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What is it about Cuban cigars? Patel's Edge Habano may know

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Capn Jimbo
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2018 8:11 am    Post subject: What is it about Cuban cigars? Patel's Edge Habano may know Reply with quote

From my still developing position I think its fair to state the following:

1. Cuban cigars - with the exception of a certain period - have long been valued as the gold standard of cigars.

The reason are multiple. Few are truly aware of the many handmade steps it takes to produce a fine cigar. New tiny plants are nutured, started in shade, then later moved. Each plant - yes each - plant gets daily attention and care, from daily examination of each leaf. to pruning to replanting. Each leaf is monitored, and later picked and sorted into many categories.

Cigar making remains one of the few, truly handmade arts. Rollers take years to develop their skills, and it is often a lifetime employment. Cuban soil does in fact have terroir, and cuban seeds and tobacco varieties are kept consistent. It seems even the process - over 100 steps - are kept consistent.

The only exception were a number of years during one of our inhumane US embargos, when quality slips under economic pressure (the 1990's). With that exception Cuban cigars seem to have retained their reputation.

2. Regardless of the meticulous production, like all fine artisan products, it begins (and really ends) with something Cuba has, but no one else does. Yes, Cuban seed has been (allegedly) stolen, but the real basis of their uniqueness and value: Cuba's unique soils and growing conditions.

Cuban cigars are never blends; all of the tobacco must be Cuban (a puro), and the very best comes from Fidel's once private region: from the Vuelta Abajo. Cigars from the region were once kept private, but later selectively released as what became the Cohiba brand.

So why this post?

I am not alone in knowing about the truly unique and valued qualities of Cuban cigars, but being an American never really had the opportunity to try one, especially a genuine Montecristo. Instead, I began to explore the brands available in America and from various other Caribbean and Central/South American companies, even Mexico. Almost all were blends I began to favor maduros, and more and more the cigars of Nicaragua. There are Cuban transplants everywhere, but particularly to the DR and Nic. Almost all claim (liberated) Cuban seed, but no one can claim the special soil and environmental conditions of the Vuelta Abajo. Over more time I came to value especially the Nicaraguan based cigars as the best region, the best growers, and the best producers/rollers.

Review: Rocky Patel Edge Habana Toro

But in truth, I never came to understand or appreciate a real Cuban from the Vuelta. However, that may have changed. As much as tend to reject the Rocky Patel supermarket of branding, I did once enjoy their Edge series, specifically the maduro. Yesterday I happened to stopped at Total Wine (limited selection). Not finding a good maduro, I just happend to spot a Rocky Edge "Habano" (blue tip label) and their shelf talker for the torpedo caught my eye:

"Nicaragua- Salty and earthy in character, this pointy torpedo warms up to show a brown sugar sweetness with touches of rich, aromatic pipe tobacco. Body: Medium to Full, Nicaraguan Filler Nicaraguan Binder Nicaraguan Wrapper"

Aha! A Nic Puro (all Nic), named "Habano" and I especially noted the "salty, earthy character", and being a pipe smoker the addition of "touches of rich, aromatic pipe tobacco". Right next door was the Edge Habano Toro which added "complemented by some toasty, chocolately notes and a hint of pencil lead" Later one reviewer added the notion of "lemon zest". Perhaps needless to say, this rang a lot of my old memories of the descriptions of the Cuban Montecristo's and at just $5.99 for the Toro, I was in for one. Had enough of my maduro elements plus a seemingly Cuban profile and voila! Mine.

The smoke:

Honestly I wasn't expecting much. I'd failed to find a good new maduro to try, and frankly this was the best I could do. I wasn't expecting much. Boy, was I wrong. From the beginning the Rocky Patel Edge Habano was a true treat. Now I have no idea how it would compare with a Cuban Montecristo, but if this Edge was any indicator I may have found a new love and class of cigar to chase around. It lived up perfectly to Total Wine's hype. In contrast I found most of the many quasi-reviewers to miss the boat, and the key element to this cigar.

It's just like rum tasting: so-called reviewers tend to think they are doing their jobs and will be seen as skilled if - and only if - they publish a huge laundry list of descriptors that surely prove what an amazing palate they have. What a joke. Sue Sea and I long ago discovered that all spirits have an essence and character that can be captured and easily communicated. Example Angostura 1919 - I could related the many descriptors you can find on this one, but one day after sipping it, one of us said "Bananas Foster". And that was indeed the essence of that rum, the list of other descriptors be damned. We even a friend in attendance who later asked "Hey Jimbo, what was the name of that Bananas Foster rum we had the other night?".

Capish. You'd better.

In the instant case, the Rocky Patel Edge Habano has what I experienced as a sense of terroir - the salty earth of the Caribbean fields of the Vuelto Abajo. I'm serious: this cigar and it's alleged Cuban seed, reflected the earth and conditions from whence it came. The same as the Veulto? I doubt it, though I really don't know. But for the first time, I'd just experienced a fine cigar that actually reflected it's beginning as a Cuban seed, growing with care in conditions that later were communicated in the smoking experience.

Otherwise, it was consistent, well made, nice draw, wavy burn but requiring but a single adjustment. Nice feel, nice heft and a totally intriguing experience for as long as I cared to smoke it. I've had quite enough of most Toro's or Churchill's that about half the cigar is plenty for me. Not the Paterl Edge Habano - although it gained some fullness, the terroir I'd experienced remained for well, the remainder. I quit at 2/3rd's, but really didn't have to.

Great cigar, and one I must try again....

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