Cigar Aficionado

Havana Corner: At Long Last, New Trinidads

It's about time that one of Cuba's best cigar brands, Trinidad, was upgraded with new sizes, or vitolas -- if you haven't already heard about it. For years, cigar aficionados have been speculating on what the new sizes would be -- anything from a double robusto to a petit corona -- but they never arrived on the market. Now finally, in a few weeks, we can select from three new shapes.

The new sizes are Reyes, which measures 4 3/8 inches long by 40 ring gauge; Coloniales, 5 1/4 inches by 44 ring; and Robusto Extra, 6 1/8 by 50. They join the original commercial size, the Fundadore, which measures 7 1/2 inches by 40. You'll also notice that the band has been redesignd, looking slightly less bold and golden in style.

All four Trinidads will be available in cedar boxes of 12 and 24 sticks, as well as in small pocket packs. The new sizes are expected to go on sale in the United Kingdom before being rolled out globally. A launch dinner is planned for November 10 in London.

I don't have information on prices for the new sizes, but the cigars are going to be expensive, a little less than similar-sized Cohibas. You don't get a lot of change from $250 for a box of 24 Fundadores in most parts of Cuba. And they are close to three times that in London.

With the exception of the Reyes, the new sizes have popped up over the years at various events in Havana as well as in limited-production humidors, but they have never been available in general distribution. Admittedly, I am not sure that two of the three sizes, Reyes and Coloniales, are the best possible choices for new Trinidad vitolas, considering the general trend toward smoking thicker cigars. But they should be excellent smokes just the same, and personally, I still enjoy smoking a thin, elegant cigar.

I had the chance to smoke two of the new sizes of Trinidad -- Coloniales and Robusto Extra -- in the last year and they were super smokes. Much like the Fundadore, they impressed me with their elegance and finesse rather than pure power. These are cigars for someone looking for flavor and complexity and not in-your-face, beat-you-on-the-head character. I personally gave the Coloniales a score of 92 and the Robusto Extra 95.

All the cigars apparently will be made at the "Cohiba mother factory," El Laguito, which has some of the best rollers on the island. The manager, Emilia Tamayo, is a real stickler for quality. In fact, she can be a real pain in the ass. I consistently have problems getting in to see her at El Laguito, and when I do she doesn't give away much in the way of information. But as long as she makes great cigars, who the hell cares?

The Trinidad brand was commercially launched in early 1998 with the Fundadores. The cigars were first sold in Havana; a month or two later, they were available in Canada and Mexico. The Cubans unofficially admitted that the cigar was a brand aimed for the American market, even though we all know that Cuban cigars cannot legally be sold in the United States. This is why it was introduced in the countries that border the States.

I still have a number of boxes of the original Fundadores, and they are smoking marvelously now. In fact, it is one of my favorite smokes -- rich and coffee-like with just the right amount of mineral and tobacco character.

Years before Trinidads were sold commercially, they were available only as gifts. The "Diplomatico Trinidad" was the same length as the Fundadore, but slightly thinner, 38 ring gauge. Avelino Lara, the former manager of El Laguito, once told me that the "Diplomatico Trinidad" contained the same blend as Cohiba's Lancero, but had a slightly darker wrapper. This gave the cigar a slightly richer, more powerful character than the Lancero, he said. Before it became commercially available, Trinidad used to come in a simple, unmarked cedar box of 100 cigars, and the factory produced about 20 boxes a month. They were used as diplomatic gifts from Fidel Castro and other bigwigs in the government.

The good news now is that you don't have to be a close friend of Castro or his government to enjoy a great Trinidad. And very soon they will come in four sizes.

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