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22
Mar

Origin : CubaQuai d'Orsay
Format : coronas
Size : 142 mm x 42
Ring : 42
Hand-Made
Price :NA-

Quai d’Orsay was created in the 70s when the recently elected president at the time, Valery Giscard d’Estaing, asked his minister of economy to create a French cigar. As the former president explained “France is known for its perfume, champagne, foie gras but nothing in the world of tobacco”.
La Seita, company that had the monopoly of tobacco in France, was commissioned to create a cigar for the French market. Quai d’Orsay became the third brand at that time on the market with a non Cuban name, after Davidoff and Dunhill.

The marca was present in minor markets only. Over the past decade France was able to enjoy beautiful Quai d’Orsay regional editions that became collector items.

This year, during the festival we were all pleased to attend the “relaunch” of a brand I particularly enjoy. Habanos S.A. decided to push Quai d’Orsay to a wider audience outside the French boundaries.
Not only a stunning rebranding with a new super cool band and packaging, the blend has been modified without forgetting the roots of the originally French marca. Therefore we were able to enjoy 3 vitolas, one of them is the already existing Coronas Claro and the other two are very trendy sizes, the No.50 and No.54.

Appearance : 5 out of 5 stars
As already mentioned previously the new Quai d’Orsay band is just stunning. A very elegant band expressing the vision of Habanos S.A. to position the brand to another level. The gold touch on the band is perfectly balanced and gives a great luxury feeling. Beautiful job!
Moreover the wrapper leaf is a lovely claro tone, delicate and soft with a great velvety feeling.

Construction : 4 out of 5 stars
The construction was good, I had no issues of draw nor cracking wrapper. However I had to relight the cigar a bit too often to my taste, probably because the humidity content was slightly too high.

Flavor : 3 out of 5 stars
The old Coronas Claro blend was an ok cigar. Good for the first morning cigar without much complexity but would do the job in a wedding when people don’t have time to enjoy a larger format and most of your guests are not regular cigar smokers.
The coronas is a great short and elegant format easy to take out from the humidor when not sure what to smoke.
Firing up the new Quai d’Orsay Coronas Claro and you would see on everybody’s face around the table that we are not talking about the same cigar. The aroma of the first draw is fresh and discreet, reminding you of a burning scent.
The first draw reveal a light to medium smoke with a soft and round texture. Not miles away from the original blend we stay on easy flavours and linear sweet development.

Reaching the second third of the smoke and we start getting richer flavour, beautiful creamy texture and more intensity into the blend. The medium strength gives an expression close to a Trinidad colonials due to the sweetness the cigar develops. The finish is long and slightly bitter due probably to the freshness of the cigar. However the bitterness isn’t bothering me much as we feel it is the ammoniac level of the freshly rolled smoke.

The lsat third keeps the medium strength and rich flavours and aromas that was developed previously. The level of acidity is slightly higher than before but the creaminess lingers so much that we only focus on this particularity.
The aroma of the smoke is just sublime.

Like many slimmer gauge cigar we must make sure not to overheat the smoke toward the end as this would only attack the palate and give a feeling of burnt blocking all aromas possible.

Value : 4 out of 5 stars
At the moment the old Quai d’Orsay coronas claro cost less than 8euros. If the new blend comes out in boxes of 25 at the same price, I think we are talking about my future to go breakfast smoke replacing the Por larranaga petit coronas or Trinidad Reyes!

Overall Rating : 3.5 out of 5 stars
I have always enjoyed all Quai d’Orsay French regional edition and found them way above the current production ones. The Churchill size, the imperials, with some age was a lovely smoke. However the intensity and richer flavours of the new blend will give a nice kick to the marca and we will see more and more “French” cigars on our shelves.

You might be interested in these articles too:

Review Quai D’Orsay (new) Coronas Claro

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20
Mar

Origin : CubaH. Upmann
Format : Montesco
Size : 130 mm x 55
Ring : 55
Hand-Made
Price : CHF27-
More info about purchasing Sancho Panza cigars…

Sancho Panza appeared on a cigar in 1848. The brand takes it name from the novel of Miguel Cervantes: Don Quixote.

The marca develops intense medium strength cigars with a high ageing potential. If you have the chance to enjoy a Sancho Panza Sancho from the late 90s they are pure pleasure and they are still around on the market.

I was invited by Intertabak, the Swiss distributor for Habanos S.A., when in Cuba to pre taste the new Swiss Regional edition.

