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Cigar Diary: In the Box

Cuba has created lots of excitement with its limited-edition cigars and humidors
James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
10th Anniversary Issue, Nov/Dec 02

I can't tell you who came up with the idea of making limited-edition cigars in Cuba. But I would like to say thank you to whoever did. It is without a doubt one of the most exciting things the Cuban cigar industry has done in the last 10 years.

When you examine the quality and craftsmanship of many of these limited-edition products, they are unparalleled in modern cigar history. It's not the first time Cuba has excelled with "special" products. Before the 1959 revolution, many cigar factories in Cuba made special cigars and humidors for clients. I once owned an armoire-sized cedar humidor from the 1930s that I used as a wardrobe for suits; it was originally shipped to England with 5,000 cigars from the Por Larrañaga factory. Moreover, the thousands of antique personalized cigar bands that still exist are more evidence that limited-production cigars once were common.

I still remember when Habanos S.A. (then Cubatabaco), the global distribution company for Cuban cigars, debuted its first limited-edition humidor. It was in early 1992 and I was in Havana for the launch of Cohiba's Linea 1492, better known as the Siglo range of the famous brand. The former head of Cubatabaco, Francisco Padron, showed me the 1492 humidor. I was speechless with the quality of the cigars and the humidor itself.

It was hard to describe the elegant cigars lying in the humidor with their distinct yellow-and-brown, individually numbered bands. I smoked only one at the time and it was outstanding, a tribute to Cuban craftsmanship. Only 501 humidors were made, and each held 50 cigars. They were sold out in a few months around the world at about $1,000 a box. Today, they sell for about 10 times that, if you can find one.

I have been lucky enough to smoke a few 1492s in the last year and they were phenomenal -- I scored them 100 points. Granted, the magazine only scored them 92 points when they first came out, but cigars do improve with age. The 1492s definitely improved.

A number of limited-edition humidors were produced after the 1492. Nearly all have been of fantastic quality, and many have been made by one particular cigar roller. For instance, veteran Faustino Rodriguez of the Partagas factory rolled the Salomon IIs as well as the cigars in the 150th Anniversario Humidor. Most of the limited-edition cigars commemorate a significant event in Cuban history, such as Christopher Columbus's discovery of the island in 1492, or celebrate the creation of a particular cigar brand, such as the 150th birthday of Partagas.

Every major cigar collector has his or her favorite. For me, the top five, with a rating for the cigar as well as the current value and creation date in parentheses, are:

30th Anniversary Cohiba (1997) -- 45 humidors of 50 double robusto Cohibas, 7 inches by 50 ring gauge, with a special label for the anniversary. My rating: 100 points. Current value: about $20,000.

1492 (1992) -- 501 humidors of 50 cigars, 5 5/8 inches by 46 ring gauge, each with individually numbered bands. My rating: 100 points. Current value: about $11,000.

Partagas Salomon II Especialidad (1996) -- 100 humidors of 50 perfectos with about an inch cut off the end, 6 3/4 inches by 52 ring gauge. My rating: 99 points. Current value: about $8,000.

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