Graycliff Original Pirate (Red Label)

If you’ve been frequenting the Stogie Review for a while, you probably remember My Graycliff Tobacco Beetle Adventure. If you haven’t read it yet, suffice it to say, it was sad tale of loss and questionable customer service. What I didn’t know then, was that writing up the experience was not the final chapter in the story.

A few months ago, a Graycliff representative contacted me. He had read about my misadventure, and wanted to replace those beetle-chewed sticks. In our conversation, I learned that one of my assumptions was correct, they do get contacted pretty frequently by people looking to score free cigars by claiming to have received damaged or beetle infested ones. Their policy is to replace legitimately flawed cigars, and find out where these cigars were purchased so they can look for and resolve any problems on their end of the process. (Inquiring about the location of the purchase also helps weed out the weasels.)

The cigars arrived, I smoked them, and so the story ends. Well nearly. As I smoked the last stick from the generous assortment I received, a red-labeled Graycliff Original Pirate, I was struck with how much I enjoyed it. So much so, I mentioned on twitter that it was my new favorite Graycliff. Cliff (@casafumacigars) of Casa Fuma Cigars saw my tweet and decided on the spot to mail me a bunch more. So it would appear that the final chapter of the story is meant to be a cigar review.

As the name implies, the red label is the original Graycliff cigar. It was created in 1997 for the upscale Graycliff hotel and restaurant in the Bahamas by Avelino Lara, the man who was once the supervisor of the Cohiba brand in Havana, Cuba. It comes in nearly a dozen different vitolas, from the tiny Taco (4 1/2 x 44) up to the shaggy-footed monster known as the Big Bamboo (14 x 50). In the Graycliff world, the name “Pirate” is synonymous with the torpedo or pyramid vitola. Let’s burn some pirates.

Cigar Stats:
Size: 6 x 52
Wrapper: Indonesia
Binder: Indonesia
Filler: Brazil, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua
Smoking Time: 2 hours
Beverage: Water
Price: MSRP $20.00

The Pre-Smoke
The Graycliff Original Pirate is an attention grabber to be sure. The red and shiny gold band just might blind you under the right lighting conditions. And when you pick one up, you’ll probably notice the cellophane is stretched to capacity around the stout torpedo. That does make it a little difficult to get the cigar out, but on the bright side it also probably means some bozo didn’t just run the bare stick under his nose before you bought it.

With the cigar carefully extracted from the cellophane, and my eyes adjusted to the golden glare it was time to take a look at the wrapper. Looking it over, I didn’t see any imperfections, finding only fine veins and an oily sheen on the wrapper.

The cigars all seemed well packed with tobacco, firm to the touch and free of soft spots. The wrapper had a really sweet honey and compost aroma, and the cold taste offered me some sweetness and earthy spices.

The Burn
The performance in the burn department reinforced my sense that these are well constructed cigars. They burned evenly for the most part, and produced a sturdy light gray or white ash that was pleasant to look at. I did have to relight one cigar just before the second third, but that was the extent of my burn trouble.

The Flavor
Ordinarily, I break this section up by thirds, but there didn’t seem to be substantial differences in the flavor between thirds. The base flavor was a complex combination of earth, spices and a little sweetness. Occasionally, there seemed to be a little leather or nuts in there as well. The flavor did develop some creaminess in the second third as the spices and earth mellowed a bit. And in the final third, the spices returned with a vengeance, making their presence known in the front of my mouth and on my lips.

The Price
This Graycliff is priced well outside of my comfort zone when it comes to everyday smokes. When you buy these, you definitely are paying a premium for the prestige of smoking them, not just the costs of production. With Graycliffs, the rule seems to be if you have to ask, you can’t afford them.

The Verdict
While the Graycliff Original Pirate was an agreeable, well constructed, milder smoke, none of cigars I lit up for this review wowed me like that first one. I’m not sure what the reason is for that, perhaps the differences in storage or age of the cigars, or maybe the influence of things I had had to eat and drink prior to that first red label. (As these Graycliff Originals were created for a restaurant and hotel, the food and drink combination may be key to the proper enjoyment of this cigar.) Which only reinforces my belief that you really do need to smoke a cigar several times before you form your opinion.

That being said, if you prefer mild but spicy cigars that burn very well and look great while doing so, and you have the funds, the Red Label Torpedo isn’t a bad way to go. It’s also wouldn’t be a bad choice as a special occasion smoke.

A big thanks to both Cliff and Graycliff for all the cigars. I really appreciate it guys!

Liked It: It was OK
Buy It Again: Probably not
Recommend It: To mild cigar smokers with extra pocket money

Tower of Burn
Here for your viewing pleasure is my trademark Tower of Burn.