A few random musings...
Yesterday, I finished my last Omar Ortez Original (aged 2 yrs, 1 mo.) from the original box of 60 (well, technically I left one in my Lost Sticks Tray that I'll probably fire up in 2013 or so). These were strong, pungent nicaraguan puros. They lacked complexity but made up for it with blunt force. My only complaint about these cigars were they could not be left unattended for any length of time without losing the flame, and they were prone to going out and having to be relit. Other than that... very highly recommended.
Tonight, I am enjoying a Padilla Hybrid robusto (aged 2 yrs, 2 mos.) after dinner. It is mild-medium body, but with lots of odd flavors that I can't quite describe yet. Enjoyable but different.
I recently ordered two bundles of Gurkha Master's Select Robusto #4 (6 x 52) from CigarBid for $42.99 (incl. shipping). I have really enjoyed the Master Select line in the past, but I'm a little worried about this batch. These are no longer dressed in attractive, aromatic cedar wraps. Also, the light brown wrappers are now very dark, almost maduro. The cigars smell young, with traces of ammonia, although I suspect this will disappear with age.
I asked Cigars International about these discrepancies and here was their response:
Thanks for choosing Cigars International! As far as the wrapper is concerned, I can tell you it is the correct wrapper, but because it is a natural product there may some inconsistencies; that is, depending on weather, soil, and the year that it was harvested. As for the cedar sleeves—these were done away with by Gurkha from what I understand to cut back on costs. Regardless these are the same tasty gems that you’re used to, and I’m sure you’ll still love them! I hope this helps, and if you need any further assistance, please feel free to ask.
So I guess I'll just have to wait six months and decide for myself if these are the "same tasty gems" that I'm used to.
Update 5/9/14: I finally fired up that last Omar Ortez Original from the Lost Sticks Tray last night, a year behind schedule. The cigar was still ugly as sin, with tooth and veins running amok everywhere. The cigar had developed a grassy pre-light scent that I don't remember, the initial spicy pepper blast (which I described as "Pepin-esque" in 2009) was noticeably absent, and the loose draw had tightened up to perfection. The burn problems that plagued this cigar in 2011 were completely solved, and the distinctive Nicaraguan tobacco taste, exemplified so well in Padrons, were if anything richer, softer, and ultimately more pleasing. This cigar was the perfect complement to a glass of Balvenie Double Wood last night. I had nearly forgotten this brand, my favorite stogies of yesteryear, but our reunion was oh so sweet...
Update 8/19/14: The Gurkha Master Select maduros were not "the same tasty gems" I remembered. They were bland unmemorable maduros, just like most $2 maduros you find on the internet. I felt highly ripped off. I noticed last month, however, that Cigars International is now advertising "The original Gurkha Master Select blend is back!" The cigar wrappers look light brown again, and the cedar sleeves have returned. JR Cigars is still selling the sleeveless maduro version of Master Select, at least for the time being.