Cuba’s Edición Limitadas: Quality Rising

Cuba’s Edición Limitadas: Quality Rising
The Hoyo de Monterrey Grand Epicure EL 2013 are the latest in a very strong line of Cuban EL releases.

As the year draws to a close, collectors of Havana cigars turn their focus to Edición Limitadas. The identity of these special cigars is revealed early each year at February’s Habanos Festival, sometimes with the added bonus of a teaser taste of one of the new sizes. However, the cigars often don’t reach retail shelves until September, October or even November. And while there’s always interest in these extra-dark, limited-release smokes, there are particularly high expectations for the 2013 versions, for Cuba’s most recent Limitadas have been superb cigars indeed.

It wasn’t always so. The Limitada program began in 2000 as an annual release of special sizes of familiar Cuban brands—adding a pyramid to the Cohiba line, say, or a robusto to the Montecristo portfolio—and using extra-dark wrappers around the cigars. Embarking on new ground, and doing so during a tough time for the Cuban cigar industry overall, resulted in some truly lackluster cigars. The 2001 Partagás Serie D No. 3 EL scored 85 points. The 2003 Hoyo Epicure Especial EL scored the same. The Cohiba Edición Limitada Pirámide from 2002 scored 80 points in the October 2002 Cigar Aficionado thanks to notes of soggy cardboard and mushrooms. A retaste of the same cigar later in the year earned it a score of 85.

Cigar Insider has rated every EL from 2005 to the current day, each one under blind testing conditions, with reviewers smoking the cigars without knowing their identity, country of origin, price or any other detail. From 2005 to 2010, the average scores of Edición Limitadas failed to top 90 points. Things began to change in 2011.

The ELs of 2011 and 2012 were uniformly excellent. All six of the cigars scored 91 points or higher in our blind tastings, with an average score of 92 points for each year. The H. Upmann Robusto EL 2012 scored 92, the Montecristo 520 EL 2012 scored 93, and the Cohiba 1966 EL 2011 scored 94 points and was named No. 2 cigar of 2012 by this magazine.

The first EL of 2013 tasted by our publications came out of the gate strong. The Punch Serie d’Oro No. 2, the first ever Punch Limitada, is a dark belicoso measuring 5 1/2 by 52. The shape is known as a campanas, mirroring the dimensions of a Bolivar Belicoso Fino. We found the smoke to be loaded with notes of dark coffee, leather and black cherry—it scored 94 points in the September 10 Cigar Insider, one of the highest scores we’ve given a cigar all year.

The second EL of the year didn’t impress to the same level. We tested the Hoyo de Monterrey Grand Epicure, a fat cigar measuring 5 1/8 inches long by a beefy 55 ring gauge, in this issue of Cigar Aficionado. The dark smoke, which is the same size as a Romeo y Julieta Wide Churchill, scored 89 points, making it the first EL since 2010 to score below 90 points.

As we shipped this issue, there was still no sign of the third EL for 2013, the Romeo y Julieta Romeo de Luxe Edición Limitada 2013. The cigar, 6 3/8 inches long by 52 ring gauge, is a longer version of a cañonazo size. The cigars will come packed in boxes of 10.

Will they be good? A betting man would say yes. Will they be great? There’s a fine chance of that happening as well. Cigar smokers worldwide hope this trend of excellence in the world of Limitadas will continue.