Bolivar Britanicas (2012 UK RE)

(Size: 5 3/8″ x 48  —  Time: 1hr 30mins)

Box Code: RUE DIC 11

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The Bolivar Britanicas was one of three UK Regional Edition cigars released in 2012 (the others being the Punch Medalla de Oro and Ramon Allones Petit Belicoso); though it was initially slated for a 2011 release, along with the aforementioned Punch. As it was, the much delayed 2010 UK RE, the La Flor de Cano Short Robusto was the only RE actually released in the UK during 2011.  Originally planned to be a 46RG cigar, it ended up as a 48RG, which feels good in the hands, and with its perfecto shape it looks a treat too.  The box harked back to the days of old, with a large seal displaying Simón Bolivar wrapped around the side.  Meanwhile, in a modernising twist, the Britanicas were the first UK RE to sport the new regional band, ‘Gran Bretaña’, replacing the previous ‘Reino Unido’.

I initially bought a box of Bolivar Britanicas when they were released around a year ago (April 2012).  There seemed to be quite a bit of hype around that time, and I was caught up in it when I tried my first one from the box.  As a result, I remember feeling it was a good cigar, but that it wasn’t quite all it had been cracked up to be. However, when I tried more, I came to conclude that I had probably over-reacted to the hype – these were, indeed, very good cigars.  So, how did this example fare?

IMG_0971Appearance /15

The cigar was very firm to the touch, offering little give when squeezed.  The shape looks amazing – why can’t we have more perfectos? The wrapper was a lovely mid-chocolate wrapper – a couple of shades darker than is traditional on a Bolivar.  This cigar had very few veins (none of any note), a very neat seam, and a well applied cap.  As with most Britanicas I have seen, this is a gorgeous stick.  14

Smoking Characteristics /25

The pre-light draw was excellent – perfect resistance with just a few millimetres clipped off the head.  The cigar lit incredibly easily – another reason I love perfectos – and the early burn was nice and even.  The cigar’s girth and shape ensures it feels excellent in the mouth, and the thick, voluminous smoke produced was delightful.  The cigar went out after about five minutes – which took me rather by surprise as I’d been paying it a lot of attention.  This one mishap aside (I actually wrote “pathetic” in my notes), the cigar burnt beautifully, and produced good smoke throughout.  23

Flavour /25

Upon lighting, this Britanicas provided meaty flavours – savoury and gamey, with just a slight mustiness.  This was quite a surprise given the straw and sweet cherries which had made up the pre-light flavours.  Soon the flavours developed, with slightly more mustiness coming through – altering towards a peppery creaminess – with the gamey flavours becoming richer, but more subdued.  Towards half-way, the cigar became a true Bolivar, with some warm spices adding a nice note as the peppery creaminess intensified.  Into the second half, as the cigar approached the final third, these flavours started to dissipate, whilst a tannic, yet smooth, profile took their place.  Hints of oaked Cabernet Sauvignon with leathery notes became predominant, but not especially strong. Just as the cigar made its way into the final ten minutes, the wine faded away and was replaced with the spicey, creamy, pepperiness of the middle.  Slightly tannic notes of leather remained however, making for a fairly complex, although slightly muddled finish.  22

Overall Impression /35

Whilst this probably wasn’t the best Bolivar Britanicas I’ve had since their release, it was still a damn good cigar – they are amazing on their day.  The flavour developed as the cigar progressed. It had enough Bolivar flavour traits to let you know that you were smoking a cigar from the top Cuban marque, but with a couple of twists – to my mind, a good thing for a special edition.  As these have aged, they have dropped to probably just above medium in strength, so not quite the powerhouse of standard release Bolivars.  Combined with an attractive look, special feel, and generally very good construction, this is definitely a cigar which needs to be sampled, even by those who might normally be put off by the traditional strength of Bolivar cigars.  32

Grand total… 91/100 (I have smoked these rating up to a 93 – so definitely worth a try).

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Punch Medalla de Oro (2011 UK RE)

(Size: 6 1/8″ x 50  —  Time: 1hr 30mins)

So then, it has been some time since I last added a new entry to the blog.  For that I must apologise, though I suspect you were all quite thankful not to have to read my ramblings on the hot subjects of the day.  I’ve been jotting down some tasting notes this week as I’ve travelled around the country for a couple of herfs.  I’ve also managed to unearth a pad with notes I thought I had lost.  I shall be releasing these ‘lost’ reviews in the run-up to Christmas.  The BBC released the ‘lost’ series two of Dad’s Army to much fanfare.  Meanwhile I’m sure that there is the same level of tingling anticipation for my reviews as is usually only reserved for Middlesborough Council’s Annual Traffic Report…

