Bolivar looks back fondly on the past 12 months and the cigars that have stood out.
Cigars, I find, bring out the youngster in me. Not that I smoked when I was in short trousers alas, I wasn’t that precocious. If memory serves, my junior boarding house had a tuck room, but I’m pretty sure the lockers weren’t humidified. And I imagine the staff would have had something to say about me disappearing behind the bike sheds with a Montecristo A, a cigar-cutter and some extra-long matches.
No, what I mean is that they revive the wonderful capacity to form a crush on something, as happened recently when I rediscovered the Corona Especiale of Cohiba. If you read this column regularly, you’ll know that, from time to time, I predict a return to the slim cigar that was le dernier cri during the 1970s and 1980s, when, for a while, apart from the 52 ring-gauge Monte-cristo No 2 and the H. Upmann of the same name, the only other heavy-ring-gauge cigar of note was the Partagás Serie D No 4.
Nowadays, the opposite is true, and such is the stoutness of the modern cigar that even a Churchil once, an imposing chunk of tobacco seems a cigar of almost reed-like delicacy. Thus, with a ring-gauge of 38, the Corona Especiale could easily be overlooked and therein lies the joy of these sizes. They’re relatively unfashionable and sit around for a while ignored.
I’m a great fan of the Hoyo du Gourmet and this is in the same sort of league, but with little more strength to it. It’s not a cigar that I would recommend after the full Christmas lunch of goose, plum pudding, trifle, Christmas cake, Yule log, Stilton, dates, nuts and mince pies. Rather, it’s something that you might enjoy on a still winter’s morning in January or before retiring for a virtuously early night.
But variety, of course, is the spice of life. And when it comes to spice, Partagás comes to mind. It’s beena particularly good year for the company. I know that the truly epic Partagás Lusitania Gran Reserva was technically a 2013 cigar, but there were still some knocking around at the beginning of the year and it was the memory of those wonderfully nuanced two hours of Havana heaven that disposed me well towards the Paratagas Selección Privada an Edición Limitada released this year.
Whoever blended it did a terrific job. It captured the Partagás tang and, although the last one of the company’s double robustos I smoked was a touch underfilled, this is much better that than the opposite problem. And although not a mild cigar, the structure bodes well for its future ageing potential.
This wasn’t the only interesting Edición Limitada to turn up. As previously mentioned in these pages, the new Bolivar Super Corona also demonstrates ageing potential. I’m also looking forward to seeing how that UK regional edition, Por Larrañaga Sobresalientes, will shape up over time. It arrived in London in November and initial reports position it as a worthy successor to the various Por Larrañagas that have been made for our shores in recent years. Another intriguing newcomer was the 57/8in by 54 ring-gauge Hoyo de Monterrey San Juan. The first time I had it, I loved it approachable, yet with enough body to fill a late afternoon very comfortably.
However, on the next occasion, I found myself agreeing with a young friend of mine who felt it was a little ‘soft’. My instinct is that this is one for summer afternoons, after cold poached salmon and sauce verte.
I’m thinking of directing said friend with the hearty palate towards the new Nicaraguan cigars from Davidoff. I first had one of these in Basel this spring and was very impressed. Davidoff construction is, of course, unimpeachable. In 25 years, I can’t recall having had a cigar that hasn’t drawn perfectly nor presented itself to me with anything other than a flawless wrapper. And now, with the addition of the Nicaragua to the geographical palette, it offers a stronger, richer alternative to the Dominican blends.
However, the really great thing about less-than-predictable Cuban production is that you’re never really quite sure when the cigars are going to be arriving. There’s always something to look forward to you just never know quite what. At least the short days and long, cold, nights of January and February will be rendered a little less dismal by a few nice surprises, including an Upmann No 2 Reserva and a Cohiba limited-edition behemoth.
The latter, at 58 ring-gauge, may see me abandoning my relatively abstemious slim-cigar resolution earlier than intended. But, after all, aren’t resolutions meant to be broken?
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