Day was a little colder than normal, but the cloudy skies were
predicted to hold their rain throughout the day, making me and my
friends smile. We were heading to Derby Day at the Harris Household.
and Tammy Harris throw an incredible party for the Kentucky Derby.
Tammy, a southern girl, typically makes country ham and biscuits, which
is as delicious as it sounds. Jay ensures there are plenty of bourbon
mint juleps to get everyone in the true spirit of the day. And the two
of them have the amazing talent of making everyone feel like they’re the
most important person at the party. They are, in short, the consummate
of the party takes place outdoors, making it smoker friendly, so I
brought a selection of cigars for a variety of tastes: some H. Upmann
classics for those looking for something easygoing, Partagas 1845s for a
solid medium body, and some Viaje Super Shots for those looking for a
showed up late (my son was playing baseball) and the party was in full
swing. The women were decked out in their derby best, with big, colorful
hats and vibrant dresses. A few of my friends were wearing seersucker
suits (perfect for the day) and I put on a pair of red shoes to add a
little color to my ensemble.
found my lovely wife, Manuela, and we clinked our glasses, just as the
charity auction to benefit the local firehouse was beginning. People
were bidding on each horse. She liked the name of one in particular, and
she bid heavily to get it—“I’ll Have Another.” (Those of you who read
Jack Bettridge’s pre-Derby Day story on bourbon will remember that the
horse was his call, too, based on the name alone.)
know how this story ends. “I’ll Have Another” won, from the 19th
position, taking down the heavy favorite. Manuela and I celebrated, and
she was so exuberant I fear I spilled my drink more than one time on the
feet of one of the guests standing beside us. I lit another cigar to
spent some time yesterday smoking with two of the biggest names in
cigars from General Cigar Co.: Johnys Diaz, vice president of operations
for the company’s main Dominican Republic cigar factory, and legendary
cigar man Benjamin Menendez, who is working in his 60th year around
cigars. They were bringing Greg Mottola and myself an exclusive first
taste of the new Partagas 1845, which goes on sale April 9.
is a storied brand. Created in Cuba in 1845 (hence the name), it was
overseen by Ramón Cifuentes until the Cuban government nationalized the
country’s tobacco and cigar industry. Cifuentes later helped create the
non-Cuban version of his brand with General Cigar, making a cigar with
Cameroon wrapper. This “main” Partagas brand is still sold to this day
and comes in a familiar yellow box.
Cigar felt Partagas needed something new, something with more oomph
than the “yellow box” Partagas and something with a story, something
distinctive. About a year ago Diaz, Menendez and the General Cigar
Dominicana team started testing new products, set on making a Partagas
with a wrapper leaf other than Cameroon that would make people sit up
“We wanted something medium in strength,” Diaz told me, “but with robust flavor.”
handed me a dark corona gorda, and the first thing that I noticed was
the band. Designed to be looked at when you hold the cigar horizontally,
rather than vertically, it has a beautiful gold eagle in the center,
printed by Vrijdag in the Netherlands. The dark, oily wrapper was
Ecuador Habano grown by the Oliva Tobacco Co. of Tampa, Florida. The
binder is a leaf of Connecticut Habano that General has been tweaking
for nine years, and the filler a mix of Dominican and Nicaraguan
took 50 blends before they decided upon this Partagas 1845, the first
new Partagas in years and the first one made with Ecuador Habano
wrapper. It was very tasty, with a sweet, nutty flavor, good balance,
and—as intended—a medium body. The smoke was quite pleasant. Look at
this video to hear Johnys and Benji describe the project, and to get a
look at the cigar.
I visit Havana, one of my greatest joys is walking through the humidors
of a Casa del Habano and taking a look at the selection of cigars. On
my last trip a few weeks ago, I found that many of the shops were in
the (notable) exception of the Montecristo Gran Reserva, which I didn’t
see on sale anywhere, and Cohiba Behikes, which were hard to find in
most stores save for that in the Habana Libre Hotel, there were plenty
of good cigars from which to choose.
The 2011 Edición Limitadas were in
good supply, including plenty of Cohiba 1966 (they scored 94 points in a
recent Cigar Insider; wonderful smokes), plenty of Hoyo de Monterrey
Short Hoyo Piramides EL 2011, and Ramon Allones Allones Extras. The
regular production new smokes from last year’s Festival were also there,
such as the Partagas D5s and E2s.
I shot this video inside the humidor of the always superb Casa del Habano at Club Habana. Take a look at the stock in the video below.
were tons of Montecristos, and a huge amount of one of my favorites,
the Montecristo Petit Edmundo, including some 2008 production.
had every size of Cohiba, but the Lanceros and Esplendidos were in short
supply. There were also low stocks of Cohiba Maduro Genios and Secretos
(no Magicos in stock). There was also a very large number of Cuaba
Salomones in stock.