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  1. Date: August 5, 2016, 7:20pm Cigar: Punch Monarca, Habana, Cuba Format: Julieta No. 2 (Churchill) Code: PUL NOV01 Pairing: Martini & Rossi Rosso (Torino, Italy) Preserved in aluminium tubes, the Punch Monarca is a churchill sized cigar at 7 x 47. The inscription on the tube states "This cigar has been packed in a sealed container to assure the natural Havana aroma and freshness of the cigar when smoked." The wrapper looks like leather, milk chocolate colored, with visible seams and an evenly applied cap. There are a few small veins, and one medium vein that snakes from the middle up under the label all the way to the cap. I cut very shallow, and found the cold draw near perfect with an aroma that embellishes a bit of the cedar lined tube it was wrapped in. Torching this 15-year old specimen was easy, forming a nice even cherry. First draw is mild with a distinctly sweet cedar overtone and hints of vanilla. Smoke volume is somewhat light. After the first inch or so the cigar flavor and body picked up, and a toasted tobacco core became central, while the cedar faded into a trace. A rich aroma of bread baking in an oven emerged. The ash is a bit flaky, but holds for about 2 inches before a light tap snapped it off. Near the tail of the first third the burn wavered a bit, and early into the second third the cigar extinguished. I relit and purged. After a couple of draws, the flavor resumed a solid earthy and toasted tobacco core. The cedar is gone, and now I sense some cumin and other spices I can't quite put my finger on, maybe paprika I guess. Body has again intensified slightly, but creamy and not a hint of harshness or bitterness. Smoke volume remains a tad light but the aroma is rich and pleasantly earthy. I'm starting to sense a little buzz. At one hour I'm not even at the half mark and the flavor and body have become very smooth, almost chewy, creamy and balanced. I am loving this stage. Inhaling a little of the smoke trail as I draw I am again getting some cedar and a rich barnyard note. Wow, what a pleasant flavor and aroma this has developed into. There is a slightly sweet aftertaste that lingers for a couple of seconds with a hint of vanilla and some chocolate, mmmmm.... Entering the last third the flavor has developed into a complex blend of earth, wood, mild spices, and that sweetness... delicious! Body has evened out, and the flavor is so perfectly balanced, smooth, creamy and surprisingly cool. The second half of this cigar is pure bliss. Smoke volume has increased some and the aroma is heavenly, it's like cookie dough and toast. I have to slow down a little because I'm smoking in earnest to absorb every bit of flavor and aroma from this beautiful cigar. With every drag I'm letting the smoke rise up out of my mouth and wash over my face. I can't get enough of this intoxicating aroma and taste. The burn is slightly uneven again requiring a little touchup. At the last couple of inches it is starting to get a little hot and a tad spicy. I finally laid the last inch and a half down, not willing to risk tainting the flavor I'm still savoring. Exquisite, sublime.... these words just can't describe this experience especially the second half of this cigar. I rarely smoke churchills anymore, I seldom have over 2 1/2 hours to quietly enjoy a cigar, but right now I just can't stop thinking about a repeat performance. I am so blessed to have half a box of these left to smoke. The only disappointment is HSA has discontinued this outstanding cigar. What a shame. I only bought one box of these, and now I wish I had a humidor filled with them. Despite some burn issues, this may well be the best cigar I have smoked in a decade, maybe ever.

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