The long-form game

With the Mid­dle East­ern win­ter in full swing, the weather couldn’t be bet­ter for spend­ing hours out­side, whiling away the time with a good cigar. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the top long-length cigars (over 180 mm in our book) per­fect for

Virtuozity - - CIGARS -

San Cris­to­bal El Morro Length: 180, Ring Gauge: 49

This is the largest cigar in the San Cris­to­bal fam­ily, and also hap­pens to be one of the most pop­u­lar. Re­leased in 1999 when the brand was first launched, it’s be­come a cor­ner­stone of the San Cris­to­bal range, and with good rea­son. While the smoke it­self might be light, the flavours are full and strong, and the aro­mas pro­duced are noth­ing short of beau­ti­ful.

The first third kicks off with mild, herbal notes with a few flo­ral tones. The smoke is al­most a lit­tle too light, but the flavours make up it, as does the near-per­fect draw and the even burn. Mov­ing into the sec­ond third, more woody flavours be­gin to emerge, and the smoke be­comes a lit­tle thicker, though there’s still no doubt that you’re smok­ing a light cigar. The wood­i­ness in­ten­si­fies, too, but it’s still more of a back­drop to the herbal notes, which are punc­tu­ated by sweet flavours as you en­ter the fi­nal third.

Here, not much changes from the end of the sec­ond. The wood­i­ness stays rel­a­tively con­stant, though things be­come a lit­tle sweeter to­wards the end. It’s a very mild and pleas­ant smoke all-round, and be­cause of its size, it will last as long as an hour and a half. It’d be a great cigar for be­gin­ners, but be­cause of its price, it’s un­likely to be smoked by many. Ap­par­ently, ag­ing these sticks for a few years will pro­duce a more full-bod­ied smoke.

Trinidad Fun­dadores Length: 192, Ring gauge: 40

Given that it was the first cigar that Trinidad made com­mer­cially avail­able, and that ru­mours still abound about Fidel Cas­tro’s love for it, this should be some­thing quite spe­cial. But you wouldn’t know this from its looks. While the Fun­dadores is cer­tainly an im­pos­ing cigar, its colour seems sort of washed out, and there are a cou­ple of vis­i­ble veins on the wrap­per. That said, it’s clearly con­structed well, as at­tested by the smooth, even draw through­out and the near- per­fect burn.

What’s more, once you start smok­ing this cigar, the ap­pear­ance doesn’t mat­ter a jot. In the first third, you’re bom­barded with a fullflavoured earthy hit, with a big dose of wood thrown in for good mea­sure. The smoke is thick and the tex­ture is creamy, and this re­mains the case through­out the sec­ond third. It’s much smoother here, though the strong wood and earth notes re­main im­pres­sive. The fi­nal third brings a strong to­bacco hit to the pack­age, though it’s worth pow­er­ing through sim­ply be­cause this is such an en­joy­able smoke, even if it does lack a mas­sive ar­ray of flavours.

Parta­gas Lusi­ta­nias Length: 194, Ring gauge: 49

Any­one who knows any­thing about Promi­nentes will have un­doubt­edly come across the Parta­gas Lusi­ta­nias, the quin­tes­sen­tial dou­ble corona. Ex­tremely long, and with a rea­son­ably thick ring gauge, it isn’t the sort of cigar that you light with­out a thought – you could eas­ily make a Lusi­ta­nias last around two hours, so it’s worth con­sid­er­ing that it’s some­thing of a com­mit­ment.

But, boy, is the com­mit­ment worth it. Even be­fore light­ing, it’s patently ob­vi­ous that this is a high-qual­ity cigar. On our ex­am­ple, the look and feel was flaw­less – the cigar was straight as an ar­row, which is an im­pres­sive feat when you’re talk­ing about a 194-mil­lime­tre stick. What’s more, there are no soft spots through­out the long cigar. Un­for­tu­nately, you do no­tice a few flaws with the con­struc­tion as you’re smok­ing it – these long cigars have a ten­dency to burn out if you leave them too long, sim­ply be­cause it’s dif­fi­cult to make things con­sis­tent through­out the whole stick. And by the same to­ken, the burn can be slightly un­even. Be­fore you light one of these, it’s worth con­sid­er­ing that you’ll need a box of matches handy to cor­rect any burn­ing is­sues.

