When I met Hamlet Paredes on the shores of Malaysia nearly 8 years ago, i came away with two fistful of cigars that i’ve been hoarding for extremely special occasions. I’ve smoked most of those cigars already, including a special corona gorda that still holds the record for being My Cigar Blog’s strongest ever cigar. It’s been 6 years since i smoked that cigar, and i still remember how i nearly passed out from its intense power and body.

It has been a few years since my last Hamlet custom rolled cigar. But something wonderful happened at work last Friday that prompted me to reach down for one of my remaining three sticks: i was interviewed by the CEO for a special assignment, and i think i nailed it with aplomb. Whether or not i get the job is not important, but i felt that my performance was spot on, and deserving a special treat.

Hamlet is not as well known as say, Brinones or Morales, for his figurados. And he told me as such when we met: when i asked him for a salamones, he looked at me sheepishly and said, “Are you sure?” I nodded, he chuckled, and looked around for a wrapper that would be able to do a salamones bearing his name justice. Perhaps suitable leaf was in short supply that night, perhaps he really does prefer rolling straight cut cigars, only he knows his reasons.

The pictures will show one hell of an ugly cigar. But i promise you that’s not the salamones i received that night — the years seemed to have darkened its complexion greatly, and the nicks and bumps and veins on the wrapper have as a result become much more pronounced. But the shape remains the same as i remember it: a disfigured, weird, half moon. Oh the joys of a handmade, custom rolled cigar.

At the widest point, the cigar is about 50-52RG, and the length is well over 7 inches. Quite a monster to handle, and it felt quite intimidating in the hand. The tobacco has aged remarkably well, and showed visible, actual oils on the wrapper. You can clearly see a slick oil patch in the photos. Incredible. Just by inspecting it visually, i knew that this was going to be a special, truly special cigar.

The scent of the cigar was very interesting. It had an intense fruity and cedary aroma; the fruit reminded me of dried plums in the summer, a dry, penetrating scent that is quite unmistakable. Cutting the cigar, the draw was perfect, giving me dry draw flavours of sea salt and pine.

Lighting a figurado is always fun, and so it was with this. Just a quick touch of the flame, and the burn takes on a life of its own. Simplicity itself, and i wonder why more cigars are not rolled this way because it makes it so easy for the smoker to light. The initial draws, up to the first inch and a half or so, offered a very mellow, smooth buttery coffee. Quite different from the review of a young-ish Hamlet corona gorda which hit me immediately with a ton of spice and pepper. Time has changed this cigar dramatically.

The second half, which took me about 75 minutes to get to (the cigar burned slow like an old man with a walking stick), showed some “original” flavours and character, as the spice and pepper touches began getting a look in. The flavours began meshing and becoming quite complex at this point, beans, toasted hazelnuts and even the taste of freshly cut grass began to appear. Very much the flavours i’m reminded of when i’m smoking an aged Cohiba. Outstanding.

The last third was a crescendo of gorgeous buttery smoothness; the heavy pepper and mint notes disappeared for a while, only to make a grand return in the last inch. The finish was beautiful, a sweet peppery lather, that i just didn’t want to wash away from my mouth. I woke up the next morning, and was still thinking about this cigar, it was just that good.

The cigar throughout suffered from burn problems, and required multiple corrections. That detracted from the enjoyment of the cigar somewhat, though it seems to clear itself up right towards the end. If not for these issues, the score would have been higher.

Verdict: 92/100. A memorable, incredible cigar. Draw was perfect, flavours were rich and complex. We’ll never know why Hamlet hesitated for a moment when i asked for a salamones that night. But on the evidence, it probably isn’t because he didn’t know how to roll a good one.