Partagás de Luxe

…some sunshine, and another chance to finally review another cigar that is with me for quite some time, and thus had the chance to age properly.

Don Jaime Partagás y Ravelo, from Spain, started his own cigar factory named Partagás in 1845. Not much later he was murdered, over… a woman. You’ve guessed it. Partagás was also the first place to have the famous lector. A lector is the person who reads to the workers, from newspapers to good novels. Usually the workers themselves take turns in reading. Partagás is a very big and popular Cuban brand, know to be quite heavy, so not a brand you’ll start with when you are a novice. Note: The Partagás de Luxe was a machine-made cigar up to 2002. Now its a hand-made cigar.

Cuban Partágas de Luxe (40 x 140 mm, Crema, Corona, Box Code LWI SEP 05)

Color and Looks: Colorado, no big veins and rustic looking. The wrapper is ultra thin almost translucent (when warm) and fragile. The one I smoked had some frays at its foot, but it was the only one in the box, so no worries. When holding it, it seems to me it has no weight.

A cru: Woody, soapy and grassy. The foot smells more like hay and leather. Draw just ok, a bit heavy, which I didn’t expect, since its light weight.

Taste: Burns well, good rich smoke. Lots of wood that stings on the palate. It also has all the traits of wood. The spiciness, the sourness, like oak has in some whiskies. The build quality is very high. The ash from the wrapper and binder is white, the filler is gray and black. The ash has millions of tiny dots, that weren’t to visible in it’s a cru state. The wood also shows some cedar now. The taste is very simple and seems to evolve hardly.

Although its woody and dry, it doesn’t seem as strong as I thought, but when combined with double roasted coffee, the coffee seems watery! After 3 centimetres it does get better, some grass is added to the taste. Still very uncomplex but a good friend nevertheless. Ash is firm and fell off three times.

The soapyness gets more and more “there” and is something you’ll want to “away”. Fortunately since this didn’t go well with coffee, it goes well with carbonized water. (This time I had some de-ironed mineral water from France). I won’t be running out to buy a new box of these. There isn’t a lot happening, but what’s there is nice. The build is very good and the draw turned out to be very easy. It didn’t weigh a lot and therefore it burned pretty quick. The black band was glued to the cigar and can’t be removed without ruining the cigar. Unfortunately this band sat quite high, so the end came even sooner. Short spicy, woody and alas soapy smoke.

Points: 71

Rafael González Panatela Extra

Here is a cigar that’s with me for a long time. I bought this box seven or eight years ago, so this had a good chance to age well. Still, this is a Panatela, usually a cigar people buy to smoke quickly and do not give it a chance to let is age. Hey, but I did! Rafael González is a very small brand, that has always been known for a very good Lonsdale or Corona Extra. Now only this Panatela Extra, a Petit Corona and a Perla are made. All small cigars.

Cuban Rafael González Panatela Extra (36 x 127mm, Vegueritos, Short Panatela, Box Code ORE JUN 04)

Color and Looks: Colorado with a big green spot. (It was the only one in the box with a green spot). One larger vein, otherwise smooth surface and no frays. Feels firm.

A cru: Nice ‘old’ smell. Well aged. Nothing overpowering. The foot smells great. With cedar, leather and old books.

Taste: Draw was ok, a bit heavy at first. Great smoke that’s a bit sour. Woody and well rounded out, very balanced. Ageing did this cigar well. Mild smoke. Draw now ok. Mocha, milk chocolate mousse. Firm white ash. Easy, uncomplicated smoke. Again the second-hand smoke smells great. Still it’s not overly complex. Ash falls off rather quickly. The whole taste is on the dry side, woody, cedar, it would have been nicer if it had a creamy component.

Almost halfway its grassy, cool and I detect something chemical, but I can’t put my finger on it. Predominantly white ash with some grey thrown in. After the halfway point the wrapper started to crack. Later I found out that the binder was locally folded and wanted to unfold itself. All this without any problems in draw. The cigar keeps giving you a lot of smoke.

