It was the biggest of cigars, it was the smallest of cigars...
A bit of an exaggeration? Yes. But my tobacco-take on the opening of A Tale of Two Cities shows the contrasting sizes of the two new cigars introduced last night at the opening event to the Habanos Festival.
Let's start with the big guy first, the Hoyo de Monterrey Le Hoyo de San Juan. You might not be terribly familiar with the Le Hoyo series of Cuban cigars, and that's forgivable. They aren't exactly high-profile cigars, despite being quite good. I remember first being introduced to the line on my first trip to this island, back in 1996. I puffed on intriguing cigars, most of them quite small, most of them quite good, with ear-catching names such des Dieux, du Député, du Maire and du Prince. It's been ages since the line has been expanded, and in fact many are getting harder and harder to get in cigar stores. That changed last night with the introduction of the new Le San Juan.
Unlike the traditional Le Hoyo cigars, this Le Hoyo San Juan is quite large, just over 6 inches long with a plump 54 ring gauge. I saved one for after the event, and lit it up in the tranquil setting of a table at El Aljibe, the Cuban restaurant that has become the traditional first stop for Gordon and myself while in Cuba. (Trying to get an impression of the cigar in the chaos of the opening party, an outdoor, breezy affair, would have been pointless.)
I found the San Juan quite good, a beautifully made cigar with a wrapper the color of cappuccino, and just the right amount of oils. The draw was just right. Flavorwise it was a very well-balanced smoke, with notes of coffee bean and savory almond. Gordon enjoyed his as well, and found some very light leather notes in the smoke.
Cigars this early in the process are often young and harsh; this one certainly had elements of youth but without any harsh notes, and with great promise of what it could become. This won't be a flavor bomb, but something with medium-bodied balance and sophistication. I kept on puffing it right back to the Melia Cohiba, where I finished the night with a bit of Havana Club 7 Year Old. I look forward to smoking the final product later in the year.
This morning, I lit up the second cigar from last night, the Partagás Serie D No. 6. To give you an idea of what it's like here in Cuba, I'm smoking it at the breakfast table, in the smoking section of a restaurant inside my hotel. Yes, there are smoking and non-smoking sections, and I'm not the only trouper puffing on a cigar at 9 a.m. Cuba has freedom to smoke-or not to smoke.
Back to the Serie D No. 6. It's quite different from the Hoyo. Where the Hoyo is big, this one is short, a diminutive three-and-a-half inches long by 50 ring. You don't see many cigars that come in under four inches. The smoke is far stronger than the Hoyo, with plenty of spice, copious amounts of leather and lots of minerality, with a fairly long finish.
I spoke to a few people who tried the cigar during the event, and both found it considerably strong-maybe too strong. I'm not sure if it's where I'm smoking it, the cigar I have or something else, but I find it more agreeable than they did. It's no pushover, but it's not raw or too aggressive. It's young for sure, but I could see this being a popular addition to the Serie D line.
It's not quite 10 a.m. and I've had breakfast, several cups of strong Cuban coffee and a cigar. I'm off to a good start. Look for more from us soon.