Some of you may recall about a year ago when the cigar world was rocked by the archaeological discovery of 828 perfectly preserved 600-year-old pre-Columbian cigars. They were in pristine and smokable condition because of their storage below ground in clay jar humidors. Here is a link to the original story - World's Most Expensive Cigar: 600 Year Old Pre-Columbian Mayan Cigars To Be Auctioned
I was very excited to learn that they were being offered for auction to the public by a prominent online cigar dealer, but my offer of $102 fell far short of the $507,000 winning bid from an anonymous bidder for the entire collection.
Determined to sample one of these ancient cigars from the original inventors of all cigars, I scoured the globe to find out who had absconded with this treasure. I was surprised to find that they had been purchased by a cigar aficionado, Gary Liotta, owner of Santiago Cigar Factory, not too far from where I lived, in Rochester, NY. I was even more surprised by the reason that Mr. Liotta was willing to pay such an exorbitant amount for them. The reason why was even more astounding than the original discovery of these cigars.
Incredibly, the master roller for Santiago Cigar Factory, Mr. Amadeo Bonilla, claims that he is directly descended from the makers of these ancient cigars! This was confirmed by a family seal found pressed into the clay humidor containing these cigars - an emblem that Mr. Bonilla's family continues to use to this day.
Despite my negotiations with Mr. Liotta, he was not willing to sell one to me because he considered them to be "priceless". Nevertheless, my persistence paid off when I was invited to celebrate Mr. Bonilla's 29th Birthday, and was one of the lucky few who were gifted one of these precious cigars to do with as I pleased. I chose to smoke it. This is my review.
Cigar: 601 year old hand rolled pre-Columbian 26 X 4" piramide from cave in present-day Guatemalia
Cut: Pre-cut and ready to light
Beverage: Water - one shot at this, I did not want to obscure the flavor in any way
The Band: Any band, had one been originally added, had long since deteriorated.
Pre-lighting impressions: The draw was a bit tight, and I was worried that it might not smoke well at first. The wrapper (appeared to be a medium-aged maduro) was anything but seamless, although there did not appear to be large veins. The artistry of cigar making for aesthetics at the time this cigar was made was not evident in what it has developed into today.
I am told that these cigars were rolled on the thighs of virgins...
Light: Being a small ring gauge, and having rested for nearly an additional year in the state-of-the-art humidor at Santiago Cigar Factory (I think it helped), The cigar lit immediately.
First 3rd: The ash was a bit flakey, but the burn was even. The volume of smoke was average, and surprisingly aromatic. I was able to keep the ash for about 1.5" before it fell off on its own. The flavor was unique and difficult to describe (musky-musty?), which was not surprising given that this tobacco pre-dates any known varietal grown today and it had spent 600 years in a cave. I will say that this already was a VERY strong cigar, because my head was already swimming by the end of the first third.
Second 3rd: The ash even out and turned to a nice white color. This is where the cigar really began to open up to what I believe was the "true" flavor. Again, it was difficult to describe, but I swear I could taste the coconut buttered thighs of the virgin this cigar was rolled upon...
Last 3rd: Incredibly, this 601 year old cigar was burning straight and even. The volume of smoke remained about average. The powerful nicotine was beginning to hide the flavor a bit, which had morphed into what can be described as smoking a Jalapeño! Wow! Talk about pepper! I had expected this cigar to be mellow after aging for so long. I finally had to put it down because it was too overpowering.
Final thoughts: This was a good smoke. I have nothing else to compare it to. I feel incredibly privileged to have had the opportunity to smoke this bit of history. Some might think it a travesty to burn away such an heirloom. Somehow, I think that Mr. Bonilla's great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparent would not have had it any other way. I for one am happy to be able to tell this story on today, of all days. Have a good one folks!