The New Cohiba
If there was any doubt about the fat cigar trend spreading around the world, it was erased last night here in Havana at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. Around 10 p.m., as the band played and the waiters poured a bit more of the 2010 Chateau d'Esclans, a troupe of gorgeous models bearing wooden trays emerged from the back, handing each seated guest a fat, dark cigar the size of a roll of quarters.
It was the Cohiba Robusto Supremos Edición Limitada 2014, and it was a historic smoke. It's a bit over five inches long, but that's not the important part. The smoke has a ring gauge of 58, making it the thickest cigar created by the Cubans in modern memory.
The cigar was the final smoke passed out at the Trinidad dinner, which also saw the release of the fat Trinidad Vigia, which has a ring gauge of 54. Both are expected to debut later in the year, so it's hard to fairly judge the samples we were given last night, but I tried each one to give some perspective on how they might smoke when they reach the retail chain.
First, the Trinidad. It was a beautifully made smoke, with an oily, nearly flawless wrapper and that familiar Trinidad pigtail. Some of us were a bit confused by the focus on Trinidad, a brand that's not exactly in the mainstream here in Cuba. On my shop visits, I saw few for sale, and the brand has been pared down in recent years. But where Trinidads have been traditionally slim (after all, the first size in the line was a lancero) the Vigia is more in line with the type of cigars preferred by many of today's cigar lovers—quite plump. I smoked two last night, one during the dinner, and the second back at the hotel over a drink in the lobby. It was evident the cigar was quite young, and it seemed to have been rolled very recently, with a rather waxy taste. I think it was just too young to judge. I would bet the final product will be quite different.
I held off on the Cohiba until breakfast, and lit it up in the Meliá Cohiba Hotel over a cup of strong coffee. This cigar was different, with a bold, spicy kick from the very first puff. The Cohiba Robusto Supremos is a young cigar, too, but it's full of strong flavor. There are big notes of wet leather, roasted nuts, some sweet chocolate and a red pepper zing as you nose the smoke. The finish is a bit short, and there are some muddled notes on the palate from the youth of the cigar. I have great promise for this cigar, and suspect that it might turn into something quite nice with patience and age.
But it makes me wonder. Yesterday I puffed on 1991 Partagás Lusitanias with Ajay Patel of the La Casa del Habano in the United Kingdom. (You'll read more about that cigar in the pages of Cigar Aficionado.) Twenty years ago, this was one of the fattest cigars you could buy (aside from a figurado) made in Cuba. It has a ring gauge of 49. Compared to the fat, new Cohiba, it seems downright slim. While these fat, new cigars can have some great flavors, I miss the style and smokeability of the classic sizes.
In a story I wrote for Cigar Aficionado not long ago, I spoke about this fat cigar trend and it's move to Cuba. I said the first 60 ring gauge Cuban cigar might not be far away. We are closer today with this 58. Next year? Who knows.