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Old Havanas

The best aged cigars, from 30 to 60 years old, are refined, stylish powerhouses of flavor.
James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
maduro issue, Winter 93/94

(continued from page 4)

In addition, it's always a good idea to buy the cigars in cedar boxes called cabinets. Instead of being pressed or held in cardboard-lined cedar boxes, they are loosely held together in bundles of 25 or 50 cigars and then placed in a cedar box. The cigars seem to improve better with age in this packaging.

How many cigars to put away every year depends on how many you smoke. If you smoke only a few cigars a week, then four or five boxes a year should do. Daily smokers will have to buy more. By the fifth or six year, you should have a great collection of aged cigars. The cigars you first bought will he ready for smoking and your next reserve purchase will replace them. Most cigar collectors recommend, however, that you try one or two cigars from each box after their second or third year in storage to see how they are evolving. If you like them after a shorter period of time, smoke them. Rules on when to smoke an aged cigar don't exist.

If you are looking for older cigars, then the only way to be sure is to consult cigar merchants. They may have boxes of mature cigars available. To be certain of their age, some London merchants used codes or marks to indicate in what year they were bought, although this was not an industrywide practice. Pre-Castro or pre-embargo cigars are usually packaged somewhat differently from current cigars from Cuba. For instance, most of them are printed with MADE IN HAVANA-CUBA on the bottom of the box instead of the standard HECHO EN CUBA used today. In addition, there are styles, sizes and brands of cigars that have not been made in Cuba since shortly after the Revolution. These are obviously very old and the most valuable.

For example, the Belinda corona cigars from the late '30s were bought at a Toronto auction last June for about $2,500, or $100 a cigar. Granted, the auction was for charity, so prices may have been slightly inflated. But other pre-Castro cigars from merchants have been selling for even higher prices. Are they really worth the price?

For devoted cigar aficionados like Jacobs, the answer is an unequivocal yes. "Of course it's worth the money," he says. "When I smoke a good one, it is amazing to me that they are still smokable. They are delicious. I thought they would have been like tasting old dust."

Tasting Notes

1. MONTECRISTO NO. 1 SELECCION SUPREMA
It was a shame to break up the cedar box of 100 cigars, but what cigars. The draw was so good they almost smoked by themselves, and the rich, creamy flavors filled your mouth. They were good down to the last inch.
Estimated production date: 1958. 98

2. CABANAS NO. 751 ALFRED DUNHILL LTD.
In a cedar cabinet box of 50 cigars, these were amazingly good to smoke. The cigars showed beautiful, oily, dark-brown wrappers and smoked beautifully as well. Medium-bodied with a superfine, nutty character, they caressed our taste buds with every puff.
Estimated production date: 1960. 97

3. ROMEO & JULIETA NO. 758 ALFRED DUNHILL LTD. SELECCION SUPREMA CEDRO DELUXE
The packaging of this lonsdale cigar is wonderful, with each cigar individually wrapped in cedar sleeves. The cigars themselves are equally impressive, with loads of rich coffee-and-spice character yet in a very harmonious style.
Estimated production date: 1959. 97

4. H. UPMANN NO. 4 ALFRED DUNHILL LTD.
This is a deceptive old cigar that starts off slowly with medium-bodied tobacco and almost minty aromas and flavors, but ends with a burst of spicy character.
Estimated production date: 1961. 95


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