Review: Gurkha Legend Vintage 2001
This is only my second Gurkha, and I’m glad I dove back in considering the train wreck the first outing produced. Honestly, I don’t even remember what blend it was other than terrible. Bad flavor, wonky construction, bad burn, unraveled wrapper…just all of it. Terrible. It was a cigar of the month club selection, so I kinda had to give them a hall pass. So, during the course of the summer I was buying this and that and for whatever reason, call it fate or karma, the Gurkha name seemed to keep popping up. I knew there were a handful of blends I wanted to try, so I waited. I waited for a deal at one of the online retailers I frequent and sure enough, Whamo, a 15-pack sampler offer appeared in my inbox. It was a deal I couldn’t ignore. At roughly $4 a stick, even if only some were good, I’d still come out aces. After some humi time and after smoking a trio of great smokes that week, I was on a roll and it was Saturday evening. Time to liberate a Gurkha. Although I’d done some research on the blends I purchased, I made a random pick – the Legend Vintage 2001.
For the non-history buffs out there, the name “gurkha” refers to the original Nepalese warrior class. Their origins trace back to the Anglo-Nepalese war in the early 1800s. Identified by their fearless nature and khukuri, a large curved knife, the ghurkas were eventually employed by the British Empire as mercenaries. The cigar name originated from the British colonial soldiers who rolled their own cigars. They had so much respect for the fearless warriors, they called their cigars “gurkhas” instead. Now, Marty McFly it in your Delorean a hundred years or so to the 1980s. Enter Kaizad Hansotia from a wealthy family with Indian heritage. Not to offend Mr. Hansotia, but everytime I hear his name I can’t help but think of Keyser Soze, from “The Usual Suspects.” Anyway, the story goes that Kaizad was vacationing in India in the late 80s when during his travels he stumbled upon a Portuguese man rolling and selling cigars he called “Gurkhas.” Hansotia was so enamored with this he offered and purchased the man’s entire inventory and tobacco for the back-breaking sum of $149. Yep, less than a Yeti cooler. His initial idea was to make some cigars and give boxes of them as gifts to his clients who purchased items from his family’s line of luxury timepieces. Hansotia would later take his brand to the cigar industry masters like the Torano family, to name a few, and the commercial Gurkhas were born. Gurkha produces some of the most expensive and sought after cigars on the planet, and as advertised, are enjoyed by royalty and heads of state.
The Legend Vintage 2001 started life as just “The Legend”. In 2008, The Legend was originally launched with rare, 8-year aged tobacco leaves and became so popular that the limited-production cigar didn’t last long. In response to the demand, shortly thereafter Gurkha created a new blend using a sultry 2001 triple-fermented Connecticut broadleaf wrapper and christened it the Legend Vintage 2001. The reddish-brown, slightly veiny and oily wrapper of this torpedo will make you drool. I’m a fan of torpedo and belicoso vitolas or others with the angled head/cap, and this big cigar has a very nice presentation. The construction is good, but the foot was awfully squishy. I checked some of the others that the Vintage was packaged with and they seemed fine, so I can’t necessarily blame the packaging. I’d heard quality was iffy at Gurkha, and given my own experience, this wasn’t the discovery I was hoping for.
- Profile: Medium
- Vitola: Torpedo
- Length / Ring Gauge: 6.7″/ 54
- Purchased: Online Retailer
- Origin: Dominican Republic
- Wrapper: Connecticut Broadleaf
- Binder: Cameroon
- Filler: Dominican
- Cutter: Xikar XO
- Lighter: Colibri Firebird 3-jet
- Price Range: $9.75 – $11.50
Fortunately, things were about to get better. The wrapper offers a delicious milk chocolatey aroma and the aromas from the foot are a mix of chocolate and cedar. The cap required two, quarter-inch cuts for an excellent draw. Remember the rule for cutting angled heads like torpedos and belicosos – cut only a quarter inch at a time until the draw is best. The cold draw was tantalizing as I noted chocolate, nuts and a hint of honey.
Like the cold draw, the initial first few puffs were very creamy and rife with chocolate and nuts. As you progress down the 1st third, notes of oak and malt linger on the palate. Not a lot of spice here and the burn is almost dead even. I’m enjoying the crap out of this medium smoke and am pleasantly surprised. The “oh crap” pendulum has definitely swung the other way. If this little darlin’ keeps it up, I will forget all about my previous Gurkha’s sins.
Transition into the 2nd third opens the spice cabinet a bit. She also gets a little earthy without being musty, and its sooooo good! The oak is still hanging around and we have some leather arriving on the scene. Definitely went from a mild into the medium strength here. The creaminess is still very much there and she is very well-balanced. My original fears of the squishy foot are long gone as she is burning very nicely down the 2nd third.
As quickly as it came in the 2nd third, the spice is beginning to dissipate once into the final stretch. The oakyness is a nice foundation with a nice transition into flavors of dark coffee/espresso. These flavors are perfectly balanced and are now wonderfully mingling with hints of cinnamon. Shortly after getting into the final third, part of the wrapper stopped burning causing an uneven char line. No problemo, a little touch-up got her back on track and I continued to marvel at this thoroughly delicious smoke.
Like any good meal, you clean your plate and joke “nope, didn’t like it a bit”. And with the Gurkha Legend Vintage 2001, its hard NOT to nub this thing. Just don’t wanna stop kissing this beautiful girl. For a while, I am stupefied that a cigar maker can make a sloppy mess that was my first experience yet also make something as sinfully delicious as the 2001. Maybe assa-sinfully? Get it. The squishy foot and the minor wrapper issue cost it some points, but not much. My experience overall was fantastic, but I’ve read some other retail reviews that aren’t so complementary. In fact, the more I learn about Gurkhas the more I find that folks either love ’em or outright hate ’em. There’s very few fence sitters here folks. Regardless, I would strongly urge anyone to try the Legend Vintage. Well, I’ve got 14 to go and the Centurion is next on my list. Gurkha totally redeemed itself with the Vintage 2001, lets hope they can keep the momentum going! – In Fumo Pax!