Than the last third, and boy what a turn! When the first part of the cigar is very mild and tasty, the last third is extremely strong. It does have its merits but if you are an inexperienced smoker, this part is the part that turns you green! (I’ve seen it happen to someone at work, with this cigar when it was younger). The strength is well countered by a good coffee, but without is it is extremely drying and a bit harsh. Heavy on nicotine. The ash turns brown so you’ll even have a visual aide in recognizing the last third…

This cigar tastes great with double roasted coffee and also does very well with water. I didn’t try it with anything alcoholic, because the cigar doesn’t call for it. It doesn’t need anything really, it does very well on its own. Beware of the last third! I’m writing this the next day and I still have the taste of the last third firmly embedded in my mouth.

76 Points

P.S. Both guys are really called Rafael González. If you turn out to be one of them, I hope you let me use these pictures.

San Luis Rey Lonsdale

Another fine day to have a quiet smoke on the porch, but not in front of the house but in the back. I know, I know, this is very important information for you. This time it was very easy to pick a cigar from my humidor. I delved somewhat deeper into my humidor to surpass the Robustos and other shorter cigars, to find a candidate among the Lonsdales, Coronas and Double Coronas. This one beckoned, and again it’s a San Luis Rey. It’s a very well aged cigar, it has aged for maybe ten years. Also some sad news. This Lonsdale was discontinued in 2006, since SLR isn’t a main brand anymore, and the tobacco is needed for other brands.

Cuban San Luis Rey Lonsdale (42 x 165mm, Cervantes, Lonsdale, Box Code Unknown)

Color and Looks: Colorado (grey/green). No frays, has some veins, well cut. Looks a bit rustic, but is straight as an arrow. No spots and slightly box pressed. Draw seems ok.

A cru: Smells like a good cigar shop. Grassy and hay, but not young.

Taste: The first whiffs are excellent. No salt on the lips but there is some soapy sensation. After all those Robusto like cigars, this Lonsdale seems rather thin. It’s a good smoke, chocolate. Especially the smoke from outside the cigar is outstanding! White ash throughout. It has some wood but it’s different from other woody cigars. It’s like plywood with furniture wax. Also some almonds. This goes well with carbonated water. It’s a mild cigar. It almost smokes like a (dry) Dutch cigar. It’s funny and maybe a bit insulting, but the best thing going for this cigar is the second-hand smoke, which is simply stunning.

It smokes easily. No problems with draw or burn. Good build. Ash falls off quite quickly. No tunnelling. This cigar makes my Lavazza Sinfonia Espresso taste woody, sharp and dry. The cigar is better. I like this one. I thought the beginning was pretty decent, but the second part is great. Give it some time and you’ll have a happy moment. I’m having this pre dinner, but I think it will work well anytime in the day. Still I don’t consider this to be an everyday smoke. It deserves more respect. Now I try it with double burnt Robusto coffee. Definitively the better choice for this cigar. The coffee tastes creamy, so it complements well.

Why isn’t it perfect then? I recon it could have evolved some more. The last part is rather bland and does nothing for the cigar. It also lacks some complexity. I’ll do another test. This time I’m going to try it with a Bourbon. I chose a Four Roses Single Barrel (the new 50% one). Like the coffee tasted creamy, this Four Roses tasted sweet. Still something unexpected happened. The first sips of Four Roses were done in the second part of the cigar, but when the cigar became bland in its final stage, the Bourbon started to taste better. The cigar’s final stage announced itself with dying down tastes and an addition of menthol. It never became harsh or sharp, but you just know the end is near. Also the ash became darker, even black. Since the Lonsdale is a long cigar, the weaker end wasn’t such a problem.

86 Points

Montecristo Petit Edmundo

Not the best of days, due to hard wind, but still reasonably warm and I just craved a cigar, so it was time to try a Montecristo Petit Edmundo. Now that I’m sitting inside writing this, the sun came out…

Montecristo Petit Edmundo (52 x 110mm, Petit Robusto, Box Code Unknown) saw the light of day in 2006 and is clearly a cigar tailored to two kinds of trend. The first being large ring gauges, fat cigars are in fashion. The second being short. We don’t “have time” anymore to sit down and enjoy a smoke. So we’re in kind of hurry, yet we are still able to enjoy a cigar thoroughly, just not for so long. A bit of a shame though. Personally I still have to get used to those thick ones, just look at this picture, doesn’t it look “Big”? For me anything more than say ø48 looks a bit, well, overdone. But that’s only me and I will try to thoroughly enjoy this cigar.

