Earlier on today I stopped into the Vancouver Cigar Company to take a look around at their humidors and the exotic cars in their showroom. This is no ordinary outlet dedicated to the appreciation and sales of some of the world’s finest authentic Cuban cigars, a few steps away from the humidors reveal exotic high performance automobiles and luxury sedans, anyone who appreciates items of great beauty will Not be disappointed by their efforts to drop by. I had a chat with both Trevor and Aaron, who had just returned from Havana’s “Habanos Festival”, and listened to every detail they passed on to me about the world’s premier gathering of cigar aficionados. Each February, Habanos hosts a week long event where participants attend seminars about rolling cigars, the construction and blending of cigars, pairing with different beverages, visits to cigar factories and tobacco fields. There’s music performed by Cuba’s finest musicians at prestigios gala events where new Cuban cigars are unveiled and the whole city comes alive with parties in every restaurant and hotel rooftop.
What shocked and amazed me was that Aaron and Trevor brought me back a sample of what Cuban has in store for 2014. I was gifted the new Cohiba Robustos Supremos Edicion Limitada 2014 which was unveiled this year on February 28 at a special dinner in tribute to the Trinidad brand. A 2 Michelin star chef, Ron Blaauw, from the Netherlands with sommelier, Cuno Van’t Hoff had prepared a meal of incredible food, fine French and Italian wines and enthusiastic diners were given a few of this year’s new releases by Habanos. On the menu were appetizers of caviar or tuna tartare, main courses of Free range chicken with foie gras and truffle sauce or Tournedos of roast beef served with a red wine sauce. From Trevor’s report, the big winner was the caviar. Cigars given out were: Trinidad Reyes, Trinidad Coloniales, the new Trinidad Vigia and finally the Cohiba Robustos Supremos Edicion Limitada 2014.
When I got home I kept rolling this cigar in my hands and marvelling at it’s construction, this was a firmly rolled cigar with not even a hint of a soft spot anywhere, so much so that I had some concern about the draw. My concerns were needless because after I carefully clipped only the cap off the head I was met with almost no resistance whatsoever, a beautiful draw. It would probably be a safe bet to assume that the finest rollers Cuba has to offer are given their quota of bundles of blended tobacco leaves to roll into these cigars that will be handed out to international delegates and aficionados alike. The pre-light draw was pure barnyard, plain and simple, I kept tasting the flavours present for a length of time before I reached for my lighter and then wasted no time in toasting the foot.
At first I was met with a powerful Cohiba taste full of grass and cedar but there was a tang and spiciness that had a real mysterious quality about it. The spice continued as the first third finally opened up and powerful hints of dark chocolate were in your face along side the rich Cohiba herbal flavours. This was a complex cigar, there were slight changes to the flavour profile with almost every puff, I swear I could taste coffee and nutmeg then a dark woodiness would appear along side healthy doses of leather.
Second third introduced a wonderful rich sweetness into the picture. The cedar flavours were somewhat present throughout but mixed with very subtle notes of black coffee and even licorice. Those would appear then the leather would again make it’s presence known all with a strong cedar finish that would last for minutes. Final third settled down into mainly herbs, cedar and sweet leather notes. Because of this cigar’s youth I was expecting a huge dose of nicotine but none of the usual young cigar dizziness came into play today at all. The tobacco leaves used for these Special edition cigars go through enough aging that you can expect a fantastic smoking experience right out of the box.
Once again I would like to thank Aaron and Trevor for thinking of me and allowing me to get a glimpse of what the lucky participants were tasting that night at the Trinidad Dinner in havana.
So many new things are happening in the world of Cuban cigars. Every year we see very exciting new releases, whether it be Limited Editions or Regional Editions, cigar smokers are presented with exciting possibilities not yet in their humidors. 2012 saw Cohiba introduce the first figurado in their regular production line. Wearing a new band complete with Taino head and holograms, this Piramides is giving the public a rich, full flavor experience comparable to the 1966 and Behike line. Although slightly smoother and maybe not as big and bold, this new Torpedo is going to raise the bar once again for Cohiba, giving those who appreciate a full flavored cigar a very exciting new option.
