Partagás Selección Privada Edición Limitada 2014

Purchasing Habanos has always been a joy for me and the quality of Cuban cigars in the UK market has generally marked them out as superior to other locales thanks to the internal self-imposed higher standards that Hunters & Frankau has set since appointment as sole distributor in 1990 for the UK, Ireland, Gibraltar and Channel Islands markets.

The release of the first batch of the Partagás Selección Privada Edición Limitada 2014 a few months ago were a literal reminder for consumers and retailers alike of this marked difference. A section of print that should have been “SELECCION PRIVADA” embossed and printed on what has been known as “Standard Band B” for the Partagás brand anilla since 2008 was missing entirely (as it is on the cigar I tasted). Some speculate that these complete boxes of ten that somehow only filtered into the UK market will be collectors’ items in the future. In my view, the only reason to purchase a cigar, box or boxes of them should be the present enjoyment of tasting them and the great pleasure to see how they may develop in five, ten years’ time or longer.

In that spirit, my interest was its taste, particularly in a pleasingly stout size of a double robusto vitola de galera or newly titled Magnum 50 (the first such appearance for the brand). I was certainly pleased to have decided to taste this hefty cigar postprandially, as its peppery aroma was only but a modicum of an indicator as to its strength. As an Edición Limitada, the tobacco enjoyed two years of ageing before having been rolled but its fortaleza is clearly evident from the beginning, with an earthy spiciness cutting through on the retrohale. Several puffs along and the youthful richness of the tobacco permeates the palate leaving a much longer lingering after-taste than that of an aged Partagás.

To my delight, the blend calmed in the second third and the remarkable balance of the blend shone through with subtler dark chocolate notes evident on the retrohale. The spice was still there and even included nuances of clove. The strength sharpened somewhat into the final third but the balance held on, even for a young cigar. It will certainly be one to watch in the future, as the strength (that usually should be present for ageing purposes) will surely develop and its maturity will be even more of a delight for the senses.

The superlatively saccharined and equally regally named single-origin Ximénez-Spínola Liqvor de Brandy Diez Mil Botellas proved a superb counterbalance to the Selección Privada. As the only producer to exclusively use dried Pedro Ximénez (“PX”) grapes and being aged for a minimum of 15 years in oak barrels in the solera system, only the finest average of the ‘heart’ of the distillate is used and its class was unmistakable from the very start. This particularly rare blend only has 10,000 bottles made annually, with each bottle individually numbered, hand-signed and beautifully embossed in both black and luxurious gold lettering on both front and back labels.

It was more than able to withstand the overbearing earthy, leathery tones and spice of the Habano. The sweetness which PX is renowned for was particularly refreshing for the palate and much sweeter yet refined, than any brandy I have come across. With time it continued to develop as Spanish fig and tannins distinguished themselves on the palate with its superbly long finish demanding yet one more delectation for the senses. And at half the price of an XO cognac even when shipped to the UK, it is undoubtedly one to savour.

Tasting notes and details:

Partagás Selección Privada Edición Limitada 2014

Factory NameMagnum 50

Size50 x 6.25”  (19.84 x 160)mm

Box code and dateAUM  JUL14

Wrapper – unequivocally maduro with a scintillating sheen and oiliness. Silky smooth with no blemishes or overtly protruding veins.

Draw – compact to the touch but good. Pre-light draw exudes spice, subtle earthiness with bitter cocoa.

First third – distinct peppery notes to begin on the retrohale. A leathery earthiness later dominates.

Second third – it calms down and the balance shows itself by introducing subtler dark chocolate notes on the retrohale.

Last third – the delicate flavours continue to trickle through with some clove spice and the balanced strength satisfyingly intensified.

PairingXiménez-Spínola Liqvor de Brandy Diez Mil Botellas (40%). With plum conserve, brandied cherries and a hint of dark cocoa beans of the nose, it is sure to be a sweet one. The palate does not disappoint with Spanish fig and tannins dominating. The finish is very long and refreshing for the palate, particularly with such a strong bodied cigar.

