Old School Cuban Cigars

Today I’d like to go out on a limb and direct my attention to what I consider to be old school tasting Cuban cigars.  There are a lot of you who have been smoking for decades and will be able to remember fine fine moments you may have shared with a vintage pre-revolution Cuban and will be able to describe, down to the most subtle detail, how an old school Cuban cigar tastes.  What I want to throw into the ring is my opinion of what just a few of todays cigars coming out of Havana have to do with flavors of years gone by.

One example of an old school taste would probably come from H. Upmann’s Magnum 46.  I’m not sure why, but this cigar reminds me of the tastes and aroma’s I used to smell in my youth.  Uncles I had that were cigar smokers would sometimes let me taste their cigars which is a memory that comes back to me whenever I light up one of these corona gordas.  This cigar has light notes of coffee, leather and chocolate which stays pretty consistent throughout.

Another cigar that reminds me of flavors from a different era is the Juan Lopez seleccion No. 2.  This is a robusto that really took me back.  Cigar descriptions are sometimes difficult to nail down because your taste buds will behave differently on different days and we can’t forget that different people will detect different notes…… But….. I’m sure you’d agree that this medium robusto has a classic taste and feel..

Out of all of the cigars that come from Cuba there are many many that have the qualities I’m speaking about, but for now, I simply wanted to bring up a couple of examples..  Happy Smoking !!

Cigars And Olympic Celebration

Well it seems that there are some that feel that our gold medal winning Canadian women’s hockey team have stepped outside the boundaries of acceptable behavior when celebrating their win.  Beer and cigars were consumed on the ice after the arena had cleared and I, for one, don’t see any problem with that when you consider all of the scandalous behavior that has plagued the Olympics in past years.  NONE of these women have showed any signs of taking performance enhancing drugs.. These women have NOT boycotted any games or cheated or…….. Oh MAN, this is starting to make me crazy!!!!!!!!  THEY HAD A FEW BEERS AND CIGARS AFTER THE GAME AND A FEW PHOTOGRAPHERS SNAPPED A FEW PICS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If I would have been there I would have brought a loaded humidor and tossed Cuban Cigars on to the ice after their win…… I’m very proud of their victory and see NOTHING wrong with their behavior !!!!!  Bravo!!!!!!!!!!!

Specially Selected Flies

It isn’t even March yet and my friends and I are already booking our fishing trip to the north-central part of British Columbia to fish for giant rainbow trout.  Now when I say giant I’m saying that the biggest one we’ve caught was 16 lbs but that doesn’t happen every day.  We’ve all had days when we’ve been lucky enough to bring 10 lb. rainbows to the boat but even that is a bit rare.  What I’m saying is that they ARE there and we have the means and determination to stay out on a rainy and windy lake and keep fishing until it is too dark or too dangerous to continue.

Last year I brought a humidor loaded with a selection of Cubans and the Ramon Allones Specially Selected NEVER failed to bring a smile to my face.  In our younger years we used to fish in float tubes with a rod in each hand but as we get older I think we get softer and realize that beer and Scotch are an important part of any fisherman’s daily intake requirements.  Smoking cigars in a float tube was a bit of a chore, especially when you had to start correcting uneven burning cigars when a fish would take your fly.  Boats are simply easier and more efficient.

If you have any urge to follow our lead, try June.. Bring bug spray… Stay optimistic….. Don’t forget a camera…. Read up on fly-fishing in the Cariboo and be prepared for the time of your life!!!!!

The World’s Finest

I’m having a difficult time these days trying to decide which Cuban cigars are my favorites.. I did a top 10 some time back and I found that the Esplendidos and the Robusto from Cohiba were big favorites but I have to tell you that in the last few days I’ve been running into some of the best Hoyo Do Monterrey Epicure No. 2 cigars I’ve ever had.  The lads at The Vancouver Cigar Company have some beautiful No. 2’s right now and probably still have some from the same box I was lucky enough to pick a few from.

These cigars have been behaving like star students for me.  I’ve noticed that the ash is very white and the cigars have been burning very evenly, requiring no attention and touch-ups at all.  Something else I want to comment on is that The Vancouver Cigar Company keeps their cigars at a perfect humidity compared to a few of the other shops I’ve gotten cigars from.  They have very good quality humidors and have their product under vigilant care which means that by the time the cigars get into your hands, you should be noticing that, like the picture says, you’ll have the World’s Finest Cigars!

Cuban Cigars Close Call

Days after Castro got into power in Cuba he made a stunning statement that shocked tobacco officials and smokers all over the island.  His announcement was that after nationalizing the sugar and tobacco industries, that individual cigar brands were a thing of the past!  Names like La Corona, Henry Clay, Murias and Villar y Villar were gone forever.  If that wasn’t enough, he stated that the beautiful decorated boxes and bands that came with these Cuban National Treasures would also be eliminated.

When Batista was in power 960 types of cigars were manufactured but Castro wanted this to be cut back to, an unbelievable 4.

Then something amazing happened.  The new authorities backtracked on their decision with no explanation.  They gave 90% of the land to small farmers and kept only the largest plantations as state run tobacco industrial fields.  The fate of the Cuban cigar was then in question until Cuban officials consulted Zino Davidoff at his cigar shop in Geneva, asking him for his advice on the future of the industry.  He told them to continue producing cigars under the government run “Cubatabaco” company and over 300 types and sizes of cigars were re-established, including boxes and bands.

The Colors Of Cuban Cigar Wrappers

Today in Havana about 60 colors are concentrated on when using and working with wrappers, mainly between claros and maduros.  What I want to concentrate on today is to give examples of the PRINCIPAL colors used.  I’ll try to give a brief description of the colors and characteristics in the picture blow.