Irrelevant small-talk aside, let’s talk about the Punch Medalla de Oro, a regional release for the UK. Hunters & Frankau chose this dobles sized cigar alongside the Bolivar Britanicas as their 2011 offerings (though both were released alongside the Ramon Allones Petit Belicosos in 2012).  I thoroughly enjoyed the RA when I tried it, so I hoped that the Punch would be just as good.  The day was set up for an enjoyable afternoon, as I travelled up to Chester for a mini-herf with my good friend (and sometime guest reviewer on CM) Dan Ward.  We visited the Turmeaus on Watergate Street in the city’s fine Tudor centre.  Calum and the rest of the team were friendly, attentive and enthusiastic about the cigars they were selling – and offered between them some excellent advice as to a good local COSA to visit after they closed.  Myself and Dan chose the inviting Punch Medalla de Oro and sat down in the small sampling area to enjoy…

Appearance /15

As the name would suggest, the Punch Medalla de Oro is very similar in appearance to the Bolivar Gold Medal – both being neatly wrapped in gold foil.  The cigar looked incredibly inviting, a grown-up Easter egg…  The foot was neatly packed, and the cigar was firm (but not hard) along its entire length: a sign of good construction and equally as good storage.  Removing the foil revealed a pleasant wrapper, with a few small veins, all running in the same diagonal direction.  The wrapper had just a slight sheen to it, and was a colorado claro shade – lighter than one would normally expect from a special release, but attractive.  14

Smoking Characteristics /25

The cigar lit quickly, easily, and evenly.  The early burn remained even also.  Both Dan and I were impressed with the draw of our cigars, with Dan describing it as “just right”. Our agreement on this issue would suggest that these a fairly consistent cigars, and the slight resistance was spot on.  The smoke produced was thick and aromatic – with many visitors to the store commenting on the lovely aroma which we were creating.  The smoke production was good throughout for both cigars.  From start to finish the burn was fairly even and straight, with only a couple of minor touch ups required on each stick.  The ash was solid, light, and only slightly mottled, with next to no flaking.  The only issue we really found was that both cigars demonstrated some minor tunnelling, nothing major, but it required a little bit of attention.  Despite the tunnelling, the cigar remained firm throughout.  23

Flavour /25

Straight off the bat the Medalla de Oro was a bit peppery, with some nice roasted nut notes.  This intense first few puffs soon settled down, and a creaminess developed alongside the pepper and nuts.  The intensity continued to drop through the first third, and by the middle of the stick it was very subtle, possibly even subdued.  The flavour profile had shifted slightly by this stage too, with it being more woody (Dan suggest slightly oaky, which I would go along with), there were also just hints of berry coming through.  At this stage, we decided a mineral forward Sancerre would have been a better match to the cigar than our (gorgeous) Puglian Primitivo, but we weren’t complaining – the cigar was good, and the wine delicious.  As the cigar approached its final third, some warming spices started to develop alongside the wood, which soon gave way to a return of the pepper from the first third.  The final third wasn’t terribly exciting, though we were impressed that it didn’t become at all tarry (despite its youth).  At the very death, some “considered” spiciness came to the fore, with a touch more wood in the background.  21

Overall Impression /35

The Punch Medalla de Oro is a cigar which promises a little more than it delivers.  It is a nice cigar, and through the middle is what one would expect of a Punch cigar – fruity with a bit of wood.  The opening promised so much more than the stick delivered – it is relatively young, and I’d suggest that it has the potential to add a few more points to its score from today.  It does look stunning, and the construction was excellent.  It smoked well, and was never anything less than good.  However, as an RE, I would suggest that it is currently a little overpriced for what it actually is. 31

Grand total… 89/100

La Flor de Cano Short Robusto (2010 UK RE)

(Size: 4″ x 50 — Time: 1hr 5mins)

This cigar has been a long time in the waiting. Announced in 2009 for a 2010 release, it was finally in the hands of the British smoking public by June 2011. There is a multitude of rumours currently doing the rounds as to the reason for the delays (after all, the Por Larranaga Regalias de Londres was released more or less to schedule). Some of the more interesting rumours have involved the Cubans running out of tobacco and run-ins with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs – neither of which seem to make any sense whatsoever. However, I suppose we cigar smokers have an hour over a fine cigar to dream up conspiracy theories, and with that in mind, I’m a little disappointed with what was dreamt up!

The closest to an official reason that I have managed to find was courtesy of Ajay Patel’s review of the cigar on its arrival in the UK. Ajay runs the La Casa del Habano in Teddington (LCdH being a Cuban state franchise – so I suspect he has reasonably good information!) and told us that it was all due to ink… Not the bureaucratic red tape and ink that one might think of when dealing with a Communist regime, but a shortage of the green ink required for the printing on the boxes. The Short Robustos are a highly anticipated blast from the past – a slightly smaller version of the highly regarded Short Churchill vitola from the LFdC range of around twenty years ago. They are presented, unusually for Limited and Regional Editions, in slide-lid boxes, and the green ink used for the LFdC logo is another nod to this cigar’s history (currently Habanos use black for the LFdC logo).

Anyway, I think that’s enough waffle from me about the cigar’s interesting, though ultimately irrelevent, journey to the cedar lined shelves of the UK’s cigar stores.  Time to see what I thought of this cigar, which was sampled in JJ Fox’s cigar museum with a bottle of Berry Brothers’ 2009 Sancerre (an excellent drop to go with most cigars, and good value at less than £14).