Since 2005, Habanos S.A. decided to develop a new marketing concept called the Regional Edition Series. Each market exclusive distributor has the right to work closely with Habanos to develop a cigar exclusively for their region market. This cigar must be coming from a local or multi-local brand (the 10 Major brands are therefore excluded from the concept such as Cohiba, Montecristo, Trinidad etc…) and its vitola must be a current production one but not used within the brand range. In this case the Montesco format is a very trendy format used for the Romeo Y Julieta Wide Churchill but not part of the official Sancho Panza selection. Nowadays, Habanos has set the minimum cigar order for this concept at 60 000 sticks (6000 numbered boxes of 10 cigars).

Appearance : 5 out of 5 stars
Every regional edition series cigars wear a double red and grey band indicating the market for which it has been produced. However this tasting of the Sancho Panza Valientes is part of the samples and do not have its final dress.
The wrapper leave is impeccable, soft as silk. Great feeling throughout the cigar. One more beautiful colorado claro which is to me the most elegant colour for wrapper.
Very little veins disturbing the visual.

Construction : 5 out of 5 stars
Just the way a cigar should be rolled. Packed of tobacco all the way with a nice smooth draw. Not too easy to draw like many under-filed cigars, just the right resistance. The burn was completely even all the way with a solid grey ash that could make people smoking long ashes very happy.

Flavor : 4 out of 5 stars
As previously mentioned the Sancho Panza Valientes is a freshly rolled cigar straight out of the factory.
The first third was very surprising. Round and smooth texture on the palate with a nice fresh feeling reminding of liquorice and mint. It starts off light to medium strength without any aggressive notes. The liquorice notes give a touch of sweetness on the lips. The acidity level of this “freshly rolled” Sancho Panza is surprisingly low. The flavours are rather short on the palate but the texture is so round that it makes the cigar very easy to enjoy.

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The middle of the second part of cigar sees an increase of sweetness with sugar cane notes reminding of the caramel crust on top of a creme brûlée (and I am not a pastry chef). The cigar increases as well in intensity and is more medium to full than medium as it should be.
Some vegetal and aromatic notes combined with a slight saltiness makes the Valientes very interesting.

Towards the end the strength goes a bit down and the fluctuation of strength is probably due to the fact that the blend isn’t fixed yet and each leaves still needs some times to blend between each other and not ‘clash’ with each other. The final flavour feeling is very woody with a long finish on the palate.

Value : 3 out of 5 stars
We are expecting the Sancho Panza Valientes to cost CHF25- in Switzerland. It may look like a high price for a cigar of less than an hour, especially when its brother the Romeo Y Julieta Wide Churchill cost 16CHF-, and compared to previous year’s Swiss releases. However if the rest of the production is as promising as the few I have smoked we are all expecting another massive success from the Swiss distributor!

Overall Rating : 4 out of 5 stars
What a great surprise! I am not a big fan of current production Sancho Panza and the only ones I smoke are the vintage gran coronas. I cannot wait to get myself few boxes to put on the side as I strongly believe this will be a big boy (and girls of course) toy! Wait and see…

You might be interested in these articles too:

Review Sancho Panza Valientes – 2017 Swiss Regional Edition

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07
Mar

Punch 48

Origin : CubaPunch
Format : Grand Corona (Hermosos No. 3)
Size : 140 mm (5.5 in) x 48
Ring : 48
Release : 2016
Hand-Made
Price : 12 EUR each
More info about purchasing Punch cigars…

At first it was for me strange to see a special release for both Habanos Specialist and La Casa del Habanos. But what’s the difference between the two. La Casa is the official franchise brand of Habanos S.A. Being under this branding should theoretically allow you to have more privilege; such as access to special releases and better sourcing however there is a fee to have the right to use the name which is highly regulated.

A Habanos Specialist is a cigar shop that has a humidor with a majority of Habanos but can sell non-Cuban brands as well. However they are not directly affiliated with Habanos S.A. and don’t have the advantage La Casa can have… So if we follow the logic this cigar can be retailed only in this two kinds of shops. For the very first time we see a double band holding the two logos.

Appearance : 2.5 out of 5 stars
“Good from far but far from good”. When looking closer at the wrapper I could see many green dots. Sign of poor quality wrappers. Sadly it becomes more and more common in Cuba. This many green dots are most of the time due to leaves that are undercured or fermented.

