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James Suckling

Smoking A Normal Cigar In La Habana

Posted: Mar 5, 2010 10:17am ET
I can spend a lot of time writing and speaking about mega-cigars, limited edition smokes and vintage sticks. But I like smoking mainline cigars just as much. In fact, most of the time I prefer them. Besides, cigar factories (see yesterday’s blog for a video on Cuba’s biggest) spend most of their time making normal smokes.

I was thinking about this last night when I was out with some friends in one of Havana’s small private restaurants called La Cocina de Lilliam. We had a nice dinner outside on the restaurant's (cold) patio. Food wise, Lilliam is now the best restaurant in Havana, although the cuisine is just good home cooking. The best was La Guarida, but it closed for good late last year.

For example, we shared starters of grilled octopus and fresh tuna with sautéed peppers, and main courses of broiled red snapper with a Cuban dish resembling polenta, and salad. It was good, simple, fresh food. I really enjoyed the 2005 Torres Catalunya Gran Sangre de Toro Reserva. It was made with Grenache, Cariñena and Syrah. I am not sure it sells in the states, but it’s cheap and very cheerful.

I brought along some simple coronas from a cedar box of 25 cigars, called Punch Royal Selection No. 11. The box was from June 2003. And they smoked wonderfully. They are mellow, yet flavorful, delivering beautiful chocolate, coffee and spicy character. I think they cost about $125 a box. I would score them 90 or 91 points, non blind.

Everyone at the table enjoyed the cigars as we sat together and talked in the brisk Cuban evening. I little añejo rum didn’t hurt to warm up a bit.

I actually smoked the Cohiba Behike BHK 54 on Wednesday night during another dinner with friends. I thought it was an excellent smoke with a deep and rich palate of milk chocolate and tobacco and just the right amount of spicy power. I only smoked it once, but I thought that I preferred the fresh and aromatically open character of the small Behike BHK52 and the full throttle, in-your-face style of the Behike BHK 56. But the Behike 54 is clearly an outstanding smoke.


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