Ok, why is it called Petit Edmundo? First of all there is also an “Edmundo” that was issued in 2004. The Edmundo is a Robusto Cigar that looks more proportional, also with a ø52 ring gauge. Edmundo is 25mm longer. As I said, we all have no time, so they helped us by cutting off 25mm for us. That’s almost 20% off, and it’s also 20% cheaper, so that sounds ok. You’ll have a choice here that can be dictated by the amount of time you have. There is also a ‘Edicion Limitada’ issued in 2010, that’s called Grand Edmundo, a Robusto Extra, again ø52 and 40mm longer than the Petit Edmundo. The Price to length ratio is again the same, so more choice for those of us who have time on their side. Now for the Edmundo, who was this guy?

This happy camper here is Alexandre Dumas. You might know him from “The Three Musketeers” In 1844-1845 he publicized his second most popular work titled: “The Count of Montecristo”. Hey Montecristo! The main character in this story is Edmond Dantès. Being Cubans they turned Edmond into Edmundo. End of story. Nothing more to it. Let’s move on to the cigar shall we?

Color and Looks: Colorado, beautiful wrapper, no frays and very thin veins. Looks promising.

A cru: Grass, fresh air, plywood and cedar, smells young.

Taste: Cutting was quite a challenge. Keep your cutter sharp! Extremely easy draw. Salty wax on the lips. Abundant smoke from the very beginning. Smoke is woody and spicy. Very dry, no creamy ness at all. Some ammonia. This one is not so much a complement to coffee (Lavazza Sinfonia Espresso Intenso), but reinforces the same tastes. Both do that to each other. They cancel out each others diversity in tastes, a very striking trait. Only the dry woodyness remains. Definitively an after dinner cigar. You know, such a book by the fireplace type of cigar. Brown and black ash throughout. The draw is very easy. You don’t have to do nothing, the cigar smokes itself. Smelling it from the outside it smells a bit like a bonfire.

After the first 2 cm, the first signs of a lesser build quality appear, a crack near the foot of the cigar. It seems the wrapper isn’t strong enough for the growing filler. Further down the line, when the first ash fell off, some tunnelling was visible. When the second and last time the ash fell of a bigger tunnel was visible, wow. More strange phenomena occurred. After the halfway point, the cigar started to burn very unevenly and heavy corrections were needed. At the same time the wrapper started to ripple like the surface of water. It didn’t tear though. Also the cigar had a tendency to go out, so you would have to suck a bit more often to keep it lit.

Well it looked perfectly, very nice wrapper, but as it turned out, it covered a bit what was inside. Taste wise it was an ok cigar, with lots of smoke. Not very much evolution, but still decent taste though. The build quality was a big let down. Burn issues and tunnelling. Seems to me that it’s a popular cigar, and a lot of it is made at different locations. Probably had a lesser one.

75 points

Saint Luis Rey Regios

Another fine day to have a quiet smoke on the porch. This time it wasn’t so easy to pick a cigar from one of my humidors. In the end I settled for something that I always call the “Almost Robusto”.

This Cuban San Luis Rey Regios (48 x 127mm, Hermosos No.4, Corona Extra, Box Code Unknown) is slightly different from the typical Robusto size. Robustos are very popular these days, since they offer a relatively short smoke (nobody seems to have time anymore) with good aroma since it has an impressive ring gauge. Mind you, Robustos are nothing like a Behike, which looks like a tree trunk and makes you over stretch your jaws. Cigars are supposed not to be altogether healthy for you, but nobody thought it would break your jaw physically.

