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Cigar Review: Gurkha Cellar Reserve Prisoner

3 Jun 2015

I’ve had a handful of Gurkha Cellar Reserve Prisoners tucked away in one of my humidors for over three years now. While they seem to leer at me every time I come across them, I’ve been avoiding working on a review. Why? For one, Gurkha is—at best—a hit-or-miss brand for me. Also, this huge smoke (7 x 54) seems like a major time commitment for a blend that, frankly, I’m not all that excited to sample. So, try as I might go into every cigar review with an open mind, I feel I need to be upfront about my hesitations.

Gurkha Cellar Reserve PrisonerSome of you may recall the Gurkha Cellar Reserve line was introduced in the summer of 2011. “The vintage Cellar Reserve uses the finest quality 15-year-old aged tobacco, comprised of an oily Criollo ’98 wrapper, that combines an aged Dominican Olor binder with a 15-year-old Dominican filler,” reads the Gurkha website. “Housed in unique wooden boxes that aesthetically evoke a maturing wine barrel, the Cellar Reserve is a delicious medium- to full-bodied cigar that is full of flavor and complexity.”

In addition to the Prisoner (an interesting name for a vitola that’s sure to suck up a lot of time), there are four other sizes: Koi (4 x 58), Solara (5 x 58), Hedonism (6 x 58), and Kraken (6 x 60). Back in 2011 and 2012, the Prisoner’s MSRP was about $10-11 apiece, and it was only sold at brick-and-mortar tobacconists. These days you can find them online for $8-9 when bought by the box of 20.

The first thing that strikes you about the Prisoner—aside from the daunting size—is the large, unique band that sports a three-sentence description of the cigar. Also included on the band is a batch number, quantity, and blend strength (mine says 97.6%, and I have no idea what that means). In addition, Gurkha includes the phrase “Dominican Puro” on the label, despite reports there are Nicaraguan filler tobaccos in the blend.

Beneath the band is a Criollo ’98 leaf with an intricate roadmap of veins, some thin others on the thick side. The feel is firm throughout, and the foot shows a cross-section tightly packed tobaccos. The cold draw has just a little resistance, and the pre-light notes remind me of leather, wet leaves, and sawdust.

At the outset, the Cellar Reserve Prisoner tastes of baking spices, oak, and brown sugar. The texture is bready and the resting smoke is highly aromatic and sweet. The first transition is characterized by overwhelming sweetness (the cigar almost tastes infused). Then, after about an inch of smoking, vanilla, leather, and a meaty bitterness take center stage. From there until the nub, the flavors change only at the margin. Construction—save for a few torch touch-ups here and there—is commendable.

Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy if you must, but I find it hard to smoke the aptly-named Prisoner. It’s a constant struggle between intense sweetness and meaty sourness, and there’s a severe shortage of completely or subtlety, especially for a two-hour behemoth. I rate the Gurkha Cellar Reserve Prisoner one and a half stogies out of five.

[To read more cigar reviews, please click here.]

Patrick A

photo credit: Stogie Guys

3 Responses to “Cigar Review: Gurkha Cellar Reserve Prisoner”

  1. JMac Wednesday, June 3, 2015 at 7:03 am #

    Sounds like wasted space in the humidor. There is no dishonor in throwing out sub-par cigars. More room for great coronas!

  2. Xavier Wednesday, June 3, 2015 at 5:05 pm #

    Wow! Tell us how you really feel!(Sarcasm) No surprise here. I’ve enjoyed the Gurkha Legend in, in the past. Still have a few with some years on them. Gurkha puts out a very aesthetically pleasing product. Nice bands, wrappers, and such, but their issue is consistency. No Gurkha I have tried completely resembles the last one of the same line. Seems like another case of product over saturation. I think they could stand to trim their selection and focus on putting out a few really good lines. I’m just saying…

  3. Eric Thursday, June 4, 2015 at 9:14 am #

    Thanks for taking one for the team. Even if it was just to confirm what most of us already suspected.