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David Savona

Living Up to the Hype

Posted: Apr 25, 2007 4:46pm ET
I just lit a La Gloria Cubana Reserva Figurado Selectos de Lujo, one of my favorite cigars. It’s a seven-inch long perfecto made from fourth priming tobacco that’s blended with an emphasis on balance. What a great smoke.

Puffing it this morning reminded me of my first La Gloria, which I smoked before I started working at Cigar Aficionado magazine. Before I worked at the magazine, I was a reader, and I used the cigar ratings to expand my taste in cigars. I wrote down the high scoring cigars, taking note of the flavors that seemed appealing, and headed out to cigar stores. Usually I could find what I wanted, but not a La Gloria.

If you’re a longtime cigar smoker you remember what it was like to find a La Gloria Cubana in the mid 1990s. After James Suckling told the world about this phenomenal brand, they were nearly impossible to find.

It must have been 1994 when I got my hands on my first La Gloria. I was in Manhattan on business one day, and I stopped at a cigar shop called Arnold’s, on 42nd and Madison. (Sadly, it’s no longer there.) Arnold’s seemed to have everything a cigar smoker would ever need, and in true New York style it was crammed into a very small space. I looked at the endless cigar selection, and there it was, sitting behind glass—a partially filled box of La Gloria Cubana Corona Gordas. I bought a few, took the train home, and lit one up as soon as I sat down in my car.

The cigar was brilliant. I can’t remember the specific flavors, but I know it was delicious. It had a little kick to it, spicier than most of the cigars I smoked in those days, and I remember how wonderfully it was constructed. I have this distinct image of looking down in the darkness in my car at the burning ash and watching the red glow, perfectly framed by the rings of the cigar’s ash.

I had a big smile on my face, happy because I had obtained a hard-to-find smoke, and exuberant because the rare gem was living up to its considerable hype.

It’s great when a cigar you expect to truly enjoy lives up to its billing. Have you had any similar experiences?

Comments   7 comment(s)

Frank Levatino — Club Perfecto, USA —  April 26, 2007 10:06am ET

David,Excellent topic.A couple come to mind immediately that I would like to share.First one is also a La Gloria story - from early 1990's.I began smoking cigars in fall, 1992. Previously, I hadn't ever smoked anything - cigarette, pipe, cigar or any other such products. While on vacation with my wife @ a resort in Jamaica, we met and spent a good bit of our vacation with two other couples. One of the gentlemen was an avid cigar smoker, and one night after dinner, broke out some H. Upmanns and invited us to share a cigar and cocktails after dinner. I politely declined the cigar, explaining that while I didn't smoke, I appreciated the gesture, the value of his cuban treasure, and didn't want to waste it. After much pressure applied, I accepted, and after the perfunctory choke from inhaling (even though warned not to), I settled back, and let the Upmann introduce me to previously unknown pleasures of flavor. I was hooked. Brought home two boxes, and bought the first edition of Cigar Aficionado - I was all in. Fast forward to September, 1993. My wife and I were blessed with the birth of our first child, my son, Nick. As a new cigar smoker, another opportunity to enjoy another cigar tradition - celebratory cigars. I worked in midtown, and so to a walk over to De La Concha (one of my regular spots then, along JR on 45th and Nat Sherman's). I explained to Lionel what the occassion for my purchase was, and he did mention some Fuente "It's a Boy" cigars he had. But I wanted something more significant. I had read a couple of reviews of La Gloria cigars, and they had recently rated the La Gloria Pyramide 90+ (maybe a 92?). To this point I had been unable to get my hands on any - as was the case back then - if a cigar was well reviewed in CA, good luck trying to find it! Anyway, Lionel asked me to wait, went into the back, and returned with 3 boxes of 10 of these treasures!!! I was delighted to share and enjoy these awesome smokes.


Frank Levatino — Club Perfecto, USA —  April 26, 2007 10:34am ET

Second story...Winter 1993/1994.I work in the financial sector, and was working for an I-Bank in midtown. As a newly avid cigar smoker, I was voraciously seeking every opportunity to broaden my palate and knowledge of cigars, smoking everything I could get that had been written up in CA, and enjoying the experiences. Partagas, R&J, Fuente, Davidoff, Punch, Griffins, LGC, Paul Garmirian, Santa Damiana, Puros Indios, JR Ltd...too many to recall. thing was, at the time, cuban cigars were all the rage, as the noncuban manufacturers were still "catching up" not just in production and quality, but even in the coverage in CA. Moreover, I think it is our nature to always covet what we don't have or cannot easily get. Anyway, I wasn't doing any business travel, and with a new baby, no international vacations were looming. I was jonesing for cubans - one in particular- Montecristo #2. It had been regaled as THE primo smoke (along with Cohiba Esplendido, Partagas Lusitania, Punch Double, and Ramon Allones), and I was dying to try one. As luck had it, a few of the bankers I worked with were also cigar smokers (more travelled and better heeled!). When they learned of my new passion, discussions were opened. After some long hours on a particularly $ucce$$ful pitch, one of the senior guys left me a "present" one evening. I came in the following morning to find a box on my chair - and the holy grail inside! 10 Monte #2's from his personal stash, with a note: "Thanks for your efforts - much appreciated - Don't chain smoke these, there won't be any more for at least 2 months!"That first Monte #2 was truly amazing - the cigar seemed immense in my hand. I realize now it was it's magnitude in my mind and in it's taste. Perfectly constructed, silky, slightly oily wrapper, it burned so perfectly and evenly with the smoothest, fullest draw. Such amazing flavor! First draw to last, this cigar mesmerized me. I've smoked thousands of great cigars since, but none as memorable as that #2.


