The cigars that we loved and lost

Bolivar reminisces over some of his all-time favourite cigars that have been inexplicably discontinued by their makers

One of the cherished pastimes of the seasoned cigar smoker is to reminisce about the great cigars discontinued by Habanos SA. If God moves in mysterious ways, then, sometimes, the Cuban cigar industry is positively opaque.

Among its more quixotic actions was the discontinuation of the Flor de Cano Short Churchill, which became extinct in the early 1990s. Even though that was about 25 years ago – and I challenge anyone who didn’t make detailed notes at the time to remember what it tasted like – it remains the most mourned casualty of the periodic readjustment of brand line-ups (outside of such classics as Cuban Davidoffs and Cuban Dunhills). However, it now has a serious rival.

The Trinidad Robusto Extra made its debut in 2003 and soon became one of my favourites. At a little over 6in long, with a ring gauge of 50, it was a fascinating interpretation of a mellow blend that had, for years, only been available in a long, thin cigar the same size as the Cohiba Lanceros.

Trinidad was ‘discovered’ in 1992, when the magazine Cigar Aficionado toured El Laguito, the home factory of Cohiba, and came across a hitherto unknown cigar.

“I remember one cigar lover telling me it was so good that when it started to singe his finger, he wanted to eat the rest”

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Initially intended only as a diplomatic gift and unavailable on the market, Trinidad became the ‘It’ cigar of the mid 1990s. As well as giving the bragging rights and prestige of enjoying a cigar that others couldn’t find, the medium- strength, aromatic blend, with its notes of cedar and vanilla, was popular at a time when palates were more appreciative of delicacy and subtlety. Some of the newer generation of cigars like to treat the palate as a place for a display of raw, youthful power, much as a graffiti artist sees the side of a building as an invitation to get out his spray cans.

Towards the end of the 1990s, the Trinidad Fundadores made its appearance on the market. The original, diplomatic 38-ring gauge was widened to a 40, but, otherwise, all was pretty much the same. According to Edward Sahakian of Davidoff on St James’s Street, London SW1, these cigars with the gold band – greenish with age, by now – are among the most sought-after of cigars. They’re most desirable in boxes of 50, in case you were wondering.

Trinidad cigars

Such was its success that the Trinidad became more than a cigar: it expanded into a brand and, in about 2003–2004, the Fundadores was joined by the Reyes – a handy, 15-minute petit corona – the Coloniales a Corona, the Robusto Extra and Robusto T. There was something about the 50-ring-gauge format of the latter pair that suited the creamy vanilla-and-caramel character of the blend. I remember one cigar lover telling me it was so good that, when he had smoked it until he started to singe his fingers and could enjoy it no more, he wanted to eat the rest.

Rather fittingly, I had my first Robusto Extra at El Laguito and it immediately joined my pantheon of approachable but interesting cigars, which includes the Cohiba Siglo IV and the San Cristobal La Fuerza. What’s more, if the cigar in my humidor was anything to judge by, it has aged beautifully, which makes its discontinuation even more of a cause for much weeping, wailing, rending of garments and gnashing of teeth.

Of course, the withdrawal of what had become the two most popular Trinidads got the cigar Kremlinologists thinking that the demise of Trinidad itself wasn’t far off. However, Havana likes to keep cigar lovers on their toes and, a couple of years ago, the Vigia – a plumper, shorter robusto – landed on and immediately flew off the shelves.

Demand was such that, for a year or so, they were hard to get hold of, but, now, supply seems to be sorted out and the cigar has proved itself, if not exceptional, then certainly a worthy successor to the Robustos Extra and T. Whether it has the same surprisingly good potential for ageing as its predecessors remains to be seen.

Most recently, at the end of last year, the Trinidad Topes arrived. This is a cigar in the fashionable, sawn-off heavy-ring-gauge mode and, as a limited edition of 2016, it arrived late in the year – but even so, to judge from the one I had recently, it was released on the early side. Unless you like a fairly raw cigar – or have just eaten a heavily seasoned curry – I would tend to leave this for a while.

It’s always hard to compare limited editions with the regular line-up of a brand and, often, as in this case, the character is very different from the normally docile Trinidad. From what I could tell, it has the structure for ageing.

However, in a way, questions about its maturation potential and its similarity or otherwise to the core range are beside the point. The arrival of a limited-edition Trinidad shows, at the very least, that the brand may be in for a revival.