Cigar Aficionado

Perfect Cigar, Perfect Night

I smoked the greatest young cigar in my life on Friday night – the Cohiba Siglo VI Gran Reserva. I was spellbound by the cigar’s amazing richness yet beautiful elegance and finesse. This is a cigar that fills your mouth with light coffee, toasted nuts, flowers and aged tobacco, yet it’s fresh and clean and leaves your mouth with a clean and vibrant finish. It’s the perfect smoke—100 points, unblind.

Some of my unbridled enthusiasm for the special Cohiba had to be the euphoric feeling of being at this year’s Gala Dinner on Friday that ended five days of the XI Festival Habano. It was the best festival yet, with the introduction of other excellent cigars besides the Siglo VI Gran Reserva (the Trinidad Robusto T, in particular) and a number of great parties, tastings and factory visits.

The limited production Siglo VI, which was officially launched on Friday night, is made with five-year old tobacco and comes in numbered boxes of 15 smokes. Only 5,000 boxes (for a total of 75,000 cigars) were produced at El Laguito, according Habanos, the marketing and distribution company for Cuban cigars. (I originally thought it was made at Partagas!) It is supposed to retail for close to $1,000 a box, depending on the market.

I have to admit (I hope my girlfriend is not reading this) that I smoked way too much that night in Havana. Participants were given the following Cohibas: Siglo I, Siglo II, Maduro 5 Genios and the Gran Reserva. I thought it was my journalistic duty to smoke them all! They were smoked during a four-course meal and a nice lineup of wines that included a well-structured 2005 Carignan, Syrah and Merlot blend named Cordilleria for Bodegas Torres and a 2005 Tempranillo and Merlot from XdT in Rioja. The latter is produced by the family of Gonzalo Navarette, who is in the marketing department of Habanos.

The entertainment was equally delicious with modern dance, fusion Flamemico, and jazz, not to mention the gorgeous models serving cigars.

The annual charity auction of the event raised more than $1.2 million for the Cuban public health system. Seven lots were sold to cigar aficionados, most of them from the Far East. The furniture-sized humidors for each lot included hundreds of rare cigars from various brands as well as never-seen-before sizes. The final lot included rare photos by Liborio Noval. They were of Che Guevara taking photographs of Fidel Castro during a public speech in January 2, 1964—not to mention 400 Cohiba cigars and an aluminum and wood futurist humidor by artist Jose Ernesto Aguilera Reina. It sold for about $440,000.

I was elated that my great friend and cigar merchant Max Gutmann of Mexico City was named Habanos Man of the Year for business. He had a smile from ear to ear, and we toasted to his health and the quality of Cuban cigars well into the night with Havana Club seven-year-old rum.

I kept on asking Max what cigar he was going to choose for his prize as HHA, Habanos Hombre del Ano. He gets a free box for the rest of his life as the award winner. “The Siglo VI Gran Reserva,” he said.

“I don’t think that that is one of the choices!” I kept on telling him over the roar of the crowd.

I finally decided to agree with him that this was a great choice. May be I will have the chance to smoke another one of the perfect cigars in the not too distance future then? Not only will they be expensive, but they will be almost impossible to find.

Note: the original blog had an incorrect figure for production of the Gran Reserva.

"Hmmm. By the description of that cigar, it sounds Nicaraguan! ;)" —March 2, 2009 23:54 PM
"James, as always, when I read your posts, you lucky SOB :-)" —March 2, 2009 21:32 PM
"Hi James,Do you remember the last cigar you gave 100 points?????, yes it was the 1492 humidor,made to conmemorate the 500 years of the discovery of America.It contains 50 cigars, each one labeled and numbered from 001- 25,000., yes only 500 humidorsproduced out of cherrywood. We have been lucky enough to have smoked couple of those cigars!!!!!Have a great weekend" —March 6, 2009 11:55 AM
"Hey max, I have a nice photo of you,& James & David, up on stage when you won your award. You looked very happy and surprised. MAZEL TOV. I came with David from Cancun. I don't know what I should do with my two GRAND RESERVE in the fancy box???? DO I hold them? or SMOKE THEM now? Dicisions dicisions... I'll sendyour photo to James and David...Nice to Meet the Max finally! Adios Amigo" —March 7, 2009 16:31 PM
"Hi James.Apart from the cigars we smoked at the dinner and the two each we were given in the gift box, the production of Cohiba Siglo VI Gran Reserva will be 5,000 numbered boxes of 15 cigars = 75,000 cigars. They are slated for worldwide release in October, but with your 100 rating (with which I concur), I have a feeling they won't last long.It was good to catch up in Havana. Simon" —March 4, 2009 08:01 AM