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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Trinidad Vigía

The brand Trinidad (named after the southern Cuban city of La Santísima Trinidad), like Cohiba, was for a long time only available as a diplomatic gift from the Cuban government and both were produced at the world-famous, yet mysterious El Laguito cigar factory in Havana (which is still off limits to most visitors, with only Cohiba Behikes as well as diplomatic cigars currently produced there). However, whereas the Cohiba brand was launched in Madrid in 1982 and released to the world the following year to great acclaim, Trinidad was made commercially available only as late as 1998. By late 2004, demand outstripped production capacity at El Laguito which forced the brand to be made in Pinar del Río City, at the heart of the Vuelta Abajo. The decision at Habanos S.A. to discontinue both the relatively new Robusto T (50 x 4.9”) and the Robusto Extra (50 x 6.1”) vitolas baffled many in the premium tobacco industry in 2012, without either having reached a decade of production.

The following year, I was fortunate enough to be gifted a test-blend white numbered banded puro by a good friend, who told me that this Habano was going to be a new Trinidad cigar (of particularly stalwart build, if I may add). Accordingly, with a long-held attraction to try new cigar sizes or blends, especially those of a more rotund construction with their added depth of flavour and voluminous smoke, I secured the most favourable moment to taste what seemed to promise to be something to remember. Fortunately, I very much enjoyed the blend and this was confirmed having sampled another, this time an officially banded example several months later in Havana on New Year’s Eve 2013 and in great company. With my encouraging tasting notes scribed the following morning, it was something undoubtedly to look forward to, for what I knew to be customarily released at the end of the year of its debut at the Habanos Festival XVI 2014. My judgement was vindicated with many passionados having sampled a festival pre-release example and given favouring reviews.

With their official UK release delayed to mid-January 2015, I decided to revisit the satisfyingly wide Vigía (“watch” or “watch tower” in Spanish) and thus justly epitheted Habano, as an afternoon enjoyment upon its UK release. Offered in boxes of 12 (the only Cuban brand to do so as a dozen or for some other Trinidad vitolas, its twofold), they at first seem short, being the same length as the diminutive petit corona. Nonetheless, once in hand, the sheen of the colorado-maduro wrapper bathes you in a sense of serenity and assurance of what delights await.

Its milder medium-strength classification drove me to decide to distance myself from a digestif, and dive straight into the tasting after a satisfying afternoon lunch. Having not tasted Trinidad for a while, the cedared dry notes came flooding back along with a mighty initial rush of leather. The subsequent softer notes of the first third gave way to a youthful second stage with greater intensity and depth of woodiness and hints of spice on the retrohale with a somewhat dry finish. The final third and its growing earthiness were rather more intense from what I recalled and the balance was not quite there.

Nevertheless, with its excellent combustibility and the unmistakable class of tobacco shining through, this vitola would certainly be one to wait to mature into what should be a wonderful medium-strength Habano. The scarcity of stock within a few of weeks of their release (with more “coming at the end of February”) was somewhat surprising, but the consensus appears to be that they are worth tasting, even now. Admittedly, it is ever so tempting to investigate this premise of ageing forthwith considering I have one more example of the restricted white-banded test-blend Vigía in my humidor!

Tasting notes and details:

Trinidad Vigía

Factory NameTorres (totally new vitola)

Size54 x 4 3/8  (21.43 x 110)mm

Box code and dateSUE  OCT14

Wrapper – lovely colorado-maduro wrapper with some alluring sheen. One faintly protrusive vein visible.

Draw – good draw with a slight pull on it. Pre-light notes of cedar, touches of leather and a hint of grassiness.

First third – flavourful from the start. Its youth is evident as it packs a bit of an unexpected punch; unusual not only for its medium strength classification, but also the fact that heavy ring gauge cigars are usually mild at the very beginning. Thankfully this dissipates within a few puffs into a more mellowed, soft smoke with a bit of a dry, cedared finish.

Second third – the strength certainly develops and becomes bolder. A toasty, leathery and slight clove profile present on the retrohale. With lots of smoke, it becomes grassier showing its youth.

Last third – richer with more spice and peppery notes coming through along with ever-present trace of grassiness and earthiness. Balance not quite there yet, but nothing that a few years of aging cannot solve.

PairingSparkling mineral water – simple but effective for a medium-strength quality Habano.

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Cohiba Robusto Supremos Edición Limitada 2014

Luxury cigars and Cohiba are as synonymous as luxury cars and Rolls Royce in the minds of most cigar smokers, not just connoisseurs. As a brand, Cohiba understandably has its detractors for its premium price, but when you are enveloped in the voluminous smoke with complexity, balance and richness of flavours of one, you will thereafter understand why.

The Cohiba Robusto Supremos Edición Limitada 2014 is undoubtedly the most anticipated cigar of 2014, and having had the pleasure of sampling one, I can state the quality lives up to the hype. With a ring gauge of 58 (in 64ths of an inch), it is the thickest cigar ever made by the Cuban masters of totally handmade cigars and for good reason.

The robusto (at a comparatively meagre 50 ring gauge), has been a moderately recent vitola (length, thickness and shape) preference in the world of cigars, with its widespread commercial introduction and zenith in the 1980s and 1990s respectively. The added girth not only improves the draw of a cigar, but after a 52 gauge, allows far more premium long-filler tobacco to be expertly placed by the torcedor for the smoker to savour. The master blenders thus need to take extra care and attention with the blend of tobaccos to make sure the balance sits right with the added complexity.

Having sampled the Robusto Supremos with cask strength Blue Label (The Casks Edition travel retail exclusive) whisky, it was a perfect marriage of sweetness of the maduro wrapper, dark cocoa bean and spice to the succulent and taste bud tantalising Blue Label with its hint of peat more prevalent with the higher alcohol by volume of 55.8%. The hour and ten minutes of smoking pleasure hardly required any attention of relighting or rectifying any erratic burning of the flawless gloriously oily wrapper. In conclusion, this cigar is entirely befitting of not only its Cohiba cigar band, but also its special designation as an Edición Limitada. It will only improve with time and will surely one day be considered one of the chef-d’oeuvre of all Habanos.

Tasting notes and details:

Cohiba Robusto Supremos Edición Limitada 2014

Factory NameMagnificos (totally new vitola)

Size58 x 5.0”  (23.02 x 127)mm

Box code and datePMS  SEP14

Wrapper – beautiful maduro (as all Edición Limitadas have been since 2007) glistening and oily.

Draw – perfect, as it should be for 58 ring gauge.

First third – first few puffs are full of flavour. Cocoa and some spice but mellowing out.

Second third – very easy to draw thus bellows of creamy smoke. Some white pepper experienced on the long finish. Darker cocoa is present on the retrohale.

Last third – richer but balance incredibly still held for such a young cigar. Spicier elements are more prevalent and even with just an inch left, this great cigar is still smoking well. Solely for fear of burning my fingers must I conclude my degustation of a supremely delicious robusto befitting the appellation.

PairingJohnnie Walker Blue Label – The Casks Edition (travel retail exclusive) Scotch whisky – 55.8%. Great interaction between the two. Highly recommended pairing.

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