Appearance /15

This double-banded Regional Edition cigar looks amazing – good enough to eat even! The wrapper is exceptional: smooth, lustrous and satin-like to touch. It’s a wonderful tan brown Colorado Claro wrapper leaf with no blemishes, and none but the very smallest of veins. When squeezed the resistance is next to perfect – it’s firm with no soft spots, and a satisfying amount of springiness at the foot. If you can judge a book by it’s cover (and a cigar by it’s first impression), then this is very, very hard to fault. 15

NB. This cigar is the last to be released with the ‘Reino Unido’ regional band, as H&F change over to ‘Gran Bretana’ for the second band.

Smoking Characteristics /25

The draw was beautiful at the off – just a touch of resistence, but still nice and effortless, producing clouds of thick smoke. The draw was generally good throughout, though it did tighten up a little for a short while around the half-way point. The ash was light-grey and showed nice tight rings with few flakes and just a couple of slightly darker patches. The burn was generally pretty good, whilst not quite perfect or razor sharp it never wandered off to the stage that it would need attention. Aside from a re-light which was needed towards the end this was a very well constructed cigar. 23

Flavour /25

Upon lighting the Short Robusto you are greeted with a wonderfully buttery, rich opening. This butteriness would remain throughout. As the cigar developed past the opening section, the butter took on some subtle hints of citrus which created something which one could only describe as being reminscent of scallops covered with a wonderful beurre blanc sauce. This would be the predominant character for fifty minutes or more of this cigar; and if one could level any complaint against this wonderful stick, it was that it was lacking just a touch in progression for most of the smoking time. It was saved by a brief change at the very end, when some more creamy, sweet-spicy flavours rounded off the smoke with latte and cinammon to the fore. 23

Overall Impression /35

The LFdC Short Robusto was well worth the wait. Perhaps the logistical issues were a blessing in disguise for thes cigars, as they have hit the British market at a canter, with most sticks having around a year of age already on them. This was quite clear when smoking due to the smooth, rounded nature of the flavours. Aside from the slight issue with the burn and re-light, my only real reservation about this cigar is that the flavours are perhaps just a little too mellow. Everything about the cigar just screams out quality and class, but it does just leave you wanting that tiny little bit more. 32

Grand total… 93/100

La Gloria Cubana Gloriosos (2008 UK RE)

(Size: 6 1/8″ x 50  —  Time: approx 2hrs)

The La Gloria Cubana Gloriosos is an imposing stick, both in appearance and reputation. I’ve got a few in the humidor from box 1878/2040), and will regularly go to light one up, only to put it back for fear of ‘wasting’ it. It’s a double robusto which was one of the two Regional Editions for the UK market in 2008 (alongside the equally well received Punch d’Oro).

On Thursday I met up with Dave from the UK Cigar Forums (and fellow blogger) for a mini-herf. I decided to take advantage of this nice afternoon by the river in Cardiff to light up a Gloriosos and enjoy.

Appearance /15

This is one mighty fine looking cigar. Large, but well proportioned, it rails against the tendency to make cigars which are too thick for their length. The wrapper is a nice shade, with perhaps just a hint of copper colouring, with just a few small veins. The LGC band is a new, improved version, and looks stunning alongside the clean looking ‘Exclusivo Reino Unido’ second band. The cap was neatly applied. 14

Smoking Characteristics /25

I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Gloriosos burned for the vast majority of its length. It light fairly well on the first attempt and burned reasonably true throughout, with just the occasional (and often unnecessary) preventative touch up to keep it trouble free. The ash which was created was a mid-grey in colour, and fairly solid, easily holding at an inch. The draw was one of the best which I have experienced, and it produced an ideal amount of smoke. Were it not for the need to relight a couple of times towards the end, before it finally went out, it would have scored very highly. 22

Flavours /25

When I first lit the Gloriosos I was greeted with some very pleasant and smooth, almost creamy, nutty flavours, heightened by just a touch of black pepper. This were very nice, though too soon disappeared, leaving caramel notes as the dominant flavour group. These soon took on a slightly ‘sweet and sour’ flavour as some nice, sharp cherry flavours added a deal of complexity to the middle portion of the cigar. Towards the end, the Gloriosos moved towards a more sweet, smokey and floral profile, with honey floating around at the front of a smoker’s mind. As the cigar reached its finale after around two hours, the floral aspect fell away slightly, to be replaced by some nice citrus under-notes, which provided a pleasant, lingering finish to each draw. 24

Overall Impression /35

The LGC Gloriosos is an impressive cigar to look at. It is also an impressive cigar to smoke. It provides a long period of enjoyment and takes you on a quite sublime journey. The flavours are always deep and complex, the development measured and appropriate. From the first draw to the last, this medium bodied cigar puts few steps wrong. A couple of burn issues just dampens the spirit, especially as it started to feel like too much hard work to keep it going with an inch remaining. 33

Grand total… 93/100

NB. Dave has now posted his thoughts of the day on his First Load blog, including thoughts on the Por Larranaga Panatela and El Rey del Mundo Choix Supreme which he smoked on the day.