Back to this SLR then. Saint Luis Ray saw the light of day in 1940. Saint Luis is a district in Vuelta Abajo. And just like Por Larrañaga it comes in only three models: Serie A (Corona Gorda), Double Corona and this Regios (Corona Extra). When Por Larrañaga has a lot of Regionales versions. San Luis Rey had only one. In 2009 they issued a Pirámides. SLR is said to be on the stronger side and also uses tobacco leaves from the Semi Vuelta regions.

Color and Looks: Colorado Maduro. No frays, firm, not much veins, well cut. Some green and black spots and slightly box pressed. This one has aged a long time.

A cru: Sour, woody, elegant smell, old leather bicycle saddle, oaky. After I cut it, out comes a fresh, almost ozonic smell with hay and grass. I was a bit surprised by this.

Taste: Very good draw at first and the first whiffs of smoke smells very promising. Inside the mouth and the smoke on the outside, the smoke your average innocent bystander would smell is excellent and elegant. Now some ammonia. Lots of rich smoke that’s very woody. Ash is extremely white, but only from the wrapper. Inside it’s black but no brown core ash. This one should be smoked inside ones library.

After two centimetres the draw becomes cumbersome. You have to work this cigar and there is almost no smoke. Obviously the cigar gets rather hot. As long as it seems blocked there is a piney addition. After 2,5 cm the ash fell of and immediately the draw was good again and the smoke returned. The ash cone worked like a plug. No pine anymore, return of the oak and spice, but still rather linear. I smoked this with a Lavazza doppio espresso and again with some sparkling water. It was OK with the coffee, and it was just OK with the water, but nothing special. I didn’t try it with something else since probably nothing would go very well with it, but of course I could be wrong.

Halfway through, lots of menthol on my tongue, which was a sort of nice effect when drinking sparkling water. You could say the cigar turned a little but overall it’s pretty linear and hot on the tongue. In fact there isn’t a lot happening really. Near the very end I got some notes of inner tubes from a bicycle.

Apart from the problems with its draw, and the lack of evolution, this cigar would have benefitted from a creamy component. But sadly it doesn’t have this so, to sum up this cigar you could say it’s OK. It’s not bad really, it’s decent, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to get this. Lacks in balance and is a let down after the promising start. As I mentioned before SLR are said to be strong cigars. I couldn’t detect that when I was smoking it, but when I finished with it I noticed my hand were trembling, so there might be some truth to that rumour. Definitively a pre dinner cigar since this got me craving for some food afterwards.

74 points

Por Larrañaga Petit Corona

After a month, we had some sunshine with good temperatures again so I could have a relaxing moment outside. Since I don’t smoke in the house, I just will have to wait for those beautiful moments. When I opened my humidor this gold banded cigar just shouted at me; “pick me, me, me” and so I did. Boy was I in for a (floral) surprise…

Cuban Por Larrañaga Petit Corona (42 x 129mm, Mareva, Box Code Unknown). Comes only in a SLB50.

Por Larrañaga started out a long time ago, around 1834 in fact. After that the brand made it big and was a major producer. It was this brand also, which churned out the first machine-made cuban cigar. This marked the downwards spiral the brand got into, and now there are only three current cigars (Montecarlos, Panatela and the Petit Corona).  Besides this, since 2006 (a lot of) ‘Edition Regionales’ are released.

Color and Looks: Colorado (Maduro). Good build with good draw. No frays. Ultrathin wrapper with small veins.

A cru: Creamy, dusty, paper fire, mocha, caramel, nicotine, flowery.

Taste: Good smoke from the first whiff. Creamy, chocolaty, old books in an old bookcase, petroleum. Smoke gets thicker and is definitively flowery! After just one centimetre, the flowery element becomes grandma’s powdery soap. It’s Lavender! Ash alternates between gray and white streaks. Core is brown ash. Although it doesn’t seen heavy, my strong espresso tastes mild now. Almost even burn that continues throughout. No need for correction with a torch. Strangely the smoke on the outside of the cigar (wrapper) doesn’t have the lavender part. Somebody sitting next to you will not detect the lavender, but you, the smoker, most definitively will! It’s just there, lavender, soap, grandma’s clothes. Luckily this old smell is not overpowering, but just. After 3 cm the first ash falls off by itself. So maybe not so packed as I thought. The cigar by itself is not heavy, there isn’t a heavy taste that stays in your mouth for a day or so. It’s great with espresso but not with water. The cigar is quite basic (from the soapy taste), so it makes sparkling water taste more acidic than it already is.

