I remember my first Partagas… a No. 10, if I recall. It was a smooth, mellow, mildly spicy cigar that tickled my virginal taste buds and left me a believer in the brand from that moment on. Eventually I learned that the active ingredient in that blend is a Cameroon wrapper. For me, Partagas is Cameroon, and the Partagas Benji Menendez Master blend is the best of the lot. Okay, the Cuban Partagas is something else entirely, but the Partagas Black? No, man. I don’t know what that is, but to me it’s not a Partagas.
Cameroon wrappers came into popularity as a substitute for Cuban wrapper after the embargo was enacted in 1961. While many cigar manufacturers gave up in despair at the loss of Cuban tobacco, Stanford Newman (founder of the J. C. Newman Cigar Co. and maker of Cuesta Rey and Diamond Crown cigars) found that Cameroon wrappers might serve as a good alternative. Cameroon is certainly not identical to Cuban tobaccos, but it has a similar earthiness, plus an additional spiciness.
The Newmans and the Fuentes have done amazing things with Cameroon, but the folks at General Cigar have kept up with them. The Cameroon wrapper they are using for the Ramon y Ramon is a high priming, sungrown leaf cultivated in the Belita region by the Meerapfel family, who seem to have a monopoly on the choicest leaf in Africa.
The heart of the cigar is blended with a proprietary tobacco developed as a hybrid: agronomists crossed a delicate vintage strain with a more robust and disease-resistant variety to create the romantically named “PM01”. Pair this with some Nicaraguan tobacco, hold it in place with a Dominican wrapper, and finish it off with that Belita Cameroon, and voila! — it’s a Partagas Ramon y Ramon.
Four sizes are in production:
- Robusto – 5 1/2 x 50
- Maxim Grande – 6 x 52
- Gigante – 6 x 60
- Fabuloso – 7 x 54
Cameroon wrappers add tremendous flavor and complexity to a blend, but they are rarely pretty. They tend to be brittle, dry, and they don’t look terribly appetizing. This one is a case in point: the wrapper is rough and dusty looking, a pale yellowish brown, almost grayish. On the positive side, the wrapper is strong and so far I haven’t had one split on me.
The roll is solid and the head is finished in a rounded Cullman cap. The Ramon y Ramon draws very well, burns evenly at a moderate pace, and leaves a firm light-gray ash in its wake.
Overall construction: Excellent
The Ramon y Ramon opens with the leitmotif that recurs throughout this cigar: earthiness with a minty tang. It’s not the same earthiness that you find in a Cuban cigar — it’s not as subtle, not as bready, and it’s spicier — but it’s vaguely similar. The spiciness takes the form of cedar scents, white pepper, and cinnamon on the nose.
In the mid-section of the cigar there are bittersweet chocolate notes, a little more pepper, and a continuing eucalyptic mintiness. The body of the smoke is about medium, with a strength to match.
The complex and alluring aroma of this cigar never lets up, so I’m willing to forgive the excessive tannins that sneak in at the end. Keep a drink handy to cure your pucker.
The Partagas Ramon y Ramon has a Cuban-style earthiness at its core; it’s similar to the Toraño Cameroon in this respect, but it’s more complex. The aroma alone is worth the price of admission, which is around US $7.50. For the moment this cigar is a brick-and-mortar exclusive, but it’s well worth a trip to the shop. For me, it doesn’t quite beat out the Benji Mendendez, but it creeps up awfully close.
Final Score: 91