If you decide to spend February in France, you might get the chance to sample the new Regional Edition Quai d'Orsay Belicoso Royal. Made exclusively for the French market, this cigar not only marks the first time that Quai d'Orsay has ever been commercially rolled in a belicoso size, but also the 40th anniversary of the Quai d'Orsay brand, which debuted on November 8, 1974. The Belicoso Royal measures 5 inches by 52 ring gauge and is distributed by SEITA, the French arm of Imperial Tobacco PLC.
Though originally slated to launch at the end of 2013, the new smokes come out next month and are set to retail for 12.90 euro each (about $17.40). Although rolled in a belicoso shape, SEITA maintains that the blend "is deliberately true to the Quai d'Orsay DNA." Only 2,000 numbered boxes of 25 were produced. While this number is on the lower end of Cuban Regional Edition production runs (some regions have contracted as many as 8,000 boxes, or as little as 1,000), it's still twice as many as France's last Regional Edition Quai d'Orsay—the Robusto Embajador, which came out in 2011 (92 points, Cigar Aficionado).
Because the core Quai d'Orsay brand is made primarily for the French market anyway, the new Belicoso Royal could be regarded as a Regional Edition within a Regional Edition. As it currently stands, Quai d'Orsay has only two sizes in regular production: Coronas and Imperiales. These two sizes are usually produced in Havana's La Corona Factory. However, the Regional Edition Belicoso Royals were rolled in the Sanctí Spiritus factory outside the Cuban capital.
The brand was first initiated in the 1970s by France's then secretary of treasury Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. He felt that France needed an official cigar to complement the country's other lifestyle products such as Champagne and foie gras, so he challenged SEITA to come up with a signature smoke for France. Quai d'Orsay was the result. It's named after the wharf along the river Seine in Paris. Incidentally, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and SEITA headquarters were also located on this stretch of riverside real estate.
It should be noted that SEITA distributes only the Quai d'Orsay and José L. Piedra brands. All other Cuban cigars are channeled into France through Coprova S.A.S.
For a rating on the new Quai d'Orsay Belicoso Royal, see an upcoming issue of Cigar Insider.