This 54 ring gauge and 6 1/8 inch cigar is an example of fine craftsmanship which results in a perfect draw and razor sharp burn. Initially you’ll be able to notice Cohiba’s trademark grassy presence as you taste loads of honey and cedar. As the cigar burns, the taste of leather becomes present and then this sweet and complex flavor slowly builds in strength into an elegant and memorable cigar experience. Maybe not as overbearing as the more powerful Cohibas released in recent years, this Piramides will recruit new Cohiba followers who may usually choose a Montecristo No 2 or H Upmann No 2 when opting for this vitola (size).
Very exciting things are also happening for my favorite cigar shop the Vancouver Cigar Company. They are located in the Autoform Exotic car dealership and it is Vancouver’s perfect marriage of high end vehicles and Cuban cigars. The Cohiba Piramides Extra is sitting on the front of a 1974 Karmann Ghia 2 DR Coupe, a vintage car perfect in every way. Its not often enough you get to be in a showroom with Maseratis and Montecristos, this is the beginning of a new chapter for the Vancouver Cigar Company and cigar smokers in Vancouver. With numerous humidors in this outlet we may soon be seeing one of the finest selections of Cuban cigars in the city.
Perhaps the significance of 10 years can be, as a safe start, referenced from the bible.
10 Brothers….. (Genesis)
10 Lepers……..(Luke.. Here’s where we cigar smokers step into the picture) I firmly believe that instead of social outcasts we are proud members of a fraternity of thinkers, observers of the subtle nuance and those willing to to make the time to create memories that will be taken along to that moment when you reflect, for the very last time upon your accomplishments. Center stage will be the scenes we recollect where hand rolled works of art were set ablaze, when numerous flavors of organic variance emerged not unlike the scenes of a very thought out and complex drama we’ve seen in a theater. )
The seventies brought us a new example of 10 with Bo Derek in a poster which is still hung on many a wall, 10 is pure perfection indeed! 10 can mean the loudest, the hottest setting on the dial of your stove or the the coldest setting in your freezer. How would we classify one’s performance during an Olympic event without 10? The Mayas considered 10 to be the place where life came to an end and a new life emerged. 10 cent coins, when multiplied by 10 will give you a dollar. Now THIS is where we get to the good part!
Owning many of those dollars would give you the ability to purchase the cigar you see above in the picture but only by finding a collector who is willing to part with them. Good luck. They are now very rare and are improving in flavor as every day goes by.
10 will be this cigar’s age when I finally light it up next year, I have from now until then to pick a date.
Vancouver winning the Stanley Cup?
Maybe Christmas day?
As angelic as the cherub in the picture may seem, the real heavenly experience starts when you light the also displayed Cohiba Siglo I. I’m not sure there is another Cuban cigar in that small size ( 40 ring gauge and 4 inches long- “Perla” factory name ) that can compete in flavour and construction. Speak to anyone who is a Cuban cigar lover and they’ll tell you that Cohiba, who gets first pick of all cigar tobacco in Cuba, has raised the bar with this small cigar and leaves all others in the dust when it comes to taste.
Although you won’t be getting much more than 4o minutes of relaxed smoking time with the Siglo I, what you will be experiencing is a beautiful spicy bomb with an herbal beginning and slight notes of cocoa and pepper. When young these can be a bit sharp,which is an attractive proposition for veteran smokers with a passion for strength, but when aged these beautiful little cigars obtain a creaminess that is very pronounced.
