Gurkha Royal Challenge

The Gurkha Royal Challenge marks one of the first releases by Gurkha Cigars since former CAO boss Gary Hyams was named President and CEO of the company.  One significant thing that Gurkha cigar fans will notice with Royal Challenge is the return to the elaborate banding and packaging.   In 2010, Gurkha had moved to some simplistic packaging with its Ninja and Viper releases – much to the disappointment of many Gurkha fans.  From the appearance of the Royal Challenge, it is evident that this marks Gurkha’s entry into the Connecticut/Ecuadorian shade wrapper frenzy that has been gripping the cigar market in 2011.  The big question is – how good will this stand-up against other Connecticut/Ecuadorian shade releases from this year? The answer is that this cigar probably is somewhere in the middle of the pack, but not quite at the front of the pack.

Many maligned the Ninja and Viper releases from 2011, but I happened to think they provided good value at a good price.  Gurkha fans will be happy that the Royal Challenge not only brings back Gurkha’s fancy banding and packaging, but it also maintains providing a good value cigar at a low price.  Depending on the size of the cigar, the Royal Challenge will have an SRP from $5.98 to $8.50 (of course subject to local taxes).

Let’s analyze what the Royal Challenge is all about:

Blend Profile

The Connecticut/Ecuadorian shade wrapper is the main visual feature of this cigar.  It has more of a toothy look as opposed to a silky look.  There also is a Honduran binder.  I’ll continue to say this – 2011 has shown a resurgence in Honduran tobacco in the cigar world.  This is a true “four” corners cigar with tobaccos from the “big four” in the tobacco industry (from a U.S. perspective) – the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Ecuador.

Wrapper: Connecticut/Ecuadorian Shade
Binder: Habano Honduran
Filler: Dominican, Nicaraguan

Vitolas Available

At the time of this assessment, the Gurkha Royal Challenge is available in five vitolas.

Robusto: 5 x 50
Toro: 6 x 50
Torpedo 6 1/2 x 53
Churchill: 7 x 52
XO: 6 x 60

Preparation for the Cigar Experience

For this cigar experience, I sampled the Toro vitola.  I placed a straight cut into the cap of the Royal Challenge.  The pre-light draw was not a surprise as it provided classic flavor notes from a Connecticut/Ecuadoran shade wrapper of butter, wood, and a touch of cedar.  Overall it was a satisfactory dry draw.  It was now on to toast the foot of the cigar and begin the smoking experience.

Flavor Profile

I was a little surprised as there was a quick jolt of cedar/pepper spice that started the cigar experience. This pepper blast settled rather quickly and the cigar took on a profile of butter, wood, and cream.   The butter and cream notes eventually moved to the forefront.  At this early point of the smoking experience, the spice did not totally dissipate and had more of a presence on the after-draw.

The butter and cream notes continued to intensify and took on almost a milky profile.  The spice on the after-draw started could now be detected in the background as opposed to just the after-draw.  The spice also now took on more of a cedary profile.  Around the midway point, I detected some berry sweetness in the flavor profile.  The cedar spice moved toward the forefront in the second half with the berry notes taking on more of a secondary role.   The cigar finished smoothly, but it did have a warm and soft nub.

Burn and Draw

While the Gurkha Royal Challenge had a pretty straight burn, I did feel that it burned on the hot side – particularly in the second half of the smoke.  While it did not have harsh notes on the finish, I’m wondering if the hotter burn took something out of this cigar’s flavor profile at the close.  In general, I don’t like the feel of any hot burn cigar.  I had my Royal Challenge stored at 69 percent humidity and 70 degrees – and in my opinion, that should satisfy just about any cigar.  One important note is that the burn could have been an isolated problem as I have only smoked one Gurkha Royal Challenge.

The burn rate of the cigar was not a problem as it burned at a steady rate. The draw of the Royal Challenge was good, but I believe the warm burn in the second half made the draw a little loose.

Strength and Body

Many of the 2011 Ecuadorian/Connecticut Shade wrapper cigars have tried to move the boundary of both strength and body into the medium/medium area of the spectrum.  The Gurkha Royal Challenge is not one of those cigars – and there is nothing wrong with that.  From a nicotine profile, this cigar falls right into the mild area of the strength spectrum.   For the most part, I would not categorize the flavor notes as deep, but more subtle.  I assess the Royal Challenge to be mild to medium in terms of body.

Final Thoughts

My only knock on the Gurkha Royal Challenge was the hot burn I got in the second half.  However, as I mentioned above – I only smoked one sample.. For a cigar that is mild in strength and mild to medium in body, it does deliver some nice balance.  This definitely fits my classic mold for a “morning smoke”.  This would definitely be a good cigar to put into a novice cigar enthusiast’s hands.  I probably would not recommend this for the more seasoned cigar enthusiast unless they smoke a lot of mild strength, mild to medium bodied cigars.   It’s still a cigar I would try again.


Burn: Fair
Draw: Good
Complexity: Medium
Strength: Mild
Body: Mild to Medium
Assessment: Nice to Have

Source: The cigar for this assessment was gifted to me by a friend.