Robaina's plantation

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Abel Esposito of Partagas Arrested

               Yes folks, I heard the sad news last night. Abel Esposito, director of the Partagas store in Havana, Cuba, has been arrested. This happened two days ago. They came to the Partagas store and took him away in handcuffs and no one has seen him since. They waited for his son to come back from a trip and arrested him as well when he arrived at the Jose Marti airport in Havana. Abel's ex-wife was also arrested.
                For now, nobody knows the reason why, it's all speculation. I don't wish to tell stories that aren't true or that aren't known for sure to be true. When I receive more information I will let everyone know. I feel bad for him, I considered him a friend and he always treated me and my friends well.


Thursday, 25 October 2012

Panaderia Dulceria San Jose (Havana) on Calle Obispo

               For those you who have a sweet tooth and are in the Old Havana area of the city, you must stop in and visit this Pastry and Bread shop. I personally try to stay away from sweets but my girlfriend (who is Cuban) absolutely loves the stuff. Every time we walk by this place on Calle Obispo, we have to stop so she can grab a pastry. The place is always full so besides that and the fact that this is one of the few places she stops at, I've determined this is the spot for a good Pastry (or maybe bread). They now have tables and chairs out on the pedestrian only street . I'm not sure if they were always there but they were there this past August. The prices are very cheap if you compare them to Canada. I'm sure that whatever pastry they try to replicate from whatever part of the world is better from the country of origin but the value is great and it's not a bad deal. As I said, the place is always busy. Give it a try and tell me what you think. For those of you who don't know, Calle Obispo is a Pedestrian only street that runs from the Plaza de Armas to about Parque Central near the Floridita bar and restaurant where Hemingway used to hang out. The hours on the store window show that it's open from 7am-7pm and 8pm-12 midnight.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Montecristo #2 (2003 or older) cigar review

               This would be the last of three cigars that I reviewed to compare with one another. All three were Montecristo #2's but two were regular release from different dates and the other the Gran Reserva of the same vitola. My reason for smoking and comparing the three, besides simply for the enjoyment, was to give my opinion on whether or not the Reserva is worth all the money it costs.
                This cigar was purchased as part of a large bunch of loose singles. I don't have a box date but the band on this Montecristo was only used until 2003 so it's at least 9 years old.
                It wasn't a pretty cigar with it's faded band and dry bumpy wrapper. The colour on the wrapper wasn't even either being different shades of light brown throughout. It was as hard as a rock and slightly veiny. It wasn't appealing at all but looks can be deceiving. The pre-light draw was a little firm, not bad but I couldn't pick up any flavours. Once lit, wood fills the palate after the first few puffs. The draw's just a bit firm but very smokeable and opens up a little more past the first 1/2 inch. This isn't a complicated cigar, very smooth with a slightly uneven burn. Oaky flavour with a hint of floral through the nose. The flavours are somewhat similar to the current release I smoked before this but they seem to have dissipated. In my opinion this cigar has past it's prime, it tasted as if the flavours had faded away. It felt like the ash was stifling the cigar so I flicked it and touched it up with my torch.
                  Going past the first third and picking up earth and wood. The burn continues to be off. Nearing the halfway mark and the cigar is burning a bit hot and I keep having to touch it up. It's a rather dry smoke that's getting bitter and stronger.
                   Past the half and the draw is still a little firm. Now becoming musty, very rustic. I slowed down my smoking at this point. I have a tendency to smoke my cigars quickly and can sometimes overheat a tightly rolled cigar. By slowing down my smoking it cooled down the cigar and took that bitterness away. Earthy on the last quarter.
                  Although it was a pleasure to smoke, to be able to compare, this cigar was nothing special. I felt like it had seen better days and would have been better a few years earlier. It wasn't terrible but if I had to choose, the younger one was more enjoyable. As far as comparing either one of the regular releases with the Reserva, there is no comparison. The Reserva is not even in the same category but is it worth the money. In my opinion I would have to say, if you could find a box (of 15) in Cuba for the selling price of $485 then yes, it's definitely worth the money. However, paying $1200 or more on-line is a little steep for me. I suppose if you have that kind of money to spend on cigars it would be worth it for you as well. I have had cigars worth as much that were garbage, so in that respect I suppose it's worth the price tag.
                   After all is said and done and we're done analyzing and over analyzing, the Montecristo Gran Reserva Cosecha 2005 is a fantastic cigar that still has to show it's full potential. If you can find this cigar and can afford to buy it, you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Montecristo #2 (current release) Cigar Review