Hap­pily, the con­struc­tion is­sues are offset by the fan­tas­tic flavour pro­file served up by this cigar. Some re­view­ers claim that the Lusi­ta­nias de­liv­ers one of the most com­plex mixes of flavours of any Cuban cigar, and while that might be a stretch, there’s no doubt­ing that this large Parta­gas is some­thing spe­cial.

The first third opens with an ex­tremely po­tent note of heavy wood, punc­tu­ated by var­i­ous nutty flavours, hazel­nut be­ing the most ob­vi­ous. While strong, the wooden flavour isn’t too over­pow­er­ing, and it gives way to the nutty notes rea­son­ably well. What’s re­ally en­joy­able about it, how­ever, is that the medium- bod­ied na­ture of the smoke al­lows you to pick out other notes as and when they ap­pear. When you make your way into the sec­ond third, you’re re­warded with pleas­ant notes of leather, and sweeter flavours like vanilla and honey also come to the fray.

In the fi­nal third, it all gets a lit­tle bit messy – notes of spice and choco­late be­come more pro­found, and the leath­ery flavours also kick up a notch. That said, where a lesser cigar might make such a mix seem like too much, the Parta­gas bal­ances its flavours beau­ti­fully. It’s quite dif­fi­cult to pick in­di­vid­ual notes out, but the en­sem­ble as a whole is very, very en­joy­able. Cer­tainly, the cigar is some­thing of a com­mit­ment, but it’s worth ev­ery minute.

Co­hiba Colec­cion Ha­banos 2008 Length: 184, Ring gauge: 54

This Sublimes Ex­tra was re­leased as part of the 2008 Ha­banos Col­lec­tion ‘Book’ se­ries—a new spe­cial re­lease size for Co­hiba that was met with wide­spread ap­proval. And when you get your hands on one, you re­alise that the pack­ag­ing alone is wor­thy of the praise that this cigar has had lay­ered on it. A thou­sand boxes, styled to look like vol­umes of an en­cy­clo­pe­dia, were pro­duced, with each box con­tain­ing 20 cigars, mean­ing it’s still rea­son­ably easy to get hold of one. And this is a good thing—see­ing as the 2008 has aged beau­ti­fully since it was first pro­duced.

The 2008 sports a choco­late-brown wrap­per that ex­udes aro­mas of hazel­nut, earth and vanilla. It’s also ex­tremely soft, be­fit­ting of a high-end cigar. Over­all, you get the im­pres­sion of a solidly con­structed cigar. It’s not like the Siglo VI Gran Reserva—this feels weighty and densely packed.

That said, this isn’t the im­pres­sion that’s given off when you light the cigar. The ini­tial draw is light and open, sug­gest­ing that the cigar isn’t as densely packed as the weight prom­ises. In terms of taste, you get the same ini­tial flavours as the pre-light aroma—hazel­nut, earth and vanilla. About an inch in, you get a hint of grass, too, but the over­whelm­ing plea­sure from this cigar is the fact that it pro­duces such big plumes of creamy, tasty smoke—it’s clas­sic Co­hiba at its core and it’s just pleas­ant.

This is a good thing, be­cause it’s a good 45 min­utes be­fore you get half-way through the cigar. You hardly no­tice the time slip­ping away as you’re puff­ing on this large stick—you could ac­cuse the flavour pro­file of be­ing bor­ing given this fact, but the point is the whole pack­age is re­ally en­joy­able. Any­way, by the time you’re half-way through, and well into the sec­ond third, more of the sweet notes be­come more ob­vi­ousit’s all honey and sugar, with a re­fresh­ing hint of grass on the fin­ish. Co­coa is also present there, though it comes in­ter­mit­tently. Ei­ther way, it’s a wel­come change when you’ve com­mit­ted to such a long smok­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Things carry on in much the same way through­out the fi­nal third. The strong­est flavours are cedar, honey and leather, though there’s a bou­quet of back­ground flavours in­clud­ing the grass and co­coa, which are most ob­vi­ous. You do no­tice, how­ever, that the cigar goes pretty quickly dur­ing this pe­riod—it’s all-too-easy to gob­ble up all the good­ness, mean­ing that the fi­nal third is gone be­fore you know it. Shame, be­cause the 2008 is a beauty from start to fin­ish.

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