Edward Kobesky April 26, 2007 4:25pm ET

I remember all too well the difficulty in getting La Gloria Cubanas -- and it was all CA's damn fault! One day, I could buy all I wanted for between $1 - $2.20 each. If you called El Credito, Ernesto answered the phone. I know because that's how my tobacconist used to place his orders. On one occasion, I remember walking in while the two were on the phone and asking him to tell Ernesto how much I liked his cigars, which he did, and Ernesto said something gracious in return. Great days.Then the article ran.Soon after, the cigars became almost impossible to come by. It's easier to find Opus X today than it was to find La Glorias. It was the first time I'd seen retailers limit purchases to one or two sticks per customer. Luckily, I was sort of "grandfathered in" and was able to buy full boxes from time to time…just not Wavells or Torpedos, which nobody could find. Then production moved to the DR (for the most part) and you could get all you wanted, except I didn't want any. Those first DR-made La Glorias were disappointing, to say the least.In a fit of nostalgia last year, I had my dealer order me a box of Corona Gordas. They were just kind of dry and woody with a messy, flaky ash and an uneven burn…not the bold, Cubanesque smokes I remember from the early 1990s. I have to wonder…what happened? Did the cigar change? Did my tastes change? Did competing brands get more complex while La Gloria stayed the same? These days, I reach for a Tatuaje or DPG when I want a Cuban-style NC cigar. I e-mailed Pete Johnson awhile back to tell him how much I love the brand. The next day, my dealer told me that Pete got the message and passed along his thanks. Luckily, for now, Tatuaje is still Miami-made…still reliably excellent…and still relatively easy to find, despite all the publicity. It's one cigar that's living up to the hype.Who knows what will happen, though. One thing's for sure: We're a fickle bunch, we are.


Frank Levatino — Club Perfecto, USA —  April 27, 2007 10:10am ET

Dave,Apologies for taking this slightly off the topic, because I am not sure I would classify this one under "hype" string, but I had the opportunity to try a wonderfully complex, rich, full flavored cigar last night - and it's not yet available on the market. But you've written about it Dave, and I would highly recommend it to anyone to try if they love a robust, full bodied cigar. At our weekly Texas Hold 'Em game @ Club Perfecto last night, our Camacho rep Brian (who has been a recent and welcome occasional addition to our game) dropped in from the road with Morgan (also with Camacho - regional head, I think). Brian and Morgan had been on the road all day (starting in NH, then MA, then into CT), before ending their day @ Club Perfecto. When they arrived, after talking business with Ron, Brian handed out unbanded robustos to the guys @ the table, and to our delight, pronounced that these were the Triple Maduros!!!! Being admittedly partial to maduro cigars, I was intrigued to read the CI and CA articles you wrote about the upcoming release of these innovative cigars. The richness and depth of flavor that is typical to maduro wrappers is a personal preference of mine, and I could only expect that a completely maduro cigar would take this to "the next level". I will say that I was not disappointed. The appearance and construction promised dark, rich flavor - oily, toothy maduro wrapper. Upon cutting, and lighting this cigar, the palate parade of flavor began. Cocoa, leather, earthy, with a full draw of thick, creamy smoke. Stark white ash that constrasted with the dark maduro wrapper was pleasing to the eye. A well constructed, meticulously blended, truly enjoyable smoke, this cigar burned evenly. The only problems? Being was a robusto, it was finished too soon, and these are not yet available for purchase(ha)! Looking forward to enjoying the 11-18's when they are out. Again, thanks for the "heads up" on these Dave. Great job Christian y Julio! Great Smoke!


DAVE Savona — New York —  April 27, 2007 4:30pm ET

No apologies necessary Frank. I'm glad you enjoyed the news on the Camacho Triple Maduro. And Edward I enjoyed your comments as well. I agree that the earlier DR La Glorias weren't as good as the Miami ones, as the new factory had some learning curves, but I find the new product to be very good. The cigars I spoke of in my blog, the Selectos de Lujos, are a Dominican Republic creation. Try one and see what you think.


Tanner K — New Canaan, CT —  April 29, 2007 12:16am ET

Dave, thanks for the great insight in to the LGC line. I have yet to enjoy any LGC I've had. It may just be a few bad sticks, but I have yet to really find them complex, and haven't lived up the the hype they have been given. Your story has really given me some initiative to go out and smoke one.As for a cigar that truly lived up to the hype for me would have to be the Davidoff Special R. I could smoke those every day of my life if I had the chance! I enjoy almost every type of cigar, from the mild to the full-bodied smokes, and this is one cigar that wasn't harsh at all, yet provided some of the richest flavors I have ever had.


scott zegans April 29, 2007 8:03pm ET

Arnold's what a store that was. i bought my first 40 count elie blue there. I wish that place was still around, the high price of rent in manhattan forced them out of business



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