I’ll never forget my first Siglo I. We were in Havana, Cuba and I visited the second story cigar shop in the Hostel Conde Villanueva. Sidestep the peacock on the ground floor and make your way up the stairs and you’ll be greeted by the most beautiful aroma as you walk into the shop which sells authentic handmade Cuban cigars. The walk in humidor is stocked with some nicely aged Cubans and the staff was somewhat friendly and helpful. Hey, thats Cuba for you.
I didn’t have a lot of time so I sat in their bar to the left of the front door, ordered a rum, clipped the cap and had the best 40 minutes of our Cuban holiday. Did I smoke cigars in Cuba that I enjoyed more? Probably, but my point is that I was met with more complexity than I had expected for a 40 ring gauge cigar and it went so well with the dark rum.
The construction was perfect, the ash was white as snow and even to this day I get taken back to a great holiday whenever I light this cigar.
From time to time I read different cigar blogs and feel that there is a wealth of information for people who are interested in learning all there is to know about the passion we share concerning Cuban cigars. As a young man I felt that there was an element of mystery surrounding Cuban cigars and I knew that there must have been something more to cigars than the wonderful aroma in the air whenever I would walk by a cigar smoker. I never knew about a cigar’s complex flavour profile, the fact that a cigar’s burn was described in thirds or the older they were, the smoother they became.
After going to Cuba, my passion for Cuban cigars grew to the point where I now spend thousands annually on Cubans and I see no reason to curtail my spending because of the excitement I get whenever I toast the foot and light one up. Hey, ya only live once !
In cigar blogs, the question is sometimes raised as to what people think is the perfect Cuban cigar to introduce to a Non-Cuban smoker and I believe that if you want to taste a cigar that embodies all that is perfect with Cuban tobacco, you really don’t have to go further than the Cohiba Esplendidos. Cohiba gets first pick of all of the tobacco in Cuba and their cigars are, on an annual basis, as good as it gets.
The factory name for this cigar is the Julieta No. 2 and is a 47 ring gauge and 6.9 inches long. This is enough of a cigar to give you close to 2 hours of smoking time for the slow smoker, the complexity of the cigar’s flavour profile will simply dazzle you with flavours from black pepper to creamy chocolate and coffee. When this elegant cigar has had a few years in your humidor, your patience will be rewarded with, in my opinion, the perfect Cuban export. It just doesn’t get any better than this !!
The Cohiba Robustos, pictured above, was not my first experience with this stately Cuban brand, in fact my first experience with a cigar sporting a Cohiba label wasn’t a Cohiba at all… Not even close..
This is how my love for Cuban cigars began…. With a lousy counterfeit !
OK, so I hated every inch of the fake Cohiba Esplendidos that came in the acrylic top box of 25. I hated them to the point that I didn’t want to see or smoke anything with the gold and yellow band for a number of years, so I moved on to get to know every other brand out of Cuba and really developed a passion for Partagas, RyJ, Hoyo de Monterrey, H. Upmann and well, I guess every other brand that I could get my hands on. I really got to understand how a cigar evolves as you smoke it and started tasting some of the most beautiful flavors I could imagine in a Cuban cigar then something wonderful happened.
Trevor, from “The Vancouver Cigar Company” gave me a Cohiba Robustos and told me to try it out with an open mind, which is what I did one Sunday morning. I couldn’t believe how beautiful that cigar was and felt really foolish about my opinion of Cohiba until that point in time. The Robustos was about a year old and revealed all of my favorite flavors in one cigar. I could taste dried fruit, white pepper, leather, cedar and strong coffee notes and NONE of the harsh bitter tobacco flavor I initially had in my experience with the counterfeits I thought were the “real thing”..
Needless to say, I now KNOW how an authentic Cohiba should taste and have no problem shelling out the money it takes to smoke the real thing. The one thing that I AM grateful for is the time I took in getting to know all of the other Cuban brands, there are some beautiful cigars out there and I love 99% of them, even some of the machine made cigars have their moment in the sun but Cohiba stands out as being the pinnacle of quality.
