Cigar Aficionado

Just Smoking in the Rain, What a Wonderful Day in Havana

Yesterday it absolutely poured in Havana. I honestly thought that the city was going to sink underwater. I was having lunch with some friends from Habanos S.A., the global marketing and distribution company for Cuban cigars, and the restaurant that were in, La Cocina de Lilliam, was under about five inches of water in about 30 minutes.
It was lucky that Juan Giron, the head of marketing for Habanos, had brought some smokes to pass the time. We were like men in a lifeboat for about three hours and the rain pelted down. He brought a Partagas Culebras to smoke. There was also Jose Antonio Candia, who also works in marketing with Habanos, so it was the perfect smoke since when you take it apart it turns in to three tangled skinny smokes.
I must be in a slightly strange mood but I found it sort of sexy taking apart the Culebra to smoke. There are two fine silk red ribbons on each end that you need to unravel to take the cigar apart. It reminded me of undoing a few other things before enjoying something very pleasurable...
Anyway, the smoke was surprisingly powerful. I thought it was a little too strong for such a small diameter smoke, but when I spoke to a friend at Partagas, she said that they have very little seco in the thin cigar to balance the ligero. So it’s strong. “That’s the taste of Partagas,” she said with a smile. I can’t complain. I would buy the cigars again just to undo those red ribbons! 90 points. I saw it sold for about $68 Convertible Cuban Pesos in the Partagas cigar shop, or about $82 for three individual cedar boxes in a paper box. So that means nine cigars for $82.
We actually finished those Culebras before the lunch of grilled fish and black beans and rice was finished. So we fired up some Hoyo de Monterrey Regalos, which are one of this year’s three Edición Limitadas. This is a focused and rich smoke with a slightly reserved character to it on the palate. It’s funny but I have been smoking the Hoyo and the other limitada Romeo y Julieta Escudos for a couple of days, and I find them the complete opposite of what I smoked from Hong Kong a few weeks back.
At the moment, I prefer the RyJ, which seems much more decadent and powerful compared to the Hoyo. Regardless, they are both very impressive smokes. What I particularly like is that the aged wrapper that the limitadas use does not dominate them. I have found in the past that the some of the limitadas have too much of the roasted coffee bean and smoked almond character the darker aged wrapper the limitadas use. This year’s release of limitadas is a more balanced, richer lot all together. Bravo.
I also had the chance to smoke the Trinidad Ingenious (42 by 6 1⁄2 inches). And it is surprisingly mellow and polished for a Limitada. I think the subtle Trinidad blend works well with the aged limitad wrapper producing a chocolaty, round and rich smoke with a mellow finish. 92 points. The Trinidad will not be in the global market for another two weeks. I told Giron that Habanos better hurry and get the cigar in the market or they are going to need to change the second band to “Limitada 2008!”

We sat around for another hour after lunch waiting for the rain to stop and decided to have a very small shot of Havana Club Anejo rum and finish the RyJ limitada. All in a day’s work in Havana.

The Limitada program is one of the most successful the Cubans have at the moment in cigars. “Every cigar aficionado in the world waits for the new Limitadas each year,” said Giron.

An overstatement? Not sure. But I must admit that I look forward to try them each year, and this year’s trio is definitely worth smoking.