As you may have already heard, the MBombay Gaaja takes its name from a Sanskrit word meaning Elephant. For fun I googled the name, and found it also has other meanings in Hindi, like lightning, bombshell and thunderclap. It kind of makes you wonder what you’re in for before lighting up the cigar. But the thing that puzzled me was the band. It looks like a Celtic design called the Triple Spiral (or “Triskele”), which has various meanings involving trinities of related things. Like mind, body and spirit, or father, son and holy ghost. I asked Mel Shah about that, and he confirmed that’s what it was. He says it stands for balance, with the colors meaning water, earth and fire. Balance is a good goal for a cigar, and I’ve never seen anyone knock over an elephant, so I assume they have good balance too. It all checks out.
From the press release:
We had been working on the blend of Gaaja for more than 4 years. The process involved in logistics and long fermentation of tobacco from countries like Peru and Paraguay, really tested our patience. We had to wait for 3 vintages of the Hybrid Connecticut wrapper leaf for the perfection we wanted. As the elders say, “patience pays off”; hence Gaaja.
Size: 6 x 54
Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut desflorado, Variety Hybrid Mejorado 2004
Binder: Ecuador HVA Seca Mejorada
Filler: Seco: Perú Hybrid Habano
Viso: Ecuador criollo 98, Paraguay Hybrid Habano 2000, Dominican criollo 98
Ligero: Dominican HVA Mejorado
Smoking Time: 2 hours
Source: Sample or Gift
The Pre Light
I didn’t check the wrapper aroma of all the cigars I smoked for this review, but the one I did had a familiar, intensely funky honey scent. It smelled almost exactly like Brandymel, a thick Portuguese honey liqueur I discovered years ago. The cigars had a flawless appearance, box-pressed, smooth, and the veins were fine to the point of being nearly invisible in the light brown wrapper. I found very minor imperfections on the underside of a few of the cigars, a nick on one and some darker marks on another. The cigars didn’t feel particularly heavy for their size, they did seem a little firmer than your average box-pressed smoke.
The Gaaja started the journey with a touch of sweetness and savory pepper. As I burned through this third, earth, minerals and pepper gave a lot of ground to sweeter notes of cedar, caramel and something close to butterscotch hard candies. In every case, there were no burn issues of any kind in the first third. The draw was perfect, the burn was even and the ash was a solid, nearly white pillar. I didn’t try it, but I bet I could have done an ash stand with it a couple of inches in.
The second third got off to an impressive start. Wood and pepper notes were well defined in the retrohale, and on the palate I picked up notes of cream and light butterscotch, which transitioned back into savory pepper and earth in the finish. A little later on the sweetness receded somewhat and a milk chocolate note appeared, as did a little cinnamon. The sweet notes in the Gaaja were interesting to compare from smoke to smoke. In the one I burned while typing up this review, they were more like butterscotch. In the one prior to it, closer to cherry. I’m not going to complain about either. Once again, nothing really to report in the combustion department, smooth sailing there.
The remaining sweet notes in the flavor profile faded quickly in the final third, turning the reins over to savory pepper and earth. It was this point where the body picked up and the cigar shows a little strength. Still no real burn issues at the end, though the ash was a little more flaky than before.
The MBombay is a cigar that grew on me as I smoked it. I had a few samples casually, without taking notes, and I thought it was a pretty solid smoke. But as I lit up others, focusing on them for this review, I realized there was more going on here that I had noticed before. (To be fair to me, I may have smoked the first few after a night out, so I’m going to give myself a pass for missing the finer details.) If the MBombay Gaaja is an elephant, it’s a gentle one that has been trained to perform neat tricks for your enjoyment, not one that’s going to attempt to trample you on the Serengeti. Or the jungles of Asia, or wherever you usually encounter pachyderms in your day-to-day life. The cigar does have a little power, particularly at the end, but those tusks are mostly ornamental. But before I get totally lost in the underbrush of metaphor (I’m going to need a machete if I keep going), I did enjoy the MBombay Gaaja Toro, would recommend trying it, and would be happy to smoke it again any time.