervening period.  My notes had gone somewhat AWOL over the last six months or so…  However, now that they are found, you can look forward to my usual flurry of activity over Christmas as I catch up with many unpublished reviews.

Appearance /15

The H.Upmann Half Corona looks like a good little package from the off. A nice chocolatey wrapper encases the filler, showing only a few knobbly bits and very few, small veins. They are nicely firm to the touch, with just a little give, and a gorgeous, neatly packed foot.  13

Smoking Characteristics /25

H Upmann Half Corona 2

The pre-light draw was very good – a touch firm, but still a pretty effortless draw.  The cigar lit quickly and evenly without needing any early attention. The burn wasn’t razor sharp, and there were a couple of touch ups needed to keep it level as the cigar progressed, but there was nothing which anyone would be bothered by (I’m just a bit prissy when it comes to an even burn). The ash was fairly dark and quite flaky – it held reasonably well, but I’d be lying if I said it inspired confidence… Smoke production was good throughout – with good density and a pleasant aroma.  22

Flavour /25

The pre-light draw has a touch of grass on it, but immediately with lighting this gives was to a lovely dry cedar-wood profile.  Early flavours maintain the slight tang of cedar, with a touch of pepperiness coming to the party.  What I would consider to be the true character of the H.Upmann Half Corona soon starts to develop, with a rounder, creamier profile coming to the fore.  Creaminess with hints of fennel soon gives way to something far more appealing…  Honey comes forward to mix with the cream for a delicious period around the one-third mark.  The honey soon gives way to a slight grassiness, which together with the rich cream is redolent of asparagus with hollandaise sauce!  Never a bad thing.  As the cigar builds towards the end the greener flavours give way to a touch more pepper.  The cream remains, but more subdued, and a lovely maltiness evolves.  22

Overall Impression /35

The notes I took whilst reviewing this H.Upmann Half Corona are a very good reflection on what I have found the vast majority to smoke like.  These are lovely little sticks which are surprisingly consistent from one cigar to the next for a smaller vitola.  The construction is generally good, and the flavours are pleasant and relatively complex for such a short smoke.  It is a smoke which pleases both the experienced and novice palates – I have introduced a number of curious friends to cigars with this cigar, and unanimously they have liked it as much as I have.  It’s always going to be difficult for a such a short smoke to provide enough to push it past the 90 mark, but this is one cigar which should be in everyone’s humidor.  33

Grand total… 90/100

PS. If you’re reading this near when I published it, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – I hope both bring you many fine cigars and good times.

Punch Petit Punch (1998)

(Size: 4″ x 40  —  Time: 35mins)

As part of a recent trade I received a twelve-year-old Punch Petit Punch, aged by Hunters & Frankau, from a fellow BOTL on the UK Cigar Forums. It’s a cigar which I’ve had before and found to be pretty enjoyable. How would this subject fare?

The Punch Petit Punch has been the victim of recent, swathing cuts to the Cuban cigar range. Many of these cuts have been ill-thought through, and there are many which could arguably be described as blasphemous, or simply plain stupid. From my previous experiences of ‘un-aged’ PPPs, this falls into one of the latter categories, and I fail to see what the deletion of such a high quality perla has done to improve things for Cuban cigars…

Appearance /15

The first, striking, feature of this particular Punch Petit Punch is the second band, a golden H&F addition with the year of production emblazoned upon it. On such a short cigar, this has a decadent look. The wrapper on this cigar is very smooth and looks wonderful. There are very few veins, and the cap is well applied. This would easily be a 14 pointer on looks, but for an odd scrunching of the wrapper leaf on the underside (see pic, below) and a scrag to the foot. As such I couldn’t, in good conscience, not drop a point or two. 13

Smoking Characteristics /25

This cigar lit quite easily with a standard Bic lighter (with my new jet lighter having broken within a month…). The draw was excellent from the off, it tightened a little too much around the two-third mark but soon loosed to a nice level again. The volume of smoke was ideal – not the most I’ve encountered, but plenty enough – this was true throughout. The burn was, unfortunately, not the most even I have encountered, but with just minor tending-to it proved to be a complete non-issue. Likewise, a dodgy looking ash wasn’t an issue as it was none-the-less solid. Overall, aside from a couple of very minor issues, this cigar had good construction, possibly aided by a good deal of box-pressing (something I’ve always found to have a positive impact). 22

