Smoke: Best of the Best Cigars: Cohiba Extra Vigoroso

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Whether you are speaking of the Cuban or the Dominican brand, the Cohiba name is revered among most cigar connoisseurs. The Extra Vigoroso, though, has catapulted the Dominican Cohiba to the pinnacle of quality among superpremium cigars.

When the Dominican brand first appeared in the 1980s, it barely registered with most cigar smokers because of its limited production numbers. On the eve of the cigar boom in 1993, it gained a wider distribution and was reblended with a Connecticut shade wrapper, Mexican binder, and Dominican, Mexican, and Jamaican filler. Cohiba soon garnered a large and loyal following. Four years later, Cohiba’s stature reached a new level with a Cameroon wrapper, Jember binder, and Dominican filler. The cigars were given their now familiar black and white band with its distinctive red dot. Backed by a $2 million ad campaign, the Dominican Cohiba quickly became one of the top-selling premium cigars of all time.

The recently released Extra Vigoroso retains its trademark red Cohiba dot, but the revamped black and gold band is your first indication that this cigar is in a class of its own. Rather than brute strength, the XV (“ex vee”) connotes an enhanced richness and greater span of flavors than other Cohibas, offering a distinctive, creamy taste.

The Ecuadorian sun-grown Sumatra wrapper comes from the topmost crown of the plant, the most flavorful priming, and the tobaccos are hand-selected for the Cohiba XV. After the leaves dry, they are aged for three years (one-third longer than Cohiba’s usual aging time) in airtight, palm-frond tercios in the style of Cuba’s pre-Castro tobaccos.

The wrapper leaves are layered between cedar sheets and sealed for another six months of finishing. This extended aging in cedar produces a dark, oily leaf with a delicate spicy taste that melds well with the three-year-old Connecticut broadleaf binder, which is selected from the rich, but not overpowering, center of the plant. At the heart of the cigar is the filler, composed of earthy Nicaraguan and thick, flavorful Dominican Cuban seed tobaccos from the Dominican Republic’s excellent 1998 harvest.

Like a vintage wine that has been stored until it has reached the peak of perfection, the Cohiba XV needs no further aging—it is ready to be smoked now. Four box-pressed shapes are offered: 550 (robusto), 645 (lonsdale), 652 (toro), and 749 (Churchill). The 660 (pyramid) is not box pressed. Twenty XVs are packed in each cedar-lined mahogany box. Because of its lengthy aging and limited production, only spring and fall releases are scheduled for this year.

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