16 Mar 2016
“Boutique” is a word that gets thrown around a lot in marketing, especially cigars. While larger cigar companies fight for big chunks of market share, smaller boutique companies focus on filling the niches.
In many ways PG Cigars, founded in 1990 to coincide with Paul Garmirian’s book A Gourmet Guide to Cigars (which you can steal on Amazon for $4 shipped), could be considered one of the original boutique producers. Over the years, it has developed its niche by bringing well-aged cigars to market, and eschewing the industry norm of introducing a new cigar every year. Walk into the company’s cigar shop and headquarters in McLean, Virginia, and you’ll find numerous cigars for sale with 20 years of age. (I’d venture to guess the small, somewhat cramped stripmall storefront has more cigars for sale that have been aged 20 years or more than anywhere else in the country.)
With 2015 being the 25th anniversary of the company, PG Cigars did what any boutique cigar company would do: release a 25th Anniversary cigar, albeit in PG’s own understated way. The lone announcement for the anniversary smoke came in a pre-Christmas email along with a link to an NPR story about Cuban cigars that quoted Garmirian.
The 25th Anniversary Connoisseur comes in one size, a 6-inch by 52-ring gauge toro. The company hasn’t released details on the blend, but the deep brown, oily wrapper certainly looks similar to the Havana-seed wrapper used on PG’s 20th Anniversary blend.
Each of the four cigars I smoked for this review (provided by PG Cigars, although I walked in intending to buy the samples) featured excellent construction. There wasn’t a soft spot to be found on any of them and the burn and draw were flawless. (I also appreciate that the bands on these were easy to remove without damaging the wrapper, which is a problem I’ve had on other PG smokes.)
Once lit, the Connoisseur starts out with a unique sweet and bready combination that reminds me of raisin bread. As it progresses, it reveals a combination of oak, cedar, mushroom, bread, and a salty savoriness that especially kicks in towards the second half of the cigar.
More than anything, this is a cigar characterized by restrained strength. You get the distinct sense that if it had been rushed at all the Connoisseur would have had some rough edges, but instead the full-bodied woodiness is tempered by a cornucopia of other subtle flavors.
While $19 is a lot for a cigar, and you’d expect a lot for such a premium price, the PG 25th Anniversary delivers. It demands a slow, speculative pace to be fully appreciated, and each cigar I smoked easily lasted two hours, but the time is well spent.
For now, this is a single-vitola blend, but PG’s 15th and 20th Anniversary blends were later expanded into multiple sizes, and I certainly hope the same happens for the 25th. In my opinion, the 25th Anniversary surpasses PG’s 20th Anniversary blend and is the equal, although a very different cigar, to the 15th Anniversary. That earns the Paul Garmirian 25th Anniversary Connoisseur our highest rating of five stogies out of five.