EDICION LIMITADA 2012 PARTAGÁS SERIE C No.3.

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A few days ago I met a few friends at the Vancouver Cigar Company, set up a few tables, lit a few cigars and played some cards.  After standing in front of the new humidors for what felt like an eternity, I opted for the Partagas Serie C No. 3.  It was the first time I lit one of these up and wasn’t sure what to expect.  There are many Partagas cigars from Cuba with different sizes and shapes, from the full flavored Serie D No. 4 down to the slightly milder Serie P No. 2, a wonderful torpedo with a strong following.  I’m a big fan of the recent Limitadas from Partagas, their Serie D No 5 released in 2008 was, and still is, an incredibly rich, full flavored petite Robusto.  The Partagas Serie D Especial Edicion Limitada 2010 is now performing at a peak with nicely aged, three year old cigars.  With all of these Partagas Special Edition cigars doing so well, I had no reservations when reaching for the Serie C No. 3.

Since smoking this cigar, I’ve gone online and checked out a few reviews and noticed that there are mixed descriptions of this Edicion Limitada’s strength.  Some consider it to be a real powerhouse yet, and maybe this was just because of a certain box we were smoking from,  but my friends that night all were in agreement that this was a medium strength cigar.  Easy to smoke, was what I kept hearing and, I have to agree, that this cigar started it’s first third being slightly on the milder side of medium.  Right away I detected notes of hay, leather, cedar and black coffee, this was a very nice Partagas, easily keeping up with the Special Editions from recent years.  The favors intensified into the second third and became very delicious but still that easy approach appeared with every puff, it was also behaving very nicely with a steady even burn.

What struck me about the Serie C No. 3 is how good the cigar is today, it has only had a year to age but has become a cigar you can smoke and offer friends right now.  No doubt this will become a great cigar in 5 years time as well, but it is refreshing to taste something this good this young.   Cuba has recognized the enthusiasm that follows the marketing of these Special Editions and certainly put in the time and effort to produce cigars of extraordinary quality.  Its always exciting to try these double banded cigars each year as they are released.

2010 Gordito de Allones-Edicion Regionale

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The last cigar I’ll talk about from our road trip a few days back is the Canadian release for 2010, the Ramon Allones-gorditos de Allones.  I have to admit that it was quite a day for trying different cigars, an extravagant experience indeed.  This Edicion Reginale was purchased the same day a year ago along with the Bolivar B2 and they had a year to age in my humidor, giving them the time needed to give off the ammonia that alters the taste of a young cigar.  In the case of this cigar, I was very happy I waited as long as I did.  That being said, I find that Ramon Allones is a Cuban brand that I can smoke quite happily when they are young, but aging a cigar always helps.

I found the construction of this Robusto Extra to be perfect, with a smooth dark caramel wrapper, slightly spongy feel from head to foot and no hard spots or lumps which would harm the draw.  This cigar’s draw was, in my opinion, perfect since I really love a bit of a wind tunnel.  Pre-light draw only revealed subtle barnyard notes, somewhat grassy and mild, but upon lighting, the first few puffs were spicy and revealed the unmistakable Ramon Allones flavor I love.  The first third was very similar in taste to the “Specially Selected”, with it’s dark chocolate and sweet spice, but maybe had a bit more power.  The burn was perfect going into the second third, the darkish ash held firmly and, as a cigar usually behaves, this cigar was starting to build in strength and flavors were starting to evolve.  The sweetness of the cigar stayed throughout, as did the flavors of dark chocolate and herbs, but the cigar never became bitter.  As we smoked this cigar, we were quite amazed with it’s construction, great burn, easy draw and full flavor.

Anyone who loves the Ramon Allones brand and who have smoked this cigar would easily be able to see that the best of all worlds were represented in this Robusto Extra.  When you smoke a more rare cigar, there’s always a feeling of exclusivity in knowing that not all cigar smokers world wide are tasting, or will ever be tasting, what you have in your hand. In this case only 2.500 boxes of 10 cigars were produced for this Edicion Regionale, making it a small number of 25,000.

Something that leaves me scratching my head is the fact that the Robusto Extra at 5 3/5 inches long and with a 50 ring gauge is a size that is used rarely in Cuban cigars.  The Trinidad Robusto Extra and the San Cristobal de la Habana La Fuerza are the only Cuban cigars in regular production that comes in this size which leaves me asking why so few?  The robusto is a size that is very popular with cigar smokers and these two are roughly half an inch longer, giving you probably 8 to 10 more minutes minutes of smoking time.  But………………… Havana, through the years, has produced a number of cigars in this size for regional editions and limited editions, making this the size for a special occasion. I guess I can get used to that.

