The “Edicion Limitada” program has been such a hit for Habanos S.A. that its expansion continues, despite some rather lukewarm reviews. Other cigar makers have followed suit, sometimes in hilarious fashion, but with all good intentions. Or at least one good intention: to sell more cigars.
Altadis USA was not to be left out of this, of course, so in 2007 they inaugurated a Cabinet Selección program incorporating four of their major brands: Montecristo, H. Upmann, Romeo y Julieta, and Por Larrañaga. The first three are all produced in the massive Tabacalera Garcia in the Dominican Republic. The last one, Por Larrañaga, is the odd man out. It is made in the Flor de Copán facility in Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras.
Cabinet Selección series cigars are packed in practical cedar cabinets and are extremely well priced for limited edition smokes. Originally this line was to be available from brick-and-mortar retail shops exclusively, but it appears that the internet embargo has been lifted. (Like some other embargoes, the internet embargo has proven rather leaky.) I purchased these at a local shop anyway. The Altadis rep was there, looking a little forlorn as I reached over his shoulder for some Casa Magnas, so I bought some of his cigars and let him tell me the history of Por Larrañaga.
The Por Larrañaga entry in this series is a Nicaraguan puro with a wrapper that has a checkered reputation — Habano 2000. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this notoriously flameproof wrapper used, so I hoped that it might have been reformed over time. My hopes were soon to be dashed.
Five sizes are in production:
- Toro – 6 x 56
- Robusto – 5 x 54
- Belicoso – 6 1/8 x 52
- Corona – 5 5/8 x 45
- No. 4 – 5 x 40
The first detail that jumps up, out and off this cigar is a typographical error on the band. Yes, I am a geek, but it bugs me. Instead of an acute accent over the o in Selección there is a tilde, which looks stupid. Aside from that it’s a nice looking band, but the typo is egregious.
Having recovered from that affront I was able to appreciate the smooth claro wrapper on this toro. The head is well formed and the cap is finished with two or three clean seams. The roll is solid and the cigar clips nicely to reveal an open draw with good resistance.
But once lit, the troubles commence. It felt very strange to have to relight not once, but repeatedly, a cigar with such a light wrapper leaf. It’s not unusual to have this happen with maduro cigars, but it was a little unnerving to watch the burn on this blondie swerve all over the place. When this happens the question is always whether the flavor and aroma make up for the annoyance of the burn.
The first thing this cigar does is unleash the cedar, so much that it’s almost overwhelming. It’s similar to the way that some cigars start out with a blast of pepper, except with the Por Larrañaga Cabinet it’s bright spicy cedar.
After adjusting to the forest fire under my nose I noticed the smoothness of the smoke. It’s creamy like Connecticut shade, but without the nuttiness typical of Connecticut blends. This is another great example of a cigar with a fairly heavy smoke texture — what I call body — but a flavor and strength that is mild by comparison.
In the mid-section some finer subleties emerge — a woody flavor that is less sharp than the cedar pouring from the foot. It’s toastier, maybe something like oak. There’s also a little vanilla. With the other flavors here it makes me think of a barrel-aged chardonnay.
The flavors concentrate a bit in the final third — the woody flavors get a little darker, a little bit charred, and the spice thins out a little. The smoke remains smooth though, and this cigar is definitely nubbable if after an hour and a half you still haven’t had enough.
The Por Larrañaga Cabinet Selección is a beautiful mild to medium bodied cigar with a powerful aroma that is only weighed down by the curse of Habano 2000. It needs to be touched up, relit, and generally just babied for the duration of the smoke. On the other hand, the flavor is everything you’d want in a morning or mid-day smoke. As long as you like cedar.
Factor in the retail price — around 5 USD per stick — and this one is a winner.