Good Things Come to Those Who Wait
Cigars can be laid down to rest and develop. Whether you opt for an Anejados (aged) or a Grand Reserva, these are another option to investigate during your journey into the world of cigars
Article by Oscar Udeshi
Cigars in this country are not a poor man’s hobby. I remember my time in New York cigar shops with fondness where the Wall Street trader would come in dressed to the nines – yes it was that long ago, purchase a couple of the most expensive boxes and throw down a wad of 100 dollar bills. A fireman, New York’s Bravest would enter stage left, with the fire truck outside, double parked, engine running, run down to the basement and buy a cellophane wrapped bundle of stogies for that night’s poker game and throw down a 20 dollar bill and rush out to the waiting truck that had blocked Fifth Avenue. Sadly in this country, and especially in London, one doesn’t have that choice. Cigar smoking is seen as elitist, and only for people who have literally money to burn. A dear friend of mine, Mike Choi, former manager of the Edward Sahakian Cigar Lounge at the Bulgari Hotel will change all of that soon with his new venture, “Boutique Smokes.”
The standard Cuban Habanos offering of regular production cigars is not enough for some smokers, and men being men, some want to be the most special of special snowflakes and want to smoke something different. In the past one’s only option was to buy aged cigars, a tradition that is largely unique to this country, where cigars were laid down like fine wine and kept for several years in perfect conditions to let the cigars rest and develop. Like fine wines, the harshness and acidity is replaced with balance and complexity that adds another dimension to the cigars. The holy grail of this are the pre-Cuban revolution cigars, with over half a century of ageing they frequently sell for northwards of £1,000 a stick – now you wish you didn’t throw your old uncle’s cigars in the skip.
Now one can’t say that the Cubans are not business savvy, they caught on to this and released the “Anejados” (aged) range, where the cigars have been aged in Cuba for a minimum of five years. Taking some of the most popular Cuban brands, Hoyo de Monterrey, Montecristo, Partargas and Romeo y Julieta and the most popular sizes, initially released one cigar from each brand. Now Cuba being Cuba, there is always an unofficial story, and is that the Americans were going to lift the trade embargo if a Republican candidate won instead of Obama, and the Cubans in anticipation of this, made cigars in the most popular American sizes in the best-known Cuban brands to sell to the US when the embargo would be lifted. This, of course, did not happen and the Cubans were left with a lot of cigars that they couldn’t sell. They were left wondering what to do with them and hoped the next US election would deliver a Republican president, this again did not happen and a bright spark at their marketing department coined the term “Anejado” so they could sell these cigars in to their existing markets as aged cigars. Ageing is all well and good, but it is very unlikely that these cigars were aged under constant temperature and humidity, and funny things happen to spirits when they are aged in the Caribbean sun.
For “Edicion Limitada”, an alternative story is that they had maduro (dark) wrapper leaves left over one year which are not usually found in Cuban cigar production, and failing to find a home for them, made up cigars to use these leaves up – which by their nature were limited in quantity. Then the Maduro lines were launched to use up whatever was left.
Reserva and Gran Reserva cigars are different from Anejado cigars in that Reserva fillers, binders and wrappers have all been aged for at least three years and Gran Reserva for at least five years before being rolled at the factory, whereas the Anejado cigars are rolled and then aged. Confused? Join the club. Thanks to what we call market forces in the West, the Reservas and Gran Reservas sell for a substantial premium and are usually snapped up as soon as they are released.
So which is the best cigar? There is no best, it is like asking what is the best wine. Depends on what you are doing when and where, with whom, with how much time available, and what you just ate or are drinking, what mood you are in, and what your preferences are. In short, enjoy your journey of discovery, and keep a Gran Reserva for me.