With an entire vitola being named in his honor, Sir Winston Churchill is one of history's most iconic cigar smokers, enjoying between eight and 10 sticks a day. While his love of cigars can be read about here in a previous post, Kaz and I decided to smoke a Churchill from one of Winston's favorite brands, Romeo y Julieta, to see exactly what drew the former Prime Minister to these particular sticks. We wanted to stay true to Churchill's process and document its effect on the smoke, so we fashioned our own "bellybandos" (strips of paper wrapped around the cigar's cap) and punched each stick with the end of a match, just as he did. We also made sure to use only matches when lighting and touching up the cigars, though we unfortunately couldn't get our hands on the extra-long ones that Churchill had specially imported from Canada.
- Length: 7 inches
- Ring Gauge: 54
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Wrapper Type: Habano
- Wrapper Country: Nicaragua
- Filler Country: Honduras, Nicaragua
- Binder Country: Nicaragua
The wrapper aroma of Romeo y Julieta's Habana Reserve Churchill combined strong notes of oats, hay, leather, and earth, dubbed by Kaz as "funky barnyard." For me, this "funk" increased in strength toward the foot of the cigar. The cold draw proffered flavors of grain, oats, dried fruit, and bran that all immediately called to mind Fig Newton bars, with just a touch of spice noticeable at the cap.
Upon lighting, flavors of cocoa and dried fruit cut strikingly through the leathery tobacco background. Throughout the first third, notes of sweetness became more apparent — I found them akin to powdered sugar, deepening into flavors of creamy toast and waffles with maple syrup; Kaz likened the sweetness to that of dulce de leche, with hints of brioche evident in the retrohale.
The second third introduced more savory flavors as the sweetness of the first third subsided a touch. Notes of oak, nuts, and toasted wheat bread made themselves more known, and the retrohale introduced a spicy component that reminded Kaz of cinnamon, while coming across as more peppery to me. At this point, the sweetness in the background had mellowed to hints of brown sugar.
In the final third, the Habana Reserve Churchill was its most bold, the flavors deepening into notes of dark chocolate, spice, and bell pepper, with a touch of bitterness like that of strong coffee and espresso. For me, the brown sugar sweetness remained a minor character, giving off notes of toasted marshmallow, while the retrohale brought back hints of the powdered sugar I had experience in the first third. Kaz, on the other hand, noticed a slightly floral profile in the retrohale.
Both Kaz and I thoroughly enjoyed Romeo y Julieta's Habana Reserve Churchill. We weren't anticipating an unenjoyable experience, but this stick exceeded all expectations. The progression from initial light to final third was intriguing and intricate, while the blend of sweet and savory flavors made the cigar's profile complex and extremely pleasant. As for the cigars themselves, they both burned evenly and consistently, requiring very few touch ups.
As for Sir Winston Churchill's process, the punch style of using a match's end proved to be quite an efficient and convenient method. I did have to re-punch mine in order to open up the draw again, but I attribute that more to my poor technique (being new to the match-punch method). Kaz had no issues with it whatsoever, and once I re-punched, the draw was, once again, perfect.
The "bellybandos" were perhaps the most unique aspect of this project, and Kaz and I both found them to be much less intrusive than we initially expected. They didn't impart any noticeably unpleasant or foreign flavor to the smoke, and while neither Kaz nor I chewed on the caps like Churchill did, we definitely noticed how the paper of the "bellybandos" absorbed excess moisture, keeping the end of the cigar much drier and more intact.
While I won't be fashioning "bellybandos" every time I light up a stick, Churchill's method of using a match as a punch is certainly a technique I'm inclined to add to my repertoire. I appreciate the controlled lighting a soft flame allowed (though it did take a little bit longer to get the cherry going at the initial light), and I'm always interested in cutting down the need to fill my pockets with more tools than necessary. If you're in a pinch and have forgotten a cutter or bullet punch, rest assured that a match can do the trick, and if you find that the cap often ravels or becomes excessively wet, consider experimenting with your own "bellybandos." Overall, we highly recommend the Habana Reserve Churchill from Romeo y Julieta, and both Kaz and I are going to start stocking them in our humidors.