Gurkha Symphony “101” Maduro review, Mark Twain – The Cigar Smoker

Gurkha Symphony “101” Maduro

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Mark Twain – The Cigar Smoker

A couple of reviews ago I opened with a discussion on some controversy around the teaching of Mark Twain’s works in some schools, where the use of “local color” in his writing was thought to be racist. In that commentary, I promised to write a little about Mark Twain, the cigar smoker. Some time ago, “Cigar Aficionado” magazine rated Samuel Clemens (he used a pen name, Mark Twain) as one of the Top 5 Cigar Smokers of all time. The feature went on to say that he smoked at least 22 cigars a day. Now that is a lot of cigars.

Given his celebrity and some cigar-related famous quotes, it is probably not surprising to learn of Mark Twain’s affection for cigars. However, it may be surprising to learn that this successful author, who became quite wealthy, did not smoke the higher quality cigars of the day. Instead, he smoked what some folks today would call “dog rockets;” that is,  cheap, foul-smelling and foul-tasting cigars. One clue to his preference may lie in his introduction to smoking.

By his own admission, Twain began smoking at age 9, where he would pick up the discarded cigar butts off the sidewalk and smoke them. Apparently, he did this quite often in his youth, as Missouri was pretty active in growing cigar tobacco at the time, making cigars affordable in the region. Many men smoked them fairly regularly. In his autobiography he recalls an early smoking episode from his youth, and the lack of importance of the brand and quality of the cigar at the time, saying “I do not know what the brand of the cigar was. It was probably not choice, or the previous smoker would not have thrown it away so soon.” In adult life, he seemed to revel in his choice of cigar. Twain wrote in “Concerning Tobacco,” an essay published in the early 1890s, “No one can tell me what is a good cigar -- for me. I am the only judge. People who claim to know say that I smoke the worst cigars in the world.” He reportedly tried some of the better cigars over the years, but they did not satisfy him. According to legend, he found a tobacconist whom he insisted provide him with his worst cigar. Twain was delighted. He smoked these and equivalents excessively throughout his 74 years of life.

The next time you get smokin’ – pick out whatever the hell you want to honor Mr. Twain!

Cigar Review:

Gurkha Symphony “101” Maduro

Size: #4 (6 inches long, 50 Ring Gauge)
Price: $8.50 to $9.50 range

Tobacco blend:

  • Wrapper: Costa Rica
  • Filler: Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Honduras


If you have followed my reviews over time, you can guess that Gurkha is one of my favorite boutique cigars blenders, as I have reviewed a few over the last year and a half. This particular blend is one that I insist on keeping in my humidor at all times. This one was enjoyed outside after a day of yard work with a lot of ice water.

Look and feel

This blend is a maduro cigar, whose wrapper was rich and dark in color. However, the fact that this is a Torano-produced cigar helps make it a favorite. As I have noted before, Torano-produced cigars are rolled to perfection, driving a slow, even burn – highly valued. This particular smoke did burn a little unevenly in the first half, needing some slight corrections via the lighter. The second half performed beautifully.

Aroma and Taste

It opened with some earthy, leathery flavors and early into the cigar brought a good balance of peppery spice into the mix. The peppery flavors at the back of the throat were ever present, but would vary in strength throughout the smoke. The Costa Rican maduro wrapper provided a tinge of sweetness to make this cigar a fairly complex and interesting smoke. It is medium bodied, but a flavorful smoke that pairs well with an alcoholic beverage. It is excellent with a good bourbon or scotch. The aroma was strong and earthy in nature.

RATING: 9.0 (on a scale of 1 to 10) – A good smoke that has never let me down.

The Symphony 101 does have some nicotine in it. By the end of this smoke your head will have a buzz. However, it will be fairly mild, so I would not classify it as a strong smoke. At retail, these cigars can be on the pricey side; I will stock them if I find them online and on sale.

Keep the comments and recommendations coming – email:

Cigar Quote:

Once referring to the manner in which he smokes – "I smoke with all my might, and allow no intervals."
Mark Twain

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