Almost halfway through a woody part comes in, which for a moment does overpower the lavender part. After the halfway point the lavender, wood and spice balance out, which makes the cigar evolve and a bit stronger, but not much. Since it works well with espresso, but not with water, I feel it needs a counterpart from Scotland, something salty and sweet from Islay. I poured myself a Laphroaig 2001/2009 (57%, The Ultimate, Hogshead #2927, 324 bottles). Well I was right, this type of whisky goes very well with garandma’s lavender scented knickers. It pulls out more deep spices into the equation to balance the lavender even more. Wow even this cask strength Laphroaig tastes mild with this Por Larrañaga. near the end, the thin wrapper let go, so it was time to let it rest.

It’s a good after dinner cigar, lots of nicotine, yet not heavy. Some evolution halfway through but this happened only once, so I guess it’s safe to call it a linear cigar. This Petit Corona probably has a lot of fans, and it should. Well built, looks great and has a lot going for it. For me obviously the lavender was…the lavender, and that’s not quite my taste, but it could be perfect for you!

72 points

Vegueros Seoane

Wow, after such a great Romeo y Julieta, I decided it was a nice enough day to ‘enjoy’ another one. This time a rather small one.

Not much to say about Vegueros really. The brand surfaced worldwide in 1997 and was made in the Pinar del Rio region since 1961 for local consumption. These cigars are linked with the cuban cigarette production, and I feel that in Cuba this is probably the lowest quality tobacco around, so I don’t have high hopes for this one. Also the fact that the whole brand was discontinued this year is rather foreboding.

Let’s talk about the Vegueros Seoane (33 x 126mm, Small Panatela, Box Code Unknown).

Color & Looks: Colorado, with veins and fray’s.

A cru: Old furniture, The inside of an old ply wood lined van, peppery, spicy, mild smell, vegetal. Overall nice smell.

Taste: Medium Draw. Deep start with cannabis! Creamy and flowery. Better after the first centimeter. Not a lot of smoke. It’s all still in woody territory. Not very complex. Draw is troublesome for a moment. This one doesn’t complement medium coffee, but better with water. Ash is grey and the cigar seems very tightly rolled. You have to suck hard on this one, which makes it hot, harsh and sour. At this point I wouldn’t even give this 70 points. After another centimeter, more smoke comes free. The wood becomes very spicy, almost sharp. Not a lot more happening though. Still harsh and now more chemicals. After this it gets only worse, very sharp and woody. This lacks quality. Nothing round, creamy or even likeable. Near the end a surprising toffee note emerges, finally something happened. Menthol just before putting it down. I would say this is the Jack Daniels of cigars.

58 points

Romeo y Julieta Romeo No.3 (Tubos)

Well, today was another great day to sit outside, so I decided to try another cigar. This time one of my first buys. A loooong time ago I bought a box of ten of these tubed Petit Corona’s (in the brushed aluminium tubes). I tried one (probably in its sick period, of which I knew nothing at that time). I found it very harsh then and very young, like green grass with ammonia. After this first try I felt a bit sick myself. Now let’s try this one after a prolonged time in one of my humidor’s and see if ageing made this cigar any better.

Well this is a Cuban Romeo y Julieta Romeo No. 3 (40 x 117mm, Petit Corona, Box Code ORE JUN 04).

The brand was established in 1875 and was named for Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Quite a surprise ‘eh? It was made BIG by Jose Rodriguez who acquired the brand in 1903. Just like Prez JFK springs to mind when thinking about H. Upmann, Romeo y Julieta also had a big Prez-like fan: Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill. In his honor RyJ made a famous cigar named Churchill. As far as I know there’s never been a John F Cigar…

Color & Looks: Colorado, veiny and no powder nor frays. Good build, easy to cut.