Flavour /25

Early draws were full of sweet, honey flavours, which soon developed into something reminiscent of a nice, honey-cured ham. The sweetness subsided as some toasted almond flavours started to develop. On the retrohale, there were definitely some floral flavours which added to the experience. Soon these floral aspects started to show in the mouth flavour as the cigar entered the middle-third. At around half-way the honey faded away and the floral notes took over as the pre-dominant flavour. With this, there was a hint of mineral-ness, which grew towards a citrus ‘tang’ (akin to that in a nice white wine). At the finale, the flavours grew spicier, but returned to a slight sweetness, with cinnamon being the big finish. 22

Overall Impression /35

The Punch Petit Punch is a great little smoke, a nice half-hour stick. I wouldn’t really say that this is a coffee cigar, I smoked it with a coffee, and it wasn’t quite the perfect match. In-fact, I’d probably describe this as an afternoon-tea cigar. With honey, citrus (marmalade) flavours and cinnamon, it is almost as if it was blended specifically for a summer’s day in an English country garden. 32

Grand total… 89/100

Cohiba SIGLO I

(Size: 4″ x 40 — Time: 30mins)

I’m afraid that there aren’t any pics of the SIGLO I cigar itself. However, I hope that the photograph of the delightful tube that it came in will suffice.

SIGLO I Tubo

I smoked this ciga last autumn after a really shocking day of being messed around by various companies and workmen. It was fair to say that I needed something to relax with. By the evening everything was sorted and I headed to the hotel next door to enjoy a cigar. I grabbed a pint of Caffrey’s and lit up the SIGLO I on the hotel’s smoking terrace. (Believe me, it is not as good as the word ‘terrace’ might imply…)

This little stick gave me an exact half-hour of enjoyment after a rough day.

Appearance /15

Well. what can you say about the SIGLO I? The tube it is nestled in is simply gorgeous! What an excellent first impression. Then, as you remove it from its cosy cedar lining, you witness the full beauty of tobacco. The wrapper for this cigar was a well applied sheeny, dark brown leaf and nice cap. However, there were a few small veins, which just prevent this cigar claiming a perfect score. 14

Smoking Characteristics /25

The aromas given off by this cigar before lighting were hard to pin-point. But they were pleasant – perhaps reminiscent of a lightly roasted coffee bean? The cigar lit first time and quickly got into its stride. There was only one, slight, period when it went off-kilter slightly, but otherwise it burnt well and evenly. The draw was almost perfect, providing just the right amount of resistance. This cigar produced voluminous smoke, remarkable for a tres petit corona. Overall, the construction and quality of this cigar was pretty good, with just a few minor isses around the half-way point. A well constructed cigar. 23

Flavour /25

This is a small stick. If I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again… Small sticks aren’t renowned for their complexity. This SIGLO I seems to be a pleasant exception. On lighting it gave me a nice welcome with those distinctly Cohiba flavours – a wonderfully rich and creamy flavour, which had a lovely texture on the tongue. This developed into something which made me think of a rich, cocoa butter, possibly with hints at smooth spices. These soft spices continued as the cocoa butter resemblance gave way to the slightly spiced leatheriness. However, the slight spiciness disappeared and the leather faded to a slightly woody taste, it went a little bit bland for a few minutes in this middle section . Through this middle section a slight butteriness returns, but it is still a little uninteresting. I likened this particular butter intervention to I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter rather than some delicious Jersey butter. This butter gives way quite quickly to something which makes me think of a lightly infused chili oil – like you’d get at a pizzeria in Italy. For a few puffs this took on a slightly sweet character. The stick finishes with a smooth peppery flourish, without going harsh at any point. Overall, a nice little cigar with different phases through the smoke. Unfortunately let down a tad by a slightly uninteresting few minutes in the middle. 22

Overall Impression /35

Whilst not having the drifting variation of complexities that a robusto or lonsdale could provide, this tiny little cigar was still able to produce a solid three stage smoke. Consider it Macbeth, to a robusto’s Hamlet (if you’re not into your Shakespear just compare the length of the plays next time you’re in Waterstones… ). This is a brilliantly constructed cigar which is well presented and provides some nice flavours. Definitely one to stock up on (if you’ve got the cash). Definitely better than the Monte 5, but the San Cristobal El Principe is a challenger which is almost as nice but quite a bit cheaper. I’ll definitely be buying again! 30

Grand total… 89/100