Clarissimo (green)..This color is often obtained by protecting the leaf from full sunlight. No real process maturing process is used when going after this one and the leaf is cut and removed from the plant while still immature.  After the cigars are rolled these wrappers are quite often brittle, mild in taste and can’t be kept and aged for any length of time.

Double Claro (claro claro)..Once again this wrapper leaf is removed from the plant before it is fully mature and wood fires are used in the drying process.

Claro..Still again these leaves are removed from the plant before fully mature and are quickly air dried.  Examples of brands who use these for wrappers can be Montecristo No. 4 or Quai d’Orsay.  The claros are usually used when rolling lighter flavored cigars.

Colorado claro.. These leaves, from the top of the plant, are allowed to mature longer than the above examples.  These slightly stronger colors are a slightly more full-bodied tobacco.

Colorado.. These are a more mid-brown and medium strength tobacco that go through more of a maturing process.  An example of these wrappers would be used when rolling cigars like a Montecristo No. 1.

Maduro colorado.. These leaves have been allowed to mature at more of an advanced stage and can be used when rolling stronger cigars like those from Partagas.

Maduro.. These leaves, from the top of the plant, have aged from absorbing a lot more sunlight.  More experienced smokers prefer wrappers like these that are aged as long as possible.  These are used in some churchill wrappers.  Romeo y Julieta cigars are very close to being maduro.

Oscuro, black or negro..  If there is any difficulty in some smokers’ preference, it could come from these wrappers.  These leaves have absorbed the most sunlight at the top of the plant and have the most strength.  Brazilian cigars often use these wrappers.

FOUR…. I Mean, FORE !!

Today was another warm and sunny day in the Pacific North-West where the 2010 Winter Olympic Gasmes were causing our city to explode with excitement, enthusiasm and pride as our Canadian athletes continue to make us very proud.  So far, the Canadians have won 4 gold medals, 3 silver and one bronze, making a total of 8….. So far…..I felt that the best thing I could contribute and do my part as a proactive Canadian would be to …. well…. go golfing!!!!

Today’s choice of cigars out on the links ended up being a Partagas Series D #4 kind of day.  I couldn’t help it.. The guys at The Vancouver Cigar Company have, what I consider to be, the perfect box of these impressive robustos and after stocking up a few days ago, I felt that this would be the day to smoke one in the great outdoors.  This particular box had beautifully rolled, slightly oily wrappers and burned so evenly that I came home with almost the same amount of butane I left home with.

Groundhog Day at R y J…..

Everyone in the work place, to a small agree, must have jobs that tend to get a bit mundane and familiar after a while and the need for time off, holidays or maybe even a change of professions keep one sane.  We cigar smokers love the fact that Cuba has been producing the finest tobacco products on the planet for … well.. centuries !  Consider, for the time being, the Briones Montoto factory on Calle O’Reilly in Havana.  Before 1959 it was called the Romeo y Julieta factory and since it has been built in the mid nineteenth century, nothing has changed ….. right down to the rolling tables, stairs, walls and well, none of it.  Over 100 years of day to day cigar production that have been identical from year to year… Now THAT’s “Groundhog Day”….

The Cuban “Torcedores” have been sitting at these tables

and rolling over 32,000 handmade cigars a day, totaling a staggering 10,000,000 each year and nothing has been altered in the process since day 1.  This is why we find the beauty and the consistency of Cuban cigars to be so intoxicating and why we’ll pay a premium price for them as long as they are rolled!

San Cristobal De La Habana….Muralla

Here is a 7 inch cigar with a 54 ring gauge that will deliver clouds of some of the most perfumed smoke you’ll ever find in a Cuban cigar.  This Rodolfo has been described in various ways depending on who you’re listening to.  Some would describe this as being a medium strength smoke but it took me a long time to find any strength at all.  The first thing I noticed after it burned for the first 15 minutes was the color of the ash..

This quality filler and wrapper were grown in the Vuelta Abajo region of Cuba and the soil must have been rich in Potassium to produce tobacco that burned this clean…  Very Impressive….  Anyone wishing to sample a mild cigar should try one of these well made torpedos..  The final third, in my opinion, was when the fun really started.  More creamy chocolate started to appear and this cigar really came alive.. As always I smoked this cigar to the nub and would recommend this to be the perfect morning cigar.

Olympic Gold And Cuban Cigars Bands

All of us at The Vancouver Cigar Company are proud of our Olympic athletes and are very excited about the medals they’ve won so far, 1 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze.  After looking around the ‘net at the different Olympic medals awarded through the years, I think that this year’s design is modern, sleek and very beautiful.

I would love to see our athletes step on to the podium many times before these games come to an end and hopefully they’ll be wearing gold as they step off.

What I find interesting about gold is the amount of it we see on Cuban cigar bands.  One of the more elegant bands on a Cuban cigar comes from Vegas Robaina.  The classic golden ” R ” stands out and identifies some of the highest quality Cuban cigars.

Another more complex but striking band is from Hoyo de Monterrey. This brand is a personal favorite and can be smoked early in the day or after a heavy meal.

I don’t think we could speak about gold or Cuban cigar bands without paying homage to the band that identifies the peak of Cuban perfection in cigar production, Cohiba.  The gold pops off the band and announces that a cigar rolled with the most care and highest quality tobacco has just entered the room.

The majority of Cuban cigar bands contain gold, in fact, very few of them are NOT adorned with that regal color..

And just as a footnote, wouldn’t you agree that this last band from San Cristobal De La Habana is also a real winner?