Quai D'Orsay Cigars
The release of the original five Quai d’Orsay cigars in 1973 was a huge moment for the tobacco industry. Never before had a Cuban cigar brand been conceived and established for exclusive distribution in one country, at the specific request of that country’s government. Others, like Saint Luis Rey, had been devised by brand owners to target a particular nation’s palette, but when SEITA (the official French importer of Cuban cigars at the time) approached the Cuban government with their original proposal they broke new ground completely. For the first 40 years of their existence, Quai...READ MORE
Quai D'Orsay Cigars
The release of the original five Quai d’Orsay cigars in 1973 was a huge moment for the tobacco industry. Never before had a Cuban cigar brand been conceived and established for exclusive distribution in one country, at the specific request of that country’s government. Others, like Saint Luis Rey, had been devised by brand owners to target a particular nation’s palette, but when SEITA (the official French importer of Cuban cigars at the time) approached the Cuban government with their original proposal they broke new ground completely. For the first 40 years of their existence, Quai d’Orsay could only be found in France: a new concept for the luxury cigar market.
France itself is famed for its luxury products, be they the couture of Chanel and Dior or the gastronomy of Champagne and foie gras. It was this pedigree that sparked the imagination of France’s then-Minister of Finance Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, leading him to approach the director of SEITA and ask him to create a cigar brand which would pair well with champagne and could be used to further enhance the image of France. The offices of both M. d’Estaing’s ministry and the importers themselves were located at the time on Paris’ famous Quai d’Orsay, and the name was chosen as yet another example of the nations elegance. French tastes at the time were, and still are today, for lighter cigars, both in body and flavour. The blend created for the new brand paid specific attention to that, and wrappers of the softest golden-brown claro shade were chosen for each stick.
The forty years of French exclusivity were not without issue. A lack of supply from Cuba in the 1990s saw SEITA send cash donations to assist farmers and related industries, secured against future cigar deliveries. A failure to adjust the brand’s offering – at the time, mostly long, slender sticks – to the increased demand for thicker ring gauges saw sales plummet. The first use of Quai d’Orsay for the Regional Edition programme in 2011, a robusto for the Asia-Pacific market, changed the fortunes of the brand entirely. For years their imprint outside of France has been limited to gifts given by the French and souvenirs picked up by tourists, but now they had their own chance to grace the world stage. Aficionados across the globe began to develop their own taste for the ultra-light blend and creamy, sweet flavour notes it brought. In 2017, at the XIX Habanos Festival, a new image for Quai d’Orsay was presented, and their release to all markets confirmed.
The new image involved 2 new vitolas and the demise of all but one of the remaining originals, as well as shiny new foil bands and modern livery which represented the beginning of a new style of Habanos marketing for the 21st century. These cigars proved immediately and extremely popular, their success leading to Quai d’Orsay being chosen for the 2019 Limited Edition (the exquisite Senadores) and more jurisdictions requesting their own Regional Edition.
Quai d’Orsay No. 50: Using the vitola of the Partagas D5, 50 ring gauge by 4⅜ inches, this petit robusto instantly became the quintessential breakfast luxury, with notes of cream and gentle cinnamon which pair perfectly with a morning latte.
Quai d’Orsay No. 54: With a factory name which translates literally as “fat Edmundo”, it is no surprise this cigar became popular with the modern smoker, who calls for substantial thickness and opulent length. At 54 ring by 5 ⅜ inches, this ticks all the boxes.
Quai d’Orsay Coronas Claros: The original stick which won the hearts and minds of the French. A classic corona of 42 ring gauge by 5 ⅝ inches, this cigar brings 35-40 minutes of elegance, light body and creamy flavours. A classic cigar.
The lamented demise of the rest of the original line-up was most felt by fans of the Imperiales, a wonderful Churchill vitola which really summed up the elegance and luxury of the original brand. That the same shape has been chosen twice since, once for a Regional Edition celebrating the 50th anniversary of Coprova (the second of France’s importers) in 2020 and again in 2022 for Quai d’Orsay’s inclusion in the Limited Edition Travel Humidor range, offers respite to those who miss the originals and hope that the vitola may one day be reinstated permanently. Until then, there is plenty of pleasure to be had from the existing line-up.
When Quai d’Orsay was launched in 1974 it represented a new direction in how Havana cigars were presented to the public, and the existence and success of the brand can be seen as a strong precursor to the launch of the incredibly popular Regional Edition programme. When it was re-launched in 2017, it marked the beginning of a gradual revamp of the entire Habanos portfolio, with more emphasis being placed on modern design, luxurious packaging and positioning the product for the 21st century, not the 19th. In fewer than 50 years Quai d’Orsay has been responsible for 2 seismic moments in the Havana cigar timeline – we should keep an eye on the next 50 to get an insight into what will come in the future.
Brand Founded: 1973
Construction: Handmade, Tripa Larga
Continuous Production Cigars: 4