Construction : 3 out of 5 stars
I always like to “open my cigar”. I never chop the tobacco and do a very shallow cut allowing the cigar to be opened. I like a bit a resistance and this one showed a lot of it at the beginning and halfway was completely fine. It was quite of a tough draw at the beginning but luckily it opened up.

Punch 48

Flavor : 3.5 out of 5 stars
Now we are talking about the serious matter!

The Punch 48 was a bit of a UFO flavor-wise. I was extremely excited to smoke it as I am a big Punch Aficionado and when they are aged, they are phenomenal!

The first third was extremely disappointing, up to the point that I almost gave up my cigar. Luckily I always tell everybody to smoke their cigars until half of it at least to have an honest opinion. I followed my advice even though I was clearly bored of smoking a flat Habanos.

The 2nd third started to release the typical fresh woodiness of Punch with hints of mint and cinnamon. This four component together with a light to medium strength and well-balanced acidity started to bring back the body to the cigar. The more it went the rounder and smother the texture became to leave a delicate woodiness and vegetal feeling on the palate.

Finally the last third expressed a true Punch. Medium strength, beautiful texture and surprisingly well-balanced flavours and aromas. The beauty of Punch cigars is its strong “woodiness-freshness” feeling. The woody element of the Punch 48 together with an aromatic feeling makes this last third such a great Punch.

Value : 4 out of 5 stars
It seriously took me a lot of time to become enthusiastic about this cigar but the finish was so great that I could highly value the cigar. For 12 euros in Europe this can become one of these “investment cigars” especially with the first apparition of the two logos double band.

Overall Rating : 3.5 out of 5 stars
The Punch 48 has a very slow development and takes a long time to express itself. It requires some patience to fully appreciate it but once you have passed the first third and reached the last part of the cigar you will enjoy a true punch.

You might be interested in these articles too:

Punch 48 (Exclusivo Habanos Specialist & LCDH)

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07
Mar

H. Upmann Sir Winston Gran Reserva 2011

Origin : CubaH. Upmann
Format : Churchill / Julieta No. 2
Size : 178 mm (7) x 47
Ring : 47
Hand-Made
Price : N/A (prerelease)
More info about purchasing H. Upmann cigars…

H. Upmann is one of the oldest and most respected brands. Created in 1844, the marca is known for its soft to medium blend and delicate flavors.

I have always been a Sir Winston aficionado. Its creamy texture and soft development makes it a lovely long cigar for any time of the day. Therefore I was delighted when Habanos S.A. decided to make a Gran Reserva with one of my favorite vitola from an elegant flavored blend.

Habanos will be releasing 5,000 numbered boxes of 15 cigars.

The first night of the XIXe festival del Habanos was quite challenging. The rain was the last minute guest and didn’t allow the cigar to have the launch we were all expecting for. Luckily we still managed to receive some samples for us to enjoy.

As most of the pre-release it is important to note that the cigars are coming straight from the factory and didn’t have enough time for the leaves to blend between each other. However this is a Gran Reserva therefore the leaves have been aged for 5 years before being rolled. All leaves are coming from the 2011 crop.

Appearance : 5 out of 5 stars
As expected the wrapper leaf is sublime. As all the Gran Reservas cigars the quality of the wrapper is perfect. Soft, oily and claro, everything I love. The Sir Winston Gran Reserva is a true beauty to look at. Its double black and gold band Gran Reserva highlights the cigar brilliantly.

Construction : 2 out of 5 stars
From a Gran Reserva cigar you expect at least a perfectly rolled Habanos. As mentioned by Habanos S.A., only the best rollers from the top factories have been involved in the construction of the Sir Winston GR. When feeling the cigar I understood the construction was really poor… They probably forgot half of the leaves. Looking at the foot you see important gaps and pressing the stick you can almost touch your two fingers. This was not a good start to the tasting.

H. Upmann Sir Winston Gran Reserva

Flavor : 2.5 out of 5 stars
As I said previously we need to understand that this is a pre-release. Some pre-releases weren’t great and the cigar turned out to be very good few years later. However I strongly believe that for such a prestigious cigar this should not happen and even the pre-release should be at the consistency of the future development of the cigar.

When lighting the stick, as it was under-filled the draw was extremely soft (too easy?), it took me 40 minutes to smoke a Julieta No. 2 when it normally takes me 45-50 mins for a robusto.

The first few puffs were extremely unbalanced and bitter, full of ammonia. Many of us would say “it is young”, but as the leaves are extra aged they should not develop that much bitterness.

