Top of the Pile: Gran Reserva and Reserva - a Guide

Limited-edition cigars tend to be in the crosshairs of the discerning collector. It is partly because compared to the Reserva and Gran Reserva releases, they are low-hanging fruit. Max Foulkes takes us through what is so often forbidden.

Not long ago I was asked how a Partagas Lusitania Gran Reserva tastes. My response… ‘opulent’.  Reservas and Gran Reservas, not unlike the Cuban Davidoffs about which I recently wrote, have built an outstanding reputation for themselves as the most exquisite of Cuban cigars. Only tobacco aged for three years is permitted temporary residence at the bench of a Torcedor of the highest grade before passing through the rollers fingers and becoming a cigar worthy of wearing the second band denoting its position as a Reserva. The roller undertakes the same taxing task, perhaps applying further care and attention, with tobacco aged for a minimum of five years in order to create the Gran Reserva. A level of alchemy is required to turn a bunch of leaves, no matter how aromatic, into things this precious.

The first Rersevas were six variations of Cohiba totalling 30 cigars, an usual number to box, one of which, if not all, I’d be very curious to smoke. The Media Corona is a cigar that’s Vitola (Media Corona 38x142) has not been seen again since its release. One of the rarest of rare, I’ve only ever laid eyes upon single sticks and never had the opportunity (money) to set fire to one. This and the fabled Cohiba Corona, released in 1988, discontinued in 1992, reportedly due to a size overlap with the newly released Linea 1492, are both cigars I endeavour to ignite at least once. It seems a shame to put a match to such remarkable cigars but having them leave me with ash in the tray, a sweetness on the lips and a sense of accomplishment doesn’t sound too bad.

The illusive Partagas D4 Reserva was in 2005 (Cosecha 2000), very much in limited quantities accompanied by a price tag matching its status. Two years later came the Montecristo No.4, an unusual cigar to be adorned with the black and silver second band and, still to this day, unremarkable. I’m under the impression this cigar was the only mistake made. Fortunately, what was to follow more than made up for it.

The Cohiba Siglo VI was the first Gran Reserva. Unlike the Reservas, released in boxes of 20 excluding the aforementioned Cohiba Seleccion, this Cañonazo reached our shores in varnished boxes of 15 cigars, each stick embellished with a black and gold second band. A box of these can fetch £15,000 quite easily, therefore, being rather late to the show, I’ve never had the opportunity to try one.  From what I hear they’re the best, at least very hard to top.  Then came Montecristo’s success, the No.2 Gran Reserva. With great regret I can’t say I’ve smoked this cigar either, though I happen to know our dear editor Mr. Chamberlin has, and says if it were older it would feature in the Old Testament, the land of milk, honey and Montecristo No.2 Gran Reserva. The Romeo y Julieta Churchill Reserva released in 2012 I have enjoyed and can safely say, being one of the more ‘reasonably priced’ Reservas, is worth smoking. Exceptionally delicate and intensely enjoyable. Taking my time with this cigar allowed for nearly two hours of relaxation with the silky sensation of the smoke present until the point I burnt my lips.

The Partagas Lusitania Gran Reserva arrived next, promptly snapped up by enthusiasts and collectors back when it was a viable option to buy one box to smoke and another as an investment. What a world we used to live in! Then came the Upmann No.2 Reserva followed, as closely as its stout profile would allow, by the Wide Churchill Gran Reserva. The only one I smoked of these was plugged. Resistance to the draw doesn’t often bother me but a lack of smoke does. Flavour remained divine but it upsets me to have my memory of it tainted by a poor roll.

The 2016 Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No.2 Reserva is a cigar I’m very fond of. My first experience with it was buying four boxes with my father, each at the cost of a normal Cabinet of 25 Epicure No.2…in Spain…at Spanish prices! A great day it was, one of the better days. An enjoyable smoke vastly superior to a standard No.2 and a cigar that, up until a few years ago, wasn’t reaching nearly as much as its predecessors had and continue to at auction. Good construction and a nice size, although I’m still wishing for a Rafael Gonzales Slenderella Reserva.

The H.Upmann Sir Winston Gran Reserva, a Julieta No.2 (47x178), was released in 2017 with tobacco from the harvest of 2011.  A big cigar throwing shade over the Cohiba Robusto Reserva that followed. Then came the cigars that never came. I’m still yet to have laid eyes upon a Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona Gran Reserva although I have smoked a 2020 Bolivar Belicosos Finos Reserva, despite EMS boxes being released under some kind of invisibility cloak.  A beautiful cigar with a creaminess settling in harmoniously amongst the traditional ‘gameyness’ of the classic Bolivar blend.  Not as heavy as I’d thought, making a box a worryingly-tempting acquisition. In 2021 we were meant to have seen the Partagas Serie E No.2, delayed by the only thing capable of halting the release of a Gran Reserva, a global pandemic. Montecristo were meant to make their second appearance as a Reserva this year with the Edmundo, something to look forward to next year, perhaps the year after. Of the three most recent I’ve yet to smoke and most of the market yet to have seen, the Hoyo Double Corona I’m particularly look forward to setting alight. Considering how much I enjoy the original, I doubt this cigar will disappoint.