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Havana Corner: Trinidads Debut in London

Posted: November 14, 2003

It was a long way from home for Raul Valladares, master blender for Tabacuba, the Cuban organization in charge of cigar production on the island. The 67-year-old Havana resident has been working with tobacco for 40 years and has been credited with creating the blend for Cuban cigar brand Trinidad., which was first commercially released on the global market in 1998.

He was in London on Monday, November 10, for a black tie dinner to launch three more sizes, or vitolas, of the brand — Reyes, 4 3/4s by 40 ring gauge, Coloniales, 5 1/4 by 44 ring gauge, and Robusto Extra 6 1/8 by 50 ring gauge. U.K. Cuban cigar importer Hunters & Frankau organized the dinner at the Hilton Park Lane with a multi-course meal and all the new smokes for the participants, not to mention the buckets full of mojitos and French wines.

I have already written about how great it was to see three new sizes in what I believe is one of the best cigar brands from Cuba. I have never smoked a bad Trinidad. It remains to be seen if the new ones will give the same satisfaction.

The problems is that not everyone, like me, loves smoking the Fundadores size "Trini", the elegantly long and slim vitola measuring 7 1/2 inches by 40 ring gauge. So three more sizes make good sense. All the four Trinidad sizes are made at the El Laguito factory, the mother factory for Cohiba cigars, according to Fernando Lopez, head of all cigar factories in Cuba. He added that annual production would not be much more than 1 million cigars in total for the Trinidads with all four sizes. That means that about half of Trinidad's annual production will remain in the Fundadores, which has always been about 500,000 sticks a year since it was first launched.

Valladares said that the blends for the three new sizes follow the Fundadores in style. "I am always looking for an extremely aromatic and elegant cigar," he said. "It should be much less powerful than the Cohiba for example. It is a cigar that should impress you with its aroma more than it flavors."

I am not so sure he was right about that, at least with two of the cigars at the dinner — the Reyes and Robusto A. They were very strong smokes due to their youth and lacked much aroma. I had smoked the later two times before over the last three years and the Robusto A at the party was slightly under filled and coarse. It was clearly not the 95-point smoke I had had before. But perhaps it was just due to its freshness. The Reyes at the party, which was the first time I had smoked it, was better but still rather raw. I gave it 90 points. It needs a bit of box age to mellow.

This said, the Coloniales was as good as gold, just as I remember. It's the new Trini to buy now. It's full to medium bodied, with refined and creamy character that turns l long and beautiful on the finish. Originally, the Trinidad blend was apparently nothing more than what was the blend for Cohiba, but the wrapper was much dark and richer. This was when Trinidad was not sold commercially and only used for diplomatic gifts or other functions for the government. I remember smoking it a few times in 1994 (one was during Cigar Aficionado's Dinner of the Century in Paris), and the cigar almost blew my head off. It was very, very powerful and rich.

The commercial blend that is now available has nothing to do with the original Trinidad Diplomatico, which was the same length as the Fundadores but slightly thinner at 38 ring gauge. In addition, according to Valldares, the new Trinidad blend does not use tobacco that has been fermented three times. "It has nothing to do with Cohiba," he said insistently.

This might be the case with the production of the new range of Trinidads, but the prices certainly resemble Cohiba. They are bloody expensive: £19 ($32) for the Robusto Extra, £12 ($20) for the Coloniales and £7 ($11.80) for the Reyes. According to Manuel Garcia, commercial director for Habanos S.A., the global distribution arm for Cuban cigar, the new Trinidad vitolas will only be available in England until Spring and then they will begin to be available in other markets.

Garcia said to the crowd in a speech at the beginning of the evening that "it would be an unforgetable experience" smoking the new Trinidads. I guess he was right in the end. The launch was most certainly a memorable one—regardless if the new smokes showed extremely high quality in their debut in London.


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