If I were to say "classic Cuban Churchill" what would you think of? Romeo y Julieta Churchill? Cohiba Esplendido? Probably. These have been the benchmark Cuban Churchills for quite some time. Now if I were to say "Bolivar" what would you think of? The Royal Corona or the Belicoso. Maybe even the Coronas Junior. In either case, you've most likely forgotten all about the Bolivar Corona Gigante. Bolivar is a small brand and the Corona Gigante is part of the dying Churchill format. Because of this, it's often overlooked, but it can also be an absolutely splendid cigar.
The Bolivar Corona Gigante just scored 93 points in our blind tasting of Churchills. You can find the score and tasting note in the new August issue of Cigar Aficionado. And last year, when we rated the same cigar in the June 2015 issue, it turned in the same performance—93 points. Compare the Bolivar to the Cohiba Esplendido, which scored 92 points in the June issue. Sure, it's only a one-point difference, but the Cohiba is considerably more expensive. And the Romeo y Julieta? It didn't even crack the 90s the last time we rated it.
The Romeo Churchills come in glossy tubo three-packs as well as 10-count boxes, and traditional 25-count boxes too. All these packaging formats help to ensure that the Romeo y Julieta Churchills are everywhere.
As for Cohiba—well, it doesn't really matter what kind of packaging a Cohiba comes in. It's Cohiba, so it could come in 3-packs, 10-packs, 57-count boxes, people will buy them. It's the Bolivar I'm really worried about.
Think I'm a fear-mongering cigar alarmist? Consider this: In 2006, there were 13 different Churchills produced in almost every brand—everything from a Punch, Hoyo de Monterrey and El Rey del Mundo, to Saint Luis Rey, Partagás and Quai D'Orsay. Since then, Habanos S.A has committed massive vitolacide to the Churchill category, leaving only a handful of these classic cigars to choose from. I know that by saying "vitolacide" I make Habanos out to be the bad guy, when really, they'd still be producing them if people were still buying them. But they're not. And why would any company continue to produce something that nobody buys?
The last Churchill to get axed was the Quai D'Orsay Imperiales in late 2014. I recall hearing rumors about it but didn't want to believe them. Eventually, I was told the bad news by a rep from SEITA, the French importer of Quai D'Orsay cigars. The word he used was "delisted."
I'm not here to point fingers. Here are my larger points: The Bolivar Corona Gigantes rolled in 2015 are tasty and bold. They're less expensive than the other Churchills. And they've been outscoring the benchmark Churchills for a while now. Buy them before you can't anymore.