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Staff Reviews

Punch Diablo Staff Review

Tom O. O's picture

Tom O.

Every once in a while, I’ll test my nicotine tolerance with a strong cigar, and today I’m firing up the 5.25-by-54 Diabolus in the Punch Diablo blend. General Cigar, parent company of the Punch brand, chose “The Dark Side of Punch” as the tagline for Diablo cigars to emphasize their robust flavor, and many cigar smokers agree, Diablo is indeed a potent smoke.

In 1840 in Cuba, a German guy by the name of Stockmann founded Punch cigars, naming them for the mischievous Punch character, a British puppet famous for tangling with his puppet wife Judy during marionette performances. Although Punch cigars are still made in Cuba, the ones you buy in the U.S. are mostly made in Honduras – except a few, including Diablo, which is produced in Estelí, Nicaragua.

When General Cigar debuted Punch Diablo in 2018, they turned to master cigar-maker AJ Fernandez to create their first Punch blend outside of Honduras as well as the strongest cigar in the Punch portfolio. AJ proved up to the task. He paired a four-year-old blend of Nicaraguan and Cuban-seed Honduran Ligero tobaccos under a six-year-old Connecticut Broadleaf binder, and the whole recipe is finished in an extra-dark Ecuador Sumatra wrapper, also aged four years. Punch Diablo cigars are produced at the AJ Fernandez cigar factory. By eating a hearty dinner before smoking, I came prepared to put this intimidating smoke up against the best Punch cigars you can buy today.

Diablo cigars come in menacing black-and-red boxes with matching bands. After I extract a Diabolus from a new box, zesty and meaty aromas of earth and mesquite leave a noticeable imprint in my nasal cavity when I run the cigar close to my nose. The Ecuador Sumatra wrapper is a very dark brown color and a touch rugged when I gently pinch the cigar to survey its density. The cold draw unloads a deep current of dark chocolate, espresso, and pepper.

Punch Diablo gets going when I toast the foot with a few flashes from my Xikar torch lighter. The draw is clear, but a strong wave of spices provokes a sneeze as a bitter taste overpowers the profile in the first couple of minutes. By the end of the first quarter, welcome notes of walnut fudge and raisin take the cigar in a sweeter direction and balance its heavy, peppery tendencies.

Punch Diablo packs a good kick. This is not a cigar you could smoke quickly without being a regular cigar smoker. It’s just too intense. Notes of hickory and saddle leather settle across my palate and linger with a charry aftertaste. You’ll want to sit down while you smoke Punch Diablo, preferably in a hammock in the shade. And stay hydrated. For most folks, it’s probably a little too strong to casually smoke in the car or on the golf course.

After thirty minutes, I feel a case of the nicotine sweats coming on, but I slow the pace down, and eat a piece of chocolate to neutralize the effects. Consuming something sweet is a great strategy to combat nausea if the strength of a cigar creeps up on you. Luckily, the sensation passes after a few minutes, and I pick up a smooth undercurrent of walnut and wood with tangy impression of cayenne on the finish.

After slipping off the band and cautiously working my way through the nub, Punch Diablo pumps out a hearty campfire aroma with consistently peppery flavor. The ash has flaked off in a few spots over the course of forty-five minutes, mostly the result of a meandering burn here and there. The finish sticks around, so I wouldn’t smoke another cigar immediately following Punch Diablo. You’ll need a break.

Punch cigars have been beloved by value buyers for decades. The original Punch blend is a staple in cigar stores around the country, and the Punch Vintage Maduro I reviewed earlier is insanely popular at Holt’s. In 2019, the critics in Cigar Aficionado included Punch Diablo in their ‘Top 25 Cigars of the Year.’ You’ll want to work your way up to Punch Diablo if you’re a beginner – on a full stomach for sure.


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