I love "As," and I'm not talking ABCs. I'm talking about the massive cigars that take a long, long time to smoke.
In the world of Cuban cigars, where sizes are quite specific, the "A" is a gran corona, a cigar measuring 9 1/4 inches with a 47 ring gauge. In the non-Cuban cigar world, "As" can be a little longer, shorter or fatter. What they all share in common is considerable length with relatively slim girth; cigars the width of Churchills that are about two inches longer. They're built for the patient, and they can be absolutely delicious.
Fuente makes a great one in the Dominican Republic, part of its Fuente Fuente OpusX line. Padrón has a few, including one called the Magnum that's part of its core line and is a superb bargain, as well as being delicious. Alec Bradley makes a Honduran "A," the Alec Bradley Sanctum Double Gordo, which scored 89 points in a July 2015 Cigar Insider tasting.
From Cuba, there once were many, including the Montecristo "A," the Hoyo de Monterrey Particulares, the Romeo y Julieta Fabulosos and the Sancho Panza Sancho. Only the Montecristo remains as a regular-production size, but it's becoming harder and harder to find.
The Sancho, according to Min Ron Nee's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Cuban Cigars, is Cuba's oldest Gran Corona, launched nearly 100 years ago. I found myself with an old Sancho recently, which I gladly lit up for a rating in Connoisseur's Corner. I know "As" take a long time to smoke, so I thought it would be fun to take a few videos as I smoked to show you just how long it would last.
I went in expecting two hours of smoking time. I underestimated. After two hours of puffing, the cigar still had about a corona's worth left. (How did it score? You'll read all about it in the February edition of Connoisseur's Corner, on newsstands January 10.)
Lighting an "A" is a commitment, an analogy I made a long time ago when my wife was my girlfriend. It didn't go over well. (Me: I don't know, an "A" is too long a commitment right now. Her: Oh, that cigar is too much of a commitment? What about me?) Let's just say the discussion cost me some flowers.
When you are ready to commit to a nine-inch-long smoke, get ready to enjoy. Pick out your favorite chair in your smoking room or cigar lounge, have a good drink (with refills nearby) and a good book, great movie or big game on the television. Every so often, some genius programmer runs The Godfather Saga on cable, which is The Godfather and The Godfather Part II put together in chronological order, with cut footage added in. Takes hours and hours to watch. The "A" is perfect for that. Or the Super Bowl, which is coming up February 5. Light the cigar at kickoff and you'll have more left at halftime.
Choose you're "A" time wisely. And pick a good one. You'll be enjoying one of the cigar world's most intriguing and rewarding creations.