Juan Lopez-Edicion Regionale-Asia Pacifico 2010

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Juan Lopez started this brand in the 1870’s and although not a lot of cigar smokers know great amounts about these cigars, true followers of the Lopez brand gravitate towards the vitolas as a go-to cigar when they want rich and powerful taste from the tobacco used from the Vuelta Abajo region of Cuba.  These are a very consistent cigar made from long filler and totally hand made.  Last year Juan Lopez released a Piramides to the Asia Pacifico region and this torpedo was met with enthusiasm from lovers of this size cigar with the dimensions being a 52 ring gauge and 6 1/8 inch in length.

This cigar felt slightly spongy from head to foot with no hard spots or lumps to deter from a good draw and after the head was clipped, a very slight amount of resistance revealed that this would be a cigar that would be easy to smoke.  The pre-light draw revealed slight amounts of musky earth and a grassy herbal taste that I love.  This is a very exciting moment for any cigar smoker, the moment when you are given a subtle preview of the cigar’s character which leaves you wondering what the future will bring.

First few puffs were, as usual with almost every Cuban cigar, a bit tart with pepper coming through as the main contributor to the flavor.  Not unlike the Juan Lopez Seleccion No. 2, this torpedo let me know that I was in for a wild ride of flavors and strength unsuited for the faint of heart.  I’m not saying that this cigar had power that almost any cigar smoker would have a problem with, I’m only telling you that this was a full flavored, in your face reminder that smoking a cigar slowly will coax the very best out of the tobacco.

Entering into the second third, I was reminded that Cuba must pay a lot of attention to the construction of these Limited and Regional releases, since the construction of of what I was smoking was perfect in every way.  An even burn and great draw that gave me clouds of billowing smoke, was so enjoyable to experience especially since this cigar needed no touch-ups whatsoever from start to finish.  Pepper, cedar and a very strong espresso stayed with me as I approached the moment when I set the nub down to rest, not a cigar who’s flavors vary greatly but one which built in strength without ever being bitter or harsh.

As I smoked this wonderful No 2, I kept thinking about how lucky I am to be living in a country where these hard to get cigars are available.  “The Vancouver Cigar Company”, founded and ran by very experienced smokers and lovers of Cuban tobacco, help me immensely with all I need whenever I’m looking for a Cuban cigar that is a bit tough to find.

Bolivar B2 On The Road

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A few days back as my friend, Tom, and I were driving back from Alberta, we decided to smoke a few cigars together and our first choice for the day was the 2010 Canadian Edicion Regionale from Bolivar, the B2.  I bought a few last fall and smoked one right away, then let the rest age for a while in the humidor.  What a great idea that was, a year can make a huge difference for a young cigar and this one turned into a wonderful smoke.

The pre-light draw from this 6 inch, 52 ring gauge torpedo was a full on barn yard with cedar notes and dry hay.  I remember growing up on a farm and the taste reminded me of what it smelled like whenever hay bales were around, usually the end of July was when the baling took place.  First third was like heaven with more hay, cedar and leather coming through in a very balanced way.

As this cigar entered into the second third, we detected that there wasn’t a real evolution of flavors taking place but a real beauty that held firmly until the final third started revealing some change.  Bitter chocolate was now becoming part of the profile which became considerably stronger as we finished this cigar.  Strength was something that we were commenting on as we smoked this Piramides, I love a very strong cigar, I love smoking them to the very last finger blistering half inch and I was in Heaven with the B2.

I can’t stress enough that you can have a cigar behave one way when young and then move into a very different direction after a lot of the initial presence of ammonia is gone.  Very real and distinct flavors start to emerge as the cigar slowly ferments in your humidor, the first few years see the most change then start to slow down after five years goes by.  The B2 may be one of the best cigars Bolivar has produced, don’t get me wrong, I love all of the cigars in the Bolivar line but this one is the best I’ve seen from them in a long time.

Ramon Allones Celestiales Finos…2009 Edicion Regionale Asia Pacifico

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One Cuban brand that uses the figurado shape with all of their regular production cigars is Cuaba. A figurado is an irregularly shaped cigar that is more difficult to roll and preferred by some smokers but the one pictured above is a perfecto from Ramon Allones.  This 2009 Edicion Regionale, exclusive to the Asian Pacific region, was initially met with mixed reviews but two years later, aging in the humidor, and we have a cigar who’s time has come.

