Connoisseur’s Corner: Pre-Castro Cubans Aged To Perfection
(From the December 2017 Cigar Aficionado) There was a time before Fidel Castro’s Revolution when Cuban brands were privately owned, giving each owner the freedom to produce bespoke cigars for certain institutions around the world as he saw fit. The H. Upmann Tivoli was one such custom cigar. Tivolis were imported by Saks Fifth Avenue Importation and sold at the legendary Saks Humidor in New York City. In 1957, these petit coronas retailed for $13.75 per box—or 55 cents each. Sixty years later, the H. Upmann Tivoli is not only still a great smoke, it’s a perfect one, scoring 100 points, and truly a credit to the way things were crafted in the old days. Editor and Publisher Marvin R. Shanken smoked one of the cigars with NBA legend Michael Jordan during their interview.
A small, pre-Castro Cuban that’s mellow, nostalgic and toasty. The cigar is on the light side, but remains full of flavor. The draw is perfect, and the smoke has a pleasant nutmeg character. A most memorable cigar. —Marvin R. Shanken
It takes only a few licks of flame to the foot of this old and glorious Cohiba Robusto for the cigar to come to life, blasting the palate with notes of dark chocolate and earth right from the first puff. The draw is nearly effortless, the burn just a touch uneven, burning with a dark gray ash. It has an earthy core, with lots of wood, some floral notes and a long finish. A knuckle burner. —David Savona
Vibrant from the first puff, this plump and oily Nicaraguan smoke comes with pedigree—it was named Cigar of the Year in 2008. Back then it scored 93 points, with notes of raisins and coffee. The raisin note remains, along with a quite powerful leather character and hints of crushed coffee beans. The cigar is aging well, and the considerable power that the smoke has retained shows that it’s likely to age for many more years to come. —David Savona
Off to a slightly rough start, dusty notes of bitter woods soon become warm and intense with ground clove, cinnamon and nutmeg all brought together by a refined sweetness profoundly redolent of Marsala wine. The smoke of this petit corona is dense and creamy, the burn couldn’t be more perfect. —Gregory Mottola
A once fairly powerful cigar that has mellowed into a delicate smoke. At first light, opening puffs are dry and woody, but the smoke has a lush density to it and the flavors become more vibrant with floral qualities and a faint gingersnap sweetness that lingers in the background as a subtle reminder of its former spice. —Gregory Mottola
These twisted, skinny cigars have slightly pointy tips. Despite the twists and turns, they draw and burn with perfection. Dry and somewhat flinty at first, they begin to take on a nutty flavor farther in, with a very light touch of honey on the finish, which is rather short. The cigar is mild, and tastes past its prime. A curiosity that’s not too complex, but still fun to smoke. —David Savona