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Cuba's Stars

The island's oldest and most venerable smokes have been superseded by the new kids on the block
James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
Cuba, May/June 2007

(continued from page 1)

"The No. 2 is a classic cigar and the Cubans always seem to take care of this one," says Thomas Boherer, owner of Habanos Holdings, a Hong Kong—based cigar merchant specializing in aged cigars. "It is an icon."

By comparison, the Edición Limitada cigars are certainly not iconic in any sense of the word. But they are clearly outstanding cigars in most cases, and they are a huge success in the market. For me, the 46 by 5 5/8 Partagas Serie D No. 3 is the best ever of the range. It was reproduced for last year's limitada range, since it was so popular in the market. "The Serie D No. 3 was the most popular limitada of them all," says José Antonio Candia, a marketing officer at Habanos S.A., the global trading organization for Cuban cigars.

The limitada idea has been one of Habanos's best in the last 10 years. Each year since 2000, the company has released three or four different-sized cigars with three-year-old aged wrappers. The production is usually about 5,000 to 10,000 boxes, and the sizes, or vitolas, are special for each brand.

But the standard-bearer of Cuban cigars today remains the robusto. Its size, delivery of flavor and price give today's smokers what they need. For instance, the Partagas Serie D No. 4 is one of the most popular smokes among aficionados of Cuban cigars around the world. Its spicy, rich character and cool draw make it Cuba's best "all-purpose" cigar. The Montecristo No. 4, a petit corona, may be Cuba's best-selling cigar in volume, but the red-banded D No. 4 is the hands-down favorite of informed smokers. It's definitely a star smoke.

The popularity of the robusto has given rise to new sizes, or super robustos, for lack of a better word. Such cigars as the Cohiba Siglo VI and Trinidad Robusto Extra were created for the lover of the standard size, but improved to offer even more pleasure. The latter vitola, first produced for the 30th anniversary of Cohiba, was sold in a special humidor bearing Cuba's most famous brand. The 50 by 6 1/8 cigar, originally created in the 1980s at the Cohiba factory, El Laguito, for use as diplomatic gifts, became so popular that it was launched under the Trinidad band. The Robusto Extra size—one of three vitolas launched in 2003—is surprisingly refined and mellow for its size.

Mellow and refined are not the words I would use to describe my superstar smoke of Cuba, the Cohiba Siglo VI. This, in my opinion, is the greatest cigar made in Cuba in the last decade, and its 52 ring by 5 7/8-inch size is great for all of us. It delivers masses of flavor with a near-perfect draw. It has loads of leather, cocoa, cedar and tobacco character, and the classic, almost salty, soft texture that only Cohiba delivers. The cigar is made mostly in the Partagas and H. Upmann factories, under the supervision of technicians from El Laguito (Cohiba's mother factory).

It's hard to believe that the Siglo VI was only launched about four years ago. The cigar is already a classic in my mind. It's truly a star among stars. But that's what is great about the world of Cuban cigars—stars are being born every year.

TODAY'S STAR

Montecristo No. 2 -- 97
The classic torpedo that no one can duplicate gives you all the cedar, spice and tobacco character you can hope for. Always draws like a dream.

Cohiba Siglo VI -- 96
A combination of richness and finesse gives just the right combination of power and class. Cool smoke.


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