Some brands live off their own legend, known by those who have never smoked. Some brands deserve as much prestige, but need some exploring to find. At Cigar Keep we want to make this journey more simple with a series on brands who have earned more notoriety, and the cigars they boast. Max Foulkes reports...
San Cristobal de La Habana was the original name of Havana. The brand that adopted the name came to fruition in 1999 with the range comprising of four Vitolas: El Principe, a Minuto, La Fuerza, a Gordito, La Punta, a Campana, and El Morro, a Paco. These four cigars were named after the fortresses that defended Cuba when it was the hub of Spain’s American Empire. El Morro has since been discontinued, leaving only three vitolas in standard production.
In 2004, three new vitolas unique to San Cristobal were introduced, originally only available at La Casa del Habano merchants. These three were the Oficios, a Dalia Corta, the Mercederes, an Hermoso no.1 and the Muralla, a Rodolfo. A few years down the line, in 2018, Le Prado, a Petit Pirmades, was introduced to the portfolio, limited solely to La Casa del Habanos merchants and specialist tobacconists.
The brand’s blend is of a light to medium body with dominant floral notes, hints of vanilla and a toasted quality present throughout the entirety of the cigar. Usually you will find a very smooth smoke that maintains its delicate flavour through to the last third. Construction is often very good with the correct amount of resistance to the draw. On occasion, one can come across an under-filled example but even these can be enjoyed to a degree.
I often smoke El Principe, a 30-35 minute smoke if enjoyed past the Anilla through to the Boquilla. On occasion, notes of black pepper prevail if the cigar is smoked at a pace. La Punta is my preferred format for a longer smoke. Despite boasting a hefty, at least by my standards, 52-ring gauge, the cigar can be held in the mouth without discomfort due to its tapered head.
The blend can always benefit from a few years rest although, I must admit, my last experience with a Mercederes from a box dated 2007 was disappointing. The construction was superb however the flavour seemed to have vacated the tobacco. The cigar was so mild it became difficult to pin point any notes characteristic of the blend. I continued smoking, yearning for change but was not surprised when none was encountered. The evening ended with a Trinidad Reyes, a far superior smoke. I have, however, enjoyed many an El Principe from box dated 2016.
For a short period of time, El Morro was available for single sale at Davidoff of London from a box dated 2001. I did not have the good fortune to try one but heard only good things about them. The three vitolas currently in standard production continue to occupy an entire shelf in the famed cigar merchant’s humidor, alongside El Prado mentioned previously.
A brand too often overlooked, which I believe to be due to its relative youth. It is, however, not a brand to be underestimated, nor a brand to be ignored. Whether you’re looking for a morning smoke of a postprandial cigar, San Cristobal de La Habana has it all.