So now that I’ve done my individual reviews of the Gurkha Five Card Stud Sampler from Pipes & Cigars, it’s time for me to consider the set as a whole.
Since Pipes & Cigars brought it up, let’s consider five card stud. We all know enough about poker, I think to know that there are certain combinations that are more valuable than others. One of the better hands you can get is a flush. The cream of the crop is a royal flush; and if it ever came down to it in a single game, the Spades trump all others.
The Gurkha Five Card Stud Sampler set looked like it might just have dealt out that way. With the exception of the Beauty, these were dark and rich cigars; spades for sure. But did I have the right cards to make the hand?
The Gurkha Warlord seemed like the Ten. A great big bruiser of a working class soldier, this one, at 6.7 inches and a 60 ring gauge. I said the following about it:
Toasting the foot released an oaky-sweet room note with surprising floral elements, and the first draw really was amazing. Quality tobacco, oak, and florals. I imagine the Warlord probably qualifies as English Market Select, its blend was so sweet. I did not, however, notice spice or nut, though certainly it displayed an oily, buttery character that I have come to associate with darker cigars. Despite its length and girth, the Warlord drew easily and filled the mouth with the cool rich smoke promised in its description, and it had no trouble staying lit. It was strong but not nearly as overwhelmingly full-bodied as I had feared. It went well with my cream-and-sugared coffee. I enjoyed the first third thoroughly.”
This is about when I got excited, thinking that maybe I did have the flush indeed. But I was wrong; I didn’t have the Ten of Spades, I had the Ten of Clubs. As the smoke continued, it fell completely apart into utter uselessness. I said the following:
About fifteen minutes later is when the trouble began. The burn began to take on a slightly angular profile and the white ash fell right off, not one inch into this oversized toro . . . A third of the way in, the burn had transformed into a completely lopsided pie-slice angle that had to be corrected . . . By the second third it was clear that the cigar was going down. The burn continued to lean at a Picasso-esque angle and had to be corrected a second time. However, it still caused the stick to burn so unevenly that it only took fifteen minutes to devour most of the cigar’s abdomen, severely reducing the value of the smoke. The wrapper began to unwind and peel off as well. It was apparent that this soldier was falling apart under pressure, and needed to be sent home with the wounded . . . The first few draws after that were reminiscent of the beginning, only with more of that promised peppery spice, but it quickly turned nasty and bitter. Instead of the promised “espresso finish,” I found that it finished more like bitter acorns; perhaps fitting for this very oaky cigar, but certainly not pleasurable! It fell completely apart after half an hour and was no longer fit to smoke, with a full two and a half inches of the cigar left in the ashtray in unwound pieces like a barber pole.”
Thoroughly disgusted by its failure to pass muster, I rated the Warlord at only two and half stars.
Well, could I salvage the rest of the hand? Let’s see:
The Gurkha Centurian Double Perfecto was apparently originally designed for the Sultan of Brunei. Also, it’ was a 60 ring gauge and it had a rather high price point. Well, I guess that qualifies it as the King! I described it as a “consistent and delicious” smoke, with “thick, billowing and voluptuous” smoke, tasting of “a rich, creamy coffee, tobacco and spice from start to finish, with no bitterness anywhere.” The draw was a little firm at the beginning as it came through the small opening., but it improved as soon as the cigar widened out. I gave it a four star rating.
The Gurkha Beauty Gordo was the undisputed Queen. I was full of praise for this fine, big lady and her six and a half inch length and 58 ring gauge. The pre-light draw “produced happy ‘mmm’ noises from me.” I described it as “new-mown hay and good quality tobacco with a sweet and floral element, and again, just a pinch of something nutty.” I went on to say:
The first draw was the sweetest, loveliest, butteriest first draw I’ve ever had the pleasure to partake of. My gods! It was as buttery and sweet as a pastry, with a delectable floral and nut essence. The taste reminded me of alpine wildflowers . . . As I smoked into the first third . . . I noticed an undertone of fermentation, like white wine.”
And it never flagged or failed. Not once. I gave this lovely lady an unapologetic five star rating. She was the undisputed Boss Bitch of the hand.
It seems, however, that the Queen was seeing the Knave on the side. The Gurkha Beast Gordo was definitely the Knave, because he bit me.
I was impressed by its rich colour . . . It revealed a veiny texture and visible seams, and a noticeable double cap. I cut it cleanly and evenly with my double guillotine cutter, but the Beast proved its animal nature because it bit me! Here’s my blood blister from pinching my finger in the grip of the cutter, which I have never done before or since . . .”
The Beast was a combination of joy and sorrow; which I suppose is the nature of a One-Eyed Jack:
The wrapper note was distinctly of cocoa and the pre-light draw was rich and chocolatey. Unfortunately the top of the cap began to peel immediately after that. Toasting the foot offered the distinct scent of roasting coffee beans. The initial draw was of cocoa, tobacco, espresso and wood. However the top began peeling right the hell off again, which is beginning to become a consistent point of irritation in my experience with the Gurkha line. This, unfortunately, damaged what could have been a beautiful first impression, with a smooth and slightly sweet element. So the Beast lacks manners.
“It quickly proved itself to be a top-notch oily and dark cigar indeed, leaving a delightful aftertaste. Jamie was reminded . . . the Japanese food philosophy was to make a complete flavour, and some ingredients were valued for their aftertaste more than their initial taste. This was what he observed about the Beast cigar . . . But it also offered an off-kilter light that had to be corrected. The head, also, was not constructed well at all and it continued to disintegrate as we smoked. Jamie and I think that someone might want to have a word with the Gurkha quality control people. It was a lovely roll, folded in nicely, with a pleasant, medium-firm pack, but the head ruined it.”
The disintegration problem could not permit me to give what could have been the perfect cigar, with an excellent price-point, anything more than a four star rating.
The Gurkha Vintage Shaggy Gran Rothschild Toro was definitely the Ace. It’s one of Puff.com’s top 25 cigars. Named for its well-aged tobaccos and its unique shaggy foot, I described it as containing elements of “port, clay, mocha, rich earth,” especially all together in the final third of the smoke. I described it as “the best of the Gurkha sampler” and said that I was glad that I had saved it for last. But even here there were signs of the fatal flaw of the set; the cap came off and unraveled and the wrapper cracked, though it didn’t fall to pieces like the Warlord. Overall I rated it a four-star cigar.
So, I had most of the set; but the cards were ragged at the seams and I had a bad Ten. Busted flush! Except for the Beauty, all of the Gurkha cigars showed signs of wear and the Warlord fell into little useless pieces. Why, I can’t say. Is this the fault of the Gurkha rollers? Is this the fault of the quality control division? Or is it that sampler sets are how Pipes & Cigars disposes of old cigars that have been sitting around in their warehouse for a while?
I suppose the latter would explain their considerably reduced price point, which I certainly can’t complain about: at $22.45 USD for what should be a $100 USD set of cigars, it’s a hell of a discount. And don’t get me wrong; these were all very tasty cigars overall. Still I’m not likely to order another sampler. However, I’m conservative in my betting strategies and I play odds rather than trusting to Lady Luck, so I suppose that even with the wrong Ten, depending on how much money you have to bet, it might be worth the gamble. But, not in this lady’s perspective.
You can only get the Five Card Stud Gurkha Sampler at Pipes & Cigars.