Cigar Aficionado

The Biggest Humidor in the World

I visited the Partagas factory in full sunshine. My Cuban friends were telling me that they could feel autumn in the air. It made me laugh to myself—I have never been so sweaty on an autumn’s day.

It was pretty hot and sticky in the rolling room of the Partagas factory in downtown Havana. About 300 rollers were busy handcrafting a range of cigars. I saw mostly large ring gauge, small length cigars being rolled. In fact, I asked if anyone was making double coronas and they said no. Most of the cigars were Regional Editions for the Middle East and Cohiba Maduros. The one Regional Edition that looked pretty amazing was a Bolivar Sublimes, which I believe is going to be sold in Lebanon.

Wow. It’s all changed. I remember the first time I visited the Partagas factory way back in September 1991, and most of the cigars being rolled were coronas and petit coronas. I still can’t get over how the French’s favorite Cuban smoke now is the Partagas Serie D No. 4. So much for the boring Montecristro No. 4 that used to reign in Paris.

Long live the Robusto! Long live regional editions! Long live Cohiba Maduros!

Nothing has changed though with the quality of rolling at Partagas. It still looks very, very good. It’s a pleasure to stand in the rolling room and watch people do their work. It makes you understand why we enjoy a fine handmade cigar. It’s all so artisan. In this age of high speed Internet and ultra-high tech, there’s something very calming watching a roller do his or her work.

I was given a Bolivar Royal Corona at the factory when we left the rolling room and entered the color sorting area. I wasn’t sure whether I should eat it or smoke it. It looked so good with its darkish wrapper. And it smelled rich and decadent – what I sometimes call the Partagas stink. (The factory controls the production of Bolivar.) The cigar smoked like a dream. It was rich and super flavorful with lots of tobacco, earth and even hints of cheese on the palate. 92 points. No wonder we at Cigar Aficionado awarded it Cigar of the Year last year.

The Cubans seem sort of surprised that we gave so a high accolade to the smoke. “When people think of our best Robusto, they normally think of Cohiba or Partagas or even Ramon Allones,” said one person at the factory.

“El Bolivar Royal Corona es la bomba,” I told her. She didn’t look that convinced. May be it was my bad Spanish. Lost in the translation as usual.

I visited the color sorting room with quality control expert Deborah Garcia. She has been at the Partagas factory for almost as long as I can remember. And she knows her stuff.

“How do you like the Bolivar?” she asked.

“It’s rich and powerful but flavorful,” I said. “It not strong though. It delivers masses of flavor.”

A worker sorts Cohiba Maduro 5s.She said that the humidity in the air at the moment made it a little hard to smoke cigars. “There’s too much humidity in Havana at the moment, so the cigars don’t draw perfectly,” she said. It’s cool to think that Havana is like one big humidor. And you don’t have to worry keeping the water level right in the damned thing!

I couldn’t believe all the maduro Cohibas on the coloring sorting tables. There were eight or so tables and they were all filled with maduro Cohibas. It was like I was in a chocolate factory more than a cigar factory with all the dark brown colors on the table! The dark wrapper has five years of age and it comes from the top of the plant. I like the cigars very much. I asked a number of people in the Cuban cigar industry if they planned to come out with other maduros in the future. They wouldn’t be drawn and said that they had to focus their energies on Cohiba Maduro 5 for now.

I continued to smoke my Bolivar Royal Corona and simply nodded my head in agreement…. Often saying less is more in Havana.

"Can't wait to Cuba visit !! the maduro's on the color table look so great, thanx James. " —November 28, 2008 14:21 PM
"I visited the Partagas factory a few years ago, its awesome, I really enjoyed that visit (cost me $20), at the end you can buy cigars in the store, and the store have pictures for the VIPs customers..... " —September 28, 2007 19:38 PM
"Suckling's job does NOT suck." —September 28, 2007 18:01 PM
"The picture of the stacks of maduros is amazing. Thanks for the report and all you needed was a nice glass of red to go with that stick." —September 28, 2007 14:55 PM
"You lucky SOB... You have the best job in the world! I am jealous!" —September 27, 2007 19:28 PM