Initially, this cigar was a bit of a powerhouse with strength and nicotine that had some smokers reeling but all this cigar needed, like many young Cubans, was a bit of time to settle down.  I, for one, have a difficult time letting my cigars age and feel that they’re burning a hole in my humidor.  I open the lid of a humidor, smell the aromas that come wafting out and marvel at the wrappers, bands and colors of the cigars that seem to beg to be lit.  I think the keys to letting a cigar age is to have MANY cigars to choose from, limit the number that you smoke monthly and keep replenishing your supply.

Ramon Allones is a Cuban brand, whose very distinct flavor profile is nutty and a bit herbal, but last night I noticed there were more notes of leather and pepper in this cigar as I paired it with a straight dark rum.  Smooth and with medium strength, this cigar showed that age was what was needed in order to mellow out the slight harshness it originally exhibited 2 years back.  I had no draw issues, which amazed me when you look at this shape, and the burn was even to the end.

As years go by I smoke more and more cigars with a larger circumference but this 46 ring gauge, 5 1/2 inch figurado was very pleasant and truly enjoyable.  Once again, I feel that a few years aging can change a cigar’s hot tempered personality into a calm and agreeable smoking experience.

Special EL and ER Cuban Cigars

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On a daily basis I go to my humidors and decide which fatted calf will be going on the altar but I usually tell myself that only a very special occasion is reserved for either a Limited Edition or a regional edition. And why wouldn’t I ? The beautiful Phonecios from Ramon Allones that came out in 2008 and was only available from the Beirut duty free is a birthday cigar.. I still have a few months to wait before I light that one again.. Christmas day is when I light up the 2006 Piramides from Cohiba and the others??? Well, we’ll just have to wait until that special day presents itself.. Maybe the birth of a family member’s baby or when the Canucks win the Stanley Cup in a few weeks time.. That’ll have to be a Canadian regional edition.

These cigars that Cuba produces are usually rolled from the finest tobaccos that are available and something tells me that extra care is used when rolling these beauties. I’ve smoked hundreds of Cubans and have run into many different favorable and unfavorable production standards but have never found anything with these double bands that have ever given me either a draw or burn issue.. Have I been lucky?? Maybe..

One thing to consider is that these tend to be a bit more costly but not to a very extreme degree when you consider what you are getting for your money. Its usually the best rollers that are chosen to roll these cigars and because of the pride taken when Cuban factories put these out, the quality speaks for itself.

If you’ve ever purchased art to adorn your walls you’ll appreciate what Cuban cigars, such as these, do for the ego of the collector… I think that it takes a special kind of passionate smoker to understand what a rare cigar these are and these individuals who love great Scotch, Port or old cars usually have no problem paying for and aging them until their time finally arrives.

No, today isn’t going to be a day when I light up one of mine…. It is grey and cloudy, the Stanley Cup finals aren’t here yet and one of my Ramon Allones Specially Selected will do just fine to pass away the next few hours.

Ramon Allones Gordito ..Canadian RE 2010

This year Havana House has delivered on their promise to provide the Canadian Aficionado with 2 new Regional Editions, the Bolivar B2 and the Ramon Allones Gordito.  It was nice to see two hefty cigars come into our Canadian cigar stores, the B2 being a 6.1 inch 52 ring gauge Piramides and the Ramon Allones Gordito ( pictured above ) is a 50 ring gauge, 5.5 inch long Gordito.

When you compare the Gordito with the, very popular, Ramon  Allones Specially Selected you are getting the same ring gauge and just under an inch of extra smoking time.  For a slow smoker that can be a somewhat considerable bonus.  I purchased a few of these cigars in the early autumn, by Vancouver standards, and I feel that letting this cigar rest for a short while longer would probably give me a lot more smoking pleasure by the time I light it up.

From what I’ve learned so far, cigars when young, change in flavor quite dramatically with every few months that go by in their first year of life.. Let a cigar rest in your humidor for 3 years and a few more months won’t really be that much different in taste.  At that point, increments of 6 months are probably required to reveal the changes we taste in their flavor profile as they continue to ferment and age.

I don’t think that this one in the picture will make it through the Christmas season…… I’ll let you know how the story ends !

