Punch Upper Cut Robusto

This week’s contender is a new addition to General Cigar’s popular Punch line, the Upper Cut. Or perhaps I should call it The Champ, as the Upper Cut made it to production by knocking out lesser cigars a special “Election” promotion that took place last year, according to General’s promotional information. Here’s the word from the official Punch Upper Cut website:

An offspring of the Punch “Election” promotion, the blend created for Upper Cut by Punch is the direct result of a national taste test. Using feedback gleaned from hundreds of consumer respondents, General Cigar’s elite new product development team in Honduras married the rich taste of Punch with Nicaraguan spice to produce this alluring, medium-bodied smoke that envelopes the palate with an array of profound flavors.

Another interesting bit of trivia is the source of the tobacco. It isn’t just your run of the mill Nicaraguan tobacco. A significant percentage of the blend is a proprietary tobacco variety grown on a volcanic island, named Ometepe, located in the middle of the vast Lake Nicaragua. A combination of nutrient-rich volcanic soil, perpetual cloud cover and unique climate are said to result in a distinctive flavor you won’t find elsewhere. Does this mean I’m in for a Nicaraguan knockout? It’s time to find out.

Cigar Stats:
Size: 5.2 x 50
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan (including, but not exclusively Ometepe)*
Smoking Time: 1 1/2 hours
Beverage: Water
Price: MSRP $6.50
*Clarified by General Cigar

The Pre-Smoke
The striking Upper Cut is a visual departure from the red bands that are normally associated with Punch cigars. Looking at it’s blue and gold band, and considering the obvious boxing reference in the name, I couldn’t help but see some similarities between it and a boxing championship belt. But I actually found the foot band more interesting. It features a idyllic landscape with a tobacco farm and the dual volcanic peaks of Ometepe island rising in the distance. A definite keeper for anyone who collects or decorates with cigar bands.

Under the large bands, a somewhat veiny, rustic and slightly reddish wrapper leaf hides. Looking the cigars over, I didn’t notice any serious imperfections. One cigar was lumpy, and sported a cap that was cocked off to one side like it wanted to start some trouble.

The wrapper scent and the cold taste were both surprisingly sweet. There was a definitely a dark cherry element to both.

The Burn
As attractive as the Upper Cut is before you grab your torch, it’s looks even better once it’s ablaze. The ash is bright white and the burn line is razor straight the majority of the time. That isn’t to say there weren’t a few snags along the way. Once again, the Tower of Burn lottery selected the stick with the poorest burn of the bunch. As you’ll note in the pictures, that cigar’s ash flowered a great deal early on, and it developed a really crooked burn later that required intervention. Neither had a significant negative impact on the draw (which was pretty good), the flavor or the over all experience. And considering the other cigars were virtually flawless, I’m chalking it up to a bum stick.

The Flavor
The Upper Cut gets things going with a combination of sweet dark cherry, leather and coffee. Though these flavors bobbed and weaved a bit with each other, the combination remains pretty consistent until just before the end of the first third. At that point, pepper made a sudden appearance. One thing that struck me was how much the cigar coated my palate with flavor (more so in one case than the others) and how long the flavor lingered between puffs.

The second third continued to have the dark cherry sweetness, but it mellowed a bit as the cigar progressed, and at points seemed to melt into the coffee flavor. The pepper played more of a part in this third and the leather remained prominent as well.

The conclusion of the cigar was basically a slightly fuller, more peppery continuation of the second third.

The Price
I don’t have an issue with the price, though I paid almost a buck more a stick for these cigars than MSRP. That is partly due to our state’s tobacco taxes. Even at the price I paid, it’s still not unreasonable (thought the taxes may be), but it doesn’t exactly qualify as a budget cigar either.

The Verdict
My final verdict on this cigar on the Punch Upper Cut was up in the air until the final round. It wasn’t the knockout combination of exotic flavor and value I hoped for, but it never went down for the count either. The flavors were respectable and long lasting, but the match wasn’t exciting. By the time you finish the first third, you’ve seen all there is to see.

Lately people have been discussing their top ten cigar lists for 2009. I haven’t completed my list yet, but I know already that the Punch Upper Cut didn’t make the cut. It’s good but not great. It’s a cigar I’d buy a stick at a time occasionally, but not one I’d designate as box-worthy. But if you’re a fan of Punch cigars, the Upper Cut is something you really should try. It is an interesting variation on the Punch line.

Liked It: It’s OK
Buy It Again: Probably
Recommend It: To Punch cigar fans looking for variety

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

Special Thanks To
Wordpress. Or as I not very affectionately refer to it, Turdpress. I really appreciate having to rewrite half this review. If my session arbitrarily times out while I’m writing, you better believe I want you to force me to log in again and discard all my work. If you can work out a way to do it in a future version, do you think you could punch me right in the junk at the same time? Thank you so much for all you do.