If there is a downturn in the demand for Cuban cigars in the market, then someone has forgotten to tell the management of the Partagas factory in Havana. Just a week ago, the fabrica was in full swing, producing hundreds of cigars every hour, with what appeared to be excellent tobacco, particularly the ligero, or the strongest yet smallest amount of leaf used for the blend of a smoke.
What stood out even more, however, was that a large number of the rollers in the factory were busy making figurados, or special shaped smokes, ranging from giant perfectos called diademas to the highly coveted and slightly shorter salomón. The gossip is that the latter will soon be a regular size of the Partagas label, although an official announcement on the size is still forthcoming. Regardless, the beefy perfecto is one of the most popular vitolas requested by aficionados on the island. Many of the independent rollers in the key Havana cigar shops seem to be spending most of their days rolling those cigars.
Another vitola at the Partagas factory that stood out during my quick visit was a new, limited-production cigar called the Partagas Serie C No. 1 -- what might be considered a super hermoso No. 4, although I didn't catch the name the rollers were calling it in the gallery. If I am not mistaken, the size is very close to the legendary Por Larrañaga Magnum, which ceased production in the 1970s.
This year the distribution will be less speculative, and the 500 boxes of 20 cigars will be available in most Casas del Habanos, as well as other selected cigar shops around the world. The price of the smokes has not yet been disclosed.
Apparently, Partagas made many different series cigars just after the Second World War. According to an official press release from Habanos S.A., the global distribution company for Cuban cigars, the series included A, B, C and D, with four sizes as a part of each letter. Unfortunately, what vitola fell under each letter was not mentioned. So far, the current Partagas Series now on the market include the Partagas Serie D. No. 4, the popular red-and-gold-labeled robusto, and the limited-production Edición Limitada 2001 Partagas Serie D No. 3, a corona gorda, like the Punch Punch and Epicure No. 1, among others. Both are super cigars. I recently scored a new production of the Serie D No. 4 92 points and the Serie D No. 3 95 points. I am continuing to buy a box or two of the latter, when I can find the money.
Officially, Habanos says that Cuban cigars held their own last year in the global marketplace, or around 120 million cigars shipped. Nonetheless, the sales of cigars in tourist shops on the island were way down, dropping to about 5 million sticks from a high a few years back of 11 million. This is why some shops dropped prices for cigars in November.
Regardless whether they sell or not, new limited-edition cigars such as the Serie C No. 1 are certainly of beautiful quality, and they will only get better in quality on retail shelves.
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