Smoke: Nature of the Beast
The cigar seems a rather diffident luxury item when compared to a 300-foot yacht, a 12-cylinder sports car, or a cognac blended from 100-year-old eaux-de-vie. But if you enhance the cigar’s flavor with such rare spirits, as the makers of the His Majesty Reserve (HMR) Gurkha did when they used an entire bottle of Louis XIII de Rémy Martin for each box of the cigars, it becomes an audacious indulgence.
In creating the one and only batch of HMR Gurkhas in 1996, K. Hansotia & Co./Beach Cigar Group rolled a total of only 1,600 cigars (80 boxes’ worth) from precious 18-year-old Dominican Republic tobacco, and then aged them in a humidor alongside an open vat containing the equivalent of 80 bottles of Louis XIII. Beach releases only a few of the $7,500 boxes each year.
More accessible introductions to the Gurkha brand are the new Beast and Titan cigars. The two bold behemoths are ensconced in elegant boxes that contribute to the elite status of Gurkha, which derives its name from the cigars that British soldiers rolled from local tobacco while serving in India in the 19th century. (The soldiers named their cigars for the Nepalese fighters, who, after defending their country against a British invasion in 1815, became—and remain—loyal allies of Great Britain.) Beach will produce annually 1,000 boxes of each cigar.
The 58 x 6 1/2 Beast is the more powerful of the two, with a stronger blend overall and a special treat for the persevering smoker who slays more than half of the cigar. “Halfway down, we blend in more ligero [the strongest-flavored leaves of the tobacco plant], so the flavor becomes heavier as you smoke,” explains company president Kaizad Hansotia. “We don’t want people to get bored when they smoke a big cigar.”
The appearance of the Beast’s dark Costa Rican maduro wrapper may intimidate, but the cigar first presents a deceptively mellow, chocolaty flavor. Then the extra ligero kicks in, and the Beast grows wilder, as its previously faint pepper overtones intensify. The Beast’s cage is as distinctive as its taste. Each $700 black lacquered box houses 35 cigars shrouded in black velvet. Tiny magnets along the edge of the box ensure a firm seal.
The packaging for the 53 x 6 1/4 Titan appears more suited for medieval daggers than for tobacco. The $750 box’s two weighty cast-aluminum hatches each cover a compartment holding eight cigars. A refill container with 15 additional Titans is included. Unlike the Beast’s blend, the Titan’s remains consistent through the entire cigar. Its wrapper is aged longer, lending a subtler, more intricate taste that our veteran smokers found even more seductive than the Beast’s ferocious flavor.
Although the new Gurkhas are decidedly more affordable than the HMR, they still preserve the brand’s exclusivity, which is Hansotia’s intention. “We want to stay small,” he says, “so we can maintain excellent quality control and focus on satisfying the world’s most discriminating smokers.”
K. Hansotia & Co./Beach Cigar Group