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Something Special

James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
Arnold Schwarzenegger, July/Aug 03

Some people may believe that it's too much of a good thing with this year's releases from Havana of limited-edition cigars and humidors. Coupled with the improving quality of the country's mainline brands, the special releases are helping to turn Havana's cigar shops into a real shopper's bazaar. I have only one thing to tell the Cubans: keep the novelties coming. It adds to the buzz around premium cigars, particularly Cubans, and everyone benefits from the cigars' quality.

It's getting hard to remember the days -- not that long ago -- when I would meet stone-faced Communist Party members who were involved in the marketing and selling of Cuban cigars. They were bean counters. They only cared about the hard currency that cigars might bring their country, and they didn't give a damn about the prestige and history that tabaco represented for Cuba. They dismissed the admiration that many smokers around the world had for their cigars.

Better days are here. Most of those bureaucrats appear to be long gone. The Cubans are pushing the envelope to bring the world better and more interesting cigars. I think the best is still to come.

In compiling a list of the island's latest innovations, I may have missed a few things. And I don't have prices for all of the items being brought to market (all prices are listed in U.S. dollars at shops in Havana). But you can't go wrong with the following offerings:

Cohiba Siglo VI: This is almost sure to be the best Cohiba of them all. Measuring just less than 6 inches long by 50 ring gauge, the cigar is rich and exciting with amazing flavors. I score it 95 points. About $375 for a cabinet of 25 in Havana.

Cohiba Siglo 10th Anniversary Humidor: A bit pricey (about $3,000 in Havana), but a gorgeous, small, humidified chest with 15 cigars of every Siglo, from I to VI.

Seleccion Cohiba: A fabulous "taster" of aged Cohibas in a special cedar box, with four Espléndidos, six Robustos, six Corona Especials, eight Piramides and six Media Coronas. The latter is a unique size (basically a Corona Especial with half an inch cut off). In Havana, the box runs $756.

510th Anniversary Humidor: Only 510 of these humidors were made to commemorate the 510 years since Columbus brought tobacco from Cuba to Europe. It consists of 100 cigars, 20 of each of the following vitolas: Cohiba EsplÈndidos, Montecristo No. 2s, Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 1s, Romeo y Julieta Hermosos No. 3s and Partagas Royales. The last two have been brought out of mothballs, with the Royales measuring 4 1/2 inches long by 45 ring and the Hermosos measuring 5 1/2 inches long by 49 ring. It takes about $3,000 in Havana to score one -- a lot of money for a fancy humidor.

Compay 95th Anniversary Montecristo Humidor: This release seems like a gimmick because the aged song man told me he used to work at Partagas before he became a musician. But apparently the limited-edition humidor is beautiful and comes packed with 95 cigars in two sizes: 55 Montecristo No. 4s and 40 Montecristo Salomones No. 2s, rare figurados with a large ring gauge. Price is $3,180 in Havana.

Colección Habanos Second Volume Partagas Serie C No. 1: Another killer smoke with the red-and-gold-lettered "Serie" band, this 6 5/8 by 48 cigar is packed with flavor. The smokes come in a cedar box looking like a book with 20 cigars. Only 500 were produced. I scored it 93 points when I smoked it in Havana in February.

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