Review: MBombay Gaaja
There’s a lot to like about Thanksgiving besides stuffing your pie hole and getting drunk with the uncle you see once a year who comes up with the oddest games. Ah, being thankful for family, football and fall weather. That’s what it means ‘round here. And after you’ve wrestled that pumpkin pie away from the dogs, its time to give thanks once again and settle in with a nice cigar. In this case, my selection was the Gaaja by the newer boutique, MBombay. I’d heard wonderful things about this and other MBombay cigars from my network, social media and from various reputable sources around the web. I actively sought out this cigar and there’s only one spot here in south Texas where I can get ‘em – Republic Cigar in Gruene. Tony and Sammy are great folks. I had my eye on this little number along with several others since bringing them home. Yeah, the Gaaja is not gonna get a lot of humi time unfortunately, I thought to myself. A couple of weeks is all I could stand. There was a nice nip in the air so I decided it was time to uncover the firepit, light ‘er up and fire up the Gaaja as well.
In 2001, Mel (Mehul) Shah, a former IT professional, opened up a retail wine and smoke store in Palm Springs, California. At some point shortly after, his love of cigars pushed him to research growing and blending his own tobacco. In 2011 he started assembling the needed pieces for his new venture and by 2014, Shah launched MBombay, the first brand of cigars under his company, Bombay Tobak. Two things that immediately get your attention is that all his cigars are manufactured in Costa Rica and he utilizes Peruvian tobaccos. Shah says Peruvian tobaccos are the “it” factor when it comes to the flavors of his blends, “Like adding a dash of salt….” Well, many agree considering the high ratings and rave reviews his cigars have received. Shah is passionate about tobacco and this carries over to his belief that differentiation is the key to, as he puts it, “a sea of brown” The tangible and intangible ingredients Shah brings are certainly garnering notice. MBombay currently features the Gaaja, Classic, Mora, Kesara, Corojo Oscuro and Habano. Rumors have it there are more on the way.
Did you know: The beautiful bands adorning MBombay cigars are designed by Shah’s wife.
- Profile: Medium
- Vitola: Torpedo
- Length / Ring Gauge: 6.5″/ 54
- Purchased: Local Humidor
- Origin: Costa Rica
- Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut
- Binder: Ecuador
- Filler: Dominican, Peruvian, Ecuadorian, Paraguayan
- Cutter: Xikar Xi1
- Lighter: Colibri Firebird
- Price Range: $14 – $15
The banding on these cigars is not just eye-catching, but a work of art. Shah’s wife, he says, is largely credited with designing these bands. He says he wants a design that captures the imaginations of both men and women cigar smokers. Well, got my attention. Fortunately, what’s underneath is equally unique. The Gaaja is the first cigar to feature tobacco fillers from Paraguay. Shah states “It’s the first time in the industry that tobacco from Paraguay was ever used for cigars. Gaaja uses a hybrid tobacco (seco) from Paraguay which imparts a very distinctive sweetness in the taste.” The Gaaja comes in 3 vitolas with the Ecuadorian wrapper: robusto, toro and torpedo. In the maduro skin, you can get only the torpedo and toro. The construction is nice and solid. The girth of the 54 ring gauge is uniformly very firm from head to foot. The seams are just barely visible and the Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper is a delicious light caramel color. The tapered head is well done especially considering it’s box pressed.
A good sniff of the shaft and you’ll be greeted by an overall sweetness along with floral and hay aromas. The floral notes carry over to the foot but also includes hints of coffee and herbal tea. The cold draw is excellent with just a ¼” cut and it rewards the senses with a delicious cocktail of raisins and cocoa. The drooling centers of my brain are officially at a 100% capacity. Time to smoke.
The initial light and draw is a nice whoosh of coffee and nuts with a tang of citrus and a lovely toasty finish. Somewhat leathery, there is also a nice creamy texture to the generous plumes of smoke. There’s also a woody nature and it comes on in short order, but I was intrigued by the subtle notes of hazelnut. Very nice! Also during the initial third, I got slight hints of caramel as well. It looks delicious sitting still…and it is when it’s lit. Combustion is solid and the char line is very even.
The second third introduces more leather to the profile with the same wonderful notes of hazelnut. Strength has picked up a bit and there’s more earth and wood in the fire to boot. There is just the slightest touch of spice with a wonderful coffee finish. Burn is great and the char line while it does get out of shape, be patient, the Gaaja will right the ship. The complexity is great through the first couple of thirds and this where I like to see if a cigar can still mix it up in the final stretch.
The final third has a more defined cedar profile with an earthy hue. The spice is still present and in the background is a nice swirling dark coffee flavor that is wonderful. None of the flavors are too intense or get lost because of another. This stick is well blended with the intent of its blender to achieve a nice balance. It does that throughout. This was truly one of only a few cigars I’ve smoked to the nub.
What a fantastic cigar after a long Thanksgiving day. This cigar is special for a number of reasons. The flavors and how they interact with one another really got my juices flowing. Unlike some cigars that seem to lose your attention, this one is constantly dangling that carrot in front of you. The construction is top-notch and you can tell in the roll and the combustion. I’m not a fan of box pressed cigars, but dammit, some of the best I’ve smoked seemed to be in this configuration. I would love to try the Gaaja in a Parejo torpedo vitola. Socks would officially be knocked off. A couple of things I noticed is that it struggled to keep a 1″ ash and the ash was bit on the flaky side. Not a bad thing mind you. Unfortunately, I think the price of the cigar will keep a lot of folks from enjoying it regularly. Its getting close to Davidoff-type pricing. But you have to remember if you want some of the best tobaccos, good aging and blending, you’re going to have to pony up a little more. In this case, a uniqueness is the unicorn many boutique cigar makers are chasing and the Gaaja is a unique smoke that carries good flavor and balance throughout. Some may argue you can get the same level of quality, complexity and balance of flavors in a sub-$10 cigar. I think that’s a tall order to fill personally, but I have smoked a few that could certainly make that argument. In the end, the band, the build and bold statement the Gaaja makes is one thats hard to resist. I highly recommend trying one – or two – In fumo Pax!