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Partagás D No.6

As a devotee of history, Cuban cigars and their chronicles do not disappoint. Flor de Tabacos de Partagás (its full name), has to be one of the most interesting of the Cuban cigar marques. Founded by the Catalan Don Jaime Partagás Ravelo in 1827, its success due in part to his ownership of many of the best vegas finas in the Vuelta Abajo region, culminated in the construction of its famous (and for the time, very large) factory in 1845 which still stands to this day behind the Capitol building in Havana. Don Jaime is accredited to be one of the earliest pioneers of innovation in cigar production, having explored the fermentation and ageing of the tobaccos rather than undiscerningly relying on customary techniques. Unfortunately for Don Jaime, his luck ran out in 1868 when he was shot and mortally wounded in one of his plantations for reasons that have never been clear; rumours the slaying being revenge for his extramarital amorous activities.

Production stopped inside the factory itself for long-due renovation to this iconic and arguably best known cigar factory in early-2012 and has not yet been completed. Notwithstanding, the Partagás Factory Casa del Habano store remains open and is certainly one of the best in Havana.

The publicity images of the Partagás Serie D No.6 during the Festival del Habano XVI in February 2014 did not in my view warrant interest befitting for the brand. At 90mm long, it looks akin to a cigar like a D No.4 (robusto, 124mm) that has been cut partly through smoking to finish later, (Cubans depreciatingly call this a “cabo de tabaco” – literally ‘stub of tobacco’). Surely, the D No.5 (petit robusto, 110mm), would be satisfying for a cigar lover yearning for a full flavoured, strong cigar that didn’t take more than 30 minutes to smoke? Furthermore, at £13.50 each for a D No.6 in the UK, a few pounds more for its aforementioned elder brother would make its market placing an unlikely commercial success.

Even so, I took the plunge and sampled one to decide for myself. For variation, I decided to enjoy the Habano with an afternoon Nespresso Arpeggio capsule which has the strength of a dark roast Arabica coffee to match the full-flavoured classification of the Partagás, whilst having a creamy texture to counteract the spiciness of the latter. With a hint of spice thinly veiled by an earthiness akin to a recently produced D No.4 robusto present on the pre-light draw, I knew there would be strength to this cigar and it didn’t disappoint.

The spice was certainly there, accompanied with an astringent woodiness at the back of the palate in the first few puffs. The Arpeggio espresso thankfully counteracts this well, with its intense body enhanced by cocoa notes. However, this does not suggest that any lower quality tripa larga tobacco has been used, if compared to the larger vitolas in the Partagás range; merely its expected youth is being conveyed.

With the first third of the cigar over whilst forming a consistent ash, the Arpeggio also happens to be finished. Therefore, I seize the opportunity to test the Decaffeinato version of the Arpeggio to verify its comparison to the original. The difference is noticeable, as is that of a non-alcoholic beer with its genuine kin, but it mercifully still measures up to the intensity of the Habano. The second third brings some more flavour but the earthiness of its youth still pervades. With only a couple of touch-ups and very good combustibility shown, the final third steps up the peppery character along with a particularly astringent woodiness and more black-pepper spice on the retrohale.

In summation, the quality of the tobacco was there, but with such little length to the cigar, the complexity was shackled to abort prematurely. This would not be an Habano of choice for me in the future, as I solely enjoy Partagás in the evening after a hearty dinner and would much prefer a vitola larger than even a robusto, with its added complexity. If I was constrained for time and the only full-flavoured cigar available was a D No.6, I would much prefer to practice patience until I could enjoy the full aromatic depth and unrestrained complexity of a bigger and preferably aged, alternative. Therefore, I suggest that only those passionados truly limited to 20-25 minutes of smoking time may enjoy this size with its voluminous smoke, along with the noble intention to avoid the waste of any precious Cuban tobacco.

Tasting notes and details:

Partagás D No.6

Factory NameNo.6 (totally new vitola)

Size50 x 3.5”  (19.84 x 90)mm

Box code and dateRAE  NOV14

Wrapper – Smooth, colorado capa with a glimpse of oiliness present.

Draw – compact to the touch (properly filled with tripa larga) but very good. Pre-light notes of some subtle spice and a hint of earthiness indicating its youth.

First third – Clearly a spicy Partagás blend with a hint more earthiness, like that of a young D Series vitola.

Second third – With more woodiness and earthy aromas, there is continuation of the strong flavour.

Last third – The astringent qualities pique and spice is even clearer on the retrohale. Complexity is clearly lacking.

PairingNespresso – Arpeggio capsule. With robust dark roast Arabica beans and creamy body, this pairs well as an espresso with the diminutive D No.6. The Decaffeinato version of the Arpeggio still works, but it does have a slightly more acidic finish compared to the original. Even so, it is a good replacement if there is concern for overindulging in caffeine.

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