                 This would be the second review of a series of three cigars, all of which are the Monte #2. I'm assuming this cigar was produced recently but I don't have a box date. It was from a 3-pack that was purchased close to the time of it being smoked. I had it a couple of months ago when the wheather was nicer. A few of us got together at someone's house for a BBQ and cigars. This was a multiple cigar night and I smoked this one just before dinner.
                 The cigar was hard to the touch with a smooth, veinless, light coloured wrapper. Just a hint of cedar on the pre-light draw and it felt like the draw was going to be a perfect. Once lit, the draw was bang on with subtle notes of cedar. This was starting out as a mild smoke but picked up a little strength by the time it reached the first inch. This was a totally different cigar compared to the Reserva. Besides the fact that the Reserva has a better leaf (and aged 5 years), this was a young cigar from what I could tell at this point. This was when I had decided to compare an older Monte #2 as well. The burn had been off, up to this point, and continued to be as such. The flavours were settling in and at the first quarter the cigar had become medium to mild in strength. There were hints of the Reserva in this cigar but of course nowhere near the refinement or complexity. The wood flavours continued to follow through but I was also picking up an earthy tone and a little tea through the nose.
                   Into the second quarter now and the burn sort of straightened itself out but I had a feeling it was burning hot through the middle. I flicked the ash and I was wrong, I was left with a nice little cone. Nearing the first half and the cigar continued to burn evenly and began to pick up strength once again. The dominant flavours are still earth and wood. It gets bitter now and again but nothing terrible.
                    Reaching the last quarter the flavours haven't changed much. This cigar needed a couple of years to rest. The profile is definitely a Monte #2 but needs to shake it's youth off to allow some other flavours to peek through. When I flicked the ash at the last quarter I noted that it was now burning hotter through the middle, dramatically altering the flavour of this cigar. It started to turn on me and at this point we were ready for dinner so I decided to put it down.
                    I enjoyed this cigar despite it's youthfulness but I've always liked the Monte #2. This cigar's profile has changed through the years, it used to be a much stronger cigar. They say that sometime during the early 90's the cigar became milder. My guess is to make it more appealing to a broader market. Regardless, I don't know what it is but through the years I've always found these cigars to pretty consistent with the current profile and rarely have I had a badly rolled one.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Montecristo Gran Reserva Cosecha 2005 (cigar review)

                   This cigar was introduced by Habanos at the 'XIII Festival Habano' in Havana in 2011. The cigar I'm trying is from the box that was given out as a gift during this festival. Only 5000 boxes of 15 cigars each were released. All come in beautifully lacquered, numbered boxes with the cigars in a single row of 15. The presentation is quite attractive and almost in itself worth the heavy price tag. The tobacco from these cigars come from the best that the Vuelto Abajo Region had to offer in the 2005 harvest. The tobacco was aged at least 5 years before these cigars were rolled. During these 5 years the leaf was cared for and meticulously handled to be able to bring these wonderful cigars to life when the time was right. Once ready, the leaf was sorted and given to the best rollers at the H.Upmann factory for the production of the final product. These cigars are an identical copy of the Montecristo #2 (52 x 156mm) except for the special tobacco. Comparing it to a current release Montecristo #2, the Reserva was just a little darker.
                   I was originally going to review only this cigar but after smoking it I decided to do a comparison with the current release. However, after smoking the current release I thought it only fair to smoke an older one as well. So this will be the first of 3 reviews of different versions of the same cigar. It was late in the summer on a friends patio, after a steak dinner and drinking a 2008 Simi Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley in California when I had this smoke.
                  The cigar was hard to the touch with no give, smooth and with no visible veins. It was a dark cafe latte colour and perfectly rolled with a pointed cap. It was such a perfect specimen it was almost a shame to light it up. The pre-light draw was herbal and fruity. Once lit, this cigar held on to bit of the sweetness with some wood and hints of cocoa. Although the cigar seemed like it might be a tight roll, the draw was perfect and the burn was to be bang on. A very smooth and perfectly balanced cigar.
                   Past the first quarter and this cigar has been an absolute pleasure to smoke. I would consider this a mild-medium smoke with no flavours ever being overpowering. Still light wood with a hint of tea and cocoa and a whisper of nuttiness. Passing the half and the flavours don't change much.
                  Nearing the end the cigar picks up a little spice with hints of chocolate and hazelnut. This cigar is hard to put down and I try to hang on as long as I can. I found it to be incredibly smooth all the way through with not a hint of bitterness anywhere. It's hard to say anything bad about this cigar except for the price tag and maybe if you are expecting something big, this isn't a cigar for you. This is a classy cigar for people who appreciate and understand a good smoke. Don't buy it only because it's expensive. This cigar still has a ways to go before it peaks. I couldn't guess how long it would be before it does or how much better if at all it will be when it does. Only time and patience will tell.
                  The question is...."Is it worth the money?". I guess that depends on how much money you have or what your budget is for cigars. A box of 15 outside of Cuba can run you $1200 or more and in Cuba they're over $400. I thought I would try the other two Montecristo #2's to compare the same vitola before I give my opinion on that. Whatever I might think is irrelevant however, not everyone is the same and everyone's tastes are different.