Cigar Aficionado

Cigar Report: Current Cubans

Spending last week in Cuba gave me the opportunity to smoke many of the island's current production cigars. Gordon Mott and I puffed away each and every day, starting early in the morning (I joked that our Cuban breakfast was a Cohiba and a cup of Cuban coffee) and ending sometimes fairly late in the evening.

These were hardly scientific tastings. The cigars were not smoked blind, as we do here in our offices. We smoked them in various places, sometimes during or after meals, sometimes with libations and some cigars were bought in stores or bars while others were given to us in factories or by officials from Habanos S.A. I don't give scores for cigars that we taste this way, but I will give you a description of the smokes to provide you with a snapshot of how the current production Cubans are smoking right now, in the country in which they're made. And I even added a little video footage taken from one of Cuba's best shops so you can see some of the cigars we smoked.

We puffed two of the three Cuban ELs for 2010, the Trinidad Short Robusto T Edición Limitada and the Montecristo Grand Edmundo Edición Limitada (we didn't smoke the Partagas Serie D Especial EL 2010 while in the country.) The Trinidad was, for me, a slow starter. It measures four by 50 and had some oily notes at first and was fairly aggressive, but it warmed up beautifully about a half an inch in and really improved. The dark, thickish wrapper didn't burn so well throughout the smoke, but I'll forgive some burn problems for good flavor. Gordon and I both enjoyed the cigar.

I enjoyed the Montecristo Grand Edmundo even better. From the first puff this cigar wowed me with balanced, intense flavors. The Grand Edmundo is a canonazo size, same size as the Cohiba Siglo VI, and Cuban cigars in this size always seem to impress me. This cigar was delicious from start to finish, very flavorful and nicely balanced with a medium to full body. The construction on these (I smoked two while in Cuba) was also exceptional. If I had been scoring these, it would have rated "outstanding."

Montecristo Grand Edmundo

The first disappointing cigar I smoked in Cuba was actually the first cigar of the trip. The Punch Punch, an old reliable I chose from the small humidor at El Relicario in the Melia Cohiba, was tart, with a slightly firm draw and somewhat lackluster flavor. It had a gorgeous dark wrapper, but it turned out to be an empty suit without much else to make it appealing.

A second disappointment was another old reliable, the H. Upmann Magnum 46. I bought one in a tube at the new Casa del Habano at the Habana Libre, and while it was good, it wasn't great, and I'm used to top-tier experiences from the Mag 46. It was a bit acidic, and not as rich as I have come to expect from those cigars.

Thankfully, it was far from the norm. The other cigar I bought at the Casa was a Romeo y Julieta Cazadore, which I smoked while working on some blogs in my hotel room.

This crusty looking, homely cigar tends to have big time flavor, and this Romeo worked just fine for me. I love the taste, and simply cannot resist buying one whenever I see one. It didn't disappoint.

I puffed a Montecristo No. 4, and it was fine—as Monte 4s tend to be. It didn't blow me away, but it was far from lousy, just a decent quick smoke. Gordon seemed to get a better one, as he liked his a little more. But you shouldn't expect miracles from a Monte 4, just a good smoking experience. If you get a great one, consider yourself lucky.

For great smoking, you should turn to Cohiba Behike BHKs. I smoked many on the trip, the 52, 54 and 56 and all impressed. I didn't have a bad one while in country. I've always been impressed with the 52 and 54, but the 56 hasn't smoked as well, in my opinion. On this trip, in Cuba, they smoked very well indeed. Still not as tasty as the 52, but tasty enough.

One of the best cigars of the trip was a Montecristo Double Corona. These big, long smokes were produced in 2009 for a special humidor made to look like a replica of an old humidor. Cuba made only 350 of these humidors, each containing 50 double coronas. I saw a few for sale in Cuba, and you can see the packaging in the video I shot at the Club Habana cigar store. This cigar was quite a charmer, big and bold, rich and round, and immensely satisfying from start to finish. Gordon and I each smoked one after dinner high atop El Gijones. Gordon and I have conferred, and this one could have rated in our "classic" category in a blind tasting.

Finally, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to grab a three-pack of Montecristo Petit Edmundo Tubos. (Love this size.) Big flavor, approachable size and when tubed so easy to carry. These cigars were rich and bold, with a sweet, leathery flavor, notes of coffee and gorgeous construction despite being hidden in a tube. I wish I had more right now.

Overall, Gordon and I found the cigars available right now on Cuban cigar shelves to be very fine quality smokes. Draw problems were minimal, if any, the flavors were very solid and on top of it all the selection of cigars in the stores was superb. Behikes were in short supply, but aside from that virtually everything was available, which made us very happy indeed.

