Quesada Cigars unveiled its newest cigar project during its ProCigar Festival factory tour yesterday and company owner Manuel Quesada says "It's the best blend of my life."
The new Quesada Reserva Privada, slated to begin arriving in some retail cigar stores this April (more on that below), is a concept that took two years to develop and bring to fruition, but really, the story begins 18 years ago.
In 1997, the Quesada tobacco harvest, comprised of San Vicente varietal, was very good. Looking over the fields that year, Quesada recalls while sitting in his factory in Licey, Dominican Republic, the plants were all uniform in height. "It had a billiard-table effect," he says. Additionally, the central leaves on the middle of the plants grew to be the same size, an indication, he says, that the nutrients from the soil spread evenly throughout the plant. Cosecha pareja is the Spanish phrase Quesada uses to describe the crop, which roughly translates into "even harvest."
But rather than set to work on blending the leaves from this homogenous crop, Quesada convinced his father, Manuel Sr., and brother Alvaro to store and age the special tobacco for a future endeavor. And so he set about preparing the tobacco for a long nap by storing the tobacco in bales constructed from palm tree bark wrapped in palm leaves. The bark, Quesada explains, acts as a barrier from outside conditions such as temperature and humidity, allowing the leaves inside to slowly continue fermenting on their own as they age. According to Quesada, this container is similar to one that the Cuban cigar industry uses called entarado, only the Cubans use just the palm leaves for their version.
The bales were then placed in a room to age with a sign that had Quesada's initials written on it. And there they remained, untouched for 18 years.
About two years ago, Quesada's daughters, Patricia and Raquel, the fifth generation of Quesadas to enter into the cigar industry ("the young ones," as the elder Quesada refers to the pair), discovered the aging tobaccos and approached their father with an idea to use this prized crop in a blend. The concept was to use this old tobacco, but also splash it with tobaccos grown more recently so as to appeal to the palates of today's cigar smokers.
Quesada liked his daughters' pitch, and so they, along with Quesada's nephew Terence Reilly, set about experimenting. The blending team tried all sorts of tobaccos, from Connecticut Broadleaf to Nicaraguan Habano, and everything in between.
Finally, they settled on a blend: a Connecticut-seed wrapper, grown in Ecuador, covering a Dominican San Vicente binder from the 1997 vintage crop, with a filler tobacco blend of the 1997 Dominican San Vicente tobacco and a dash of ligero from Pennsylvania in the filler. The Pennsylvania ligero, Quesada notes, "brings a little intensity to the older tobaccos."
The cigars were then rolled and have been aging for the past year, allowing the flavors of the old and new tobaccos to marry a bit more and round out. "This gives the cigars the chance to mature and add nobility," said Quesada. "When you put smoke in your mouth, we don't want peaks, because that means the cigar is stimulating only one part of the palate." The result, according to Quesada, is a smoke that is mild to medium in body, but very flavorful.
The Quesada Reserva Privada will begin trickling into retail cigar shops in boxes of 10 starting April 1 in three formats that remain nameless for now: 4 3/4 inches by 52 ring gauge, 5 5/8 by 54, and 6 1/2 by 56. The price of the cigars range from $12.95 to $14.95.
The release of Reserva Privada, however, will not be one giant push, but rather it will be staggered. On April 1, only a few, pre-selected retailers that the Quesadas have developed close working relationships with throughout the years will receive six boxes of Reserva Privada, two of each size. These monthly shipments will continue into July, meaning each of these cigar shops will receive a total of only 24 boxes of cigars total. According to Reilly, more retailers will then be added at this summer's International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers association trade show. But, since the cigars are all being aged for one year post-rolling, Reserva Privada will always be staggered in how it's released to shops.
To commemorate this special release, the Quesadas opted to use holograms, a first for the company, on both the box and the band. The box hologram has been affixed on the inside lid, which has been painted and lacquered with a gorgeous, piano-black finish. Product shots of the company released prior to yesterday's first-look didn't show the final product, but it can be seen in the photograph above.
A gold Quesada logo has been silk-screened onto the top of the box, while the felt bottom has the words "10 Premium Cigars/ Made by Hand with Love/ At The Quesada Cigars Factory/ Licey, Dominican Republic" stamped in gold foil on it.
The band, too, sports the same holographic effect, which is the words Reserva Privada repeated. Cigar Rings, located in Santiago and owned by Albert Monserrat, created both holograms.