Got a call to go down to LA tomorrow for a few days. Back home Thursday… I’m always up for a trip to California since its a lot warmer than Vancouver right now but more than that, I’m very excited to visit a few tobacco shops to see if I can get my hands on a few cigars.
Canada has some of the highest sin tax in the world and Canadians end up paying twenty five dollars or more for a cigar that Americans pay six dollars for.. I know, I know, it sounds crazy, but its true. I’ll be going to Santa Monica and from what I’ve read, there are a few cigar stores that have a nice selection of Dominicans, Hondurans and others that aren’t even available in Canada.
One that I’ll be looking for is the Arturo Fuente Opus X. Wow, what a great cigar, and from what I read, it is a cigar that isn’t available at all times of year so I guess ya gotta be there at the right time and the right place.
Last point I want to make is…… Will I be taking any Cohibas with me???? Nope, no way!!!!
A few summers back we had an awfully hot stretch in Vancouver in the month of July. You know the kind of day when everything in the house is hot hot hot and you go to bed at night with windows open, you are laying on top of the covers and toss and turn for the majority of the first few hours of sleep. You may ask as to why we don’t have an air conditioner.. Save your breath.. This is Canada and days like I just described don’t really happen that often, so what would be the point??
The one thing that had me more concerned than anything was, how safe the temperatures in my cigar humidors were in case any cigar beetle eggs should incubate and start growing a little colony of young bugs who would be gleefully munching away on my cigars.. I couldn’t have that.. I’ve spent too much on Cuban cigars and that would be a tragedy.
I decided to put the humidors ( well, 2 of them ) in a plastic Coleman cooler, and on a daily basis, include a little ice pack, stuffed in the side, to keep the temperature down. It worked great and I believe I dodged a bullet as far as bugs go. Yeah, it was a bit of work but I felt that the effort was more than worth it and sleep came easily after I knew that my cigars were safe.
Something happened in the following months that actually had me wondering about my good fortune and made we wonder if any one else is doing the same as me. I kept the humidors in the cooler and noticed that the moisture level in both humidors was staying very very even, so much so that I started seeing a bit of plume forming on my cigars. Something right was happening….
Instead of putting humidifier pucks into the humidors themselves, I simply added the humidification devices in the cooler beside the humidors, keep the lid of the cooler closed and a great environment for aging cigars was in place. After doing a bit of research, I read that cigars need oxygen and if left alone without opening the lids on the humidors, problems could start. No problem, because I’m always at the humidors, checking quite a few times a week for humidity levels with my digital hygrometer and the cigars are, quite often, getting a breath of fresh air…..
Huh, who knew!!!
Tomorrow morning will be early, cool and probably windy out on the boat outside of Vancouver, where crab traps will be dropped and then trolling for salmon will be next on the agenda. I’ll drop by the “Seastar”, moored by the Bayshore, where Preston the captain, will take us out for a morning of sports fishing.
There are a lot of different guys that offer fishing expeditions for a fair price and a lot of action but Preston Steele is probably the guy that they all call when they want to find out where the action is on the water. Over the years, we’ve eaten a lot of Dungeness crab that Preston has caught and no one knows more than him on how to get them and prepare them for a real tasty meal. His boat is comfortable and very seaworthy, fast and agile in the water. Why would you call anyone else in this area?
As I think about what I’ll wear for tomorrow’s action, my mind also thinks about what cigar to take along. There’s no point in taking along a large expensive Cuban cigar since there’ll be wind and wind is a quality cigar’s greatest enemy. The burn is always uneven and then the cigar takes on a whole new flavor, which is always bitter and unpleasant.
The perfect cigar, or cigars, for a morning in the wind will be the Cohiba mini. This tiny cigar has an incredible taste for something so small. They’re really quite tiny and if you can get more than 12 minutes of smoking time out of one, I’d be very surprised. There are a lot of larger ring gauge Cuban cigars out there that have more power and strength which makes this little cigar a real surprise in that the richness of the smoke has a quality that makes it very easy to believe that it comes from Cohiba.
