A special reserve of vintage Cuban tobacco was set aside for this year's Partagás Lusitania Gran Reserva, a large, limited-edition 7 5/8 inch by 49 ring cigar that has already started to hit retail shelves around the world. According to global distributor Habanos S.A., the company has memorialized this iconic double corona by using select tobacco from a 2007 harvest and entrusting the small production of these cigars to the most experienced rollers of the Partagás Factory. Only 5,000 numbered boxes of 15 have been produced. This release marks the first time that a Partagás brand cigar has ever been part of the Gran Reserva program, a project that draws from specific reserves of aged Cuban tobaccos.
Like all Gran Reserva releases, the Lusitania comes packaged in a high-gloss, piano-finish lacquer box. The Partagás logo appears in gold on the top of the lid along with a "Gran Reserva" designation, a 2007 tobacco age statement and a colorful strip running down the side as an allusion to the Partagás brand's traditional dress box design. Each cigar dons a secondary, black-and-gold band. What makes this box different than Gran Reservas of the past, however, is its technological advancement. Each box comes printed with a QR code in the back, enabling a level of electronic interaction never seen on any Gran Reservas before. These QR codes can be engaged through the use of cell phones and other digital devices to impart information directly to the end user.
The launch of the Partagás Lusitania Gran Reserva comes almost a year after its initial announcement at last year's Habanos Festival. Year-long delays are not uncommon for Habanos, as previous releases like the Romeo y Julieta Churchill Reserva have taken over a year before the cigars finally made it to retail.
Smokers interested in the Partagás Gran Reservas are going to have to look hard and dig deep into their pockets. Because these cigars are so limited, only select shops carry them, and the mark-up is going to be two to three times the price of normal-production Lusitanias.
The Casa del Habano shop in England, for example, is selling the Partagás Lusitania Gran Reservas for £65.00 (about $106.45) per cigar, while regular Lusitanias retail for £24.95 (about $40.86) in the same store. In 2009, a regular-production Cohiba Siglo VI retailed for £26.90 (about $44), the Siglo VI Gran Reserva: £85.00 (about $140).
"The ligero leaves used in the blend of this first [Partagás] Gran Reserva come from the San Juan y Martinez tobacco district, where the rich San Juan soils provide the blend with the Partagás brand's distinctive strength," stated Habanos in an official press release, adding that the seco leaves in the blend were harvested from the San Luis region for aroma.
Habanos began the Reserva program back in 2003 with the introduction of a Cohiba Reserva box set. According to the company, Reserva cigars contain tobacco that have been aged a minimum of three years. In 2009, Habanos released its first Gran Reserva with the Cohiba Siglo VI. Gran Reservas purportedly contain tobacco aged no less than five years. Reservas and Gran Reservas tend to score well in Cigar Insider and Cigar Aficionado tastings.
For a tasting note and more of the Partagás Lusitania Gran Reserva, see the Cuba Report in the upcoming April issue of Cigar Aficionado.