The recent decision by Habanos SA to standardise their global pricing was probably the biggest change to the Cuban cigar market in recent memory. Certain brands – now labelled “super-luxe” by the powers that be in Havana – have increased dramatically in price, apparently in order to make access to them the same across the globe. This has perhaps been welcomed by shoppers in more expensive markets – aficionados in Hong Kong, from where the new prices are derived, will probably feel less hard done by – but in general the leap has been a shock to the system for many cigar buyers, especially in Europe. The special treat of a large-vitola Cohiba has suddenly become even more special.
While these changes will undoubtedly have forced many of us to re-evaluate our cigar shopping habits, there is an upside. There are plenty of cigars which have not yet suffered a price inflation and looking for prices which are closer to what we are used to has allowed a great number of cigar lovers to re-discover, or even find for the first time, cigars which have been overlooked in the past. All are packed with flavour (as is to be expected of Cuba) and none break the bank – ideal for buying in bulk to see us through the summer.
A collection of Romeo y Julieta Tubos
Romeo y Julieta No 2/Club Kings
Romeo y Julieta could lay a solid claim to being “Masters of the Mareva” as they use this famous vitola so often. Their Romeo y Julieta Club Kings are the same shape and size – 42 ring gauge by 5 ⅛″ - as the No 2, although the No 2 is technically known as Petit Corona in the factories. One suspects this is due to their originally being machine-made, but today both vitolas are lovingly made by hand. Cedar, coffee, leather and a little spice will flow from either cigar for around 40 minutes, and their presentation – tubos for the No 2 and the stylish retro tin of the Linea Retro for the Club Kings – makes them particularly well-suited to packing into a bag for a trip to the beach.
The most popular Cuban cigar in the world - the Montecristo No 5
The Montecristo No 5 is the most popular cigar Habanos produce, regularly out-selling all its peers. As we discovered in our review, it produces notes of cocoa, coffee and spice. This cigar is ideal for many occasions – its short length suits for when smokers are short on time, or when a novice is selecting their first cigar and doesn’t want to be overwhelmed. The notes it produces can accompany a morning or lunchtime coffee, but the body and strength means it will also stand up to a post-dinner brandy in the evening. Overall this cigar offers exceptional value for money – no wonder it tops the charts every year.
The Ramon Allones Superiores is one of the finest LCDH Editions
Like the Mareva, the Coronas Gordas (46 ring gauge by 5 ⅛″ ) vitola has been used by many different brands over the years for some extremely popular cigars, including the H. Upmann Magnum 46 and the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 1. In 2010 Ramon Allones adopted the shape – having used it a few years previously for an Italian Regional Edition – to be offered exclusively to La Casa del Habano shoppers. Over the last 30 years LCDH Editions have built a reputation as offering excellent quality for very reasonable price points, and the Ramon Allones Superiores is no exception. It smokes for a little over an hour, brings plenty of flavour and body, and that special burgundy band adds an extra touch of drama to the occasion. A great choice for celebrating with friends.
Juan Lopez is an often overlooked brand, but it brings plenty of pleasure. Until the recent release of the Exclusivo the only 2 cigars in the portfolio were the No 1 and No 2, released in the 1990s. The No 1 is another Corona Gorda; the No 2 a classic Robusto – both bring impressive body and notes of wood and spice. Juan Lopez was founded in the 1870s and is today often used for Regional Editions, but is still far from the front of many smokers’ minds. This is a shame, as the cigars are fantastic – plenty of power and taste, and with a lot of bang for buck, especially in light of the recent inflation of some of their equivalents. It could well be that the introduction of the “super-luxe” category, and resulting need for Cuban cigar lovers to expand their horizons, is the change that helps Juan Lopez take a more prominent place in the cigar pantheon.
Hoyo de Monterrey Hoyo du Depute
The smallest cigar in this selection by far, the Hoyo du Depute is a wonderful choice for time-sensitive smokes or for embarking on the start of your fine tobacco journey. At just 38 ring gauge by 4 ⅜″ long it will not be enjoyed for much time, but it will bring fresh floral notes and delicate body to the palette. More seasoned smokers may be put off by the slender shape and assume it does not offer enough for their well-developed palette, but the reality is this cigar will surprise more people than it disappoints, cramming an impressive amount of flavour into its diminutive frame. For the price, this is a truly magnificent cigar.