Ever see an H. Upmann Royal Robusto? It’s the current exclusive release for Casas del Habano around the world. For inspiration, I decided to smoke one while writing this story about the cascade of new cigars, brand extensions and Regional Editions that Habanos S.A. announced that they were bringing to market in 2011. The Royal Robusto is a powerhouse, a 5 3/8 inches by 52 ring cigar that slightly exceeds the normal dimensions of a Cuban robusto and is actually the same size as a Montecristo Edmundo; it is a spicy, leathery cigar that certainly would easily score in our outstanding category in a blind test and may even be a classic.
But at least you can find the Royal Robusto in almost any Casa del Habano that you enter around the world, assuming they haven’t already sold out. They are popular and have been since they were introduced. In some previous years, the Casa del
Habano exclusives, which have come and gone, have included a Partagás Salomon, a Bolivar Gold Medal and three sizes of San Cristóbal de la Habana.
The most important thing is that these new cigars have become the norm, rather than the exception, in the Habanos cigar lineup. You could argue that these special cigars have been part of Habanos’ marketing plan for more than 20 years, with such things as the Cuban Davidoff Aniversario 80 made for Zino’s 80th birthday, or the 1492 made to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of the Americas, or even the Cohiba Pyramid that was made for Cigar Aficionado’s Dinner of the Century in Paris in 1995. But what was once more a series of one-off cigars has become an annual event, with Habanos creating the Casa del Habanos exclusive, the special releases and the Edición Limitadas, with Casas del Habano owners and Cuban cigar distributors around the world vying to get a unique cigar made for them.
The Regional Editions really grew out of the success of the Edición Limitadas, or Limited Edition cigars, which were introduced in 2000. There have been as many as five ELs produced in a year (in 2002 there were none), but now Habanos S.A. has settled on three each year. In general, the Limitadas carry a darker wrapper leaf than the usual Cuban leaves, and they are usually produced in a size that is not currently part of the brand lineup. The 2011 Edición Limitadas are the Cohiba 1966, a deliciously powerful 6 1/2 by 52 cigar that may be one of the best ELs ever made; the Hoyo de Monterrey Short Hoyo Piramides, a 5 3/8 by 46 mini belicoso, and the Ramon Allones Allones Extra, a 5 5/8 by 44 cigar.
This year, there were also three special releases. At the head of the class is the Montecristo Gran Reserva No. 2, which was presented for the first time at the 2011 Habanos Festival last February. As of press time, the cigar was still not available in retail outlets, but according to many cigar distributors around the world and Habanos S.A., the cigar was going to be on shelves before the end of December 2011. There are two other special items on the docket for 2011, but they won’t be out until 2012: the Colleccíon Habanos (10 brands in ambook-shaped box), and a Hoyo de Monterrey Replica Antique Humidor.
The Regional Editions, which were first introduced in 2005, have posed a logistical problem for Habanos S.A. as copresident Buenaventura Jiménez Sánchez-Cañete told Cigar Aficionado last spring. The Cuban cigar marketing monopoly gets up to 35 requests a year from its distributors around the world. But the company has decided to limit the regional releases to less than 15 a year. Originally, the distributors were required to order 25,000 cigars for each regional brand, but that has been increased to 50,000 cigars with the 2011 releases.
One of the early regional successes was the Edmundo Dantes Conde 109 in Mexico, which sold out quickly. This year, Mexico received a new Edmundo Dantes, the Conde 54. Max Gutmann, who has the Habanos franchise in Mexico, says the cigar is selling extremely well since its release in October. “This cigar is not for everybody,” Gutmann told Cigar Aficionado, “but people who like a bigger size cigar enjoy it a lot.”
Gutmann also said that he received the cigar only two months later than promised, which he thought was pretty good performance from Habanos.
Other distributors haven’t been as lucky. Retailers in the United Kingdom, for example, had not seen the Bolivar Britanicas or the Punch Medalla d’Oro at press time. For our update on the worldwide Regional Edition availability as we went to press, see the previous page.