A cru: Old books, ashy (and that’s before lighting it).

Taste: Easy combustion and excellent draw. Starts very nice, well matured. Leathery and I would say half-creamy.  This is really a lot better than all those years ago. It has a great startup, it’s good from the very beginning. Oriental spice and some cedar. It stays on the mild side. After just two centimeters development starts and moves more into more spices and ground black pepper. The whole is very nicely balanced, and I love balance! It’s very aromatic and gives lots of almonds now. I hope it’s not hydrocyanic acid gas ;-). The further down the cigar, the more cedar, but never overpowering the overall taste, just a little shift in the spectrum towards the wood. Some dry forest floor and a hint of cannabis and even a little hint of petrol, which is no problem but just adds to the balance. This little cigar evolves forever (well 30 to 40 minutes) and doesn’t stop with the aromatics. The end announces itself with some mint, and never becomes harsh.

It gives a lot of smoke and white ash with many white dots. This is clearly a lunchtime cigar. Will do great after lunch, but also an hour before dinner. Then again, this one is also great with arabica coffee (not espresso nor robusta coffee). I can imagine this one will do great with white wine (take your pick I haven’t tried which yet) and probably not with strong alcohols. Wow, as bad as it was when it was new, so good it is now. If I were JFK, I would tell my assistant to run out a second time to buy 1200 of these too. Still, it’s a shame I needed some eight odd years to find out how great these really can be.

Smoke this slowly, take your time. Don’t ruin this cigar because you want to get back to work on time.

88 points

H. Upmann Magnum 48 Edición Limitada 2009

Considering all things nice and beautiful, there’s certainly more than whisky alone to enjoy, well, there’s a lot more actually, and why not try a cigar this time. Winter is over, sun starts to come out  more often, and it’s great to sit outside with a cigar again. But beware. I’ve never reviewed cigars before so let’s see how this goes.

First up a Cuban Edición Limitada 2009 version by H. Upmann (48 x 110mm, Corona Extra or Short Robusto, Box Code Unknown).

H, or Herman for friends, was a banker who was interested in cigars for personal use. After seeing the possibilities for a cigar business, Herman decided to start his own brand in 1844. Much, much later, Prez John F. Kennedy liked Herman’s Petit Corona’s so much, he had his assistant buy all of Herman’s Petit Corona’s they could find the day before announcing the embargo on Cuba.

Upmann used to be famous for their stellar Churchill. More recent is the popularity of their Magnum 46 (46 x 143mm, Corona Gorda). Two more Magnums saw the light of day. First the Magnum 50 Edición Limitada 2005 (50 x 162mm, Double Robusto) and of course our Magnum 48.

Color & Looks: Colorado, maybe Colorado Maduro. Small veins, nicely cut, without frays. Good build, was easy to cut.

A cru: powderish, hints of stable odor and fertilizer, dusty, green, now fat powder and finally; sour.

Taste: Combustion and draw were good. The burn was a bit uneven but it let itself be corrected easily with the laser flame lighter. No tunneling and keeps burning without any problems. It took the Magnum 48 about a centimeter to find its balance. It is spicy, full body and again a bit sour. After the first centimeter the taste became deeper and more refined (leather, slightly bitter), and stayed there. It turned out to be very linear and not very complex, again hinting at its youth (ammonia). It produces a medium amount of smoke, and nice and firm white ashes, which fell off halfway through.

There was still a third left, when the cigar announced, with lot’s of leather and harsh bitterness that it was time to leave… A bit of a shame though, since it’s a rather short cigar. Well this is a cigar that should be smoked slowly, to keep it balanced and if you want to control the amount of smoke. When it burns hot, a lot of smoke (and taste) will disappear. I tried this with double burnt, dark roasted coffee and water and both worked very well.

A good friend of mine suggested recently, that the Edición Limitada series could be made for instant gratification, so it has to be good immediately and may not win a lot of character spending some time in the humidor. After three years I found the Magnum 48 to be still young, and would certainly be patient with it. It may not win a lot over time, but why rush it.

80 points (of course not to be compared with an 80 point whisky)