Old Powder Keg Maduro Robusto
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Unless you’ve spent a lot of time in northern Connecticut, chances are you haven’t laid eyes on this one before. Old Powder Keg began as the house brand of Connecticut Valley Tobacconist, the Hazardville B&M that was my go-to shop for the seven years I lived in the area.
Created by CVT owner and former leaf broker Michael Tarnowicz, OPK has notched high marks since debuting at the 2002 RTDA show. Richard Perelman twice ranked it among the top-10 full-bodied smokes, and Smoke Magazine reviewers have rated it 4+ (on their now-defunct 0-5 scale) in each of three tastings.
Originally rolled by Cuban expatriate Walter Pena in CVT’s storefront, Old Powder Keg’s manufacture was eventually moved to Honduras. The CT-made runs (some in my stash date to 2001) feature a gorgeous Nicaraguan corojo wrapper from the 1996 crop, CT broadleaf binder, and a filler blend of Nicaraguan, Costa Rican and two other mystery leaves.
For this review, I smoked a few of the current release maduros pictured in the foreground above, which are significantly darker than the original release. Also note the neat, three-seamed cap.
Tarnowicz markets this smoke as “thermonuclear” in strength; I find it to be medium-full, but with only a hint of the dominant spice I associate with stronger blends. Instead, the OPK is woody with a tangy-sweet, almost fruity flavor that will ring familiar to fans of the Padilla Obsidian Toro. The OPK surpasses the depth of the Obsidian quickly, however, picking up notes of dark-roasted coffee and semisweet chocolate.
The sweetness is dialed back noticeably by the halfway mark. The flavor settles into a heavier but less complex groove — still woody with occasional licorice notes. At this stage it is reminiscent of the Fuente Anejo, minus the dryness that sometimes mars the AF. The final third tails off into a relatively average woody char, picking up a touch of bitterness along the way. But by this point I have long since received my money’s worth.
It also bears mention that there is a limited edition, natural wrapped version of the OPK (in the background of the above photo). And yes, “limited” really means limited; Tarnowicz procured enough of this corojo wrapper to make only 5,000 cigars. He estimates there are 1,000 remaining in stock.
Tarnowicz believes the OPK Natural LE is the strongest cigar he has made to date. It sports a glistening, caramel-toned wrapper and a triple dose of ligero. While I have only smoked two of them and am ill-equipped to write a comprehensive review, I can say both were outstanding.
For a full review of the OPK Natural, check out Walt’s writeup at The Stogie Review.
CONCLUSION: If you haven’t run across Old Powder Keg Maduro yet, make a place for them on your short list. It is everything I look for in a maduro — natural sweetness, depth and heft — in a balanced and interesting package. The price is right as well, available at $4.00/stick. If you’re looking for something unique to introduce at your next herf, the OPK is a can’t miss.