1927 Cuba Vuelta AbajoPartagas Named after the famous Simón Bolívar (1783-1830), the Venezuelan General who liberated large parts of South America from the Spanish Empire in the 19th century, the brand itself was established at the beginning of the 20th century in Havana, Cuba by José F. Rocha. Following the founder’s death, the brand was bought by the Cifuentes y Cia and transferred the production to the Partagás factory, where most of Bolivar cigars are still rolled until today.
However, the original brand is Cuban Bolivar that is mentioned here. Bolivar is mostly known for rolling among the strongest Habanos in Cuba, using tobacco from the premium Vuelta Abajo region. Its most famous cigars are the Bolivar Royal Coronas, Bolivar Belicosos Finos, Bolivar Petit Coronas and the Bolivar Libertador.
In 2016, cigar smokers throughout the United States breathed a sigh of relief—some may even have given an exuberant shout of joy—when the Obama administration announced that U.S. citizens could now legally bring Cuban cigars into the country as long as it was for their personal use and not for resale.
After all, coming through customs packing 20 boxes of Bolivar Belicosos Finos might look a little suspicious. But two or three boxes? No problem. (Although you will have to pay duty on anything over 100 cigars—approximately four boxes—or if those stogies represent more than $800 in retail value, so insist on getting receipts for anything you buy.) But that means we no longer have to conceal that three-pack of Montecristo No.
But do you really want to pay the generally higher prices for Havana cigars? Plus, to obtain them involves travel—tobacconists cannot legally sell Cuban cigars in the United States. That means you have to purchase them on your next trip abroad. Of course, you can cross over into Canada, where Cuban cigars are abundant, but you’ll be paying an exorbitant government tobacco tax.
In Ontario, for example, cigars are taxed at 56. 6 percent of their retail price. Meanwhile, in British Columbia, the tax on tobacco jumps to 90. 5 percent, with a cap of $7 per stick over their retail price. Venturing south of the border into Mexico creates a heightened risk of being stuck with counterfeits, unless you buy from accredited tobacconists such as La Casa del Habano.
The Leyenda is a big size (155 mm by 55 ring gauge) or the same as the Montecristo 80 Aniversario, which was launched in 2015. It’s my No. 3 Cuban Cigar of the Year. H. Upmann Sir Winston Gran Reserva Cosecha 2011. No. 4 was also released in 2018, the next in line from Gran Reserva Habanos, which emphasizes that they are made with tobacco from a single harvest with five years of age.
Only 5,000 cigars were made and come in black lacquered boxes of 15. The tobacco is from the 2010 harvest. Some of you won’t be surprised by my No. 5 Cuban Cigar of the Year. It’s one of my favorites and is almost always in my list of the 10 best Cuban cigars of the year – Cohiba Siglo VI (150mm by 52 ring gauge).
Plus, the draw is always on the money. Montecristo Línea 1935 Leyenda. Partagás Serie E No. 2 at No. 6 (140mm by 54 ring gauge) is a relatively new edition to the brand and delivers plenty of flavor with a great draw. Meanwhile, I chose a classic cigar for No.
The current batch are typical in flavor and style from years past. Similar could be said for the Cohiba Robusto (124mm by 50 ring gauge) at No. 8. It’s always a pleasure to smoke the flavorful and refined robusto of this great brand. At No. 9 is the Montecristo Línea 1935 Dumas (130mm by 49 ring gauge), one of the three vitolas in the new Monte line extension.
And finally is the Juan Lopez Seleccion No. 2 (124mm by 50 ring gauge) at No. 10, which is another flavorful robusto – richer than I remember with the current batch – and delivers an excellent smoke for the money. Overall, it tried to select 10 cigars for my list of the best of the year that are readily available on the market whether you are in a cigar shop in London, Toronto or Havana.
I hope you enjoy the list and let me know what you are smoking and enjoying from Cuba in 2019. This shows a perfect draw with richness and harmony and wonderful texture. Lots of cedar and light, aged tobacco character. Creamy at the finish, which is clean and fresh. It is the best cigar I smoked in 2018.
It seems to be getting better and better with each year of production. The most recent is rich and flavorful with lots of tobacco, chocolate and spice character. It draws and burns beautifully. 98 points A powerful cigar that shows a velvety texture and full body of tobacco, walnut and spice flavors.
Needs a year or to come completely together. 97 points A long cigar that shows a creamy and soft character with nut, almond and light coffee flavor. Intense and focused to the very end. Gorgeous now. 97 points This benchmark cigar makes it nearly every year into my list of the best cigars I smoked.
Lingering and truly satisfying aftertaste. 97 points Upmann Sir Winston Gran Reserva Cosecha 2011. Shows real Partagas character with decadent and spicy aromas and flavor and dried flower undertones. Big and rich. Love. 95 points One of the classics from Havana, the Churchill always delivers lots of flavor with spice, nut and tobacco character.
This year’s release is a winner. 94 points It’s always a pleasure to smoke this cigar. It remains a favorite due to its wonderful draw with rich yet fine flavors of cedar, dried violets and tobacco. 96 points A precise and cool smoke delivering fine tobacco and nut character with a smooth texture and fresh and refined nature at the finish.
94 points This cigar really tastes like a Cuban cigar from the 1990s with its wet earth, spice, walnut and meaty character. It starts off a little rustic and then comes into its own about a third into the cigar. Smooth and delicious aftertaste. Reasonably priced too. 94 points .
I also see a lot of counterfeits all over the Caribbean—glass-topped boxes of Cohibas and the like.” (It’s worth noting that authentic Cuban Cohibas do not come in glass- or Plexiglas-topped boxes.) But even if the Cuban cigars you buy are authentic, the reality is that unfortunately there is a widespread lack of quality control in Cuba.
That means some legitimate cigars may be too tightly rolled or could feature other imperfections, such as not being aged sufficiently. And, unfortunately, once you bring them into the United States, you can’t return them. But why subject yourself to all these vagaries when there are plenty of non-Cuban premium smokes from countries such as the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Honduras that are readily available at retail shops and via mail order in the United States? And some of them come very close to duplicating the strength of Cuban cigars, although it should be noted that nothing tastes like a Cuban cigar other than a Cuban cigar, just as nothing tastes like a Dominican or Nicaraguan cigar except a Dominican or Nicaraguan cigar - scotchcigars.com.
According to well-respected London cigar impresarios Edward Sahakian and his son, Eddie, owners of Davidoff London on New Bond Street and consultants for the Edward Sahakian Cigar Shop and Sampling Lounge at the Bulgari Hotel in Knightsbridge, cigars such as the Fuente OpusX, the Davidoff Nicaragua, and El Septimo—a Costa Rican puro constructed with vintage tobaccos—are just a few that offer viable alternatives for many Cuban cigars.
So here are some of the best, arranged in order of strength, in the event that you can’t—or don’t wish to—go the Havana route. If you like the Cuban Fonseca, Quai d’Orsay, or Saint Luis Rey, you will probably like: Christian Luis Eiroa was known for creating the full-bodied Camacho cigar, but when he sold the brand to Davidoff, and after a brief hiatus, in 2012 his new company—incorporating Eiroa’s initials—surprised everyone by producing this refreshingly mild Honduran, with its graham cracker aroma and smooth, citrusy taste.