Posted by: The Prince of Whales | January 31, 2011

Cigars and a tale of three Cities


Not Cuban but an absolutely great cigar

Havana, London and New York … the three finest Cigar Cities in the World.

I recently returned from a trip to New York where American cigar culture, with its embargo on Cuban cigars throws up a bewildering array of cigars. In the UK the cigar market is dominated by Havanas. The official importor does a great job of maintaining the exclusivity of cigars; prices are high and cigar smokers few and far between.

In America, the cigar has had the full Henry Ford treatment: he once said “the trouble with you Europeans is you all want to be craftsmen. I want to democratise the Automobile”. The States offers decent quality, handmade cigars from just a few dollars a smoke. Here we need to pay £10 a more to get a good cigar. Throw in the embargo, lots of skilled emigres steeped in cigar making from Cuba and the rise of great quality tabacco in Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic and you get a fantastic selection of smokes.

If you are into Cigars, New York is almost as good a trip as Havana. Great cigar stores with a massive selection, friendly, knowledgable staff and a few good stores have seating areas and even large TV screens. If you ever get the chance, check out De la Concha on 6th Avenue (56th Steet).

Sure some non cubans aren’t great but tonight I enjoyed a cigar that beats most Cubans into a cocked hat. I bought a box to bring home and now I regret it was only 20.

Don Pepin Garcia is a Cuban who learned his craft in at his Uncle’s cigar factory. He became famous in Cuba as the best roller in the business and eventually was appointed head of quality control at Cohiba. Like many of his countrymen he left, first going to Nicaragua and then settling Miami.

So for tonight’s smoke I picked two cigars. The first is the doyen of many Habanos fans of late – the Por Larranaga Regalios de Londres; a Limited Edition specially made for the London market and long robusto at 5.5 inches x 50. We sell these in the Prince at £16 a stick. This is the brand Churchill used to smoke and a fine cigar.


Churchill's favourite cigars - Por Lorranaga

It’s a Cuban cigar that ticks all the boxes … great pedigree, well made and with a good-on the -eye,  slightly oily wrapper. Easily to light and smoke with a spicy, earthy full flavour from the start. There’s a lovely long grey ash and as you get into the middle third, more pronounced flavours come through: coffee and burnt caramel. An excellent cigar.

So after a large Diplomatico to clense the palette, out comes the non Cuban cigar.

The presentation is fantastic and the band a real work of art. This Don Pepin Garcia Cuban Classic is made in Nicaragua from tabacco grown with Cuban seed. It was the 2001 Black Edition Toro Gordo at 6 x 60 (although it looks more like 58 to me). No mistaking, its a big cigar.

Now I have smoked several of these and the first thing that hits you is they are so so smooth. The draw is perfect and delivers lots of smoke. The flavours offer that almost unique balance between spice and cream; earthy hints of cedar and spice yet with a smooth silkiness. In fact the first one I smoked was in The Carnegie Club in New York, the wrong side of a couple of big cocktails … it was so good I had to smoke another the next day just to check my judgement hadn’t been deluded by the alcohol.

The way this excellence persists down the length of the cigar is incredible.  An amazing smoke right to the nub.

These cigars are so good, it reminds me of Cohiba’s Behike 56. In fact it’s the only smoke I can compare them with.

Now I know the only way forward … a herf with a couple of cigar loving friends:  the Don Pepin followed by a Behike 56? Any takers?


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