The first few puffs of this perfecto aren’t harsh, as one might expect. The flavor is hard to pin down , but as the cigar gets going, sweet earth is the first thing that comes to mind. Some flecks of spice between the sweet earth give way to overtones of grain. The retrohale gives one the impression of hoppiness, strangely enough, like the first quaff of an IPA, but not in an overpowering way. Further, the draw, though good, isn’t like sucking air through a straw. Strangely enough, I prefer it that way in this cigar because of the superb construction. The draw is smooth and produces plenty of smoke. Eventually, as I have come to expect from Viaje, the spice returns. I’m not talking about the black pepper zing one gets from a Casa Fernandez (another of my favorites), but the sweet chili zest on the back of the palate that one might expect from a Cuban Punch Churchill. This cigar has definitely taken me by surprise. My initial impressions, when they appeared on the counter of the cigar shop, were hopeful. Yet, it wasn’t until after my first ZA stick that I appreciated the complexity of the cigar. My first one was absentmindedly puffed, chewed on, relit during stirring conversation, enjoyed among the copious clouds of smoke from other cigars. I obviously liked it enough to buy another one, but the second stick from the jar was like a completely different cigar. As far as strength, I’m not sure whether to say that it’s medium or full bodied. I suppose one can say that it’s less overtly strong than the SuperShot or the Daisy Cutter (more of my favorites), yet the relentless, subtle, back-of-the-palate spice and nicotine cannot be ignored. The blend is evocative, too, of a Ramon Allones Edicion Limitada 2012.
I hope I am not biased, because of the great weather and whimsical state of mind I’m in while smoking this cigar, but certain puffs bring to mind strong memories of walking through the lobby of the Hotel Nacional in Havana. That may be what comes to mind emotionally, yet logically, as I’m on the cusp of returning to Europe, I know that I will be inundated with Cuban cigars. If my readers can believe it, despite my undying love of Cuban cigars, after a few months, even weeks, of smoking only Cubans, I begin to fiend for Nicaraguan cigars. Yes, there are Davidoffs available, and even some Camachos given Davidoff’s relatively recent acquisition. Yet, in Florence Italy (where I have lived before and where I will soon return) there is a sad lack of Padrons, Viajes, or anything by Drew Estates found in the local cigar shops. Therefore, when I begin to be nostalgic for American market cigars (Dominicans, Nicaraguans, Hondurans) the Zombie Antidote will be a blend I will miss greatly.
I am impressed, and was caught off guard by this cigar. The packaging, as pictured, is unique and (by the measure of some old schoolers) “gimmicky.” Despite the mixed impressions on presentation, which I happen to think is pretty cool and refreshing, I’m not sure whether different packaging would help sell more Zombie Antidotes. It would be hard to imagine this arguably new world blend in old world boxes with “revived” turn of the last Century artwork on the box lid. In conclusion, I recommend that if you decide to smoke this worthy cigar, that you do so while you have some time and the ability to dedicate some thought to the complexity of the blend; i.e. not on the golf course, or in the middle of some dubious Herf-a-thon where you’ll be plagued by the aroma of other cigars. Perhaps smoke this bad boy after a good meal or, counter intuitively, before the Zombie SuperShot, given the balance of the blend. In that vein, no pun intended, If you can appreciate the nuances of the Zombie SuperShot, you can appreciate this cigar as well, so buy them together, whether you smoke them in the same sitting or not. The second half of the cigar, by the way, is definitely something to look forward to: It becomes very leathery and the general spice becomes a zingy black pepper flavor. Now, it’s up to you to smoke it and find out how it ends.