Yeah baby, they’ve got it

Bo­li­var laments the lost ‘It’ cigars of re­cent decades and con­sid­ers the mer­its of their suc­ces­sors

Country Life Every Week - - Bolivar -

One of the cher­ished pas­times of the sea­soned cigar smoker is to rem­i­nisce about the great cigars dis­con­tin­ued by Ha­banos SA. If God moves in mys­te­ri­ous ways, then, some­times, the Cuban cigar in­dus­try is pos­i­tively opaque. Among its more quixotic ac­tions was the dis­con­tin­u­a­tion of the Flor de Cano Short Churchill, which be­came ex­tinct in the early 1990s.

Even though that was about 25 years ago—and I chal­lenge any­one who didn’t make de­tailed notes at the time to re­mem­ber what it tasted like—it re­mains the most mourned ca­su­alty of the pe­ri­odic read­just­ment of brand line-ups (out­side of such classics as Cuban David­offs and Cuban Dun­hills). How­ever, it now has a se­ri­ous ri­val.

The Trinidad Ro­busto Ex­tra made its de­but in 2003 and soon be­came one of my favourites. At a lit­tle over 6in long, with a ring gauge of 50, it was a fas­ci­nat­ing in­ter­pre­ta­tion of a mel­low blend that had, for years, only been avail­able in a long, thin cigar the same size as the Co­hiba Lanceros.

Trinidad was ‘dis­cov­ered’ in 1992, when the mag­a­zine Cigar Afi­cionado toured El La­guito, the home fac­tory of Co­hiba, and came across a hith­erto un­known cigar.

Ini­tially in­tended only as a diplo­matic gift and un­avail­able on the mar­ket, Trinidad be­came the ‘It’ cigar of the mid 1990s. As well as giv­ing the brag­ging rights and pres­tige of en­joy­ing a cigar that oth­ers couldn’t find, the medi­um­strength, aro­matic blend, with its notes of cedar and vanilla, was pop­u­lar at a time when palates were more ap­pre­cia­tive of del­i­cacy and sub­tlety. Some of the newer gen­er­a­tion of cigars like to treat the palate as a place for a dis­play of raw, youth­ful power, much as a graf­fiti artist sees the side of a build­ing as an in­vi­ta­tion to get out his spray cans.

To­wards the end of the 1990s, the Trinidad Fun­dadores made its ap­pear­ance on the mar­ket. The orig­i­nal, diplo­matic 38-ring gauge was widened to a 40, but, oth­er­wise, all was pretty much the same. Ac­cord­ing to Ed­ward Sa­hakian of David­off on St James’s Street, Lon­don SW1, th­ese cigars with the gold band—green­ish with age, by now—are among the most sought-af­ter of cigars. They’re most de­sir­able in boxes of 50, in case you were won­der­ing.

Such was its suc­cess that the Trinidad be­came more than a cigar: it ex­panded into a brand and, in about 2003–2004, the Fun­dadores was joined by the Reyes, a handy, 15-minute pe­tit corona, the Colo­niales a Corona, the Ro­busto Ex­tra and Ro­busto T. There was some­thing about the 50-ring-gauge for­mat of the lat­ter pair that suited the creamy vanilla-and-caramel char­ac­ter of the blend. I re­mem­ber one cigar lover telling me it was so good that, when he had smoked it un­til he started to singe his fin­gers and could enjoy it no more, he wanted to eat the rest.

Rather fit­tingly, I had my first Ro­busto Ex­tra at El La­guito and it im­me­di­ately joined my pan­theon of ap­proach­able but in­ter­est­ing cigars, which in­cludes the Co­hiba Siglo IV and the San Cristobal La Fuerza. What’s more, if the cigar in my hu­mi­dor was any­thing to judge by, it has aged beau­ti­fully, which makes its dis­con­tin­u­a­tion even more of a cause for much weep­ing, wail­ing, rend­ing of gar­ments and gnash­ing of teeth.

Of course, the with­drawal of what had be­come the two most pop­u­lar Trinidads got the cigar Krem­li­nol­o­gists think­ing that the demise of Trinidad it­self wasn’t far off. How­ever, Ha­vana likes to keep cigar lovers on their toes and, a cou­ple of years ago, the Vi­gia—a plumper (54), shorter ro­busto—landed on and im­me­di­ately flew off the shelves.

De­mand was such that, for a year or so, they were hard to get hold of, but, now, sup­ply seems to be sorted out and the cigar has proved it­self, if not ex­cep­tional, then cer­tainly a wor­thy suc­ces­sor to the Ro­bus­tos Ex­tra and T. Whether it has the same sur­pris­ingly good po­ten­tial for age­ing as its pre­de­ces­sors re­mains to be seen.

Most re­cently, at the end of last year, the Trinidad Topes ar­rived. This is a cigar in the fash­ion­able, sawn-off heavy-ring-gauge mode and, as a lim­ited edi­tion of 2016, it ar­rived late in the year—but even so, to judge from the one I had re­cently, it was re­leased on the early side. Un­less you like a fairly raw cigar—or have just eaten a heav­ily sea­soned curry—i would tend to leave this for a while.

‘The Trinidad be­came more than a cigar: it ex­panded into a brand’

It’s al­ways hard to com­pare lim­ited edi­tions with the reg­u­lar line-up of a brand and, of­ten, as in this case, the char­ac­ter is very dif­fer­ent from the nor­mally docile Trinidad. From what I could tell, it has the struc­ture for age­ing.

How­ever, in a way, ques­tions about its mat­u­ra­tion po­ten­tial and its sim­i­lar­ity or oth­er­wise to the core range are be­side the point. The ar­rival of a lim­it­ededi­tion Trinidad shows, at the very least, that the brand may be in for a re­vival.

San Cristobal La Fuerza, Trinidad Fun­dadores and Co­hiba Siglo IV are all ap­proach­able and in­ter­est­ing cigars

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