Best of the Best 2005: Cigars
Davidoff Especiales “7” Robusto Real
Conventional cigar-rolling wisdom dictates that the number of leaves in a filler blend should never exceed four, because any more would make it impossible to “bunch” the filler, a process in which the leaves are crimped in the hand so that they fold over each other and curl into tubes that provide an easy draw. In a well-made cigar, the different leaves are evenly distributed throughout its length to offer a complete spectrum of filler tobaccos during the entire smoke. Four filler leaves plus a wrapper and binder bring the total number of tobaccos to six, which is the maximum that most cigar rollers can handle consistently. But, Henki Kelner, Davidoff’s master blender, has added a seventh leaf for the Davidoff Especiales “7”.
Made in the Dominican Republic, the cigar is a one-time offering limited to 10,000 boxes containing 10 cigars each. Only one size is produced, a 51¼2 x 48 robusto. The ring gauge itself presents a challenge; a larger-ringed cigar—a 54 or even a 50—would have made it easier to distribute equally each of the five filler leaves within the bunch. But in Kelner’s opinion, the 51¼2 x 48 dimensions represent the optimal combination of length and diameter to enhance this blend.
The wrapper is the same aged, Ecuadorian-grown, Connecticut shade/Cuban seed hybrid that Davidoff employed in 2001 for its Millennium cigar. The binder is Olor Dominicano, a plant native to the Dominican Republic. The filler consists of four different Dominican tobaccos from three different farms, plus a fifth corojo that had been aging since 1996.
The result is a tempered taste that is slightly milder than the Millennium but firmly on the strong side of medium. This is definitely a sundown cigar, too powerful for an Irish whiskey and more in tune with a Highland single malt or small-batch bourbon.
—Richard Carleton Hacker
Few cigars, Cubans included, have commanded the type of adulation bestowed upon the Fuente Fuente OpusX. The first all-Dominican puro, it is more coveted than some of the rarest Havanas. Now the Arturo Fuente Cigar Co., the world’s largest privately owned cigar company, is offering the Fuente Forbidden X, a cigar even more exclusive than the OpusX.
This new cedar-wrapped Dominican puro contains tobaccos aged for as long as 10 years, then given an additional 45 days of “finishing” in French oak Calvados barrels. The sweet and spicy fruit essences of the apple brandy barrels permeate the sun-grown tobaccos, all of which have been harvested from the mild middle and lower primings of the Château de la Fuente plants.
After the cigars have been rolled, Fuente ages them for a minimum of one year. —Richard Carleton Hacker
The first in a series of cigars with filler blends that will change each year, the Partagas Cifuentes Blend is named for the late Ramón Cifuentes, whose family purchased the original Partagas Cuban brand from Don Jaime Partagas Ravelo in 1876. Cifuentes supervised the making of Partagas in Havana until Castro’s takeover in 1959, when he fled to the Dominican Republic and reestablished the brand. In time, he took on a protégé, Daniel Nuñez of General Cigar, who created this limited edition cigar from tobaccos that underwent the slow aging processes Cifuentes taught him.
The box-pressed Partagas Cifuentes Blend features a sun-grown wrapper from the San Agustin Valley of Honduras, an area with soil and climate similar to those of Cuba’s Vuelta Abajo. Only the strongest-tasting ligero from the uppermost portion of the plant is used. The binder and filler are from Nicaragua, and the combination produces a full-bodied strength that stops just short of becoming the cigar equivalent of a bone-crushing handshake. —Richard Carleton Hacker
Europe may be known as the place of origin for the finest wines, watches, cars, and clothing, but to this list we now can add tobacco. The CAO Italia combines leaf grown in the Benevento region of southern Italy with filler tobaccos from Nicaragua and Peru, and with wrapper and binder leaves from Honduras. An exotic, unfamiliar aroma belies the Italia’s smooth, accessible flavor; no other cigar we have tried offers a comparable experience. The blue, green, and red graphics splashed across the unusual center-opening box are as distinctive as the Italia’s nose. Initially we were drawn to the 61¼4 x 54 Gondola torpedo but have settled on the beefy 6 x 60 Piazza as our favorite. —Brent Butterworth
La Gloria In Excelsis
The largest and strongest of the company’s offerings, the 71¼4 x 60 La Gloria Cubana Serie R Limitada is also one of its first figurados. The limitada in the name suggests the cigar’s exclusivity; the production run will consist of just 500 boxes of naturals and 500 boxes of maduros, in part because only La Gloria’s most skilled torcedors are allowed to roll them. The cigars are nestled in cedar drawers that slide out from a spectacular, glass-topped humidor. The Limitada’s Ecuadorian Sumatra natural wrapper lends a spice that is new to the brand’s non-Cuban blends, and the combination of Nicaraguan and Dominican filler tobaccos provides a heavy body befitting a cigar of its massive girth. The maduro, surprisingly, tastes a bit smoother but offers an even more robust character. —Brent Butterworth
La Gloria Cubana, www.cigarworld.com
Count One for Montecristo
The trend toward heavy-bodied cigars is so pervasive that manufacturers now largely ignore the lighter end of the flavor spectrum. One welcome exception is Montecristo, which presents its new, light Montecristo White in an elegant, white-lacquered, gold-hinged box. The White’s blend of Connecticut shade Ecuadorian wrapper, Nicaraguan binder, and Dominican and Nicaraguan filler entertains without overpowering the palate—and without frightening away neophytes. In an era when cigar manufacturers compete to see which can most overwhelm the smoker, it is a rare delight to encounter a cigar that combines delicate flavor and substantial character. The White reminds us a bit of the mellow yet deeply flavorful Jamaican Macanudos we loved in the 1980s, and that is rich praise, indeed. The 5 x 52 Rothchilde is the perfect way to end—or begin—a day. —Brent Butterworth
Shot in the Dark
Padrón is known for refined, light cigars, but the Padrón Serie 1926 40th Anniversary Torpedo demands the attention of even the most jaded palates. This box-pressed stick’s blend of aged Nicaraguan tobaccos is so rich, so chocolaty, so full-bodied that other Padróns seem frail in comparison; it is our favorite from this storied brand. The Serie 1926 Torpedo was created to celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary, and at its party for the same purpose, the company presented each guest with a tiny cedar box holding two of these wondrous cigars. Few others will have the opportunity to enjoy the Serie 1926, because Padrón produced only 400 boxes of 40 cigars each. Given that each box is hand-decorated with a painting of a tropical tobacco plantation, we could not have expected a more generous production run. The cigar eventually will be made available in less-exotic packaging, although quantities still will be limited. —Brent Butterworth
Fourth in a series of acclaimed cigars featuring the same binder and filler, La Tradicion Perdomo Reserve Champagne softens the impact of its potent Nicaraguan tobacco base with a light Connecticut shade wrapper. The result is a cigar more accessible to delicate palates, and more practical for midday smoking than the Reserve line’s commanding, Nicaraguan-wrapped Cuban Café and Maduro. The Champagne represents a nonthreatening path for beginning smokers who are seeking to advance from flavorless, weak-bodied blends. Like its brethren, the Champagne is beautifully crafted and offered in a distinctively colored box. Appropriately, Perdomo selected a champagne hue for the box, the band, and the cellophane sheath that protect each cigar. —Brent Butterworth