It’s always a joy to find a hidden gem in the local tobacconist; an aged box of rare gems that no one has remembered, or misplaced. Locked behind various other boxes, or displayed in an obscure corner — whatever the reason, the cigars have gone untouched for years only to be “discovered” (by me!).

And so it was with an old box, 2005, Punch Royal Seleccion No. 11. Some claim the No. 11 to be the perfect corona gorda, a masterpiece of the vitola. I’m not too particular for the Punch brand, and i’ve never been impressed with the flavour signature of sweet, musky bitter chocolate; overall, the blend is quite bland (though pleasing) and lacks complexity. The running joke is that a Punch Double Corona is 7 inches of same old, same old.

I’ve only had a handful of Seleccion No. 11s, the last a couple of years ago. I remember it was a fresh box, and though somewhat pleasant, it was too simple for me to score high marks. Recent observations by others have indicated that the 2004-05 No. 11s were coming of age just now, and were becoming incredible smokes. I didn’t think i’d be lucky enough to find a box, so when i did, it was a joyful surprise and an opportunity i was eager to grab.

I was with a friend, and he chose the same. So, there we were, both sitting back and enjoying the cigar. Plumes of lush smoke, some herbal freshness to start out, then simple leather flavours. Somewhere along the half-way mark, the cigar took a turn, and what a turn it was! Dark bitter roast, creamy smooth chocolate and a real punch (pun intended!) in the gut of power. We were both quite amazed at the transformation and looked at each other in amazement. I was fortunate enough to capture the story on digital film.

What...

What…

...the...

…the…

...f#@k?

…f#@k?

It was awesome. A great great turn, perhaps one of the most elegant shifts in flavour i’ve experienced in a cigar for a long time; it’s telling that we both felt it at roughly the same time, smoking two sticks from the same box.

With broad smiles, like surfers who had just caught an awesome wave, we coasted in for the last couple of inches, enjoying every draw. The finish was very, very good as well. Long and sweet; that twang common in most Punch blends.

Verdict: 91/100. 2005 Punch Royal Seleccion No. 11 is well on it’s way to being legendary. An almost perfect evolution of the classic Punch flavours without any of the boring bits. Complex, rich, strong and magnificent. Lovely, lovely cigar. Get it while you still can.