In 2011 Habanos released a new H. Upmann vitola, and since H. Upmann is my favorite Cuban brand I was excited to hear the news, especially since it wasn’t a 55+ ring release but a small cigar, a 3 1/2×44 Half Corona. At first they came in dress boxes of 25 cigars but the big boom came a year later when they released the same cigar in beautiful tins of 5 cigars each. The tins were perfect to take cigars with you and fitted right into your shirts pocket. The tins were so popular that they sold out quickly and it took a long time for Habanos to restock the Dutch market.
Now I don’t smoke a lot of Cubans, there is too much to complain about when it comes to the aging of tobacco, the quality of the rollers, the quality of tobacco and especially the myth that the Cuban cigars are the best in the world. They used to be, there is no denying that and yes, Cuban tobacco has a specific flavor you won’t find in tobacco elsewhere just like Ometepe tobacco has specific characteristics, like Pennsylvania Broadleaf has specific characteristics and so on, but hardliners only talk about the characteristics of the Cubans like Cuban tobacco is divine and I happen to have another opinion. My take is that yes, Cubans used to be the best and I even think that Cuban cigars have the potential to be the best again but right now they are not and if the regime and mentality on Cuba doesn’t change they won’t be the best ever again. They rush the tobacco and cigars out, the fermentation of the tobacco and the aging of the cigars are not properly done, the quality control is poor (only 4% of the Cuban cigars are tested for quality) and the land is depleted due to mono culture and a lack of fertilizer. And it’s a shame, the quality of Cuban cigars could be out of this world if everything was done right. I could write a whole editorial about this if I want, but then again, this is a review blog so let stick to reviewing and hope that that Habanos sees their problems and deals with them accordingly.
The Half Corona that i’m smoking for this review comes from a box with the box code of april 2013. Now stamping the boxes with a code is something I love about the Cuban cigar industry. If I owned a factory or brand I would do the same, of go even a step further with a stamp that mentions the month and year the cigars are rolled but also the year of the crop of the wrapper, binder and filler just to inform the consumer on the age of the tobacco and cigars. The wrapper is a nice medium brown, like milky chocolate, with few minor veins and the triple cap is beautiful. What I do notice about the cigar is the way the foot has been cut, its not straight, if I put the cigar on its foot the cigar had the same tilt as the leaning tower of Pisa as you can see in the picture above. When I touch the cigar I feel a soft spot at the head of the cigar, which actually doesn’t surprise me considering the low quality control on Cuba. The band is the regular H. Upmann band, not fancy, very classic. The cigar has a manure aroma to it, medium strong. I punched the cigar and the cold draw is a bit on the tough side.
I light the cigar with my trusted Ronson varaflame which is older than I am. I taste coffee and a wooden flavor but it’s mild to medium. After a short time I taste a very mild peanut flavor, unsalted peanuts. Slowly the flavors are a little bit stronger and I taste now some earthy flavors with the peanut. After two thirds I taste earthy flavors with some white pepper on my lips. The flavor than changes to nuts. At the end i alsof taste some citrus.
The draw has a little more resistance than I like, but I’ve had worse, especially in Cubans. The smoke is thin, gray and not a lot in volume. The ash is light gray, firm and dense. The burn is quite good, not razor sharp but good enough. This cigar is mild to medium bodied and medium flavored. The smoke time is about 50 minutes.
Would I buy this cigar again? I still have half a box and even though I love the size I rather smoke the Joya Red Half Corona if I want this vitola.