2010 ER Juan Lopez Seleccion No 4

Because I haven’t smoked this cigar yet, I’m not really sure I can call this a cigar review…. Maybe more of a show and tell…. Well…… Bring and brag might be more suitable..The big problem I have is one of lack of patience regarding my need to let this cigar age versus my need to smoke it right away.  The last Juan Lopez ER I smoked was back in 2008, the 2006 Juan Lopez Obus ER from France.  That was a Piramides I picked up from Trevor at “The Vancouver Cigar Company” and after 2 years of aging, was a very special cigar indeed.

This 6.1 inch, 52 ring gauge torpedo looks and feels like the French cousin and I have to admit, I’m going to have a tough time holding on to it for a while.  I guess I could always smoke it, then go pick up a few more and let them sleep.

The Juan Lopez brand was started in Cuba in 1876 by Juan Lopez Diaz, using tobacco from the Vuelta Abajo.  Special care is used in their construction and their medium to strong flavors are complex with subtle notes of beans, woods and leather.  People who smoke these are usually very devoted to the brand and some smoke Juan Lopez cigars exclusively.

A big favorite of mine is the Juan Lopez Seleccion No 2, a Robusto that has a pleasant “Old School” Havana taste that reminds me of sitting in Havana taverns with Salsa music played by a lively band.

Bolivar B2- Bravo

Havana House has again delivered to Canadians a fine Regional Edition, the Bolivar B2.  This pyramid ( My favorite shape ) has received a lot of hype and after sitting in my humidor for a few months I finally broke down last night and tried one.  I was not disappointed in any shape, way or form with the taste, construction or how it compared with Regional Editions we’ve seen from Bolivar in the last few years.  Anyone familiar with the Bolivar Simones we saw a few years back will remember the quality they put into that Edition and this year’s contribution left a better impression by leaps and bounds.

I have to say that Bolivar is a brand that is always in my humidor. The Royal Coronas and Belicosos Finos are very consistent but if the B2 was produced annually I believe that I’d have to introduce another humidor staple.  This 6.1 inch 52 ring gauge pyramid once clipped offered only slight draw resistance so I felt I could expect an easy smoking experience.

The Bolivar brand has, what I consider, to be one of the most earthy flavor profiles but maybe because this was a young cigar, I was initially hit with more espresso in the first third than usual.  I kept thinking of a smoother version of the Belicosos Finos and the fact that this is a bigger cigar led me to remember all of the larger ring gauge cigars I’ve smoked in the past and that they were so much more pleasant than their smaller cousins.

The earthy profile, like I usually see in the Royal Coronas presented itself from time to time during the continuation into the second third.  Coffee was still present but slight milk chocolate appeared from time to time as did slight notes of vanilla which told me that this was a balanced cigar for it’s youth.  As I finished this Regional Edition I found myself tasting a slightly milder cigar than I had originally expected but the fullness of taste left me feeling totally satisfied.

3 BIG Favorites

Anyone reading this blog and following it for the last few months will probably know of my passion for the 3 Cuban Cigars in the Picture.  I’ve written about them before and have described my love for these 3 and for all of the various reasons.

The first cigar on the left is the H. Upmann Magnum 48.  This limited edition cigar came out last year and I believe that by contacting Trevor at “The Vancouver Cigar Company”, you can still probably get a box of these at a reasonable price.  At 4.3 inches long and a ring gauge of 48, you’ll get a flavors of all of the beans, including vanilla, chocolate and loads of coffee.  This was a BIG seller last year and anyone lucky enough to get their hands on a few more of these will have treasure in their humidors as long as they can hold on to them without smoking them… But, hey, what’s the point?? We’re on earth to enjoy them, aren’t we?

The second heavy hitter is the Trinidad Robusto Extra.  The biggest cigar of the three comes in at a generous 6.1 inches and a 50 ring gauge and delivers all of the finest Trinidad flavor that has ever left the rolling rooms at El Laguito.  Remember, Trinidad cigars were handed out as diplomatic gifts, like their older cousins Cohiba.  A wonderful quality with perfect construction and even burn and well worth every penny you spend on them.

Also sitting in the picture with a 50 ring gauge and 4.8 inches of Cuban beauty is the Bolivar Royal Coronas.  This Robusto is one of the cigars that many older experienced Aficionados reach for when picking a cigar to compliment a heavy meal with earthy and complex flavors that are very very consistent from cigar to cigar.  These are very well priced for what you are getting and, for that very reason, many smokers ALWAYS have these on hand for either special occasions or a beautiful evening smoke.

Choosing either one of these great great cigars will remind you as to why we are so passionate about Cuban cigars in the first place.