Origin : Dominican Republic
Format : Corona
Size : 5 7/8" x 42 ring gauge (149mm x 16.67mm)
Wrapper : Brazilian Arapiraca
Filler : Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Brazil
Binder : Dominican Olor
Price : ~ € 7.90 / $ 9.60
Dutch company Balmoral dates back to the 1890s, and is distinctive in Europe for having both very popular ranges of short-filler machine-made slightly upscale cigars - like their 'Sumatra' line using Indonesian Java - Sumatra, Brazilian & Havana Remedios tobaccos - but also 5 lines of hand-rolled premium cigars, including this Anejo XO.
The Balmoral Añejo XO Corona is a nearly-6-inch hand-rolled long-filler corona, offering a sophisticated blend of aged tobaccos, and a remarkably rich & interesting smoking experience for a modest-price, entirely hand-made cigar of this size.
The word 'añejo' means aged, and 'XO' stands for 'eXceptionally Old', referring to how these sticks use tobaccos aged for an average of seven years, this line following up Balmoral's well-received 'Añejo 18' aged 18 years limited edition.
The wrapper here is Brasil Arapiraca, the binder is Dominican Olor, and the filler comprises Nicaragua Esteli, more Dominica Olor, and stalk-cut Brasil Mata Norte tobaccos.
Balmoral is a Dutch-headquartered company dating back to the late 1800s, much-appreciated for better machine-made short-filler smokes, as well as several lines of hand-made cigars, including my own constant favourite, Balmoral's Royal Maduro sticks with a Brasil wrapper and Brazilian & Dominican filler.
The size Balmoral chooses for its hand-made coronas is interesting, right between the classic 'full corona' size of 5 5/8 inches - 143mm, and the 'long corona' size of 6 1/8 inches - 155mm, the Balmoral two centimetres longer than a corona mareva like the Montecristo No 4.
One reason may be aesthetic elegance, with the Balmoral corona almost exactly 9x the diameter, and indeed it's a nice looking stick in this length, as one might present to an honoured guest after a fine dinner. But also, you see a lot of hand-rolled cigar for your money.
The wrapper here is Brasil Arapiraca, tho a shade lighter than the black-ish Brasil Arapiraca Maduro used in Balmoral's Royal Maduro line, which has made me quite a fan of dark cigars. The promise of this Brasil wrapper is noticeable cocoa sweetness, tho less so than in the more slender Añejo XO Lancero in 40 ring gauge, or in the 37 ring gauge Royal Maduro Panetela.
Sweet aroma rises from the unlit cigar, the oils of the Brasil wrapper pleasing to the touch. The stick seemed densely-packed and I feared a tight draw, but that was not the case, tho it was a surprisingly slow burn.
Pre-draw after punching was cocoa & some pepper. After lighting, the initial draw surprised with more pepper & spice than anything else, quickly followed by the sophisticated array of flavours that would be this cigar's hallmark.
The sweetness of the wrapper was quickly there, tho gently so, it was sweetness more like a lightly chocolate biscuit, rather than cocoa itself. Along with the sweet undertones and spice, was a substantial woodiness combined with something else, I wound up thinking of olives and an olive tree. All in all, a very sophisticated set of flavours for the palate, in a deluxe yet nicely-priced long corona.
The aged nature of the tobaccos showed itself in the lack of collision of the various flavours, they seem to have mellowed and combined as if in the humidor for a couple of years. With some substantial pepper and spiciness there in the first half of the cigar, I thought of how Balmoral seemed to achieve what Davidoff tried to do with its Escurio line, also a significantly-Brazilian, sweet & spicy combination, with the Balmoral a more affordable big stick.
There is some good strength and headiness to this cigar from these aged tobaccos, a touch more than in the Balmoral Royal Maduro line. Some minutes into the stick, with all those flavours and the bit of strength, I thought it seemed a perfect leisurely after-dinner smoke.
By the end of the 1st third, the pepper & spice began to recede, and the olive tree aspect along with the sweet moments came more forward. As the middle third started I caught a little dryness of the mouth, and also a feeling of the olive-wood fire tickling the back of the throat, the edge of some harshness, but not arriving there.
As the cigar got to the mid-way point things smoothed out, all the flavours there but more gently, as if the cigar wanted to make sure it did not overpower me during the after-dinner coffee or glass of Porto.
In the final third, the flavours began to recede a bit more, I was noting more in the aroma than the actual taste. It was not a cigar for the nub; with 4cm left, flavour was weak and harshness started to show up.
Burn in this cigar was uneven at first, needing touch-up, but became very even in the last half. And this particular stick burned with unusual slowness even by my ambling standards, I had over a full hour of smoking here. White-ish grey ash held magnificently for 3cm, revealing a lovely centre point after drop-off.
The Balmoral Añejo XO is a super value in a long corona, given its good strength and its sophisticated, aged-tobacco flavour interest for much of the smoke. One can critique a bit of last-third flavour-fade, a bit of dryness, a bit of a burning-wood tickle ... but for the price it is terrific.
It is slightly higher in price than the Balmoral Royal Maduro sticks, which for me I still rather overall prefer, as I am seduced by the Royal Maduro's admittedly simpler, sweetness-with-cream profile that it gets from its Brasil Maduro - Dominican combination, without the punchy Nicaraguan as in the XO. Plus the fact that the Royal Maduro comes in my favourite cigar vitola, a medium-long panetela (37 x 139), where the chocolate-like aspects of the Brasil Arapiraca wrapper show even more strongly.
But I am now drawn to keep around some of the Añejo XO sticks, as a change of pace still offering those Brasil-sweet undertones I adore. And I think for many stogie fans, the Añejo XO's complexity & sophistication would be preferable.
Regarding Balmoral, their better-than-most machine-made short-fillers, are nice items to help balance your smoking budget and fill out your smoking week. I have found that my fussy Cuban- and Davidoff- smoking friends, usually quite like them as well after trying them, a change of flavour pace from the Cuban short-filler José Piedras and Quinteros.
In the second photo here, are three Balmoral short-fillers side-by-side with the Añejo XO Corona, all of them less than €2 each (sold in boxes of 5): First, the little sister of the Añejo XO, the sweet cocoa (and slightly fruity) tasting, also-Brasil-wrapper Aged 3 Years Coronita (36 x 98mm); the creamy Dominican Selection Panatela (37 x 138); and the nicely spicy Sumatra Selection Overland (34 x 132), an Indonesia-Cuba-Brasil combination. These short-fillers are not only a nice selection of tastes for differing moods & occasions, they are also great 'first cigars' for your so-far non-puffing acquaintances.
With the Balmoral short fillers, I find the panetela thicknesses in the 30s ring gauges, have richer flavour, with the wrapper taste more prominent. And a short-filler cigar pro-tip: Even tho machine-made cigars are sold as 'dry' cigars not in the humidor room, they taste much better after a few days mellowing in the home humidor next to your premium sticks!