"No Mike, not yet. I want to, and they are definitely on my hit list." —December 22, 2010 11:26 AM
"PS: My apologies, I typed to fast. I meant the H. Upmann Noellas in the glass jar......." —December 20, 2010 20:13 PM
"Dear David, Thanks for your great coverage. I have had the pleasure of visiting almost all locations mentioned in your blogs myself and my favorite store has always been the Casa in the Melia Habana. Have you had a chance to smoke the new H. Upmann Nimfa's that should have just come out? Keep up the good work!" —December 20, 2010 20:06 PM
"Thank you so much Michel Tran! Very much appreciated. After reviewing the prices you have sent, I almost want to purhcase a plane ticket right now to Cuba. Those Monte #2's are over $700.00 per box in Windsor, On, Canada. I'll be stocking up for sure. Many thanks!" —December 20, 2010 10:26 AM
"Thanks Michel, the prices you listed are consistent with those in my notebook. " —December 20, 2010 09:55 AM
"Oops, I pressed post by mistake. Partagas Serie P#2 - 165 CUC P.S. All prices are for a box of 25 cigars. Cheers!" —December 19, 2010 23:31 PM
"Hi David, first off I'd like to thank you for reviewing the Trinidad Robusto T. Also, please let me answer Justin's question for you. Justin, many of my friends go to Cuba every year and I got the price list in CUC for the cigars you've requested. The prices I am giving you are from Habanos SA. Montecristo#2 - 190 CUC Cohiba Robusto - 260 CUC Cohiba Esplendido - 448.75 CUC Portages Serie D#4 - 142.50 Partagas" —December 19, 2010 23:30 PM
"Hi David, I'm glad to hear that you guys came back. I read each post from the first day and I know you enjoyed the trip a lot. I'm going to Cuba to visit my family in a few months, I try and go once a year to visit. So far my favorite Cuban cigar is the Montecristo Petit Edmundo Tubos. In this particular cigar I've NEVER found any problems, but the rest that I've smoked I have encountered problems. Now that you are back in the states, I'm assuming that with the top 25 cigars of the year you must be a bit busy, but enjoying it at the same time. Take care and enjoy the holidays! Manny " —December 19, 2010 21:18 PM
"Hi David, I really need some help with this question, I am getting way to many different responses on the forums. I just want to know approx prices for boxes of cigars in cuba, monte #2, cohiba robusto, esplendido's, partagas serie d #4 and serie p #2?? Some people are saying $190 cuc for monte #2 and others say $235-$335?? Way to much varying. Anything would help David, thanks!" —December 19, 2010 16:41 PM
"Stephen, interesting question. I suppose you would imagine they were all available, but they are not. The only RE I saw in cigar shops throughout Cuba was the La Gloria Cubana RE for Cuba, the one that comes in the ceramic jar. They were in fairly good supply. No others were there. This is consistent in keeping w/ the Habanos strategy to keep REs exclusive to their respective markets. Thanks for the question." —December 19, 2010 13:34 PM
"David: I'd be curious to hear how widely available regional edition cigars (for regions other than Cuba, of course) are in Cuba. Can you find just about anything? Let's say I wanted a Ramon Allones Phoenicios Regional Edition Lebanon 2010. Would I be able to track those down at a LCDH in Cuba?" —December 18, 2010 22:23 PM
"Well said David. I suppose fabulous may have been a little over the top to describe my "hope" for the Trinidad EL 2010. A fine Cuban cigar will suffice for me! Thanks." —December 17, 2010 23:12 PM
"It all depends on how you define "fabulous." Is it a very good cigar? Yes indeed. Over the top great? Not in my opinion. But it's a fine, fine Cuban cigar." —December 17, 2010 15:01 PM
"Great blogs, very well done. Love the video as well showing the walk in humidor. I am dissapointed to hear about the Trinidad EL 2010's though. I'm having a buddy of mine pick some up in playa Mexico next week to bring back. I was really looking forward to that cigar. I thought it would be fabulous. Maybe I'll get a better box? Hope you have lot's more video of areas of Cuba and cigar shops to show us, with my trip approaching, it certainly will help. Keep up the great work!" —December 17, 2010 14:22 PM
" Thank you for the kind comments, and I'm very glad you're enjoying the reports that Gordon and I are filing on Cuba. I've always loved my job here at Cigar Aficionado (Fifteen years and counting, and I enjoy every single day) but this new Cuba assignment makes a great job even better. Gordon and I are having a blast. We're just getting started, and there's lots more to come." —December 17, 2010 10:17 AM
"An overall comment: Initially, I was a tad sceptical about you both doing the Cuba reports since James did it for a long time and was very proficient. I do like the tag-team format, offering different perspectives and two editorialists is an excellent idea. In my view, I prefer both of both of your writing styles as opposed to James'. It's more folksy, appealing, and easier to read; my preference. James' prose did not really do it for me. That being said, his information was always accurate. Keep up the good efforts. " —December 17, 2010 01:22 AM
"I agree with you on the MGE, i think that was clearly the best EL for 2010. Gorgeous cigar which i reviewed fully with pics here:" —December 16, 2010 21:56 PM