Gurkha "Havana Blend XO" Review: Another Rare Classic Hit

Big, bold, brown, and blocky as all hell in a handbasket, the "Havana Blend XO" by Gurkha Cigars is quite the veiny brick.

But it's not the 60 ring-gauge that shapes the bulk of this box-pressed blend that gets me. It's how this brute burns.

Fire one of these sticks up, and you will receive several sizable servings of flavor and fulfillment. Not to be confused with a fourteen-course French banquet, Ghurka's "Havana Blend" favors a more hearty, Cuban-inspired approach to gourmet.

There's just one little hang-up. There is very little about this Mexican San Andrés maduro that screams Cuban premium cigar blend to me. A small consideration that is only amplified by the fact that this cigar underwent 20+ reblends before being labeled as ready for retail.

[Buy 5 Pack]

Unlit Impressions   

Gurkha "Havana Blend XO" Review

There is much to discuss about the unlit side of this cigar. Its maduro wrapper is veiny, medium in oil, medium in tooth, and medium in slop. The latter of these refers to those unsightly seams and haphazard cigar cap, as well as the sponginess of the pressing itself. A quick look at the loosely filled foot solidified my suspicions on both sticks I smoked. So be wary of how you cut the cap or you'll have way too free-flowing of a draw.

Like everything else thus far pre-light, there's a medium delivery of aromas and cold pull flavors. Dank earth, dusty cedary shelves, and dots of medium-dark chocolate do their thing for the old olfactory senses upstairs. Lingering touches of molasses and roasted chestnut finish out the intro.

The broad banding is also a big selling point to me, for it reminds me more of an old greenback note than a band/certificate of authenticity. 

Initial Smoke    

Gurkha "Havana Blend XO" Review

Roughly formed, much like its wrapper, blast-off feels more like parting puffs than a grand opening. Musty, leathery, funky, and entirely too earthy for my personal preference, the "Havana Blend XO" offers one tough start.

Some spiced earthiness and bitter cocoa can be detected, but that bonfire of a box-pressed foot takes precedence via the use of the darker sides of this maduro cigar blend and slaps you with them all at once.

1st Half      

Gurkha "Havana Blend XO" Review

At times, I found myself taking more enjoyment from the aromatics of the first portion of this "Havana" blend, than from its cigar flavor profiles. It's just so roasty smelling. Almost like you've stepped into a barista's layer unannounced, and they are toasting up a fresh batch of their latest brew.

It's not like I'm complaining about the tasting notes of bitter cocoa, earth, anise, and dusty cedar woodiness that I detected. It's just that they seemed like more of a prelude to the post-puff nasal pleasures that I encountered afterward. Perhaps it's just me and my super-sensitive sniffer...

2nd Half       

Gurkha "Havana Blend XO" Review

A quick uptick in licorice/anise flavor, a little bit more body, and some additional cedar sweetness nudge the cigar flavor profile of Gurkha's "Havana Blend" square into bold territory in my book. There's just one issue though. It feels... muffled.

All of the right notes are there, but it seems like they've all faded a fuzz with time. Which for those of you who have experienced the effects of an overly aged cigar, can lead to a lackluster experience. This is especially true for fans of really robust blends, like my happy ass.

The smoothness of the cigar itself, along with its dark maduro aromatics, coffee bean flavors, and the smoke's aftertaste in the final third are enjoyable though. This helps make up for some of these aforementioned missed marks. 

Parting Puffs        

Gurkha "Havana Blend XO" Review

At the end of the "Havana Blend XO," comes one last kick of sweet cedar, some toasted, dry oak tannins, and a chocolate spin that sits somewhere between bittersweet and milky mild.

Accompanying these tastes is a faint leathery layer, which I find to be present in certain heavily fermented cigar blends. This, combined with the lingering licorice notes may be unpleasantly medicinal to some. But being that the bitterness of this cigar's final few draws is not too intense, it may be passable for even the average anise hater. 

Ash / Burn / Smoke / Draw     

Gurkha "Havana Blend XO" Review

That 60 ring-gauge sure did help make for one mighty ash. So too did the box-pressing. I fear for anyone who smokes something smaller though, as both cigars I smoked felt borderline too loosely constructed.

This creates a problem. On one hand, I enjoy volumes of cigar smoke during a stogie session. But not when it causes the heat inside that cherry to burn with the fury of a thousand hells. Skip the cut, and punch this blocky beast. You'll thank me later.

While burn lines were average in cleanliness, and the ash flaked at times, neither cigar I tested required a touch-up. 

Final Thoughts    

Gurkha "Havana Blend XO" Review

Although I enjoyed Gurkha's unorthodox approach to recreating a classic Cuban, I'm still a bit befuddled as to what it is as an homage cigar. What the brand markets as "The Classic Cigar: Havana Blend" on its website is a far cry from the dozens of authentic Cuban cigars I have smoked in my lifetime. Cuba doesn't typically do dark maduro blends like this, and that's not even the most confusing consideration. 

What is more of an issue for me personally, goes beyond banding, branding, blending, and box-pressings. There's just not enough depth to this premium cigar blend to make me forego blends like Rocky Patel's "Sun Grown Maduro" robusto rock star, Diesel's "Whiskey Row Sherry Cask" take on fermented after-dinner divinity, or the absolutely astounding EP Carrillo Allegiance.

No, this blend prefers to hold the middle ground in every direction, which could be the result of too much post-production aging. From prelit aromas and flavors to everything south of those first super intense, unrefined first puffs, it all feels tailor-made with medium cigar fans in mind. 

Gurkha "Havana Blend XO" Review

Cigar Stats


Gurkha "Havana Blend XO" 


San Andrés Maduro (Mexico)






Dominican Republic


6" x 60 "Toro XO"



Pairing Drink

Iced Mocha Italiano



Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.