Hopefully the second third would soften the blend and bring some balance in flavors but on the opposite the strength kept on increasing, with a strong after taste of burnt feeling. Few notes of fresh grass and earthiness were appreciated but not what I was expecting from a H. Upmann. The cigar developed some hints of exotic spiciness such as cinnamon and nutmeg but difficult to enjoy due to the strength and the over draw.

The last third finally improved slightly with more resistance and more balance between the flavors and the acidity.

Value : 2 out of 5 stars
Many of you may tell me that I am rating the cigar a bit hard as it is a pre-release. But looking at the Magnum 54 pre-release last year or the Cohiba Majestuosos that was exceptional I am highly disappointed with the quality of what should be the finest Habanos released this year.

Overall Rating : 2.5 out of 5 stars
After giving us a taste of the Wide Churchill Gran Reserva and the Epicure No. 2 Reserva that we are still waiting for on the market, Habanos S.A presented us the Sir Winston Gran Reserva. We all understand the actual challenge Cuba is experiencing when it comes to crops and production. However I would rather have a year without a very special release but when it is announced it comes out ready to be enjoyed.

You might be interested in these articles too:

H. Upmann Sir Winston Gran Reserva (Pre-Release)

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01
Mar

Punch 48

Origin : CubaPunch
Format : Grand Corona (Hermosos No. 3)
Size : 140 mm (5.5 in) x 48
Ring : 48
Release : 2016
Hand-Made
Price : 12 EUR each
More info about purchasing Punch cigars…

At first it was for me strange to see a special release for both Habanos Specialist and La Casa del Habanos. But what’s the difference between the two. La Casa is the official franchise brand of Habanos S.A. Being under this branding should theoretically allow you to have more privilege; such as access to special releases and better sourcing however there is a fee to have the right to use the name which is highly regulated.

A Habanos Specialist is a cigar shop that has a humidor with a majority of Habanos but can sell non-Cuban brands as well. However they are not directly affiliated with Habanos S.A. and don’t have the advantage La Casa can have… So if we follow the logic this cigar can be retailed only in this two kinds of shops. For the very first time we see a double band holding the two logos.

Appearance : 2.5 out of 5 stars
“Good from far but far from good”. When looking closer at the wrapper I could see many green dots. Sign of poor quality wrappers. Sadly it becomes more and more common in Cuba. This many green dots are most of the time due to leaves that are undercured or fermented.

Construction : 3 out of 5 stars
I always like to “open my cigar”. I never chop the tobacco and do a very shallow cut allowing the cigar to be opened. I like a bit a resistance and this one showed a lot of it at the beginning and halfway was completely fine. It was quite of a tough draw at the beginning but luckily it opened up.

Punch 48

Flavor : 3.5 out of 5 stars
Now we are talking about the serious matter!

The Punch 48 was a bit of a UFO flavor-wise. I was extremely excited to smoke it as I am a big Punch Aficionado and when they are aged, they are phenomenal!

The first third was extremely disappointing, up to the point that I almost gave up my cigar. Luckily I always tell everybody to smoke their cigars until half of it at least to have an honest opinion. I followed my advice even though I was clearly bored of smoking a flat Habanos.

The 2nd third started to release the typical fresh woodiness of Punch with hints of mint and cinnamon. This four component together with a light to medium strength and well-balanced acidity started to bring back the body to the cigar. The more it went the rounder and smother the texture became to leave a delicate woodiness and vegetal feeling on the palate.

Finally the last third expressed a true Punch. Medium strength, beautiful texture and surprisingly well-balanced flavours and aromas. The beauty of Punch cigars is its strong “woodiness-freshness” feeling. The woody element of the Punch 48 together with an aromatic feeling makes this last third such a great Punch.

Value : 4 out of 5 stars
It seriously took me a lot of time to become enthusiastic about this cigar but the finish was so great that I could highly value the cigar. For 12 euros in Europe this can become one of these “investment cigars” especially with the first apparition of the two logos double band.

Overall Rating : 3.5 out of 5 stars
The Punch 48 has a very slow development and takes a long time to express itself. It requires some patience to fully appreciate it but once you have passed the first third and reached the last part of the cigar you will enjoy a true punch.

You might be interested in these articles too:

Punch 48 (Exclusivo Habanos Specialist & La Casa Del Habanos)

Post from CigarInspector.com

CigarStash.com – the ultimate cigars shopping tool!

View full post on Cigar Reviews and Ratings at Cigar Inspector

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