Much has been written about the Cohiba Behike since last year’s release of the beautiful trio of larger ring gauge cigars containing the medio tiempo leaf. Initially the Behike was introduced in 2006 and rolled, exclusively by one roller, or in this case the “torcedora”, Norma Fernandez. The original Behike at a 52 ring gauge and 7 1/2 inches long was in a humidor of 40 cigars and only 100 numbered humidors. Thats a lot of rolling …. and rolling….. The more I hear and read about this woman, the more impressed I am by her stature in the Cuban cigar industry. She was given the task of blending and designing the cigar that became the most expensive in the world. Originally these cigars were around $440 each but I’m guessing that when auctions come up in our future, we’ll be seeing these initial prices skyrocket.
I smoked a few of the Behike 52′s last summer and creamy and sweet were the first two descriptions of the flavors, this cigar had in it’s profile, popped into my mind. I had a wonderful time smoking this smallest of the three and although my mind was always on the price, I felt that I truly had something special burning in my hand. I remember looking at the 52′s wrapper and remarking to myself that I had never seen a cigar so perfectly rolled, so smooth and free of any large veins and with a color and sheen that easily showed that Cohiba had raised the bar in cigar production.
The Behike 54, which I smoked a few months later had all of the wonderful visible characteristics of the smaller 52 but with flavors that had more power, more complexity and more evolution as the cigar progressed. The 52 and the 54 had slight similar flavors but the richness of the 54′s chocolate and creamy coffee notes had me guessing which other Cohiba cigar, or cigars, this middle child could be compared to. The Maduro series always captivates me whenever I smoke one, the Genios being my favorite and for a while I found myself comparing, very slightly, some of what I was tasting in the Behike 54 to that other series… But only for a moment, these are very different lines in Cuba’s prestigious brand and the similarities are few.
The Behike 56 was again a beautifully constructed cigar and, as before, I felt a bit of sadness as I clipped off the pigtail cap and lit the foot. I feel great pride and adoration for cigars like the Behike whenever I lift the lid of my humidor and gaze upon them as they rest and age, surrounded by the beautiful aroma of Cuban tobacco and Spanish cedar. But really, why do we go through all the trouble of obtaining fine cigars, quality humidors, hygrometers that give you accurate moisture readings without actually smoking these handmade Cuban products?
The first few puffs of the Behike 56 were mild but complex, again revealing what I had tasted in the 52 and 54 but it didn’t seem to have the strength as the middle size cigar. Here is where I will probably get in trouble with a lot of you who have smoked the 56. I will be the first to admit that in order to be an authority on the subject of judging this cigar, perhaps smoking 15 or 20 ….. Or 1,500 to 2,000 of these large ring gauge cigars would be a proper place to start but I’m simply offering what I noticed. The 56′s flavors evolved very nicely as the cigar burned into the second third but I kept remembering what the 54 had to offer and I wondered if I am alone with my observations in comparing the two. The one thing I DID notice was that the 56 might have needed more time in the humidor, more so than the smaller two. Of course, any Cuban cigar only improves with age but I remembered being quite blissful during the smoking period of the 52 and 54. The 56 had me asking myself more questions about it’s youthfulness and wondering what it’s future would reveal after a year or two of rest.
Volumes could be filled with everyone’s opinions of these three cigars, and I’m only one person, but the more I read about last year’s Cohiba release, the more I see that I may not be alone with what I’ve discovered. The one thing I DO know is that I feel very fortunate in knowing that I’m able to buy, smoke and lose myself in the flavors of the Behike whenever I feel wealthy enough to go to the Vancouver Cigar Company and pick up a few. I feel sad whenever I read about people getting counterfeits of this cigar but feel fortunate that I have a reputable source for a cigar of this calibre.
If you have any opinions you’d like to share, please leave a comment..